Van Eaton & Romero joins Latter & Blum

Latter & Blum Inc., of New Orleans, which owns Baton Rouge real estate powerhouse C.J. Brown Realtors, has acquired Van Eaton & Romero Realtors, of Lafayette.

Van Eaton & Romero, the Lafayette area’s largest residential real estate company with 34 percent of the market, “will continue to hold their name, their brand will be the dominant brand in the Lafayette market, they’ll just be a Latter & Blum company,” said Stephen Waring, director of marketing and communications for Latter & Blum Inc.

C.J. Brown, Latter & Blum’s Baton Rouge residential real estate company, acquired M.A. Allen, of Denham Springs,
last week, though that deal involved C.J. Brown absorbing M.A. Allen and its 41 agents entirely.

Waring said Van Eaton & Romero’s leadership will remain the same, and he sees no reason its agents wouldn’t stay aboard.

Bill Bacqué, chief executive officer of Van Eaton & Romero, said in a news release that the technological and managerial support and the connections it will acquire by joining the Latter & Blum family of companies “heightens our capabilities exponentially.”

Waring explained that one example of how Latter & Blum’s depth and reach will help Van Eaton & Romero is its Web presence. Ninety-four percent of home searches begin on the Web, and the Lafayette company now has the benefit of the leading real estate website in every market Latter & Blum serves, he said.

Latter & Blum said the deal increases the size of its residential real estate divisions, already the largest in the Gulf South, by approximately 28 percent, and will rank it as the 34th largest in the United States by unit sales.

Bob Merrick, chairman and chief executive officer of Latter & Blum Inc., said that “with a combined strength of more than 1,300 talented sales professionals throughout Louisiana and the largest market share in each of the regions we serve, our future is filled with exciting possibilities.”

The Latter & Blum companies will finish the year with nearly $1.8 billion in total sales and 8,400 total units sold.

The Van Eaton deal is effective immediately, and terms were not disclosed.

C.J. Brown absorbed roughly 20 agents from Coldwell Banker Mackey when that agency disbanded two years ago.

Waring said Latter & Blum’s recent acquisitions have all been quite different from one another.

Louisiana’s real estate markets didn’t take the hit that many others did nationwide when the housing bubble burst.

But Waring said the difficult climate and slow resurgence of the past five years has Latter & Blum well-positioned to expand, whether it’s absorbing agents from firms that fold or becoming more attractive for full partnerships.

“When an opportunity knocks, we’re able to evaluate and see if we want to take advantage,” he said.

Looking at the current climate, Waring said, Latter & Blum feels confident.

“The inventory is dropping and prices have leveled out or are getting ready to go back up again, and that’s really the beginnings of a much better market.”