The imminent changeover from the Better Homes and Gardens real estate brand to GMAC Real Estate at dozens of real estate offices statewide is being met with enthusiasm by some brokers, while others are expressing concern about debuting the new brand name and accompanying logo.

Many of the Better Homes and Gardens real estate offices in Massachusetts plan on making the transition to GMAC Real Estate at the same time as Carlson Real Estate/Better Homes and Gardens in Woburn, one of the region’s largest Better Homes and Gardens affiliates. That way, agents say, an across-the-board switch can take place at one time to confuse the public less, while at the same time the smaller agencies will be able to ride the coattails of the publicity surrounding the Carlson change.

While officials at Carlson Real Estate/Better Homes and Gardens said the company would not reveal its transition timetable until probably sometime later this week, the change is expected to take place some time in the spring. And with the name change comes some anxiety over how the public will react to the departure of one of the more recognizable names in real estate.

It’s definitely a concern that people will think we’re changing companies altogether, when we’re not, said Bob Simmons, broker-owner of Premier Properties/Better Homes and Gardens in Raynham. It’s not like we’re an independent that’s being taken over by a Hunneman. We’re the same; we just have a different name. The challenge is to let the public know that we are the same people.

Simmons, who sports a wristwatch emblazoned with the Better Homes and Gardens logo, said the familiar red-house-with-green-trees design will be tough to part with.

I’ve talked to most of the [Better Homes and Gardens] people south of Boston, and we all really like the Better Homes and Gardens name, he said. It’s something we reluctantly give up.

Helping to offset some of the concerns about the loss of such a recognizable logo is the fact that the new GMAC logo – a gold-colored house with blue trees – looks much like the old logo except for the colors.

I think one of the positive aspects about the change is that we’re retaining the logo of the house and trees, said Sandra M. Dawson of Dawson Real Estate/Better Homes and Gardens in Mattapoisett. Before our sign had Dawson’s, house and trees, Better Homes and Gardens. Now it will have Dawson’s, house and trees, GMAC.

Once we saw that logo, that dispelled a lot of concern we had about going into the marketplace with a new brand, Dawson said.

James C. Dougherty, director of marketing for Carlson Real Estate, said there has been some concern expressed by people in his organization, but added that was expected.

Anytime there’s change, people tend to be a little unsettled by it. That’s human nature, Dougherty said. We’re going through a lot of issues right now, and there’s a natural resistance. But we’ll work to make the transition as smooth as possible.

From GMAC’s point of view, their motivation is to spend company dollars to brand the company they own, he said. When they took over Better Homes and Gardens there was an agreement to use the same name for a period, but now is the time for change and GMAC would like to see that happen sooner rather than later.

Though many offices plan to make the transition along with Carlson and its 75 offices, some independent offices may choose to change over to the GMAC brand at their own pace, a possibility that worries Simmons.

We’re planning on doing it at the end of February, with the other offices in the area, Simmons said of the switch. But because not everyone is doing it at once, there’s going to be a combination of both names out in the marketplace. It might be a little confusing for some people to see GMAC at the same time there are still Better Homes and Gardens signs still out there.

Dougherty agreed that a quick, clean cut from the Better Homes and Gardens name to the GMAC name would be best.

For our transition, once we get up to date, we’ll move as rapidly as we can, he said. There’s not a lot of merit in having both brand names out there. That’s confusing to the consumer. We’ll make [the change] all at one time.

We’re waiting for the big push from Carlson, said Bernadette McCann, broker- owner of B&S Real Estate/Better Homes and Gardens in Weymouth. Then a whole bunch of us are going to go along at the same time and take advantage of all the advertising.

Cars and Trucks
Other concerns expressed about the change included the new name itself, and what affect it might have on business. Some agents said a name like Better Homes and Gardens attracts a different clientele than the GMAC name, which until recently has mostly been associated with cars and trucks. However, others saw the GMAC name as an asset, recognized by those familiar with the bigger players in the real estate and mortgage industries.

The different type of name might draw a different type of audience, Simmons said, It’s tough to give up a name that people like when they see it, but GMAC is well known, and a major player with lots of services to offer … Time will tell.

Despite general concerns, McCann said she has been looking forward to the change for some time. We were independent for a very long time, she said of her office, which joined the Better Homes and Gardens real estate network in 1996. I chose Better Homes and Gardens because I wanted to be a part of something bigger, but I thought the Better Homes and Gardens ad dollar was not spent as I would like it to be spent. They did most of their advertising in the middle part of the country and didn’t focus too much here.

I’m happy I’ll be getting a lot more in terms of advertising, and they’re promising a lot of referrals, she continued. I’m pretty positive about it.

I don’t think it’ll be a major problem for the public, Dawson said, adding that her associates maintain close relationships with their customers and will make sure they’re aware of what the name change means. We’re still in the same location, serving the same area. It’s more of an adjustment for the associates than the public.

Relationships with real estate agents have a tendency to survive, Dougherty said. There’s a tremendous sense of loyalty between clients and agents. I think that loyalty will continue.

Carlson and the other Better Homes and Gardens offices are hoping that will be the case this time around. We hope so. We’ll find out, said Dougherty, who is also looking forward to the publicity surrounding the change.

We’re working on this change, it’s pretty exciting, he said. And we’re hoping to get as much mileage out of this as we can.

Realtors Rue Loss of Better Homes Label

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 5 min