A large California-based real estate brokerage with more than 700 agents announced a joint venture with a major international real estate franchisor this week.

Altera Real Estate is forming a new company, Harcourts Pacific, with New Zealand-based franchisor Harcourts International. Harcourts has more than 630 offices and more than 4,000 agents in nine countries: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, China, Fiji, Indonesia, Zambia, and Singapore.

Altera marks the company’s first venture in the United States, adding 23 independently owned offices and more than 700 agents to the franchise’s network. Real Trends ranked Altera Real Estate as No. 101 of the 500 largest brokerages in the country by sales volume in 2009.

Financial details about the transaction were not disclosed, though Mike Green, managing director for Harcourts International, said in a statement, "As a 50 percent shareholder in the U.S. joint venture, Harcourts will have a heavy focus on the American market throughout 2010, as long-term plans are put in place for further expansion in the country."

Both Harcourts International and Altera Real Estate are part of the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (RELO) organization.

Gary Thomas, one of Altera’s founders, had met Harcourts executives more than a decade ago, and the franchise company first approached him about a partnership to expand into the U.S. about five months ago, said Dennis Badagliacco, Altera’s president and now president of Harcourts Pacific.

He, his wife Colleen, and Thomas founded Altera in 2008. Both Colleen Badagliacco and Thomas are former presidents of the California Association of Realtors.

All Altera offices will retain their current branding, except any new materials ordered will have "a Harcourts company" added next to the Altera name, he said. Altera asked to retain that branding as part of the deal.

"It’ll be a gradual phase-in, not a hard cut-over. When (our former company) went from RE/MAX to Altera (in 2008), that was a hard cut-over. It was a lot more traumatic for the agents," Badagliacco said.

Any new franchises the company opens will be branded as Harcourts, he added.

"We’ll be able to expand services in a geometric way for our agents. Right now, we have one person that handles agent interactions, marketing packages, and then does some educational classes. (Harcourts has) three different departments doing that," Badagliacco said.

Thomas is now chairman of the board of Harcourts Pacific, and Colleen Badagliacco is Harcourts Pacific’s director of training and the Harcourts Academy, a training provider.

From the Academy, agents "can learn to be an agent, in management, or a broker-owner. (The agents) are going to take classes equivalent to college classes. There’s no other company in the world that does that that we know of," Dennis said.

"For the training of agents, they don’t have just these one-day seminars. They actually have classes in REOs, things like that. We had all of the same things, but didn’t have the volume or the depth that they did." he said.

Brokers will also get one-on-one training monthly, he said. Harcourts will also give agents free iPhone and iPad applications to work with. These will include an app for property search and for transaction management as well as listing presentations that can be given on an iPad, Badagliacco said.

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