Elliman moves into Westchester market

Jan.January 03, 2011 09:54 AM
From left: Elliman’s Dottie Herman, Holmes & Kennedy’s William Holmes and the Chappaqua office

Prudential Douglas Elliman has made its first foray into Westchester County with the acquisition of the 135-agent firm Prudential Holmes & Kennedy.

A 40-year-old company, Holmes & Kennedy serves Westchester and Putnam Counties with six offices, located in Armonk, Bedford, Chappaqua, Katonah, Pleasantville and Somers. The new acquisition will bring Elliman’s total to more than 60 offices in New York City and Long Island, including the Hamptons.

Elliman CEO Dorothy Herman got her start on Long Island, (she purchased Manhattan’s Douglas Elliman with partner Howard Lorber for $71.75 million in 2003) and the sale marks Elliman’s first north of New York City.

Herman said the expansion made sense because the region’s demographics are similar to those of New York City. Indeed, Elliman and Holmes & Kennedy have been referring customers to each other for years, she said.

When Holmes & Kennedy CEO William Holmes approached her a month ago, “it was kind of a no-brainer,” Herman said.
Holmes founded the company in 1968 and joined the Prudential network around five years ago, he said. The economic downturn has hit Westchester hard, he said, with home prices down about 30 percent from the peak and sales activity down 50 percent.

“Everyone’s working harder and making less money,” he said.

Holmes felt that joining forces with Elliman, which has some 3,800 agents, would help his agents gain an advantage over his competitors by giving them access to the larger company’s resources.

“Size makes a big difference,” he said, noting that it’s expensive for a small company to create and run a website, for example. In today’s difficult market, those costs matter more than ever.

“There’s an efficiency you have to have today that you didn’t have to have when prices were a lot higher,” said Holmes, who runs the company with his son Edward. “Costs are more critical than they used to be.”

Now that his agents are part of Elliman, it will be easier for them to get listings and customers moving from New York City to Westchester and Putnam counties, Holmes said.

“It helps a great deal to be part of a high-end network to get those listings,” he said, adding: “Our agents can make more money.”

Herman said the merger will help her agents as well, since many people move to Manhattan from Westchester, especially as more and more empty-nesters purchase homes in the city.

In recent months, Elliman also opened its first office in the Bronx, with the acquisition of the boutique Riverdale firm John Edwards Real Estate.

Other Manhattan firms have taken advantage of the downturn to expand into the suburbs. In 2009, Halstead Property purchased Connecticut-based brokerage Wheeler Real Estate.

And what of Elliman’s longtime slogan, “From Manhattan to Montauk?”

I’ll have to change that,” Herman said.

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