Sunday March 3, 2013

GREAT BARRINGTON -- Sales of luxury homes in the Berkshires increased substantially in 2012, and a real estate firm that has had success in that market in Connecticut has decided to establish an office in Great Barrington.

William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty, which has four offices in Connecticut’s nearby Litchfield County, has recently been operating locally out of a temporary office at 6 Railroad St. The firm plans to move into a permanent office at 308 Main St. on March 15.

Sotheby’s has offered South County properties from its Lakeville, Conn., office since 2008, said company president and CEO Paul E. Breunich. The company’s three other offices in northwest Connecticut are located in Litchfield, Kent, and Washington Depot.

"We haven’t had an exceptionally large amount of sales" previously in the Berkshires, he said. "But part of real estate is that it’s parochial, and you need a local presence. We didn’t think that from Lakeville we could do it effectively."

Sotheby’s also decided to move to the Berkshires to take advantage of the county’s second-home market and Great Barrington’s accessibility to the company’s client base in both Connecticut and New York.

"It’s a perfect Sotheby’s market," Breunich said. "It’s got the referral base from Manhattan with the second-home buyers."

Although Sotheby’s strength is in luxury homes, Bruenich said the company does offer properties in "all price ranges."

"Our average house value across 36 offices is $700,000 in an area where the high end is $2 million and the low end is $440,000," he said. "But our cachet is the upper end."

The sales of luxury homes in the Berkshires increased substantially in 2012. In the $1 million to $2 million range, 18 homes were sold last year compared to nine in 2011, according to the Berkshire County Board of Realtors. In the $2 million to $4 million category, four homes were sold last year compared to one in 2011. Four homes were also sold last year in the $950,000 to $1 million range compared to one in 2011.

"The inventory is still quite high," said Realtor Chapin Fish of William Brockman Real Estate in Monterey.

But those figures aren’t the sole reason Sotheby’s decided to come to the Berkshires.

"The second-home market is very similar to the second home market in the Litchfield area," he said. "If we weren’t in Lakeville and upper Litchfield County we wouldn’t be going."

Asked if the second-home market in the Berkshires was big enough to hold another real estate company, Bruenich replied by saying, "capitalism is a beautiful thing."

"It’s survival of the fittest," he said. "Whoever does the best gets the larger market share."

Local Realtors are taking a wait and see approach to Sotheby’s new Berkshire presence.

"It remains to be seen," Fish said. "My firm has been in business for 40 years. We were the first to sell property over $1 million in the Berkshires.

"I don’t see it as affecting us," he said. "We welcome them to Great Barrington."

According to Bruenich, Sotheby’s International Realty has an "association" with the more well known New York City-based Sotheby’s Auction House. The realty company purchased the licensing of Sotheby’s name from the auction house in 2004, he said.

"They wanted a more professional organization to deal with the real estate side of the business," Bruenich said.

William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty is also part of Realogy Holdings Inc., the world’s leading franchisor of real estate brokerages.

Realogy’s other brands include Century 21, and Coldwell Banker. Realogy’s net revenue in 2012 was $4.7 billion, an increase of 14 percent from 2011.

Sotheby’s Great Barrington office is managed by Carolyn L. Fugere, who also runs the firm’s four Litchfield County offices. Sotheby’s six local realtors, Dawn Farley, Pat Malluzzo, Dan Alden, Anita Schilling, Karen Climo and Gladys Montgomery, have all previously worked for Berkshire County real estate firms, Bruenich said.

To reach Tony Dobrowolski:
TDobrowolski@berkshireeagle.com.
(413) 496-6224.