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By Stefan Swanepoel

RISMEDIA, Oct. 12, 2007-Large national brokerage companies have taken anywhere from a decade to a century to build a national brand. On average, many of the current real estate leaders appear to have invested approximately three decades in creating and building national recognition.

Therefore this week’s announcement by Realogy of its licensing the Better Homes and Gardens (BH&G) brand for 50 years from Meredith Corporation, a publishing company that owns about 25 subscription magazines including Better Homes and Gardens, comes as a big surprise to the industry.

There are numerous parties questioning the transaction; whether the deal has merit or whether it will cannibalize the existing Realogy brands. I think these pundits, like before (when RE/MAX launched in 1973, when HFS bought Century 21 in 1995, when EXIT launched 1996, etc.), are underestimating the power of innovation and change. There is a lot that can be done with the BH&G brand and it is way too early to speculate its potential place in or impact on the industry – be as it a replacement brand for some existing “worn” Realogy real brand, a new real estate brand targeted towards women or a new online real estate brand.

Betting odds should give determined men with lots of money the benefit of the doubt and Realogy surely has ample amounts of both.

In the 2007 edition of the “Swanepoel Trends Report” (Trend 7 – The Race is On: Brand Recognition – National Reach – Critical Mass) it was stated that, “The race, more than ever, is to achieve critical mass and create a consumer recognizable national real estate brand. No matter what path was followed in creating a brand it was always a tireless and expensive task.”

With a circulation of some 8 million and an estimated readership of about 40 million, the Better Homes and Gardens magazine has created a strong brand that evokes a sense of security and trust with the consumer. Focused on decorating, building and remodeling, crafts, entertaining, cooking and gardening, it is also one of the more natural tie-ins with a real estate brokerage. The magazine’s strong focus on women and families and the appointment this week of Sherry Chris as the new CEO appears to be pre-planned as she joined Realogy in December 2006. 

 Originally starting business in 1964 and franchised since 1975, the Better Homes and Gardens brand became a formidable national real estate company and much sought-after real estate brand in the 1980s and 1990s. That was until the sale by Meredith Corp. in June 1997 to GMAC Home Services, Inc., a subsidiary of GMAC Financial Services, and a controversial 10 year restriction to phase the BH&G brand out.

With that knowledge the new owners (GMAC) worked quickly and within three years the BH&G franchise that had consisted of about 800 real estate firms at the time of the sale was being converted to the new GMAC brand. Today the GMAC network has approximately 1,300 franchises and company-owned real estate offices.

And now, the BH&G brand is back in real estate; this time in the hands of real estate brand master Realogy.

In the Swanepoel Trends Report 2007, for the first time we discussed the valuable “lost” brands in real estate such as Arvida Realty, Jon Douglas Real Estate, Fred Sands, DeWolfe Realtors and others – but BH&G had dropped my radar. Now one starts thinking back to some other “forgotten” national brands such as Gallery of Homes and Red Carpet.

These announcements this week just reaffirm how dynamic and rapidly changing the real estate brokerage industry has become.

Acknowledgement:
Change is constant and rapid, so make sure you stay in touch with what’s happening and what it means to your future. Make sure that every year you get your copy of The Swanepoel TRENDS Report, the leading publication detailing the top trends shaping the real estate industry every year. Only a few copies of the 2007 edition of the Swanepoel TRENDS Report (www.ReTrends.com) are still available. RIS Media readers enjoy a special 10% discount as long as stocks last when using the promo code RISMedia at www.RealEstateBooks.org.

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