The historic downturn in real estate is shaking things up among Sonoma County's residential brokerages, with new players entering the market and smaller firms getting swallowed up.
In the midst of a four-year slump in business, companies are looking to attract top agents from rival firms in order to gain a bigger share of the housing market, brokers said.
"All of the brokerages are hoping to gain productive people," said Rick Laws, manager at Coldwell Banker in Santa Rosa. The companies, he said, are jockeying for position in order to make money in the next good market.
This year a new company entered the county and quickly has become one of the biggest brokerages.
Wine Country Group by Better Homes and Gardens, part of Pleasanton-based Better Homes and Gardens Mason-McDuffie, ranks second behind Coldwell Banker for total home sales during the first nine months of 2011, according to multiple listing data. Since February, the company has acquired offices that previously were part of Frank Howard Allen and Pacific Union.
Ranked in order behind Coldwell Banker and Wine Country Group are Frank Howard Allen, Century 21 Alliance, Creative Property Services and Keller Williams Realty.
In the coming years, "some of us will grow, some of us won't be here anymore and they'll be some new players come on the scene," said Brian Connell, broker/manager for Frank Howard Allen in Santa Rosa. The regional company, based in Novato, has plans to grow and this year opened new offices in Sonoma, Healdsburg and Kenwood, he said.
Among the new players is San Rafael-based Bradley Real Estate. Two weeks ago the 380-agent company opened its first office in the county. Bradley already does work in Petaluma, and President Robert Bradley has plans for up to 50 agents to eventually work out of its office in Santa Rosa.
Among the agents moving over to Bradley is Trish McCall, who ranks 16th among agents for Santa Rosa home sales in the last 12 months. In that time, she was involved in 21 sales worth nearly $8.4 million.
Formerly with CPS, McCall said she chose Bradley because "this is a company that really has a pulse on what's going on."