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Commercial Real Estate
Business Observer Thursday, May 6, 2021 7 months ago

Industry Scorecard

RealTrends’ rankings of residential real estate brokerages offer insight into the state of the market in Florida and beyond.
by: Kevin McQuaid Commercial Real Estate Editor

First of two parts.



There are few better measures of the residential real estate market’s performance than the annual RealTrends 500, which independently verifies sales and transactional volumes for home sales conducted by brokerages throughout the U.S.

Data for 2020 shows that Florida markets — and the companies that handle their residential inventory — are surging.

“The rankings are a real testament to the quality of the markets we cover,” says Budge Huskey, the CEO of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, a Naples-based firm that operates 40 offices throughout Florida and North Carolina and ranked No. 21 in the U.S. by RealTrends for 2020 transaction volume — the highest of any Gulf Coast firm.

FILE PHOTO — Budge Huskey is the CEO of residential real estate brokerage Premier Sotheby's International Realty, based in Naples.

“The markets that tend to be seen as resort-oriented, like Naples, Sarasota and Asheville, in particular, were in many respects the beneficiaries of the challenging time faced in the past year, because COVID-19 accelerated people’s desire to purchase second or third homes in those areas.

“I think, too, (the ranking is) a validation of our business model and the professionalism of our staff,” Huskey adds.

Premier Sotheby’s 1,300 agents last year, collectively, generated a transactional volume of $6.86 billion, a 36.5% gain from 2019. At the same time, the company was a part of 8,334 transactions — sides, in industry parlance — a 22.7% increase from 2019.

In all, 13 Gulf Coast residential real estate companies cracked the Real Trends top 500 rankings in 2020, from Tampa to Naples.

In the Sarasota-Manatee-Charlotte submarket, Michael Saunders & Co. bested all regional competition, with $3.42 billion in total volume in 2020, a 28% hike from the year before. The Sarasota-based company’s sides rose 14.2%, to 6,170.

Saunders, which operates 26 offices and has 600-plus agents, ranked 70th nationwide on the RealTrends list.

“We had absolutely the best year in the company’s 45-year history in 2020,” Saunders says. “There was huge local demand influenced by COVID-19, along with in-migration from the Northeast and the Midwest.”

FILE PHOTO —Michael Saunders is the founder and CEO of Michael Saunders & Co., based in Sarasota. Despite the pandemic, the firm had its best year in its 45-year history in 2020.

In Tampa Bay, Smith & Associates Real Estate made RealTrends’ list as No. 208 out of 500, with a transactional volume of a company record $1.6 billion, a 9.1% gain from 2019. That increase came despite a slight slide in the number of sides Smith participated in, a 6.4% drop to 2,470.

One other key indicator: Smith’s average sale in 2020 was $650,250.

“It indicates prices in the area are definitely rising,” says Nikki Phillips, a Smith vice president. “I think it’s also an indication that Tampa Bay’s time has finally arrived. Between the level of redevelopment, the national attention that our sports team are getting and the general realization that we have a fantastic destination for lifestyle, we’re being noticed on a larger scale.”

Smith, the largest locally-owned and independent brokerage in Tampa Bay, operates six offices with 282 agents.

In addition to Smith, Charles Rutenberg Realty Inc. of Clearwater, Keller Williams—Chadwick Group of St. Petersburg and Keller Williams of Central Florida, in Lakeland, also made the RealTrends list from the Tampa area.

Rutenberg generated transaction volume of $2.36 billion with 9,319 sides; KW—Chadwick Group posted $3.11 billion and 9,402 sides; and KW Realty of Central Florida generated volume of $1.71 billion and 6,567 sides.

In the Sarasota-Manatee submarket, in addition to Saunders, Re/Max Alliance Group was cited for $1.61 billion in volume on 4,930 sides.

Southwest Florida brokerages, meanwhile, showed some of the largest growth on a percentage basis in the nation.

John R. Wood Properties, Premier Plus Realty and Downing-Frye Realty Inc., all of Naples, made the list, as did Re/Max Anchor Realty of Punta Gorda, Re/Max Realty Team of Cape Coral and Re/Max Palm Realty, of Port Charlotte.

John R. Wood’s volume rose by 29% in 2020, to $3.39 billion, while Premier Plus’ volume was up 45.9%, to $2.49 billion. In Charlotte County, Re/Max Anchor’s volume jumped 53% to $875.8 million.

On average, Gulf Coast firms’ transactional volume rose by nearly 25% in 2020 vs. 2019, while sides climbed 11.61%, according to RealTrends, which has been publishing the rankings since 1987. RealTrends was acquired last December by HW Media, of Dallas, which also publishes business research.

“The pace of the market at this juncture is unsustainable,” says Premier Sotheby’s Huskey. “But we’re also not referring to it as a boom because that implies there will be a bust, and we don’t see that happening. We’re dealing today with real buyers, real money and real demand.”



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