A bold move by American business magnate Warren Buffett shook up the Hudson Valley real estate industry Tuesday when his company, HomeServices of America, Inc., acquired Houlihan Lawrence.
Houlihan Lawrence serves Westchester, Fairfield, Putnam, Dutchess, Orange and Ulster counties of New York and Connecticut with 1,300 sales associates operating in 30 sales offices. In 2016, Houlihan Lawrence closed $6.7 billion of sales volume.
Home Services is a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate. Berkshire Hathaway already owns real estate agencies in New York and Connecticut. The Houlihan Lawrence and Berkshire Hathaway offices in the region will continue to operate independently.
Nancy Seaman will step aside as chairman while her brothers Stephen Meyers, president and CEO, and Chris Meyers, managing principal, will continue to lead the firm’s strategic growth initiatives and manage day-to-day operations together with their sales management teams. Houlihan Lawrence, like other locally-branded brokerage companies under the HomeServices umbrella, will retain its name.
Seaman, a resident of Greenwich, and her late husband Peter Bailey purchased Houlihan Lawrence from the Lawrence Family in 1990. When Peter suddenly passed away of cancer in 1994 at the age of 42, Nancy stepped in to assume control of the company. Together with her brothers, she built the business on a unique foundation of core values coupled with cutting edge technology.
Under her leadership, the company grew from 600 agents, 12 offices, and $375 million in annual sales to 1,300 agents, 30 offices and $6.7 billion in sales in 2016.
“We are joining an organization known for its strength and stability," Stephen Meyers said. “Our partnership secures the future of the firm without changing the exceptional culture that is core to our storied brand. We are thrilled with this announcement and the many benefits it brings to our clients and agents.”
“When you combine the incredible strength of our people and the remarkable history of our success with the unsurpassed financial stability of HomeServices, there is no limit to what we can accomplish,” Chris Meyers added.
A statement on the Houlihan Lawrence website said nothing will change except for the transfer of ownership. Seaman will pursue her long-term passion in the nonprofit sector, in which both she and Houlihan Lawrence have always been active.
Seaman’s immediate work will be for children’s advocacy. She will continue to serve on the Board of HELP USA, which benefits veterans and victims of domestic abuse.
“If not for my departure, you wouldn’t know there was a change in ownership,” Seaman said. “I truly love and believe in this company, and am confident this decision guarantees Houlihan Lawrence as we know it—and the extraordinary culture we’ve built over the past 125 years—will be around for the next 125 years.”
Buffet is a business associate of Seaman’s husband, Alan Schwartz, the executive chairman of Guggenheim Partners.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England/Westchester Properties is based in Wallingford, Conn. It opened its first Westchester County offices in 2015 in Scarsdale, Larchmont and Eastchester, and expanded to Rye last year. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York Properties opened earlier this month in New York City.
“Nancy, Stephen and Chris, together with their team of sales managers and agents, have built an extraordinary organization and exemplify a level of expertise and leadership that is second-to-none in the real estate business today,” said Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO, HomeServices. “Their culture of integrity and innovation closely aligns with our corporate vision and our emphasis on customer value and results.”
With the transaction, HomeServices has nearly 29,500 real estate professionals operating in nearly 570 offices across 28 states. In 2016, the company’s associates facilitated more than $93 billion in residential real estate sales.