Real Estate Gets Territorial as Long & Foster Sets Sights on Patterson Schwartz’s Top Spot
As the two real estate moguls battle for the top spot, the drama in the New Castle County market grows. Who will come out on top?
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Act II: The History
From the late 1970s into the ’80s, Gary Scott recalls, Patterson Schwartz and his father’s firm accounted for about half the New Castle County real estate market, with B. Gary Scott usually lagging Patterson Schwartz by 5 to 7 percentage points. When B. Gary Scott sold to Prudential Preferred and the various national firms entered the county market, Patterson Schwartz strengthened its lead, holding about a 30 percent share, while the regional and national firms battled for second and third place, with figures in the mid to upper teens.
Last year, Pluscht says, Patterson Schwartz accounted for a little more than 25 percent of all residential sales in New Castle County, and about 30 percent of the dollar volume. Patterson Schwartz has been running 12 to 14 percentage points ahead of Prudential Fox & Roach the last couple of years, with ReMax and Keller Williams slightly behind in a battle for third.
While Patterson Schwartz’s strength is indisputably local, Long & Foster’s is regional. It is the largest privately held real estate company in the United States, with more than 11,000 agents in seven Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia. However, with a sales force stretching from New Jersey to North Carolina, there was one significant void to its coverage. That void, Scott says, is New Castle County.
To those who see Long & Foster as a threat, this could be the perfect storm. Gary Scott says, however, “I see it as the stars aligning.”
In mid-2012, as Long & Foster developed its business plan for this year, “we saw an opportunity to do something no other firm has been able to do—to truly cover the state of Delaware,” says Gary Scott.
Dick Christopher’s retirement on June 30, 2012, gave Gary Scott an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. A month later, he called R.T. Christopher, then the assistant sales manager and director of education at Patterson Schwartz’s Greenville office.
“R.T. and I are old friends,” says Gary Scott. “I went to his wedding.” After all, they had worked together for five years, and they share the same birthday—Aug. 26. Gary Scott is five years older.
They met several times, discussing Gary Scott’s vision for Long & Foster in Delaware—launching a statewide operation and rocketing to the top of the market—and R.T. Christopher was sold.
“I didn’t leave Patterson Schwartz as a disgruntled employee,” he says. “It has more to do with my history with Gary, and our personal relationship.”
Dick Christopher admits that his retirement paved the way for R.T. and his sisters to break from Patterson Schwartz. “There’s kind of a freedom to me leaving,” he says. “It kind of frees them up. The market opportunity is theirs now.”
And the opportunities for his children, he adds, may be better at Long & Foster than at Patterson Schwartz. “The people at Patterson Schwartz have been in place for a long time,” says Dick Christopher. “They are extremely competent in what they do. Until they retire, you’re not going to take their place.”