Kahala Associates is now List Sotheby’s International Realty
Teaming up with List Sotheby’s International Realty was a swift and decisive move for the brokers turned-owners behind luxury real estate firm Kahala Associates. “We want the best representation for our clients,” says Kahala Associates founder Myra Brandt, who launched the company with her husband and business partner, Victor Brandt, in 2001 before assuming the role of principal broker at List Sotheby’s International Realty. “I believe they see, as we do, that the world is becoming ‘flat,’ and a perceptual shift is required to remain competitive in what is becoming a more global market.”
With eight offices in Japan, two on O‘ahu and expansion plans in place in Singapore and Thailand, List Sotheby’s International Realty is uniquely positioned to bolster Hawai‘i’s real estate industry and tap the lucrative Asian market that’s become such an important part of economic stability in the islands. The company is a subsidiary of leading Japan-based real estate development firm List Company, which obtained the Japan franchise for Sotheby’s International Realty in 2011 and has developed and sold more than 7,000 condominium and housing units in Japan since it was founded by President and CEO Hisashi Kitami in 1991.
Before Hawai‘i’s housing bubble burst in the ’90s and prompted a steep decline in Asian buyers, investors from Asia were purchasing the vast majority of high-end homes in the islands. Hawai‘i’s residential market is back to seeing steady growth, particularly among foreign buyers. “It is because of this outside demand that we weather the downturns in the real estate cycle less severely than many other states and economies around the world,” Brandt says. Home values have steadily risen over the past decade, and China’s rapidly growing middle class has made Asia a crucial sector for real estate and numerous other industries. A favorable exchange rate that’s increased Asian buying power by as much as 25 percent certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
For residents, globalization in real estate means a bigger playing field. Sotheby’s International Realty operates 720 offices in 52 countries and territories worldwide, granting clients unprecedented access to seven million potential buyers around the world. “Our clients want their real estate agent to be an expert in their local neighborhoods,” says Jeffrey Fox, a former broker-owner at Kahala Associates who made the transition to List Sotheby’s International Realty following the merger.
“The only way to be an expert locally yet offer clients excellent service in other countries is to have offices and agents in other countries.”
Joining forces was a win-win for both parties. The merger solidifies List Sotheby’s International Realty’s footing in Hawai‘i, where the company was looking to further increase its presence after acquiring local real estate firm Mary Worrall Associates in September 2013. Kahala Associates brought a wealth of local expertise as well as a high standard of service in keeping with both List and Sotheby’s illustrious reputations. “The corporate cultures of Kahala Associates and List Sotheby’s International Realty were in total alignment from the start,” Fox says. “Both firms strived for excellent service beyond our clients’ expectations, exceptional marketing and luxury service at every price point.”
Unlike a traditional brokerage, Kahala Associates agents purchased shares and ultimately became part owners in the company. It was this business model and customer service-oriented culture that brought longstanding success to Hawai‘i’s first employee-owned luxury real estate firm.
“We spent a great deal of time honing our mission statement, company philosophy and standards of service at Kahala Associates,” Fox says. “I felt my first obligation in the merger was to respect and carry forward our ideals and corporate culture.” Today, List Sotheby’s International Realty’s team of more than 100 seasoned agents on O‘ahu provide sales, property management and concierge services to both local and international clientele. “It has been a learning experience caring for the growth and development of the people of three cultures while being mindful to perform profitably,” Brandt says. “It required patience, an open mind, compromise and strength of conviction in myself and others.”