The Americans are coming! (who cares?)

by Jamie Henry17 Oct 2014
They’ve gone from zero to more than 1,000 offices, they like the fat commissions that could come with luxury home sales, but could they be headed north?

Warren Buffett and his Berkshire-Hathaway brand are known worldwide, and his portfolio of businesses, particularly real estate brokering, is growing quickly. Berkshire-Hathaway Home Services has moved at a frenetic pace, swallowing other agencies from state to state – it now boasts more than 1,000 offices in 47 states south of the border. But sources now tell REP the brokerage is considering expansion north of the border.

The Americans have tried bullying their way into Canada before – and it’s sometimes led to tears for retailers such as Target. But with Berkshire-Hathaway, analysts suggest it would be cashed up before any foray northward.

The big question is, of course, should we be worried?

“I’m certainly not threatened by anyone. Every [brokerage] has its own business model to work with and does well by it,” says Maureen O’Neill, the broker and co-manager of the Canadian office of Sotheby’s International Realty.

Although Buffett is well known for his impeccable investment acumen, he is also fallible – and any foray north in the short term may be ill-considered. The latest CREA sales data suggests that competition among firms focusing on high end properties might already be heating up as listings for single-family homes become sparse in the country’s most active markets.

“Affordably priced single-family homes are in short supply in some of Canada’s hottest housing markets,” said CREA president Beth Crosbie in the association’s September sales report, “which contributed to the monthly decline in national sales activity in September.”

Still, Canadian agents don’t shrink from competition.

“Whether it’s Berkshire-Hathaway or another company, they all bring a certain expertise or advantage that some clients prefer over another,” O’Neill says. “It’s up to the client to decide what the fit is for them.”

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