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State’s big real estate deal following national trend

JACKSON — The purchase of Kelly Dabbs Realty by ERA Real Estate Professionals, which has offices in Jackson and Hattiesburg, creates one of the largest residential real estate firms in the state.

Scott Brunner, executive vice president of the Mississippi Association of Realtors, said the merger makes sense.

“The consolidation of these two firms follows the national trend among real estate businesses,” Brunner said. “We’re seeing similar mergers in Alabama and across the South. The reasons are varied depending on the market and the folks involved. By economy of scale, brokers in larger firms can enhance customer service and provide more training opportunities to serve a more sophisticated and diverse clientele.”

ERA Real Estate Professionals now has one office in Hattiesburg with 40 agents, and six offices in Jackson with a total of 50 agents. ERA Real Estate Professionals had 20 agents in Jackson before acquiring Kelly Dabbs Real Estate with 30 agents.

Chip Hill, owner of ERA Real Estate Professionals, said Kelly Dabbs Realty is one of the Jackson area’s best-known real estate companies.

“I think Kelly Dabbs Realty is one of the best, if not the best, in the market,” Hill said. “They have a tremendous reputation for integrity. I think their company culture is very much like ours. He has really good agents. People buy real estate from people, not from companies. So it is important to have good people.

“Kelly Dabbs is a great guy, and has done a tremendous job with this company. I know he is very proud of the company he has built. It has been a pleasure doing business with him, and I certainly hope I can fill his shoes in continuing to build the reputation he has earned over the past 17 years.”

Hill, whose firm is the number one residential real estate firm in the Hattiesburg market, said during a transition period the company in Jackson will go by both names. Hill entered the market in Jackson by buying an ERA franchise, ERA Lorden Realty, which had two offices in Jackson, in the fall of 2000. He started the ERA franchise in Hattiesburg in 1995.

“We are a relatively new company,” Hill said. “We have grown pretty fast. The way the market is these days you have to be small mom and pop, or be big enough to take advantage of the economies of scale.”

Hill said the advantage to agents with Kelly Dabbs Realty is that they will have access to the products and services offered by ERA, which will allow them to be more competitive.

“That’s really the thing,” Hill said. “It is the company’s responsibility to provide the agents with tools and services that make them better equipped to serve the consumer. If we can give our agents tools other companies don’t have, they can get the listings and sell the homes.”

Even prior to the acquisition, ERA Real Estate Professionals was one of the top 50 ERA franchises out of 2,600 franchises nationwide. Hill credits his success in the marketplace to building with good people.

“You can have all the tools and the services and the systems in place, but if you don’t have good people, you can’t do much with those services and tools,” Hill said. “By being part of a national franchise we have access to tools, services and products that independent and local companies don’t have.”

The addition of Kelly Dabbs Realty increased ERA Real Estate Professionals listing inventory, adding about 100 additional listings. The purchase increases ERA’s market share in the Jackson area.

“We are positioned now to cover most of the areas we want to cover,” Hill said. “We will probably do something in the future south of Jackson in Byram. By doing that we will really cover all of the Jackson metro area.

“We are excited about the marketplace. I think there are tremendous opportunities in North Jackson and the Madison-Ridgeland area where we are going to continue to see a boon because of the things going up there such as Nissan. There are a lot of housing developments up there in the early stages that will be building out in the next few years. There are more than 10 projects in various stages from the drawing board to breaking ground that will be coming on the market in the next five years.”

Hill said the real estate market in Hattiesburg has seen different patterns than normal in the past year. With the slow economy, 9/11 and the war, sales have been softer particularly for more expensive homes.

“It hasn’t been bad,” Hill said. “But the patterns have been different than what we usually see. You normally see certain trends and those trends have changed the past couple of years. Sales patterns typically repeat through the year with spikes in the spring and summer and lulls in winter. Those aren’t as predictable as normal. We have seen a high spring and then a low summer, which is kind of unusual. The only thing we can attribute that to is people being off stride in what they are doing.”

People need homes to live in, so activity is still brisk with people moving into the area or those purchasing their first home. But Hill said there has been less discretionary activity with people moving up to nicer homes, or moving for convenience such as being closer to work or school.

“Discretionary buyers have been sitting tight instead of making those moves,” Hill said. “We have also seen that trend somewhat in Jackson, but the Jackson market is somewhat more diversified. So it has been a little stronger overall.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at mullein@datasync.com or (228) 872-3457.


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