Personnel File - May 2008: real estate
Allen Tate Co., Charlotte
Pat Riley built houses while working his way through high school and college in Pennsylvania. In the last 17 years, he played a major role in building North Carolina’s largest privately owned residential real-estate company. Last year — when it turned 50 — Allen Tate’s sales exceeded $6 billion. That was four times the city of Charlotte’s budget in 2007.
Such an edifice can’t be constructed upon a foundation of modesty. “All we’ve aspired to be was the Carolinas’ premier residential real-estate company,” Riley, 57, says. He calls the Piedmont Crescent, which runs from Raleigh through Spartanburg, S.C., “our footprint.” Riley had big shoes to fill — and not just geographically.
He was recruited by the company’s founder and namesake in 1991 with the assurance that he would succeed Tate, who at 76 remains chairman. “He wanted to grow his company,” Riley says. “At that time, it had five branches, and we did $468 million in sales.”
Part of the growth has come from strategic acquisitions of other independently owned real-estate brokerages. In 1996, it bought its first outside Charlotte, in Rock Hill, S.C. Since then, it has scooped up more than a dozen in the Carolinas. It entered the Triad in 2002, then opened offices to get a toehold in the Triangle.
Another tactic has been streamlining house buying by creating subsidiaries that offer mortgages, insurance and other services. “Customers and clients love to have somebody they trust to handle all the moving parts,” Riley says. The company also has a real-estate school, and its agents — more than 1,800 of them — average 18 sales, worth about $4 million, a year.
The future? More growth, says Riley, who is chairman of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. That’s despite a cooling market, which he says is caused by potential buyers having trouble selling homes elsewhere, plus overbuilding brought on by the Carolinas’ reputation as a hot housing market. “Builders from all over the country,” he says, “have flocked here in droves.”