What’s in a name? Berkshire Hathaway ramps up real estate expansion, brand recognition campaign

Brokerage was second-largest in nation

Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett

The Berkshire Hathaway name — once just the unseen parent company of Dairy Queen, Geico and several other consumer-facing companies  — is starting to get a lot of attention.

That’s largely because the Warren Buffett-led conglomerate is expanding its residential brokerage Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, one of the first of the company’s subsidiaries to don the parent company’s name. HomeServices was the nation’s second-largest residential brokerage last year, and Buffet is intent on growing the business even further and enter new markets, like New York City.

There are pros and cons to tying the brokerage business so closely to the parent company’s name. Some customers will be drawn to the company simply for its affiliation with Buffett. That connection can cut both ways, though.

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“When you get a disgruntled customer, it might go straight up to Warren,” said Gino Blefari, chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.

And it’s also unclear how Berkshire will fair in New York, given the city’s general aversion to outside national brands. Coldwell Banker, Century 21 and other brands have learned that lesson the hard way.

Berkshire’s brokerage reported $220 million in earnings last year, down from previous year’s $225 million due to increase expenses, according to the company’s annual report. Revenue grew by 23 percent to $3.5 billion. [WSJ] — Kathryn Brenzel