08/19/2009

HFF Nabs Houston Apartment Team From CB

Holliday Fenoglio Fowler has hired away CB Richard Ellis' multi-family investment-sales team in Houston.

The nine-member team is led by Craig LaFollette, who headed the Houston apartment team since 1997 as an executive vice president. He was also a member of CB's institutional-clients group, which represents national apartment investment funds.

Also making the move were two other senior executives who each spent more than 20 years at CB: Todd Stewart and Todd Marix. Both were senior vice presidents and members of the major accounts group, as well as part of the Houston sales team.

LaFollette, Marix and Stewart were named senior managing directors of HFF. They started Monday.

Rounding out the team are Tre Banks and Chris Curry, who were sales associates at CB, and four support staffers.

For HFF, which routinely ranks as the top office broker in Houston, the hirings represent a chance to push into the apartment sector in a big way. Although HFF's seven-broker Houston operation has handled multi-family listings, it previously had no dedicated apartment brokers.

During the go-go years from 2005 to 2007, CB ranked first or second each year in Real Estate Alert's ranking of the most-active brokers of large Houston apartment properties. In both 2005 and 2006, apartment sales in Houston topped $1 billion, according to the newsletter's Deal Database, which tracks transactions of at least $25 million.

Houston's apartment market has cooled in the past year. Fannie Mae, which along with Freddie Mac is the primary supplier of apartment mortgages, last year put the city on a watch list for markets that need special review for loan approvals because of concerns about an oversupply of properties. But employment numbers have remained comparatively strong in the city, and market players expect apartment demand and rents to bounce back quicker than in most other markets.

CB said it would announce its plans for replacements soon. In the meantime, it added, the company's existing staff can handle the needs of clients in Houston. As for the departing brokers, a CB spokesman said "these are good guys, and we wish them the best of luck in a tough market."

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