Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices wants to be a New York contender

Steven James, Brad Loe chart headcount, office growth to crack NYC market

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices' Steven James (right) and Brad Loe (BHHS, iStock)
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices' Steven James (right) and Brad Loe (BHHS, iStock)

Steven James and Brad Loe are looking to make Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices a New York brokerage player.

James, president and CEO, and Loe, director of sales, were poached by HomeServices from top posts at Douglas Elliman in 2021 to grow the company’s brand in New York City, where it hasn’t cracked a place among the industry’s elite firms. The brokerage tied for 24th in The Real Deal’s brokerage rankings with $44 million across 30 deals last year.

After waiting out their year-long noncompetes, the executives are betting on a shoe leather recruitment approach to elevate the brokerage’s place in New York real estate.

Loe and James aim to have 150-200 brokers by the end of 2023 across four offices. In addition to the Midtown office at 590 Madison Avenue, expansions are slated to open next year on the Upper West Side and in Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn. Renovations are also underway to double the firm’s space at 590 Madison Avenue.

Cynthia Jacinta Keskinkaya

Cynthia Jacinta Keskinkaya

The brokerage says it recently came one step closer to its goal with the addition of Cynthia Jacinta Keskinkaya, a broker ranked in Douglas Elliman’s top 75 in Manhattan, with $50 million sales over the past 12 months and $250 million in lifetime volume, according to a recent Elliman bio page.

The brokerage pegged Keskinkaya, who peaked in Elliman’s internal rankings at No. 9 in 2015, as their most high-profile arrival, but she comes early in the brokerage’s projected expansion.

Ten Elliman brokers joined HomeServices after Loe and James were announced in their roles. Since their noncompetes expired, the pair have recruited an additional seven from their former firm. That’s roughly one-third as many as they need to make pace for their stated goal of 125 brokers by the end of the year.

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Instead of emphasizing Berkshire Hathaway’s technology, the pair are stressing the individual attention brokers will receive upon joining the firm.

“We’re not looking for vast numbers for numbers’ sake, we want people of quality that want to grow their business and that want to be part of a culture,” James said. “We’re going back to the old method of really working closely with your agent staff and team.”

The pitch worked with Keskinkaya, who previously worked with James during his tenure at Corcoran and at Elliman.

“I can run my goals [by them] and discuss with them and I know they’re there to help see them through,” she said.

The approach sticks out among New York City’s top players like Serhant, which emphasizes brand creation, and Compass’ tech-centric pitch. The executive duo also didn’t link their arrival with a splashy get, like Side’s picking up of Elliman’s top-performing Team Alexander after its New York City debut. Loe and James have said recruiting is harder now that firms don’t always release their listings when a broker leaves.

They might get some help from the market as brokers are more likely to jump ship during a downturn, when signing bonuses become more appealing.

Although other firms are tightening their belts amid the slowing market — Compass and Redfin laid off hundreds of employees earlier this month while Elliman saw profits drop 50 percent in the first quarter — Loe said Berkshire Hathaway has the financial backing to weather the storm.

“The powers that be at HomeServices are invested in New York,” Loe said.