Bringing a bit of Warren Buffett to the region

2014-06-11T15:00:00Z 2014-06-16T16:08:08Z Bringing a bit of Warren Buffett to the regionAndrew Steele Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 11, 2014 3:00 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | Prudential Executive Group Real Estate is preparing for a Thursday name-change its owner said is “the most exciting thing that’s happened” in his nearly four decades in real estate.

Larry Hitz said the change to Berkshire Hathaway Executive Group Real Estate gives the firm a name that is highly respected in the business world, with a solid financial backing and a direct association with Berkshire Hathaway’s chairman and CEO, Warren Buffett.

“There are not very many times in the history of his company that he has branded one with his own (company’s) name,” Hitz said. “It’s a great opportunity for us, for our agents.”

The 25 agents and other staff members at the real estate and development firm will gather Thursday morning to integrate their operations into Berkshire Hathaway’s.

Meanwhile, the agency’s blue-and-white Prudential signs with the familiar Prudential rock logo are giving way to purple-and-white – or, in the company’s words, “cabernet and cream” – Berkshire Hathaway signs this week.

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, operated by Irvine, Calif.-based HSF Affiliates LLC, was formed in 2012 and began rebranding its Prudential Real Estate brokerages across the country in summer 2013.

“In the last eight or nine months (Buffett) converted the largest companies in the United States to Berkshire Hathaway,” Hitz said.

This spring, that included the combination of Chicago-based Koenig & Strey Real Living and Prudential Rubloff Properties into Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Realty Group, the second largest real estate firm in the Chicago metropolitan area.

“Now he’s working through all the rest of us,” Hitz said, adding, “We’re the first Indiana-based company to convert to Berkshire Hathaway.”

The Berkshire Hathaway name appears to have benefited the new real estate company, with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices earning a Real Estate Agency Brand of the Year designation in a Harris Poll EquiTrend study and a nomination as a finalist in the American Business Award’s Startup of the Year category. The latter award will be presented Friday in Chicago.

Hitz said he anticipates technology upgrades with the Berkshire Hathaway transition, and has set a goal for his company to go paperless “as much as the industry will allow us to” this year.

Meanwhile, Hitz said 2014 has been the best year for real estate locally since the market collapsed in 2007, noting increasing new construction as a positive sign.

“We’re climbing out,” he said. “It’s coming back.”

Berkshire Hathaway Executive Group Real Estate will celebrate its new name from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at its offices at 2612 N. Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso. The event will include food associated with Buffett, Hitz said, including beef, recognizing Buffett’s Omaha roots; Coca-Cola and Dairy Queen products, recognizing his ownership interests in those companies; and Cabernet wine, representing the real estate company’s color scheme of "cabernet and cream."

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