Latter & Blum is acquiring a larger Houston real estate firm in a move that more than doubles the New Orleans company’s size and establishes a presence in one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas.
Realty Associates’ more than 1,700 agents in the greater Houston area will be under the Latter & Blum umbrella.
Combined, the deal will boost Latter & Blum to about 3,200 agents and nearly $4.3 billion in annual home sales — potentially enough to put it among the top 25 largest real estate firms in the country based on unit sales.
The Houston firm will operate under its existing leadership as Realty Associates, ERA Powered. Financial terms were not disclosed.
Realty Associates operates seven offices around the greater Houston area, with satellite offices in San Antonio, Dallas and Austin.
The Houston metro area has about 6.3 million residents, more than the nearly 4.6 million residents in Louisiana.
For Latter & Blum, the deal marks its largest among a dozen acquisitions or mergers that have spanned the past six years.
Realty Associates is “consistently the third- or fourth-largest real estate company in Houston, so it’s a beautiful way for Latter & Blum to enter that market with a volume of business that makes sense for us,” Latter & Blum Chairman and CEO Bob Merrick said.
He said the deal will significantly change the size of his company, which had about 1,500 agents in more than 30 offices in Louisiana and Mississippi. “Almost 1,800 agents is quite a jump for us.”
Rick Haase, Latter & Blum’s president, said the deal offers several advantages, including lowering costs and increasing the firm’s potential along the busy Interstate 10 corridor that cuts through the heart of the oil and gas industry.
In addition to its sprawling size, Houston is not far from Lake Charles, where Latter & Blum last year acquired ERA Moffett Realty Inc.
“We’ve grown a good bit in Louisiana, and the leap from Lake Charles to Houston puts us an hour away,” Haase said, calling the deal “the natural extension of our growth.”
With tens of billions of dollars worth of industrial expansions either underway or being considered in southwest Louisiana and across the state, Merrick said Latter & Blum is positioning itself in an area with the potential for “an awful lot of jobs and a lot of population growth.”
The deal continues Latter & Blum’s push to lock up established real estate firms that have a strong market position in a regional area.
Last year, in addition to ERA Moffett Realty and its more than 40 agents, Latter & Blum also acquired Houma-based Patterson Real Estate Agency Inc., which had 23 agents and had been in business since 1957.
The firm looks to be the leader in the markets where it does business, often acquiring the biggest local firm like it did in 1995 when it purchased C.J. Brown Realtors in Baton Rouge, which had about 230 agents.
Latter & Blum also does business with firms specializing in relocating company executives. Extending itself along the energy corridor should benefit that aspect of Latter & Blum’s bottom line, its executives said.
Merrick said he’s interested in expanding operations in the Houston area before looking elsewhere in Texas, although, he acknowledged, “the ground work is there” for future growth.
In the meantime, he’s not expecting drastic changes for the new acquisition.
“Nothing is going to change on their end,” Merrick said. “The only thing that’s going to change is we’re going to bring more technology, more business, more training. It will be a win-win for those agents.”
Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.