The History of Coldwell Banker


Coldwell Banker History


Brought to you by Hingham Realtor Alice Pierce serving the South Shore of Boston

Long before Silicon Valley became known for its fertile technology ground, and when selling real estate required no license or qualifications, Coldwell Banker became its first real estate company. Following the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, one young man named Colbert Coldwell made the commitment to put real estate customers first and he never wavered.

Two Young Men and an Earthquake

Colbert Coldwell was born in Durango, Colorado and moved to California when he was 6 years old. Following his freshman year at the University of California, Coldwell decided to leave and take a solicitor position with a San Francisco real estate and auctioneering firm.

Benjamin Arthur Banker was the oldest of seven children, born in Wisconsin, and raised near Chicago. In 1908 Banker ventured to San Francisco to sell meat-slicing machines for a Chicago-based firm. It was a profitable but exhausting job lugging the heavy machines from place to place, six days a week.

On his day off, Banker decided to start exploring nearby towns ad found himself in Visitacion Valley where lots of land were being offered for sale. The man selling the lots said he was earning a sizable income working just on the weekends and Banker was intrigued. Soon after, Banker resigned from selling meat slicers and started selling lots of land.

Meanwhile, Colbert Coldwell realized a quick and sizable success in sales, and at the same time he was not satisfied. He disapproved of acquiring property from vulnerable sellers and reselling it at huge profits. He saw a need for honest, ethical real estate professionals and wanted to work in a company environment that put the clients first.

During this reflective time in Coldwell’s life, the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fires devastated the city of San Francisco and Coldwell was only 23 years old. The earthquake leveled the city and killed thousands of people as they slept at 5:00 am. All around him, Coldwell saw businesses and homes that needed rebuilding, many requiring new locations away from the rubble. More than half of the city’s residents were left homeless.

Just months after the earthquake, Coldwell got involved in rebuilding San Francisco business by business, home by home. But land records had been burned and destroyed. Nobody knew what belonged to who.

Coldwell was deeply disturbed watching real estate sales people with no scruples scramble to claim and then sell properties not belonging to them. In spite of the harm caused, sales people finagled huge commissions and profits. Coldwell set his mind to make his real estate business an honest business.

Amidst the dynamic rebuilding of San Francisco, Coldwell and two partners opened a real estate office called Tucker, Lynch & Coldwell at 53 Post Street. Their goal was to help in the city’s reconstruction in an organized, informative and honest way. Albert Nion Tucker was a seasoned bookkeeper and John Conant Lynch was a well-known lawyer, was speaker of the California Assembly in 1885, and a University of California regent. They established that that employees could not own property other than their own homes. This rule was in place until the 1970s.

It was when Tucker and Lynch left the company six years later that Coldwell met his lifetime business parter and one-time traveling salesman, Benjamin Banker. Serendipitously both men’s real estate firms were in the same building, and both were enthusiastic real estate professionals with the same values. When Coldwell asked the then 28-year-old Banker to join him, Banker agreed to join Coldwell’s firm as a salesman. One year later, in 1914, Coldwell and Banker became the business partners that led to the formation of the world’s leading real estate services firm.

In 1920 Coldwell Banker moved to a three-story building in San Francisco, then went on to open an office in Phoenix, Arizona in 1952. In the 1970s the company acquired firms in Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. and the first international Coldwell Banker office opened in Toronto, Canada in 1996.

Coldwell Banker was destined to become one of the largest real estate brokerages in the country and remain steeped in Coldwell’s base ethics; honesty, integrity always putting the customers before company objectives. Coldwell and Banker were long criticized for their values, but eventually these qualities caused Coldwell Banker to stand out.

For both men, real estate was their life’s passion. Coldwell became a statesman and Banker was always the genial hands-on partner. The two men devoted their lives to building Coldwell Banker until Banker retired in 1960 at age 75 and Coldwell worked at the firm he founded until his death in 1976, at age of 84.

Who Owns Coldwell Banker?

Coldwell Banker has had several owners since its history began in 1906. Coldwell Banker became a corporation in 1961, and went public in 1968. It was purchased by Sears, Roebuck, and then sold it to the Fremont Group, a California investment company, for $230 million in 1993 before being sold to the hotel franchise company HFS Inc.

In 1996. Cendant, a New York-based provider of business and consumer services within the real estate and travel industries owned Coldwell Banker. When Cendant broke up in 2006, the real estate businesses were spun off as Realogy. It was not long after that the real estate market took a nose dive and Apollo Global Management, a private equity firm, stepped in to purchase Realogy. But in 2013 the market rebounded and Apollo and its affiliates sold its remaining interest back to Realogy.

Realogy Holdings Corporation is now a global leader in residential real estate franchising and brokerage. Realogy’s collective franchises operate approximately 14,100 offices that include more than 275,000 independent sales people that conduct business in 112 countries worldwide.

Realogy is led by Chairman, CEO and President Richard A. Smith who, in January 2016 was named the Most Powerful Person in Residential Real Estate Brokerage for the third consecutive year, according to the Swanepoel Power 200 rankings. Swaneoel is a comprehensive annual ranking described as the most comprehensive list of influential CEOs, thought leaders and senior executives in the residential real estate business.

NRT is a family of companies and a subsidiary of Realogy. It is the largest residential brokerage company in the United States and parent company to Coldwell Banker. Nearly all of NRT’s companies are ranked No. 1 or No.2 in their respective markets.

Coldwell Banker keeps Colbert’s Spirit Alive

Philanthropy, along with the reciprocal, customer-first relationship remains at the heart of Coldwell Banker.

In 2006, for example, in the spirit of putting people first, Coldwell Banker started a “100 Homes” initiative with the goal of raising $5 million to support 100 Habitat for Humanity homes around the United States. That goal was exceeded. More than 130 homes were committed, and more than $6.1 million was raised for the year.

In February 2015, Coldwell Banker found homes for more that 20,00 homeless dogs through by partnering with Adopt-a-Pet, the largest nonprofit pet adoption website in North America.

Not all of the Coldwell Banker philanthropy makes a big media splash, but significantly impacts the lives of many individuals. For example, Coldwell Banker helped to replace thousands of dollars worth of tools and equipment stolen from an Evergreen, Calgary construction site.

The morality and mindfulness of Colbert Coldwell and Benjamin Banker to always take another person’s perspective is at the heart of Coldwell Banker.

For a short video about the history of Coldwell Banker go to this Coldwell Banker You Tube site.




Spring is around the corner! Be prepared for your next real estate transaction by meeting with Alice Pierce, one of the best listing and selling agents on the South Shore of Boston. Alice Pierce is a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, and a lifelong resident of Hingham who knows all of the coastal towns and the neighborhoods within them. Whether you are interested in Hingham, MA, Cohasset, MA, Hull, MA, Norwell, MA and any other South Shore towns, give her a call at 781-724-7622, anytime. Alice Pierce can also be reached by email or through her Coldwell Banker real estate website.

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