For Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Inc., insurance might be a new edge to help it move houses.
On Tuesday, the state’s largest real estate broker will start offering its customers a broad palette of insurance, everything from homeowner’s to automobile, through NRT Insurance Agency Inc., part of Coldwell Banker’s parent company. This large-scale convergence of real estate and insurance is not open to everyone seeking to avoid huge rates, such as those offered by Citizens Property Insurance, the state-run insurer of last resort. Only Coldwell’s customers can tap it, and only NRT-owned brokerages will participate. Franchised Coldwell Banker offices are not in the program.
“We’re not trying to insure the world,” said Budge Huskey, president of Coldwell/NRT in Florida, which is based in Sarasota.
Besides attracting more real estate business, another of Coldwell Banker’s goals is to simply close deals, Huskey said. More and more these days, deals are being snarled by insurance issues. The program could have a strong impact in Florida, where many hurricane-battered property insurers are raising premiums, cutting back on coverage or bailing out altogether. Coldwell and NRT also are examining the idea of extending insurance services to developers and commercial clients, where the lack of coverage is regularly holding up or quashing deals.
Policies will be offered by companies such as Chubb, American Strategic Insurance, ASI-Lloyds of London, Fireman’s Fund, Travelers, Encompass, The Hartford and Liberty Mutual. NRT Insurance spokesman Joe Gibbons suggested that the companies could provide savings over comparable products because of NRT’s size and economies of scale. The company’s move was news to Greg Bustle, president of the 98-year-old Bradenton-based insurance agency Wyman, Green and Blalock.
But Bustle, whose company also plays in the real estate game, noted that it is a natural progression: Banks have been playing in insurance in recent years, so why not real estate agents?
“It’s diversification and a logical place for them to go,” Bustle said.
Scott Johnson, executive vice president of the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, agreed. “The two businesses, real estate and insurance, are compatible with each other. It’s an affinity relationship.” As another example, Johnson pointed to Frank Kowalski Sr., immediate past president of the Florida Association of Realtors who also is head of his own insurance agency.
Waltham, Mass.-based NRT Insurance, formerly called Coldwell Banker Residential Insurance Agency, is licensed in all states, and its program is active in 45. Its insurance program started five years ago in the Northeast and moved to California this year.
The insurance products are geared primarily to buyers and include homeowner, renter, auto, boat and recreational vehicle coverage. The sale of the policies will not financially benefit the real estate associate who brings the client in the door, Huskey said.
Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Inc., with 168 offices in Florida, handled about 70,000 transaction sides in the state last year, or more than $23 billion in volume.
The insurance program will begin much more modestly, with six workers in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market and telephone support from NRT Insurance outside of the Sunshine State. But Huskey expects that Coldwell’s 7,200 sales associates will likely provide a tremendous feeder system for insurance sales.
How big is Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate Inc.?
It has 168 offices in Florida and closed $23 billion worth of deals last year. It has 7,200 sales associates.