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Buffett's home brokerage booms, with No 1 ranking in sight

Seattle

WARREN Buffett didn't have much luck in the blockbuster-deals department last year, but his real estate brokerage business is on a tear.

HomeServices of America, an operation that Mr Buffett said he "barely noticed" when Berkshire Hathaway Inc bought it in 2000 as part of an electric company, has grown steadily through acquisitions to become the second-largest residential brokerage owner in the US.

Now, after the purchase last year of one of its biggest rivals, Long & Foster, an even loftier perch is within range. The deal helped catapult HomeServices' volume by more than 80,000 "sides" in 2017, a 34 per cent jump from the prior year, according to a new ranking from Real Trends, a data provider for the industry.

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There are two sides to each home sale - a buyer and a seller - and one brokerage may represent both sides.

That puts the company within striking distance of the top residential brokerage in the US, Realogy Holdings Corp's NRT LLC unit, which operates under brands such as Coldwell Banker and Sotheby's.

In terms of transaction values, NRT still enjoys a significant lead. Make no mistake - Mr Buffett is fixated on being No 1.

"Despite its recent acquisitions, HomeServices is on track to do only about 3 per cent of the country's home-brokerage business in 2018," he wrote in his annual letter to Berkshire shareholders. "That leaves 97 per cent to go." BLOOMBERG