For nearly 35 years, Kevin Kirkpatrick and John Dick have led their real estate company with distinction, building it from a storefront enterprise in central Indianapolis in 1981 into an Indiana powerhouse with a well-earned reputation for excellence. On October 7 of this year, in a regional rollout bringing new energy and new signage to 14 offices and hundreds of yard signs, the company formerly known as Prudential Indiana embarks on its next exciting phase of growth as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Indiana Realty. “Affiliating with Berkshire Hathaway, with the full strength of Warren Buffett behind us, is one more step in our proven commitment to innovation and quality service,” says Kirkpatrick. In this exclusive interview, Kirkpatrick and the company’s Operations Executive, Craig West, share their vision of the new world of real estate, and their strategy for ensuring that this reimagined company continues to be an industry leader.
Barbara Pronin: Kevin, can you briefly synopsize your career path in real estate and how your present company came to be?
Kevin Kirkpatrick: I’m a third generation Hoosier, actually, and my father was a pioneer here in real estate management and construction. I started out following in the path he set, but after a few years, in 1976, I decided to get my real estate license and try my hand at the sales end. I came onboard what was then Century 21 Realty Group in 1981 and, along with my business partner, John Dick, and an eight-agent staff, we built the company into one of the brand’s top 15 offices in the country. We continued to grow through the ’90s by bringing in marketing partners in growing markets across the north central, central and southern parts of the state. In 2010, we took the opportunity to become the exclusive Prudential Real Estate franchise in Indiana. It was a good decision because it gave us exceptional brand recognition and some industry-leading technology. But now, with Prudential pulling out of the real estate sector, we have this new opportunity to join with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices—truly one of the nation’s most prestigious and trusted brands. We are thrilled to be partnered with Warren Buffett’s storied brand as Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices enters the real estate industry, and I am confident the move will propel us to yet another level of success.
BP: How many offices and agents do you currently have and what regions does the firm serve?
KK: We have 400 agents in 14 offices and four satellite offices serving all of central and southern Indiana.
BP: How would you describe your firm’s positioning in the marketplace? What sets you apart from the competition?
KK: We’re a full-service agency with a 30-year reputation as a premier Indiana company. Our dedicated agents, most of whom have multiple years of market experience, are doing in excess of 5,000 transactions a year, and what really sets us apart, I think, is our seamless and customized service in all segments of the market. We are especially well-known for expertise in the high-end market, and have become the leader for relocation expertise in the state as well as for the ancillary services we offer.
Just as important, I think we’re recognized as an integral part of the community. I’m a past president of our local board and state associations, and we have proven leaders in all our offices and numerous marketing partners and agents who’ve been honored as REALTOR® of the Year for their service to both our industry and our communities. Many of our clients know and support our commitment to giving back. We work with numerous local charities as well as the Metro Board of REALTORS® Foundation, for example, to host golf tournaments and other events to support local shelters and develop new and better ways to help the homeless. We are very proud of the reputation we’ve built, and we will continue to work to give back to our communities.
BP: When and how will your brand conversion take place, and how is it being accepted?
KK: The official conversion date is October 7, but we’ll accomplish the rollout on a regional basis, with sign changes, ribbon cuttings and special media opportunities planned in each local market. The Berkshire Hathaway name is one of the best-known and respected in the country, and our agents are excited to move forward with the strength of the brand behind us. Recently, we had the largest attendance ever at our annual company convention, and every agent who heard the news saw the brand change as a positive turning point in their careers.
Craig West: Also, we believe the Berkshire Hathaway brand holds great appeal for the next generation of buyers and sellers, and for a new generation of industry professionals who see it as a defining opportunity to partner with an innovative and respected name. That makes this a very exciting time for us.
BP: How would you describe current market conditions in your state?
KK: The market is actually very good right now. We’re seeing a lot of activity. Our biggest challenge is a shortage of inventory, in part because we haven’t seen much new construction for the past five years. Because of the inventory shortage, we’re experiencing a seller’s market, with a lot of buyer competition, and we’re beginning to see some double-digit increases in property value. At the same time, buyers today are pretty savvy. They understand that prices are increasing and that interest rates will undoubtedly begin to rise at some point. They are motivated to find the right property, so we are experiencing an increase in business in all our markets right now.
BP: What has been your approach to growth in recent years, and is that changing now that the market is rebounding?
KK: Our approach has been to grow slowly and steadily and to anticipate and respond to market changes. We had the good sense to adjust our overhead when the market started to decline a few years ago. We consolidated some of our locations and kept a close eye on expenses. As a result, we were ready and able to start growing again as the market began to rebound. We’re currently investing in expanded technologies and a program of one-on-one agent development with a nationally certified business coach that we know will keep our people better equipped and more knowledgeable than anyone else in the industry.
CW: We’re also able to recruit more robustly. As we indicated, the BHHS brand has great appeal to new and experienced agents, and we know we can offer them the most innovative suite of tools and technology and the best agent development support available.
BP: So how, in fact, are you attracting—and retaining—top agents?
KK: Our long history as a quality company has always helped attract top agents, and we know very well that quality agents are the very backbone of our success. We provide top-tier support and a working environment that supports collaboration among agents and management, and now, as we convert to Berkshire Hathaway, we’re going to do something new. We want every agent company-wide to have a direct buy-in with the brand. We’ll be gifting shares of Berkshire Hathaway B stock to every agent in our company, and every new agent that joins us will have the opportunity to earn shares. It’s a gesture we think every agent will appreciate, and it’s one more way for us to show appreciation for their hard work and success.