Martha Sharkey (right) Executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, Parking Foundation and Business Improvement District cuts the ribbon on the recently renamed Berkshire Hathaway Fox and Roach (formerly Prudential). Also, from left) are Fox and Roach Realtors Pat Gallagher, Mimi Morrow, Virginia Bryant, Trish Bonsall, Martha Agate, Peter Buffum, Becca Buffum and her daughter Grace, Nanny Gifford and Chestnut Hill Business Association Deputy Director Kate O'Neil.

Martha Sharkey (right) Executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, Parking Foundation and Business Improvement District cuts the ribbon on the recently renamed Berkshire Hathaway Fox and Roach (formerly Prudential). Also, from left) are Fox and Roach Realtors Pat Gallagher, Mimi Morrow, Virginia Bryant, Trish Bonsall, Martha Agate, Peter Buffum, Becca Buffum and her daughter Grace, Nanny Gifford and Chestnut Hill Business Association Deputy Director Kate O’Neil.

by Lou Mancinelli

Realtors at the newly minted Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach office in Chestnut Hill have a joke: Their new boss is Warren Buffet.

In August, HomeServices America, an offshoot of Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway multinational conglomerate, purchased the Fox & Roach name. The former Prudential Fox & Roach office, at 14 West Evergreen Ave, near Germantown Avenue, officially changed its name Nov. 12.

While in early December it was business as usual and too soon to see how the change might affect day-to-day operations – aside from branding changes like a new sign and different literature – the long-term aligning with Buffet’s company could improve the already successful Fox & Roach brand of business and customer service, according to Chestnut Hill branch manager Sue Walsh.

“I think if you’re familiar with the name and familiar with Warren Buffet and familiar with anything in the financial world, then, yeah, [the change] is good,” said Walsh, when asked if the association with Buffet would spark increased confidence in Fox & Roach.

Other members of the local Fox & Roach team agreed that if there are changes they might not happen for some time.

“I think with any corporation, when you make a move like that [a company buyout] with the employees, you try to keep it as consistent as possible,” said Amanda Saunders, a Realtor at the office.

Saunders, who has worked in various corporate settings in medical and pharmaceutical sales for companies like Merck and GE, said if there were changes they might not occur until the middle of next year or longer.

The buyout comes on the heels of a surge in the housing market after a period of recession, which started in 2008 when the real estate bubble burst. But now, leading economists and real estate analysts are predicting a continued improvement.

According to the Urban Land Institute, commercial real estate transaction volume increased substantially each of the last three years and appears to be on track for consistent but slower growth going forward. Volume was expected to just barely increase from $299 billion in 2012 to $300 billion this year before growing to $330 billion in 2014, and $350 billion in 2015.

Meanwhile, according to ULI, return rates on commercial real estate are expected to simmer this year down to 4 percent from a dramatic rise in 2012 to 18.1 percent. They are predicted to moderately rise to 8 percent the next two years.

And single-family housing forecasts and numbers are on the rise as well. According to the ULI, single-family housing starts, which were at half-century lows from 2009-2011, rose from 430,600 starts in 2011 to 535,300 in 2012, and are expected to rise to 675,000 in 2013, 800,000 in 2014, and 900,000 in 2015. That makes for a forecast with more than double the amount of single-family housing starts realized in 2009.