Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices has signed Berlin, Germany-based brokerage Rubina Real Estate as its first global franchisee, it announced this week.
The brokerage, which will operate as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Rubina Real Estate starting in April, serves central Berlin and has aspirations to expand to other parts of Germany.
“Rubina Real Estate is an ideal fit for our network, and we’re excited that it will carry the distinction of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices’ first franchisee abroad,” said Gino Blefari, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, in a press statement.
In 2017, Rubina Real Estate was named Best Real Estate Agency and Best Property Consultant (Marketing) for all of Europe by the International Property Awards, and the company has been working in recent years to attract international investors to the Berlin real estate market from countries such as China, India and the Middle East. Rubina is seen as an important source of real estate expertise by banks and developers in Berlin, according to the company.
Carsten Heinrich, co-founder and managing director of Rubina Real Estate, said in a prepared statement: “The brand carries the name of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., one of the world’s most respected and trusted corporations. We believe the brand will be warmly embraced in our markets and will help us build our global brand bridging Europe, Asia and America.”
Speaking to Inman from the company sales conference in San Antonio, Texas, this week, Blefari said he had a team of seasoned franchise and international real estate operators formerly from Realogy businesses, including Sotheby’s International Realty and ERA, helping him find franchisees in many parts of the world. Berkshire Hathaway’s international franchise arrangement is identical to its U.S. setup.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices formed in 2013 from the vestiges of Prudential Real Estate and currently has more than 45,000 agents and 1,400 offices in the U.S.
Blefari said he was pleased the company started with a franchisee in Germany, the largest economy in Europe where the Berkshire Hathaway name is well-known, especially among those in the financial markets.
Why is it so critical for U.S. real estate brokers to go international?
“It’s important for the domestic U.S. market,” said Blefari. “We now have a global market with Chinese, Canadian and European investors especially in the high end, so it’s very important.” Every seller wants their home exposed to as many potential buyers as possible, he added.
Blefari said in a press statement that Rubina Real Estate opens the door to additional global franchisees.
“We’ve approached global network expansion very carefully and methodically,” he explained. “We have feelers out in all of Europe, Japan and Canada — feelers out everywhere,” he told Inman. Canada would be a great market to expand to, he said. The next likely franchisee for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices would be Japan, he said.
Meanwhile, Heinrich of Rubina Real Estate, who has traveled widely in the U.S. and is married to an American, added: “In order to do business with American companies you need to understand both the U.S. and Germany well. With a strong brand like Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, it is much easier than other brands.”
Heinrich said with 25 agents who speak 13 languages, he would be building the business in Berlin, a city of 4 million people, which is going through a big growth phase. A popular startup hub, the city is expecting 250,000 people to move there in the next three years, he said. Prices of homes had gone up 30 percent in the last three years, he added, rather than the usual 5 percent annual appreciation.
After growing his business by 50 percent in the next year, Heinrich said he would like to take his company to other German cities, such as Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Dusseldorf with the support of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices.