"Inside Real Estate's Family-Owned Powerhouse" T3 Trends Report 2024
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Trends 2024: Howard Hanna keeps its eye on the prize 

The family-run company may not project the flashy style of some other firms, but it offers substance, with a successful growth strategy and continued momentum.

January 2, 2024
4 minutes

Editor's note: Since 2006, the Swanepoel Trends Report has provided in-depth research and analysis to help leaders understand the forces shaping residential real estate. This exclusive series of excerpts highlights each trend featured in the 2024 report, which was released in November 2023.

Inside Real Estate's Family-Owned and -Run Powerhouse: Howard Hanna Real Estate appears to be a product of an earlier era. Firmly rooted in family and Midwestern ethics, the company embraces its traditional approach at a time when many newer firms promote their cloud-based, tech-driven or revenue-share models. But traditional does not mean old-fashioned, and Hanna has successfully evolved into a real estate heavyweight by maintaining a strong culture and clear strategy.

This excerpt explores how Hanna's approach to growth has made it one of the leading brokerage companies in the U.S.

Growth strategy

Like the US's other largest brokerages, Hanna Holdings has been on a growth tear in recent years. The company more than doubled its annual brokerage sales volume from 2017 to 2022. Over that period, it grew sales volume by 116.0 percent, over three times the market's growth and nearly double the Mega 1000's sales volume growth.

The company has achieved its growth with notable acquisitions. When the firm began acquiring companies in the early 2000s, it targeted acquisitions in concentric circles from its Pittsburgh base outward. This brought it into upstate New York, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, West Virginia, and east in Pennsylvania.

It expanded to adjacent markets and then did tuck-in acquisitions to fill in geographic gaps in between, rebranding the firms to Howard Hanna Real Estate along the way.

That changed with the 2018 acquisition of Allen Tate Realtors, then the nation's 25th largest brokerage, which dominates the North and South Carolina markets. With this acquisition, the company also began a new tactic of leveraging and operating in multiple brands and partnering with the leadership of acquirees by granting them significant equity in the acquired firm. With this increased equity to leadership of some acquired firms, the company also provides a sense of ownership, empowerment and independence to those leaders. Leaders at Allen Tate and Howard Hanna Rand Realty praised and appreciated this approach. They clearly feel empowered.

All acquisitions before Allen Tate involved acquired brokerages rebranding fully to Howard Hanna Real Estate. The firm has rebranded the acquired companies' ancillary services firms in many cases to Howard Hanna firms.

The company has a stated five-year goal to have a presence in 15 NFL cities (likely east of the Mississippi River) with 20 percent market share in each. As the firm expands, it has its eyes set on the Southeast, with Florida looming as the potential next big leap.

Acquisition approach

"We don't have to do deals," says Hoby Hanna. This feeling pervades the company, and stands as one of the core differentiators for the family-owned and -run company compared to its other large counterparts. 

It does not have outside shareholders, and the family consistently invests half of its annual profits back into the business. It maintains a healthy line of credit with a partner bank of approximately $350 million, according to Hoby Hanna, which helps it make acquisitions

and investments when deemed advantageous. It maintains a large cash reserve and a disciplined growth strategy, led and sustained by profitable growth. 

"We have the ability to be very patient," Hoby says, "to play the longer game."

It targets companies with large shares in their markets, typically in the top three. Culture remains a big part of the acquisition process. It searches for owners and operators who have built a family culture or a family-like culture, which reflects a humanity in the business.


The company has not leveraged franchising to a large degree to expand its footprint and brand, but it is evaluating its options to leverage this side of its business to grow.

Read the full chapter: Digital and printed copies of the 2024 Swanepoel Trends Report are available for purchase at T3 Trends.

Note: T3 Sixty and Real Estate News share a founder, Stefan Swanepoel.

Get the latest real estate news delivered to your inbox.