O'Conor Piper & Flynn buying American Properties Presence to double in Howard County

August 15, 1996|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

O'Conor Piper & Flynn Realtors, the Baltimore area's largest realty firm, expects to double its size in Howard County today when it acquires a Columbia-based competitor.

In the biggest merger for the independently owned company in more than a decade, OPF will buy the assets of 10-year-old American Properties Inc. -- Howard County's largest independent real estate company -- and take over offices in Columbia and Ellicott City and in Eldersburg in Carroll County, James P. O'Conor, OPF chairman, said yesterday. He did not disclose the sales price.

American Properties, headquartered in Columbia, has about 250 homes listed for sale and 120 real estate agents and brokers, O'Conor said.

"They've been a strong force in the Howard County area, one of the leading companies," O'Conor said. "The fact that that's coming over to us propels us and puts us in a position of real leadership in Howard County."

He called the sale "a very good fit, and one they felt and we felt made a lot of sense for everybody. OPF's presence in Howard County will be substantially increased as a result of this."

The move advances OPF's goal of remaining independent and expanding, O'Conor said. His company, with 39 offices in the Baltimore region, is now the 12th largest independent real estate firm in the nation.

American Properties, owned by Orion Homes I Corp., had not considered selling until potential buyers began inquiring, said Don Barrick, managing director of American Properties.

"Several people had approached us, and the more that approached us, the more the momentum grew," Barrick said.

"The resale market has been dominated by the larger companies, and it's become increasingly difficult for smaller companies to compete in a marketing sense," he said.

"Affiliating with OPF really gives American Properties agents tremendous wealth of opportunity that American Properties might not have been able to keep up with."

Despite its small size, American Properties had captured as much as a 15 percent share of the market in Howard County, while OPF's market share had been around 9 percent, O'Conor said.

"This makes a lot of sense for OPF," said Jack M. Queen, an executive vice president for Long & Foster Realtors, OPF's chief competitor in the Baltimore region. "They were not that strong in Howard County. It's a nice fit for them."

A number of competing agencies have begun trying to recruit American Properties brokers and agents, a common practice in the fiercely competitive industry, Barrick said.

"We believe the vast majority of agents will remain with OPF," he said.

Pub Date: 8/15/96

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