The state of Montana's largest real estate company is changing its name and joining with one of the most successful corporations in the world.
The rebranding will be complete at the start of April 2015, after which Prudential Montana Real Estate will be doing business as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Montana Properties.
“We are, we have been, and we will continue to be locally owned and operated,” said broker and co-owner Dan Ermatinger.
Three years ago, Prudential made the decision to exit the real estate market to be able to focus on investment services. They sold their real estate and relocation division to another company, and the asset was eventually purchased in 2012 by Berkshire Hathaway, the company owned by noted billionaire Warren Buffett.
The company launched a new brand, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, one of the few times it has put the Berkshire Hathaway name on a public-facing product or service.
Prudential Montana Real Estate, which now operates branches in 12 locations around Montana, has its roots in Missoula, where the real estate office was opened in 1958 by Dale Gillespie.
Ermatinger and Mike Basile are the current co-owners. It is one of two separate Prudential companies in Missoula, which are independently owned.
When the Prudential name was purchased and folded, affiliate companies like Ermatinger’s had to make a choice of what real estate brokerage network to join moving forward. They had an offer to become a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, but decided to wait and see how effective Buffett’s new venture was at converting former Prudential companies.
“As Montana’s largest real estate company, we had interest from other brands,” Ermatinger said. “In the end, the decision was easy.”
By joining with Berkshire Hathaway, Ermatinger said his company will benefit from a larger network across the country, helping to source buyers and leads.
“It means sharper tools, better training and high-quality standards,” sales manager Mike Nugent said. “They have very good data and metrics.”
Nugent said as an example, if their Montana offices start seeing a trend in real estate statewide, they will be able reach out to companies in other states that have already experienced a similar transition.
“We can ask what should we expect, how did you deal with this trend, how did you adapt?” Nugent said.
He said Buffett, as a businessman, tends to invest with a long-term strategy in mind, and also tries to largely leave the companies and industries he gets involved in autonomous. Ermatinger said he has every intention of continuing the company’s independent ownership.
“The have great respect for local leadership. It’s basically business as usual for owner-operators,” he said.
In the time since HomeServices launched, it has grown to more than 34,000 agents in more than 1,100 offices around the country.
Ermatinger said the Berkshire Hathaway name is one that resonates with the public, citing recent rankings from Barron’s and Fortune as how well the brand is respected and admired.
“Berkshire Hathaway means business. It’s fresh, it’s intelligent, and ideal for agents, clients and the company,” Ermatinger said.