A major real estate brokerage company merger gives GMAC Real Estate a new name while expanding the Real Living real estate brand and growing the U.S. operations of Canada-based Brookfield Residential Property Services.

The merger of GMAC Real Estate and Real Living, which will operate under the Real Living name and under parent company Brookfield, represents the second sizable U.S. expansion of Brookfield operations in the past two years.

Brookfield — which is based in Toronto and operates the Royal LePage and others brands in Canada — entered into a deal to purchase GMAC Home Services LLC, including its real estate brokerage operations, in September 2008 (see story).

Financial terms of the latest deal were not announced.

Harley E. Rouda Jr. — son of Real Living’s founder, who established his first brokerage company, HER Realtors, in the basement of his home in 1956 — will lead the merged company as president. Real Living was established in 2002.

The joining of Real Living’s roughly 2,000 agents and 130 offices with GMAC Real Estate will give the merged Real Living operations about 10,000 agents and 600 offices, and an annual sales volume estimated at about $20 billion, according to a company announcement today.

That brings the Brookfield total to about 30,000 sales associates across North America, with about $50 billion in annual sales.

Graham Badun, Brookfield RPS’ managing partner and chief executive officer, told Inman News in June that GMAC Real Estate was seeking a new executive to run the firm and also seeking a new name.

Badun had taken on a dual role as GMAC Real Estate interim president in June, when former GMAC Real Estate President and CEO John Bearden stepped down.

GMAC Real Estate sold off all of its corporate-owned brokerage offices across the country after its acquisition by Brookfield, culminating with the sale of Chicago-based luxury brokerage Koenig & Strey GMAC Real Estate to HomeServices of America Inc. that was announced in September.

In the 2009 Real Trends 500 list, based on an annual U.S. brokerage company survey, GMAC Real Estate’s company-owned operations had ranked fifth in the nation based on sales volume, and 12th based on closed transaction sides. …CONTINUED

Badun said in a statement, "We explored a number of options, including creating an entirely new brand from the ground up, but our customer feedback and research kept leading us back to Real Living. Both companies share many of the same core values and combined will be part of a bigger, stronger network," he said.

He also stated, "We look forward to further expanding the size of our network by adding new franchisees that are truly looking for something fresh and different, and we are excited about the opportunity to take the brand to new markets internationally."

Harley Rouda Jr. said that Real Living had operated in about 20 states, while GMAC Real Estate had operations in 46 states.

While there is some overlap in the companies’ operations, such as in the markets of Orlando, Fla.; Chicago; and Dayton, Ohio, Rouda said there "is not a significant amount," and that those areas represent an increase in overall market share for the brand.

And it’s up to individual franchisees to determine whether it makes sense to consolidate operations if the merger creates multiple Real Living offices in their market areas, he said.

Rouda said the two companies are "very fortunate (to have) matched up very well in staffing needs," though it’s too early to say whether there will be any staffing cuts as a result of the merger. "We have a lot of work ahead of us," he said.

Details about the full management team are expected to be announced soon, he said.

The rebranding effort for GMAC Real Estate offices will begin immediately and could likely span several months, Rouda also said.

Two locations will now serve as the U.S. headquarters for Real Living, Rouda said — one in Oak Brook, Ill., the site of the GMAC Real Estate’s headquarters, and one in Columbus, Ohio, the site of Real Living’s headquarters.

Rouda said there are plans for the franchise company to provide "better integrated services across the real estate platform," with franchisees individually choosing whether or not to participate in the offerings.

GMAC Real Estate had recently taken a hit with the announcement that one of its largest franchisees, Atlanta-based Metro Brokers Inc., is leaving to affiliate with another franchisor (see story).


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