Modesto’s Prudential California Realty sells to Bay Area firm

jnsbranti@modbee.comMarch 25, 2014 

Prudential California Realty

Now heading the Prudential California Realty group controlled by Pearson Properties Inc. of San Ramon, from left: Alan Scearce, chief operating officer, Gretchen Pearson, president and CEO, and Craig Lewis, the Modesto company’s former broker and chief executive officer and now the president of the expanded company’s commercial real estate division.

PRUDENTIAL CALIFORNIA REALTY

— One of Stanislaus County’s oldest and largest real estate brokerage firms, Prudential California Realty, has been purchased by a San Ramon-based realty group for an undisclosed price.

The local firm’s 170 agents and eight offices now are part of the Prudential California Realty group controlled by Pearson Properties Inc. No major operational changes were announced, but a couple of local support staff employees are expected to lose their jobs.

The purchase will be good for Prudential’s agents and clients, assured Craig Lewis, who had been the local company’s broker and chief executive officer for 31 years.

“By combining forces, we’re going to be able to provide more marketing gusto and exposure for our customers and more services to our agents,” Lewis said. Homebuyers constantly “crisscross county lines,” he said, so it is important for a real estate company to have a regional presence.

Lewis, 61, will remain with the company as president of its commercial real estate division. He said the firm will split its headquarters between San Ramon and Modesto, with the Modesto staff overseeing commercial real estate, marketing and property management functions.

Gretchen Pearson will lead the company as president and CEO, and Alan Scearce will be the chief operating officer.

By being larger, Lewis said, the firm will provide the synergy and economy of scale needed to be viable in today’s real estate industry.

“Competition continues getting more heated, and consumers continue demanding more and more,” he said. The combined firm will have 28 offices – including locations in Modesto, Turlock, Escalon and Manteca – and nearly 800 agents in Northern California.

The original Modesto company started in 1965 as Stone Real Estate. It joined the Prudential Real Estate Network in 1989.

Under Lewis’ leadership, it grew substantially over the decades, reaching about 300 agents at the peak of the housing market in 2007.

At that point, Prudential California was one of Stanislaus’ “big three” real estate firms, along with PMZ Real Estate and Century 21 M&M and Associates.

Then the market crashed, the recession hit and the foreclosure crisis gripped the region. Numerous local realty firms have disappeared since then, and Prudential’s agent ranks have declined.

Last year, the company’s 170 agents sold 1,600 properties worth $360 million. By contrast, Century 21 M&M has expanded since 2007 by buying struggling realty offices elsewhere. President Larry Matos said his company, headquartered in Oakdale, has nearly 1,200 agents in 32 Northern California offices, and last year they sold about 7,000 properties worth $2 billion.

“There’s been a lot of consolidation in the real estate industry,” Matos said. “We’re going into the digital era in real estate … and running a brokerage has gotten very expensive.”

To succeed financially these days, Matos said firms must grow into a large regional operation or be a small boutique business. He said midsize realties struggle to survive.

But Modesto’s Coldwell Banker Vinson Chase Realtor – a locally owned, one-office operation – is doing well, according its broker and sales manager Sheridan Beuving.

“We’re not going anywhere,” assured Beuving, whose firm has been around for 40 years. He said most of his 28 agents work out of their homes, and “a number of them earn six-figure incomes.”

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or (209) 578-2196.

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