After the devastating earthquake and fires that ravaged San Francisco in 1906, young real estate agent Colbert Coldwell saw the need for honest, knowledgeable and professional real estate services to help the city rebuild. Coldwell disapproved of the common practice of that day where real estate agents acquired properties for themselves, often from uninformed sellers at ridiculously low prices, and then resold them for huge profits.
With two partners, on August 27, 1906, he formed the real estate company of Tucker, Lynch and Coldwell, dedicated to the principal that they would work only for their customers and not trade for their own account. This began a tradition based on integrity and customer support that still continues to this day.
In 1913, Benjamin Arthur Banker joined the firm as a salesman. He and Colbert Coldwell quickly discovered they held similar views and ethics. Banker became a partner in 1914, and the two remained active in the company throughout their lives.
The Early Years
In the early years of growth, successful Coldwell Banker offices were devoted primarily to commercial real estate brokerage firms and in 1925 the first residential real estate office opened in San Francisco and a fully fledged residential real estate department was formed by 1937. The company's geographic expansion began in the 1920s with the opening of offices in Southern California, followed by Phoenix in the early 1950s and Seattle in 1969. In the 1970s, Coldwell Banker acquired prestigious residential real estate firms in Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington, DC.
By 1980, Coldwell Banker had also acquired a national referral service (now Coldwell Banker Referral Network), and Previews Inc., an international luxury real estate marketing organization (which has evolved into the present-day Coldwell Banker Previews International®).
In 1981, Coldwell Banker was acquired by Sears, Roebuck and Co., joining Dean Witter Financial Services Group and Allstate Insurance group as a member of the Sears Financial Network. Sears provided the resources and impetus for even more rapid expansion, development of products, and integration of services. Another landmark in 1981 was the launch of Coldwell Banker Residential Affiliates, Inc. for the franchising of the highest quality residential brokerage companies. Through the acquisition of companies in major metropolitan areas across the United States, as well as the dramatic expansion of Residential Affiliates, the growth of Coldwell Banker during the 1980s was phenomenal.
1987 saw Coldwell Banker affiliates become the first in the industry to offer comprehensive guarantees to sellers. A similar buyers program was established five years later.
By 1990, Coldwell Banker had locations in all fifty states, and had begun international expansion with offices in Canada and Puerto Rico. The company's focus on residential real estate was strengthened with the sale of Coldwell Banker Commercial Group (now known as CB Commercial).
In 1992, Coldwell Banker affiliates became the first to advocate and practice Seller Disclosure well before it was required by law in some states. By incorporating this consumer-focused issue, Coldwell Banker helped change the practice of real estate in many markets.
Coldwell Banker began a new phase of it's growth in 1993 when it was purchased from Sears by the Fremont Group. Another milestone in 1993 was the substantial increase of Coldwell Banker® presence in Canada. Coldwell Banker Affiliates of Canada, a joint venture of Coldwell Banker and Canada Trust, builds on heritage of more than 40 years of Canadian real estate brokerage experience. It is one of Canada's largest real estate operations with more than 200 offices and thousands of sales representatives coast to coast.
In 1995, Coldwell Banker became the first national and first-service real estate brand to have a presence online with the launch of www.coldwellbanker.com.
In May of 1996, Coldwell Banker was acquired by HFS Incorporated, then the world's largest franchisor of hotels and residential real estate brokerage offices, ushering in a new and exciting era in the history of the brand. The unsurpassed franchising experience of HFS, together with its assertive approach to increase brand awareness, positioned Coldwell Banker for accelerated expansion in both existing and new markets.
1997 saw parent company HFS merge with CUC International, forming the new Cendant Corporation. This was also the year that Coldwell Banker became the first national real estate brand to maximize cross-marketing promotions with such other well-known brands as Cadillac and Ethan Allen. The program led to more than 200,000 leads generated across the United States.
Coldwell Banker started 1998 with added benefits and expanded preferred alliances. In February, the company introduced "Personal Retriever", the Web site enhancement that 'fetches and retrieves' home listings via e-mail to the consumer according to their specific home buying criteria.
That year, Coldwell Banker also became the first full-service real estate brand to unveil a concierge program, named Coldwell Banker Concierge® Service Program, a unique system for its broker affiliates to offer home buyers and sellers centralized access to various real estate related services. This true one-stop-shopping concept helps consumers by centrally coordinating the details of their move and home set up through local Coldwell Banker real estate offices.
2000 – Present
In 2002, Coldwell Banker became the first national real estate company selected by the National Concierge Association to receive prestigious membership affiliation for Coldwell Banker Concierge.
In 2005, Coldwell Banker became the first full-service national real estate brand to launch a stand-alone Web site for upscale properties with www.coldwellbankerpreviews.com.
Later that year, it was announced that Cendant would spin off its four divisions – real estate, hotel, car rental and hospitality services. Coldwell Banker would now be part of a stand-alone real estate company named Realogy in late 2006. Realogy’s brands – Coldwell Banker, Coldwell Banker Commercial, Century 21®, ERA® and Sothebys International Realty® (Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate was added in 2007) - combine to participate in one-of-every-four residential real estate transactions in the United States.
At the start of 2006, Coldwell Banker began celebrating its 100th anniversary. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom declared February 13-19 “Coldwell Banker Week” in recognition of the anniversary and United States President George Bush sent a congratulatory letter commemorating the milestone. Jim Gillespie, president and chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate Corporation, led a Coldwell Banker contingent in ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange on August 21, 2006 to commemorate the brand’s 100th anniversary.
2006 also saw the brand reach a major milestone in its community involvement with the conclusion of its “100 Homes” initiative. Coldwell Banker affiliated companies around the nation raised more than $6 million to sponsor more than 100 local Habitat for Humanity home builds, making Coldwell Banker the second largest Habitat for Humanity fundraiser in the nation for the year.
In February of 2006, www.coldwellbanker.com began offering streaming video to educate, inform and entertain consumers. It marked the first time a full-service national real estate company unveiled such technology. In September, the new Coldwell Banker Personal Retriever® was unveiled. Utilizing Real Simple Syndication (RSS) technology, the online Personal Retriever now has a downloadable “widget” application that automatically delivers daily, personalized real estate listings directly to a computer desktop. A month later, the Web site added satellite mapping functionality to enhance listings.
In August of 2007 Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC was named the 2007 Inman Innovator Award winner in the brokerage/franchisor category for its incorporation of streaming video online, the launch of the Personal Retriever Widget, and the brand’s successful foray into the virtual world of Second Life. Coldwell Banker was also named the top real estate franchise for the eighth straight year by Franchise Times.
In February of 2008, the brand’s intranet site, www.coldwellbankerworks.com, was named one of the world’s best according to the Nielsen Norman Group’s “Intranet Design Annual 2008: The Year’s 10 Best Intranets” report.
The Coldwell Banker “100 Homes for Habitat” campaign was named as one of five finalists for the prestigious PRNews Corporate Social Responsibility award in the “Stakeholder Engagement Category. The Coldwell Banker initiative raised more than $6 million for local Habitat for Humanity builds. Coldwell Banker also unveiled a new Habitat for Humanity initiative which is expected to raise an additional $4 million by 2011.
The Coldwell Banker® brand has a global reach, with offices on six continents, 47 countries and territories. There are more than 600 Coldwell Banker offices outside of the United States.