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Long & Foster acquired by Berkshire’s HomeServices

(Larry Downing/Reuters)

Long & Foster, one of the biggest residential real estate companies in the country by sales volume, was acquired by HomeServices of America on Thursday. The acquisition also includes Long & Foster’s business lines in mortgage, settlement services, insurance and property management. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“What the family wanted, what our intent was, was to make sure our legacy, the Long & Foster brand and its agents were protected and secure for the long term,” said Larry “Boomer” A. Foster Jr., president of general brokerage and nephew of founder P. Wesley Foster Jr.

HomeServices of America, a residential real estate brokerage based in Minneapolis, is an affiliate of Berkshire Hathaway, the Warren Buffett conglomerate with subsidiaries including utilities, insurance and railroads. HomeServices of America also owns Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Prudential Real Estate and Real Living Real Estate, positioning it to become the country’s largest residential real estate brokerage company.

“This deal is big,” said David Charron, chief strategy officer of Bright MLS, the area’s multiple listing service. “This is yet another data point that suggests that real estate drives the economy.”

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Long & Foster was founded in 1968 by Wes Foster and Henry Long. Foster bought out Long in 1979. It became one of the largest privately held companies in the Washington region with approximately 11,000 agents in more than 230 offices serving home buyers in the District, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey. In 2016, Long & Foster had nearly $29 billion in sales volume and more than 81,000 home sale transactions.

“They’ve instilled a sense of regimen and discipline and accountability borne out of the decline of [2007 and 2008],” Charron said. “Long & Foster has become much more corporate. As a privately held company, I think it’s going to benefit them in the merger.”

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Wes Foster will remain with the company as chairman emeritus. Jeff Detwiler, Long & Foster’s president and chief operating officer, will become chief executive. In a memo sent to Long & Foster real estate agents, Wes Foster wrote: “We’ll continue to operate under our current Long & Foster brand names, and other than our ownership, it will be business as usual.”

Boomer Foster echoed his uncle’s message that the company would carry on as before the sale and that no jobs would be lost because of it. The company will remain at its Chantilly headquarters.

“Nothing is changing at all,” he said. “If we didn’t tell anybody this has happened, no one would know it happened.”

Boomer Foster said recent sales of some of Long & Foster’s office buildings had nothing to do with the sale of the company. He also declined to discuss how long the sale had been in the works.