Call the tour whirlwind, but Helen Edwards' remarks about greater Charleston were anything but hurried.
Edwards, president and chief operating officer of Coldwell Banker United, Realtors, stopped by the agency's new Centre Pointe office for a few hours Nov. 21 before flying out later in the day.
She oversees 73 offices companywide from the brokerage's headquarters in College Station, Texas. Founded in 1970, Coldwell Banker United, Realtors became an affiliate of the global Coldwell Banker real estate business in 1986.
"This Charleston area; it's just amazing," Edwards said in an impromptu interview at the Centre Pointe office. "It's really affordable for such a lovely place," she says. "I looked at this market as a great opportunity to expand the footprint. We are very committed to grow this marketplace," she says.
Coldwell Banker United, which grew by way of expansions through 2008, can "take a step back" to review its progress and plot its forward strategies. "I'm really excited," Edwards says.
The president and COO says she visits the company's regions at least once a quarter. The Carolinas region, centered in Charlotte, also includes Statesville, N.C., and Columbia, Charleston and Aiken in South Carolina. "This Carolina region has done phenomenally well," she says.
Edwards also talked about Boeing's influence on the Charleston area.
Boeing's plant in North Charleston and the company's Everett, Wash., facility are the only places that build the wide-bodied 787 Dreamliner. Meanwhile, the aircraft maker had broached the possibility of locating its new 777X production somewhere other than Washington state.
"Certainly it matters to us," Edwards says, adding, "We would have been here (in greater Charleston) anyway." The manufacturer's presence no doubt helps Coldwell Banker United's business. "We are a company that does a tremendous amount of corporate relocation," she says.
The greater Charleston market stands out for its growth in the past five-plus years. Coldwell Banker United, Realtors bought the Coldwell Banker Coastal Properties office in early 2008 to enter the Lowcountry.
The region claims 133 agents now, up 35 percent. The North Charleston office at the Oaks at Centre Pointe plans to expand to 60 agents, up from 35 today. Within eight months, Coldwell Banker United intends to establish a new, area office in the Nexton development in Summerville.
"The city is getting a lot more international," says Glenn Niere, the Columbia-based president and COO of the Carolinas region. The brokerage's "tremendous growth" in the Charleston area lead to the recent office realignment, he says. "We made this a more centrally located office," he says of the Centre Pointe spot.
Coldwell Banker United offices will include North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Goose Creek, downtown Charleston and the new Summerville location - which should be the final office move for awhile,
"I think we are pretty settled," says Paul Dunkle, Charleston general manager and senior vice president of relocation.
Niere, Dunkle and Marcie Sain, controller of the Carolinas region in Charlotte, joined Edwards in touring the new North Charleston location.
Edwards, a veteran real estate agent, signed on with Coldwell Banker United, Realtors more than 20 years ago, initially in its Austin office and later relocating to Bryan-College Station.
"It's so interesting to go from area to area," she says. Houston proves the most robust of the Texas territories, she says, due in part to growth in the oil and gas industry. Conversely, Austin faces an inventory shortage with just two months worth of homes on the market. "It's a very frustrating time," Edwards says.
Coldwell Banker United's other major market, Florida, "has picked up tremendously," she says. Still, the state's Gulf Coast region, including Pensacola, faces a "challenge" from the lingering effects of the BP Oil spill in 2010, she says.
"Overall, the business is better," Edwards says. "There isn't ample inventory in Texas," she says. "We aren't planning for astronomical growth. Bur we should see growth in the marketplace."
Reach Jim Parker at 937-5542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
COLDWELL BANKER UNITED, REALTORS AT A GLANCE:
Founded: July 1, 1970, in College Station, Texas, as Richard Smith Co.
Affiliation: 1986, with Coldwell Banker national real estate giant.
Notable expansions (Texas): In 1990, bought five real estate offices in Austin; branched into Houston in 1996.
Southeastern growth: On Sept. 11, 2002, acquired 11 offices in Charlotte and in Columbia. At the same time, all company offices adopted the Coldwell Banker United, Realtors name. In 2007, bought Pensacola , Fla., agency with 20 offices in the Florida panhandle including Destin, Panama City and Fort Walton Beach and Gulf Coast areas in Alabama and Mississippi.
Charleston acquisition: In first quarter 2008, purchased several offices from Coldwell Banker Coastal Properties in the Charleston area.
Company size: The No. 1 company in the Coldwell Banker network of independently owned affiliates as measured in "transaction sides" and commission income.
Top officer: Helen Edwards, president and chief operating officer since June 1, 2012.
Metro Charleston offices: 4 - Centre Pointe, 4969 Centre Pointe Drive, Suite 203 in North Charleston. 843-875-5525. Manager, Pam Griffin; Charleston Downtown, 35 Broad St. in Charleston. 843-375-2780. Manager, Ann Whalen; Goose Creek, 205 St. James Avenue, Suite 5 in Goose Creek. 843-572-3131. Manager, Kimo Esarey; Mount Pleasant, 127 Queensborough Blvd., Suite 103 in Mount Pleasant. 843-856-8800. Manager, Ann Whalen.
Planned local office: 1 - Nexton, off U.S. Highway 17A in Summerville. Expects to open in next 6-8 months.
Charleston area agents: 133.
Sources: Coldwell Banker United, Realtors website; company.