Merger creates largest real estate firm in state
Dar and Ed Walden, co-owners of the Anchorage-based Dar Walden Team at Keller Williams Realty-Alaska Group, announced their acquisition of Fairbanks-based independent brokerage Madden Real Estate on April 25.
The move positions Dar Walden to rank as one of the highest producing realtors in the state, according to rankings in Real Trends and in the Wall Street Journal.
“This places us close to 800 sales (annually), assuming we keep the same pace as last year,” Dar Walden said. “Then we will be the No. 1 team in Alaska covering a broad area from Fairbanks to Kenai.”
For the calendar year 2016, the unity group of Keller Williams Realty-Alaska Group achieved the most sides, or properties, sold, 477, according to the revised Jan. 31, 2017 report created by the Multiple Listing Service.
The projection of 800-plus properties sold for calendar year 2017 is based upon the 2016 sales for both parties in the merger, meaning that the Madden team achieved approximately 325 sales in 2016.
Rankings also are based on sale volumes. Collectively, the Walden Team and Madden Real Estate produced approximately $198 million in volume for 2016.
While the Anchorage economy suffers a downturn of employment layoffs in multiple sectors — petroleum-related workers, teachers and government employees — the realty market remains “tight” in Anchorage, the Waldens say.
Currently, the real estate firm has 2.2 months of inventory on hand while during harder times, the inventory volume can stretch several months.
“This is a seller’s market,” Dar Walden said. “The buyer gives a little; the seller gives a little. To have 40 to 60 properties on hand would be normal but now we’re at 29 and we have three in escrow. As fast as we put them on the market, we’re selling them.”
By way of one example, a $255,000 property put up for sale on a Monday went into contract with a buyer on a Tuesday, Dar Walden said.
Parts of the Lower 48 are seeing a depressed realty market, a fact that was discussed at a recent Alaska Economic Development Forum. But the “mindset” that Alaska is following suit isn’t accurate at the moment, the Waldens say.
When the state and oil patch layoffs started, Ed Walden said the company hedged its bets.
“We were working with a developer on a 99-lot development at Resolution Point priced per unit at $550,000 and up. In 2014 we had heard rumors it would be bad, so we hedged for 2015, but we did better than the previous year,” Ed Walden said. “In 2015 we hedged again, but didn’t see it as deeply as people in Juneau are saying we should be seeing it.”
Sales are on track with last year. The average sale price was down 6.76 percent depreciation at the first of the year, but is now down 4.38 percent, which means prices are gaining, the Waldens say.
A changing real estate market in Fairbanks coincides with the merger. An expected 3,500 active military members are anticipated to join the Fairbanks North Star Borough population of about 100,000, a number that doesn’t count the multiplier factored in for family members and civilians.
Eielson Air Force Base has been preparing for the arrival of two squadrons of F-35 interceptors, with $298 million in projects underway involving building or renovation of 35 buildings. The first jets are expected to arrive in 2020 and the population of Eielson is expected to double once the squadrons are fully deployed by 2022.
That means Fairbanks real estate needs in the next few years could boom, boding well for housing on the market and new construction, the Waldens note.
Nevertheless, realty investments will be cautious until 2019 to account for possible fluctuation in the economy there, Ed Walden said.
Madden Real Estate already sells 67 percent of the Fairbanks area properties and reports that housing sales are brisk. Wes Madden, who will remain part of the leadership team and minority owner, said his business ran like a mega realty team, so although he spoke to other traditional brokerages about a merger, he chose the Walden Team of Keller Williams.
The co-owners of the Dar Walden Team at Keller Williams Realty in Anchorage are also co-owners of Keller Williams brokerages in Reno and Sparks, Nevada, as well as a Business Center in Elko, Nevada.
“We have worked with Wes over the years, referring business from the Anchorage, Eagle River and Mat-Su Valley area as well as partnering in many professional marketing and business relationships,” Dar Walden said. “We are absolutely thrilled to introduce our franchise to the Fairbanks area.”
Naomi Klouda can be reached at [email protected].