The Real Deal New York

Nest Seekers acquires Engel & Volkers’ Southampton flagship

April 24, 2011 11:44AM
By David Jones

In a move to expand its presence in the turbulent East End real estate market, Nest Seekers International has acquired the former Southampton-based real estate flagship of German brokerage Engel & Volkers, The Real Deal has learned.

Engel & Volkers, based in Hamburg, Germany, originally launched the Southampton franchise location in 2006 as its North American flagship and later expanded into Scarsdale as well as a number of other franchise offices in Florida, Boston and other parts of the country.

Jonathan Lerner, president of EV Scarsdale, which operated the Engel & Volkers franchise in New York, confirmed that company sold the physical assets to Nest Seekers and is in talks on a potential new franchise to operate under a different brokerage flag.

“We will be rebranding,” he said. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Nest Seekers, an affiliate of Lev Group, the developer of the Sage House and 505 condominium, has a total of 150 brokers and agents in New York, the Hamptons and Miami. The firm operates overseas through a series of international affiliate firms.

Nest Seekers has operated an office in Bridgehampton for several years, led by Barbara Weber, a managing director.

Amadeus Ehrhardt, who managed the Engel & Volkers office in Southampton, was named managing director of the new Nest Seekers office. The brokers in his office are all now working under the Nest Seekers brand.

Ehrhardt was not available for comment

The deal marks the latest move in a rapidly consolidating brokerage market in the Hamptons.

In late March, First Hampton International Realty merged with Kerrigan Country Realty, in Westhampton Beach, to create a firm called FHIR/Kerrigan International. In addition, Town & Country Real Estate recently acquired Phillips Beach Realty in Westhampton Beach.

Hamptons brokers say they were not terribly surprised by the deal, since smaller, independent brokers have been fighting for market share in a region that is just beginning to recover from the economic downturn.

“[Engel & Volkers] sell aggressively this concept that they can bring foreign buyers to the table,” said Andrew Saunders, president of Saunders & Associates, a leading area brokerage. “The idea that they could bring enough of them to really finance the operations of a real estate firm always seemed to be a questionable practice.”

Sources familiar with Engel & Volkers said the firm had problems with a number of its franchises across the country, and that several of the brokerages are actively considering new affiliations. Despite those internal issues, there were clearly signs that East End brokers have been scrambling to merge in order to recapture a struggling market.

“I think the consolidation of companies [if that is] accretive to the bottom line, is smart,” said Lawrence Citarelli Jr., the owner and president of First Hampton.

The consolidation craze is not entirely limited to small, independent firms. Prudential Douglas Elliman, which this week put out its Hamptons first-quarter market report, previously entered talks with Engel & Volkers to acquire the East End business, but those discussions were never consummated, according to sources familiar with the talks.

Eddie Shapiro, president and CEO of Nest Seekers did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment. Engel & Volkers and Elliman officials were not immediately available for comment.

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