Prudential Preferred Properties Network
Investing in Great Lakes retreats for four decades
The history of the Northern Michigan region of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate spans four decades, and traces back to a single chair, in a single office.
Walking into the Charlevoix office, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices clients step into over 40 years of local Northern Michigan real estate expertise. Owner Rik Lobenherz started out in 1976 partnering with the first real estate franchise in Michigan, Ski and Shore.
After operating locally for ten years, the first transition for the company was on the horizon. In the 1980s, a group of entrepreneurs in Minneapolis, MN created Vacation Properties Network, which started acquiring properties in high end resort areas across the country. They built a network of 75 offices throughout the country from Vail, Colorado to the resort communities of Florida. Seeking access to the luxury Northern Michigan market, Vacation Properties Network acquired Ski and Shore in 1986.
Prior to the advent of easily accessible real estate data, Vacation Properties Network created a business model in which they established Resource Centers in major metropolitan areas that would showcase their properties across the country to the second home market. After several years, Lobenherz, Rick Georgi and another partner bought the Northern Michigan offices back from Vacation Properties Network in 1991.
From this point, the brokerage expanded into additional markets, and built its strength by growing in number of offices, agents, and sales volume.
Meanwhile based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steve Fase owner of Prudential Preferred, REALTORS had always been interested in expanding into Northern Michigan. “It was a phone call from Prudential that put Rik and I together,” Fase explained. Prudential Real Estate requested Fase contact Lobenherz and his partners regarding joining the Prudential family.
Several years after the initial conversation, Fase finalized the deal to buy out Lobenherz’s partners in December 2006, converting from Vacation Properties Network to Prudential Preferred Properties Network.
“It was a great opportunity. There is a mix of markets, from Harbor Spring and Charlevoix, to Gaylord and now Cheboygan. It’s a different dynamic that Grand Rapids or Eastern Michigan. I really enjoy that,” he said.
Through all of the evolutions of the brokerage, all of the chapters have taken place under care of Rik Lobenherz, still located in the same office location in Charlevoix where it all began. And now the next chapter has begun, under the banner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Michigan Real Estate.
“Even through name changes are sometimes difficult and confusing to the public, I feel that each time we have done it, we have raised our bar a little bit as far as what we do for our customers and clients, and how we conduct business,” Lobenherz said.
For Fase, he is thankful for how the real estate market has returned in Northern Michigan. “It’s back, and doing really well. These people have been part of these communities, in the center of their local downtowns for 40 years. These are top agents that excel at what they do,” he explained.
Northern Michigan became the third region in the growth of the Prudential Preferred, REALTORS Family of Companies, and a cornerstone in the fabric of the company.