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Norris & Company sold to Berkshire Hathaway

Photo: Long-time Norris co-owners Jane Schwiering and Gena Grove.

Norris & Company, a major player in the barrier island luxury real estate market for 45 years, is bringing the imprimatur of one of the world’s wealthiest men, Warren Buffett, to Vero Beach.

Long-time co-owners Gena Grove and Jane Schwiering announced last week that they were selling their real estate brokerage to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty, the Florida franchisee of the national real estate company that bears Buffett’s prestigious global brand.

The acquisition of Norris now gives the Florida brokerage, which is owned by the luxury developer WCI Communities, 40 real estate offices throughout the state, and makes it the fifth largest Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices affiliate in North America.

Buffett’s parent real estate company, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices based in Irvine, California, has nearly 1,200 offices with more than 42,000 agents in 47 states, and in 2014 was named real estate agency brand of the year by the Harris Poll.

After making the surprise announcement last week, Grove and Schwiering emphasized that they’re not going anywhere.  By being relieved of the day-to-day management of the office, Grove said, “We get to list and sell real estate. We’re here and our doors are always open.”

She added that the personal attention and local knowledge clients have come to expect will only be bolstered by the Berkshire Hathaway network and the new high-tech marketing tools and professional development now available to the 48 agents and brokers on the Norris team.

“It’s an opportunity for us to get additional tools for our business and for marketing Vero on an international scale,” Schwiering said.

The transaction, which has been in the works for six months, came after Grove and Schwiering said they’d been courted by several other buyers.  Though the terms of the acquisition remain private, Grove said it was a cohesive match in cultures that solidified the deal, plus the fact that general manager Carol Prezioso will stay on in her key leadership role in the Norris office.

Following last week’s announcement, the Ocean Drive office was buzzing with activity. “They sent a wonderful team, a transition team of nine people,” Grove said.

The team was working on integrating the agency’s listings and website and that of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty. “We’ll be co-branding in our advertising,” Grove said, so the familiar green logo and the Norris & Company name will still be there to make their many repeat customers feel at home.

In addition to expanding the agency’s reach, the new union will position the Vero office to provide a full menu of corporate relocation services to executives and professionals wishing to settle in the area. With agents also keeping an eye out for prime commercial properties and development opportunities, the widely recognized Berkshire Hathaway brand could also play a role in attracting new businesses to the area.

This chance to contribute to economic development, which renews Vero’s vitality and keeps new talent and philanthropy and culture flowing into the community, Grove said, was also a factor in the partners’ decision to agree to the acquisition.

“Norris & Company Real Estate Realtors are well-respected throughout the Treasure Coast,” said Rei Mesa, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Realty. “The firm’s long standing reputation and loyal client base speaks to the skills and professionalism of this fine sales team and we are proud to welcome them to our ‘family of services.’”

“Our Vero has been long desired,” said Grove.  “It’s a wonderful place to live and to raise a family or to retire to.”