- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Washington real estate titan Long & Foster Inc., yesterday bought the high-end brokerage arm of W.C. & A.N. Miller Co., a family-owned real estate firm in the District.

The sale gives Long & Foster better access to sell million-dollar homes in the Washington area.

The 95-year-old firm approached Long & Foster in December about the sale, whose terms were not disclosed.

“This is a situation where we can take an asset of the company and leverage the brand and relationships of another company to make it better,” said Ted Miller, president of the W.C. & A.N. Miller Co., and grandson of the founder.

Mr. Miller said small real estate firms, such as his, have had difficulty competing in a market dominated by “megabrokers,” and have been forced to consolidate or sell.

The addition of W.C. & A.N. Miller’s 400 employees and seven real estate offices in the area will increase Long & Foster’s staff to more than 17,000 agents.

The combined 2006 sales for the two companies would have been nearly $40 billion, company officials said.

“We wanted to find a partner that would carry out the hard work our team has done, and I think we found one in Long & Foster,” Mr. Miller said.

Company officials said the effect of the sale should be negligible to home buyers and sellers.

“Our customers will be ensured that all the things they’ve come to know will continue, and will be enhanced by the strength and capacity of the Long & Foster company,” he said.

W.C. & A.N. Miller will keep its acquisition and development business, as well as its new home construction and property management operations.

The brokerage unit of the business made up less than 10 percent of the company’s total asset value. The company will be called W.C. & A.N. Miller, a Long & Foster Company.

Long & Foster also will gain W.C. & A.N. Miller’s affiliation with Christie’s, a leading auction house based in London.

“Now we have a fine old company, with a fine old company name … that will let us go after the upper-end market like we’ve never done before,” said Wesley Foster Jr., chief executive officer and chairman of Long & Foster.

Mr. Foster founded the firm in 1968. Long & Foster operates from 259 sales offices throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

“We have a bit more to offer now that we have picked up the Christie’s franchise,” Mr. Foster said. “It will help us sell more million-dollar homes in the Washington area.”

Industry sources said some Miller agents were worried about being swallowed up by such a large firm and were talking to other companies.

“I can’t say everyone will walk away ecstatic,” Mr. Miller said. “But that’s what happens when change occurs. We’ve worked very hard to ensure a good transition.”

“Nobody likes change too much,” said Michael Seay, president of the real estate agents group at W.C. & A.N. Miller. “Some of our agents were wary [about the deal] going into it, but after speaking with them today, they came away feeling very good about the transaction.”

Mr. Seay said the agents will benefit from greater access to the marketing, technology and support that a larger company like Long & Foster can provide.

The deal is Long & Foster’s second acquisition of a residential brokerage arm in the last six months. In July, Long & Foster bought Fonville Morisey Realty in Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

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