Since its launch in 2006, Prudential PenFed Realty has used a formula to keep up with the demand for its services while showing homes to members who may have to uproot with little notice. The firm sets up shop where members are moving to.
The real estate firm is the wholly owned subsidiary of the $15 billion Pentagon Federal Credit Union in Alexandria, Va.,
This year, it is on tap to earn $2 billion in sales and acquire more firms, according to James Schenck, president of Prudential PenFed Realty and PenFed Title (The PenFed Group).
The strategic plans are part of an effort to keep up with PenFed’s 1.3 million member base who are often in need of securing housing fairly quickly as they relocate to be near a military base or the Pentagon, for instance.
“In any sort of growth mode, the biggest challenge is where to go next,” Schenck said. “We have high demand from Army and Air Force bases. We want to expand into the Navy community. We don’t want to grow too big but rather, step by step. We’re a crawl, walk and run firm.”
Prudential PenFed Realty is likely in the run stage now. In 2012, it bought several real estate firms where there is a heavy concentration of PenFed members.
The latest acquisition closed on Dec. 1 with the purchase of Prudential Dinning-Beard, a Wichita, Kan.-based realty firm with 275 agents. The acquired company will continue to operate under its name, according to Prudential PenFed Realty. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Schenck said there is a large Air Force community in the Wichita area.
“We’re very excited about this acquisition. It has a very stable real estate community and [Prudential Dinning-Beard] was very well-run and established,” Schenck offered.
In mid-November, Prudential PenFed Realty also acquired Prudential Coastal Properties, a realty firm that offers buying and selling services for residential and commercial properties ranging from empty lots to multimillion dollar homes to business buildings from Pensacola to Panama City, Fla.
In addition to a large community of retirees, Schenck said the Florida panhandle city of Destin is also home to Eglin Air Force Base, which employs more than 8,500 military and approximately 4,500 civilians.
To expand its presence even further, Prudential PenFed Realty acquired the Prudential Professional Realty franchise in Clarksville, Tenn., last July to accommodate military personnel at Fort Campbell. At the time of purchase, Prudential Professional Realty managed more than 500 rental units and had nearly 60 agents, with $155 million in sales volume in 2011, according to the credit union.
With 40 offices and more than 1,000 employees Prudential PenFed Realty offers service coverage in the Maryland, Northern Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington, D.C., markets as well as parts of Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas and Florida.
Prudential PenFed Realty is planning at least two more acquisitions this year in predominantly large military communities where there is a high concentration of PenFed members, Schenck said. Being where there are or are going is critical given that a person in the military moves on average, every three years compared to civilians at eight years, he pointed out.
“We’ve become a trusted name. Our number one goal is provide the highest level of service. The second goal is to grow organically,” Schenck said. “Acquisitions can help you get mass but through recruiting members to become part of the team that, we can maintain providing a high level of service.”
Even when the real estate market collapsed in 2008 and 2009 and its subsequent slow recovery, Prudential PenFed Realty managed to increase its sales and volume, Schenck said. The buffers were a combination of being a small player in a big market and the high frequency of relocations that PenFed’s members tend to experience, he added.
The firm also has a rewards program that offers a 50 basis point discount with no cap on credit on both the buying and selling side. Having local experts who know where to find the best deals also helps members who need immediate housing.
“We know if they come to Washington, they might have two weeks to find a house and a good school district, or they might need to be close to the Pentagon or Air Force base,” Schenck said. “They need the expertise.”