Holding Company Notes

Section Definition + Intro

Holding companies really rose to awareness in the residential real estate brokerage industry in the mid-1990s when Realogy (HFS at the time) became the first company to purchase multiple national real estate brands (Century 21 and ERA Real Estate in 1995 and Colwell Banker in 1996).

A holding company does not deliver services itself but owns a controlling stake in one or more other companies. In our industry, the biggest two holding companies are Realogy Holdings Corp (NYSE: RGLY) and Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK) subsidiary HomeServices of America.

Realogy delivers its services through company-owned offices and franchised brokerages under a variety of brands, including Coldwell Banker, Century 21, Sotheby's International Realty, ERA Real Estate, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Climb Real Estate and Corcoran Group. HomeServices of America provides services through company-owned offices with regional, localized brands such as Edina Realty, Long and Foster Real Estate and Houlihan Lawrence and franchised offices under the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices and Real Living brands.

These two companies are the industry’s titans. Realogy is particularly unique – it owns the largest brokerage company NRT and owns more franchises than anyone else (seven). In aggregate, it has the highest combined sales volume of any industry entity or holding company.

Any complete ranking of real estate companies should include holding companies as they are the industry’s true giants. By not acknowledging them, Realogy would not appear in the report, which would leave it drastically incomplete.

The holding company list can be a little confusing; in some cases, a holding company owns brokerages and sometimes not. Sometimes a holding company owns a franchise brand, sometimes not. And sometimes a holding company can have the same name or brand as the brokerage or franchise it owns.

For example, HomeServices of America owns brokerages under its HomeServices of America-named brokerage division; it also owns brokerages that operate under the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand, which it also owns. Re/Max is another example. The holding company Re/Max also operates the Re/Max franchise. In both examples, the two different entities operate under the same name: confusing.

Therefore, clarifying exactly the entity ranked is critically important to a true understanding of the industry’s make-up. In some cases, different numbers appear attributed to what may appear as the same entity to the untrained eye, but, really, they tie to two different entities: a holding company on one side and a brokerage or franchisor on the other.

Analyzing holding companies allows us to clearly identify their industry influence and impact they have. They shape the residential real estate brokerage industry like no other company. Collectively, the top 20 holding companies represent: 

  • $1.575 trillion in sales volume 

  • 93 million in annual transaction sides 

  • 604,000 in agents 

These companies represent an enormous 72 percent of the U.S. sales volume generated by agents. 

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