By Melissa Kandel
In late April, Drysdale Properties acquired Alameda, CA-based Harbor Bay Realty—a longtime market leader in the area. Drysdale Properties President and CEO Gretchen Pearson continues to lead the brokerage while Dennis Pagones, former president and CEO of Harbor Bay Realty, now serves as sales manager of the company’s Alameda office.
The partnership not only deepens Drysdale Properties’ footprint in the East Bay marketplace but also brings together two longtime real estate leaders in a powerful alliance that will expand the reach and resonance of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand in Northern California.
I caught up with Gretchen and Dennis to learn a little more about how this partnership came about, what can be expected from it and how exactly these two innovators see the brokerage growing in the future.
MELISSA KANDEL: Dennis, can explain to me the history of Harbor Bay Realty? I hear Harbor Bay Realty was a dominating force in Alameda.
DENNIS: In 1983 I opened Harbor Bay Realty and grew it to be the No. 1 company in Alameda. Over the years, it was very clear the business was changing, with that change accelerating in the past five years or so. While we were the dominant office in our market, we were still just a single, boutique operation and I couldn’t offer my agents the kind of services and tools they needed to expand their business to other geographic areas outside of Alameda. That’s when I started looking at what other options were out there in terms of franchise affiliation …
So, you were looking around at a few brands to join. What convinced you to become part of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices?
DENNIS: Gretchen and I were discussing the possibility of joining Drysdale Properties and she invited me to the national Sales Convention this year in Phoenix. When I got to Sales Convention, I was pleasantly surprised in talking with agents, managers and broker/owners about how much they felt the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand was helping them in their business. In addition, I attended various seminars and what I learned in those sessions really showed me how on the cutting edge Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is with their tools and technology, and also through the expansion of their presence both nationally and internationally.
GRETCHEN: For my part, I thought Sales Convention would be a great opportunity for Dennis to hear from our brokerage members about how the brand was working for them in other markets. I didn’t want the experience to be contrived for him—he went to the sessions he wanted to attend and spoke to attendees who caught his attention.
Can you share more about how Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ international presence played a role in this partnership?
GRETCHEN: The franchisor gets some props here for the Juwai.com alliance—that is a big selling point to say we can receive leads from Chinese investors and consumers interested in U.S. residential real estate. Northern California, and especially the East Bay region is very attractive to Chinese buyers. I was also invited to China and met with the largest residential firm in China this past January, so that was another interesting connection for us. Still, Juwai.com is really at the heart of this international exposure, and it’s a proven business relationship; we’re already receiving leads through Juwai.com.
DENNIS: Juwai.com was definitely a big, exciting factor. I was also impressed that all listings are pushed to The Wall Street Journal website, which gives us a global reach as well. There’s no other way we’d something like that otherwise. I think in this office alone we have agents who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Japanese … our agent composition is ideal for the global initiatives Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Gretchen are undertaking.
And how has brokerage life been since joining Drysdale Properties?
DENNIS: It’s been the perfect blend of national and international name behind us coupled with the local, dominant affiliation of Drysdale Properties, a force here in our market. I’ve also found the services network members spoke about at Sales Convention are just as commanding as advertised; we’ve been given an unmatched level of attention by the franchisor and also Gretchen’s team. She has really led the charge to train our agents and get our staff on-boarded fast so we can get right down to taking our business to the next level within our marketplace.
GRETCHEN: Claudia Sinclair, business consultant with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, visited Dennis’ office twice for training. Also, as we do with any transition, I left behind a trainer—adept at technology—to help out the staff and agents. We also called all of our third-party vendors to present and train the team in Alamenda. What I’ve learned in these types of situations is that it’s critical to make sure people feel like they’re moving along and understanding everything now available to them; you don’t want anyone feeling left behind with this new change. Instead, you want everyone to feel like they’re gaining value as quickly as they can.
What’s been the reaction among the Alameda office sales professionals to joining Drysdale Properties and becoming a member of the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brokerage network?
DENNIS: They’ve reacted very positively not only to the brand but also to the training they’ve received and the various components of the Global Network Platform that they’re all eager to use in their businesses. Of course, just the name itself—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices—and its reputation for excellence certainly opens doors. But overall, our agents are really happy.
GRETCHEN: It’s true. They love the brand. Dennis spoke earlier about the area changing and as a boutique brokerage he wasn’t able to keep up with other larger, regional companies dipping into his market share. Aligning with a national—and international name—means his team can now come to play on the highest level, talk with potential clients about the global exposure of our brokerage network and win listings because other smaller brokerages just can’t compete.