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Keller Williams Launching Commercial Unit

Keller Williams Realty, which announced plans to launch a commercial division earlier this year, is officially opening a Hillcrest office next month.

KW Commercial’s new office started recruiting brokers in September, including Mark Miles, formerly with San Diego-based Torrey Pines Properties, according to Ashley Lunn, who will run the office.

Lunn says KW Commercial offices in Southern California have also recruited agents from CB Richard Ellis and Sperry Van Ness.

“You get in the market when it is down because the opportunity is there,” said Lunn. “We are positioning ourselves for when the market turns around.”

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Nationwide, former San Diegan Buddy Norman will lead KW Commercial from his Austin, Texas, office.

Norman worked for the now-defunct Burnham Real Estate and The Staubach Co. in San Diego, serving clients such as San Diego-based NuVasive, Qualcomm and Maxim Pharmaceuticals.

Lunn says the new division has recruited 70 brokers statewide.

Ready To Move

Lunn says KW recently signed an 88-month lease valued at $1.7 million in Hillcrest to house its commercial offices, and will move into the space in December.

Meanwhile, she’s looking for space to house two satellite offices downtown.

In addition, Lunn says the new division plans to add at least five commercial brokers to its existing offices in Carlsbad, Carmel Mountain Ranch, Escondido, Hillcrest, La Jolla, La Mesa and Rancho San Diego.

Observers have said it’s a difficult time to add commercial services, given the rapid downturn in the economy.

Many firms are reporting significant declines in business.

Irvine-based Sperry Van Ness Commercial Real Estate Advisors, which has offices in Carlsbad and University Towne Center, is reporting a 45 percent to 50 percent drop in sales volume, while Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis reported $1.3 billion in revenues for the third quarter compared with $1.5 billion for the same period last year.

Maryland-based CoStar Group research indicates that 40 office buildings sold in the third quarter in San Diego compared with 82 sales transactions for the same period last year.

Room For KW

Despite the downturn, Jay Diskin, president of the Commercial Realtors Association of San Diego County, says there is always room in the market for another competitor.

Diskin says the typical startup period of 18 months will be difficult to weather without deep pockets.

“The biggest problem they will have will be getting quality agents,” said Diskin. “They might not get experienced people. They are going to get new people or they will get people that were let go by other commercial firms.”

But Diskin also says it will be easier for KW Commercial to launch operations because Keller Williams already has offices in the county.

They have the desks, and a recognizable name, he says.

In Hiring Mode

Robynne Hanus, director with KW Commercial out of the Carmel Mountain Ranch/Sabre Springs office, says she is seeking to hire seven brokers.

She says she has been selling homes and working commercial deals for Keller Williams since 2006.

“In real estate, whether it is residential or commercial, you can be as busy and successful as you want to be by simply working,” she said.

Keller Williams is the fourth largest residential real estate firm in the nation. Founded in 1983, Keller Williams is a real estate franchise company with more than 650 offices , each independently owned and operated , in the United States and Canada, according to its Web site.

Its downtown location has 130 agents, with more than 300 in the East County office.

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