In a significant change for a nearly 50-year-old local business, a national company has purchased Coldwell Banker Bain, a Bellevue-based real estate brokerage firm.
Owner and chairman Bill Riss has sold his majority stake in the company to US RES Holdco LLC, a subsidiary of Houston-based title insurance company Stewart Information Services, Coldwell Banker Bain announced Tuesday.
The company declined to provide the sale price.
The deal provides Coldwell Banker Bain “more resources and capital to expand its presence and increase its competitive position in an ever-changing real estate industry,” the company said in a statement, noting that “day-to-day operations will remain the same. “. ”
Among the region’s largest residential real estate companies, Coldwell Banker Bain had sales volume of more than $6 billion last year.
But traditional brokers have faced increasing pressure from investment firms and startups such as Seattle-based Redfin and Zillow. Investors and start-up home buyers known as iBuyers compete for homes against individual buyers represented by traditional agents. Online platforms are increasingly reaching almost every corner of the real estate market, and traditional agents are paying to feature their own listings on sites like Zillow.
Without naming specific competitors, Coldwell Banker Bain CEO Mike Grady wrote in an email to brokers on Monday: “Over the past few years our industry has changed with non-real estate venture capitalists looking to move the center broker [the] transaction. Of most concern are those with significant funding behind them. This large capital and lack of need for profit allows these competitors to operate in a way that traditional real estate companies would find difficult.
“Given the evolution of the industry and to be effective against these new competitors, we had to evolve,” Grady wrote. “We needed a strategic alliance.
Coldwell Banker Bain “long searched and investigated before the right alliance was found,” Grady wrote.
Coldwell Banker Bain officials said they expected no immediate changes for officers and staff.
Some were skeptical. Publicly-listed company ownership could put further pressure to cut training and marketing spending or increase fees, said a Coldwell Banker Bain agent who asked not to be named in order to speak about the announcement. .
“From their point of view, they bring more technology to compete with Zillow and Redfin, but I think the way to compete with these people is to bring more humanity to the work. It requires a lot more investment in the training,” the broker said.
John Deely, executive vice president of operations, said in an interview that the company does not expect any immediate technological changes, but believes that as the real estate industry increasingly moves its operations online, ” Stewart is a leader in all of this.”
“The thing is, with the way the industry is changing, it’s a benefit for our agents and our clients to have a partner who is very knowledgeable about the real estate industry,” Deely said.
Stewart did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.
Coldwell Banker Bain has focused on the luxury market since its beginnings when founder Bill Bain “dreamed of creating a real estate company that served the ‘carry business’ or affluent consumers,” according to a company story online.
Riss joined in 1982 to lead the Bellevue office, then bought the business in 1993 and oversaw its evolution and expansion. Today, more than 1,200 Coldwell Banker Bain agents work in 36 offices in Oregon and Washington state, according to the company.
Coldwell Banker Bain, an independent franchise of national Coldwell Banker, will continue its affiliation with Coldwell Banker for the foreseeable future. The company recently signed a new 12-year franchise agreement. However, Riss “slowly and methodically began to hand over senior management of the company” to Grady, the company said.