Buying and Selling

Most famous Dallas real estate firm sold to Warren Buffett

Most famous Dallas real estate firm sold to Warren Buffett

Ebby Halliday Acers, Flora Award
Ebby Halliday Acers, who died in 2015, had become one of the most beloved women in Dallas. Photo by Daniel Driensky

Ebby Halliday Realtors will be acquired by Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices of America, the Dallas-based real estate firm announced May 21.

HomeServices CEO Ron Peltier delivered the news to 1,700 agents at a meeting inside The Star in Frisco and assured them that nothing would change — except that their parent now was a rich guy named Warren Buffett. 

Ebby Halliday Realtors is the 12th largest independent brokerage firm in the United States and the largest indie in North Texas. The sale includes Ebby’s three brands: Ebby Halliday Realtors, Fort Worth-based Williams Trew Real Estate, and Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate, as well as the company's affiliated mortgage and title companies.

The firm was founded by a beloved icon, Ebby Halliday Acres, who lived until the age of 104, working nearly every day. Her funeral, at Park Cities Baptist Church in September 2015, was overflowing, and former First Lady Laura Bush eulogized her. Every Who’s Who in Dallas real estate attended, from Dave Perry-Miller (whose boutique luxury company Ebby acquired in 2007) to Robbie Briggs, Allie Beth Allman, and Pierce Allman.

Allie Beth Allman & Associates even took out a full-page ad in the Dallas Morning News in Ebby’s honor. The Kansas native, who grew up selling Cloverine Salve, riding her pony in her rural farm community, migrated to Dallas and sold hats at a downtown department store in the 1940s. One of her customers said something to the effect of, "if she can sell my wife those dang hats, maybe she could help him sell some houses."

And thus, in 1945, began one of the greatest real estate careers, and companies, in Texas history. Ebby Halliday built her brokerage from the ground up and became one of the most beloved women in Dallas.

For years, the rumors had been flying that the huge brokerage was selling. Who would buy it? Warren Buffet, a local group consisting of the Perots and a couple others, or Weichert Real Estate, a New Jersey-based independent firm much like Ebby but with only 1,000 agents?

Buffet, Ebby’s friend, often would call her directly and try to talk her into selling.

“I was in her office once, and she was talking to Warren, just as easily as anything,” says one of her agents.

Says another: “There were some who were told not to exercise their options to sell their stock, because something way better was coming.”

About that stock — Ebby is an employee-owned company, but it was issued to very few people. Most of the heavy holders were the original founders of the company: Ebby Halliday; Mary Frances Burleson, who was her first secretary; Ron Burgert, who was a son of Ebby’s accountant and used to play in the office as a child; Maurice Acer;, and a handful of others, including managers.

Sources say that Warren Buffet did try to buy Ebby first, but the price was too high, so they turned to Allie Beth Allman & Associates. HomeServices purchased Allie Beth in 2015, which, at the time, had 300 agents versus Ebby’s 1,700-plus. This gave HomeServices their foot into Dallas luxury real estate.

Obviously, they liked what they bought so much, one firm was just not enough.

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A version of this story originally was published on Candy's Dirt.