Editor's note: The fragmented real estate industry seems to be consolidating. But is it really? And is it good for the consumer? This four-part series looks at the trend of consolidation, who wins, who loses, and who is driving it. (See Part 1: NRT: The mega consolidator; Part 2: Brand names move into technology space; and Part 3: Smaller lenders see opportunity in mergers.) Real estate veteran Robert E. Helms has sold Prudential Carolinas Realty not once, but twice since the brokerage was founded three decades ago. The CEO first sold the brokerage to Merrill Lynch in 1986. He bought it back in 1991 after Prudential acquired the Merrill Lynch real estate operations, then sold it again two months ago. The new owner is HomeServices of America, an Edina, Minn.-headquartered company that has a combined total of 17,000 sales agents, who last year closed more than 185,000 transaction sides in 18 states. "They have a fantastic business model for today," Helms said. Prudential Carolinas Realt...
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