Berkshire Hathaway poaches top Christie’s team

Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New York’s effort to ascend the ranks of the city’s brokerage world has proven challenging, but the firm just took its biggest step yet, nabbing one of Christie’s International Real Estate’s top-producing teams.

Brian Meier and his Meier Estates & Ventures Team defected Tuesday. Meier’s contingent was the second most successful Christie’s team in the country last year, according to RealTrends, with $259 million in volume. That ranked 35th nationally among medium-sized teams.

“It’s a watershed moment for us,” said Steven James, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway New York Properties.

Meier is bringing five agents and two assistants with him. One team member decided to stay at Christie’s to form a team. Meier said he will have $125 million in listings in his first month at BHHS New York, which ranked 25th in New York City last year with only $36 million in sell-side, on-market deals in Manhattan, according to The Real Deal’s brokerage ranking.

By comparison, Corcoran Group, Douglas Elliman and Compass all had more than $6 billion in closed sales volume, followed by Brown Harris Stevens with $3.6 billion and Sotheby’s International Realty with $1.5 billion. No other firm in the top-heavy market reached $550 million.

Meier said he consulted with his wealthiest clients before pulling the trigger on joining a new firm.

“By far and away Berkshire was the leader in their positive responses,” he said, adding that the firm’s vast referral network was a major factor in his decision to join.

The defection comes at a time when both BHHS and Christie’s are making big pushes into the Manhattan market.

Christie’s effort is just getting started. After a seven-year buildup in the tri-state area, the brokerage this year opened a Manhattan office at 1 Rockefeller Plaza. It has 45 agents selling in the city. The brokerage declined to comment.

James, a longtime Douglas Elliman executive, took the helm of BHHS New York last year, along with fellow former Elliman executive Brad Loe and former Halsted CEO Diane Ramirez. The trio were charged with turning BHHS New York into a major New York City brokerage.

The trio took a shoe-leather recruitment approach that stressed mentorship over technology and branding, a different approach than taken by Compass and Serhant, for example. The stated goal was to grow the company’s headcount to 150 to 200 agents by the end of last year across four offices.

Two-thirds of the way through 2023, their headcount is at 110 and BHHS has just one office in Manhattan, at 590 Madison Avenue.

James said BHHS New York has shifted strategies to target more experienced agents. He added that clawbacks have been challenging to overcome and many agents are reluctant to give up their listings to switch firms.

Plans for a second office, Downtown, have been put on hold until next year, by the end of which James believes the firm can hit its headcount goal.

“There’s a lot of unrest across the city, at all the companies but especially the big companies,” he said. “The same precious small few get all the referrals. … I don’t want to be part of a system like that again.”

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