Merger creates huge real estate group

Published 9:21 pm Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A bank with headquarters in Suffolk announced the merger of three local real estate firms on Monday.

TowneBank announced the merger of its GSH Real Estate subsidiary with Virginia Beach-based Prudential Decker Realty and Williamsburg-based Prudential McCardle Realty.

The resulting new company, Prudential Towne Realty, will be one of the largest home marketing firms in Hampton Roads. The companies had about $1 billion in combined closings in 2008, putting Prudential Towne among the top 5 percent of all Prudential franchises in the country.

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Barbara Wolcott, the new chairman and CEO of Prudential Towne Realty, said the merger has been in the works for several months.

“We started discussing the benefits of merging the two companies,” she said. “Because we do offer all the backing of TowneBank behind this entity, it certainly expands our market penetration into all price ranges and opens up the power of Prudential enterprise.”

Wolcott said the power of the Prudential name will help increase sales in Hampton Roads.

“This is such a transient community, with the military and the growth rate, that so many of the buyers are coming from out of area,” she said. Most people typically search for nationally-known names online when preparing for an out-of-the-area home search, Wolcott said.

Robert Aston Jr., chairman and CEO of TowneBank, said the new company would provide a “one-stop shop” for prospective homeowners.

Prudential Towne Realty will offer real estate brokerage, full-service residential property management and mortgage lending, title and settlement services.

“From the consumer’s perspective, the ease of doing business, instead of going to a whole bunch of different places to put this together, is increased,” Aston said.

Most homebuyers will be purchasing every service offered by Prudential Towne Realty – even if they don’t buy it from them, Aston said. That means that a customer can take care of all his real estate-related needs in one place.

“Generally, a bank is not the first place they go,” he said.

“Having a full-service, one-stop delivery system will provide a real benefit to our clients,” said Kimber Smith, president of the new organization. “The quality will be extraordinary.”

Other leadership of Prudential Towne Realty will include Carol Smith, senior vice president, and Sandee Ferebee, chairman emeritus. J. Morgan Davis, president of Towne Financial Services Group, will join the board of directors along with Ferebee and Jon and Trey Decker.

TowneBank will own 65 percent of the new company. The former owners of the two Prudential franchises will control the balance.