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Real EstateBrokerage

Warren Buffett’s boring, dominant resi brokerage

HomeServices has methodically and anonymously stayed profitable for years

Gino Blefari HW+
Gino Blefari, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices of America CEO and chairman

Gino Blefari is a pretty colorful character. The Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices of America CEO and chairman of Berkshire’s franchise network, HSF Affiliates, calls money “dough,” and is fond of tangents – like describing the initial reporting on the JFK assassination, and the best routes to the John Wayne Airport in Irvine, California.

But while Blefari has a clearly defined personality, the residential real estate brokerage he runs doesn’t. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices of America is not just a boring mouthful of a name, but it is a confusingly layered operation.

There are corporate parents, brokerage branches, brokerage branches with their own branding, mortgage companies, mortgage companies that are joint ventures with a subsidiary brokerage, a title and escrow division, and an insurance division. HSF Affiliates, meanwhile, is a mélange of franchisees with and without the Berkshire name.

“I’d like us to have more of an identity,” Blefari admitted.

This muddle combined with the brokerage’s old-fashioned approach – Blefari is not only the rare real estate CEO who does not wax on about technology, but he actually discussed how fun it was to recently post on Facebook – underwhelms real estate observers, who can offer a fiercely opinionated response about Zillow or Compass at the drop of a hat.

HomeServices is “staid” and “traditional,” said Jonathan Miller, appraiser at Miller Samuel, with “nothing earth-shattering” going on.

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