The fifth decade of Long & Foster Real Estate started in 2008 when the financial crisis was at its height, and real estate professionals were pivoting from helping buyers snap up homes during the housing frenzy to helping homeowners keep their homes. By the end of the decade, the housing market was riding high again with rising values and strong sales.
Home prices rose to a median of $321,100 in 2017 from $232,100 in 2008. Low mortgage rates helped fuel the housing market recovery, dropping as low as 3.32 percent for a 30-year fixed-rate loan from a high 5.76 percent in January 2008.
In the midst of this unpredictable decade, Long & Foster continued to extend its reach geographically, acquire additional brokerages and even become acquired itself by HomeServices of America, an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway. Highlights of the decade include opening a new corporate headquarters in Chantilly, Virginia, modeled on the Governor’s Palace in Williamsburg; being named “America’s Most Trusted Residential Real Estate Brokerage” in 2016 and becoming the No. 1 independent residential real estate brand by sales volume.
Long & Foster joined with new teams of agents in Philadelphia, Delaware and New Jersey in 2014 and became a part-owner in a Seattle-based tech startup, Moxi Works, in 2015. In 2016, the brokerage acquired Urban Pace, a company focused on the fast-growing new development market in Washington, D.C.
Attracting new talent
While expanding to new markets, new agents consistently continued to join with the Long & Foster brand.
Mimi Szegda, a Long & Foster agent in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, became an agent two years ago because of her love of interior design and architecture.
“The Avalon and Stone Harbor area is really small – in fact the island of Stone Harbor is only three blocks wide in some spots,” says Szegda. “My husband and I own a restaurant here and I wanted to use my local knowledge to help people find vacation homes.”
Szegda says having a mentor at Long & Foster helped her get started.
“Having access to the tools I need to compete is so important, especially the digital marketing system and the customer management system,” she says. “The tech support is amazing.”
Phil Gerdes says his wife Victoria, both Long & Foster agents in Annapolis, wanted him to switch into real estate for the past eight years.
“I was in multilevel marketing for a decade and someone offered to buy my business,” says Gerdes. “After that, I finally listened to my wife and we both got our real estate licenses. We should have done this a long time ago.”
Gerdes, named Rookie of the Year for Long & Foster in 2017, says their success came fast because of his previous experience plus the support of his broker, Kathy Davis.
Family togetherness for 50 years
James Strum, a Long & Foster associate in Richmond, became an agent in 2006 and has spent 10 of his 12 years in business with Long & Foster.
“I went with another broker for a little while, mostly for geographical reasons, but being with Long & Foster feels like home,” says Strum.
Strum’s growth in sales volume has been consistent since he started as an agent, which is particularly compelling when you realize he started at the height of the market and grew his business even during the recession.
“Long & Foster provides me with the support and resources I need to do my best,” says Strum. “Having all of the services such as a lender and a title company under one roof is vital for all of us to provide what our clients need.”
Gerdes says he interviewed numerous other brokers before deciding to go with Long & Foster
“I instantly felt like someone actually cared about us at Long & Foster, that we were more than just a number,” says Gerdes. “I know sales, but I didn’t know how to be a Realtor. It’s amazing how the other agents in the office will stop what they’re doing to help us and to share their experience.”
Gerdes says he truly cares about his clients and their homes, just the way Long & Foster’s leaders and agents care about each other.
“Knowing we have someone to lean on at Long & Foster helps us help our clients,” says Strum.