Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, a U.S.-based real estate brokerage franchise network with more than 50,000 agents and nearly 1,500 offices throughout the U.S., Europe and the Middle East, is coming to Canada.
Toronto-based Blue Elephant Realty will officially join the network on March 18, operating as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Toronto Living Realty. The luxury residential brokerage was founded in 2015 by Blair Johnson and Mark Wadden, who along with Stephanie Newlands are the principals of the company.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices owns more than 40 real estate brokerage brands in the United States, including Long & Foster, Wood Bros Realty and Huff Realty. It also owns mortgage and insurance companies. It is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which owns 63 companies including such well-known brands as Duracell, Geico, Heinz, Kraft, Dairy Queen and Fruit of the Loom. Its CEO is billionaire Warren Buffett.
“Establishing a franchise presence in Canada has been a major focus of our network’s global expansion,” says Gino Blefari, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, in a news release. “To that end, we are delighted to have innovative market leaders like Blair, Mark and their team join the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network and we look forward to supporting their continued growth.”
Johnson, president and broker of record of the company, says one of the reasons why Berkshire was attracted to Blue Elephant Realty is “because we have a very modern company, a very modern approach to things. We think we are the best-kept secret in real estate because (although) we are a little independent, we act like a big company.
“If you want to be a high-service brokerage, which we are, you better do a lot of things for your Realtor. They can go and get technologies elsewhere – what they need from the brokerage is really great training and really great support and they want you to do some stuff for them.”
That “stuff” includes social media advertising, website design and CRM implementation, says Johnson. “It’s not just that we have the tools, it’s that we actually do the work for you,” he says. “I think that’s what’s really going to be unique about what we offer. I don’t think there is anyone who will compete with us.”
Wadden, the CEO, says the brokerage had been involved in merger talks with another brokerage for about a year, but when an opportunity came up to talk to Berkshire, they flew to the company’s California headquarters and after four days, decided to make the move.
“We carved out a very big territory for ourselves – basically all of the GTA – so we have a lot of work to do,” Wadden told REM. “We are in acquisition and partnership mode.”
He says one of the company’s focuses will be on working with large teams and high gross-commission teams.
“We are looking to make big moves within our territory,” says Johnson. “We are looking for people who want to want to be partners – maybe they are currently Realtors but they want something more than that – they want a legacy. Those are the type of people we want to reach out to us.”
“We are excited about this next stage in our evolution as industry leaders,” says Newlands, senior VP of sales, in a news release. “By joining the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices network, which carries the name of one of the world’s most respected companies, we will have the capabilities for providing our clients with an unparalleled level of resources and personalized services.”
Wadden has a background in medical emergency response, including a vice president role in an air ambulance operation and 14-year career as a critical care helicopter paramedic. He was born in Cape Breton and has lived in Toronto for 10 years.
Johnson is from Toronto. He built and sold his own successful small business. His career in real estate started out with him investing in his own properties.
Newlands began her career in pre- construction sales.