BHS acquires Morrel Realty plus other brokers

Brown Harris Stevens has continued to grow since acquiring longtime New York residential real estate company Edward Lee Cave, absorbing two-man real estate firm Morrel Realty and attracting a bevy of new agents.

BHS, a 300-agent firm, has added 14 new brokers, including those from Morrel Realty — Leslie Richardson and Howard Morrel, the founder of the tiny brokerage — since the beginning of the year, in addition to Cave’s 21 agents, said Hall Willkie, the company’s president. Cave’s 28-year-old New York firm joined forces with BHS in February, though it will continue to operate as an independent division. Wilkie said Morrel Realty will be dissolved. Several of the other BHS newcomers hail from the Corcoran Group and Sotheby’s International Realty (see below for a list of some of the other latest recruits).

While BHS is a subsidiary of privately-held Terra Holdings, Corcoran and Sotheby’s are owned by national real estate company NRT, which has struggled amid the real estate slump.

The fact that BHS is privately-held — and thus shielded from many of the cutbacks other firms are experiencing — may make it attractive to outside agents, Willkie said.

BHS is not immune to the real estate downturn, however. Willkie said transactions there are down by 50 percent from last year, and the company has eliminated some administrative jobs and “extras,” including the spring party it usually throws for its brokers. But unlike Corcoran, Bellmarc Realty and many other city firms, BHS hasn’t yet closed any offices.

“Our test is to make sure we don’t do anything that changes our position in the market,” Willkie said.

But BHS hasn’t opened any new locations, either, other than annexing Edward Lee Cave’s headquarters at 790 Madison Avenue. By contrast, Halstead Property recently opened new offices in Hoboken and Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, while Prudential Douglas Elliman announced a new office in Fort Greene, a new rental division and a new 17-desk branch in the West Village space formerly occupied by the Debra Kameros Company, which merged with Elliman this fall.

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But Willkie said this is a typical rate of growth for BHS.

“We’ve always had very measured growth,” he said. “Our goal has never been to be big and be everywhere, it’s to be the best.”

He said he has no immediate plans to acquire any more firms, but didn’t rule it out.

“If the right opportunity is there, we’ll look at it,” he said.