For Mike Hasson, a career in residential real estate spanning more than four decades has been largely about opportunities.
After graduating from the University of Oregon, he jumped into the real estate game at 22 and quickly established himself as a prolific broker in Portland over a six-year period. In 1983, with interest rates hovering above 16 percent, he pounced on an opportunity to start his own gig with two other agents, launching Handel, Hasson & Jones in Lake Oswego.
Eight years later, when it became clear that Hasson saw opportunities that his partners didn’t, he bought them out and in 1991 founded Hasson Company Realtors. His vision then was, in part, to offer more support and resources to agents in an industry that was evolving quickly. Hasson opened six offices in the metro region, aiming to maintain the company’s local brand while offering the level of service that buyers and sellers associate with much larger firms.
“I bought out my partners with the vision being that we would grow strategically and give our agents and clients the benefits of a bigger company without sacrificing the culture of the environment we had created,” Hasson said.
It was a strategy that has worked well. Hasson has maintained a solid reputation in the market, but it’s also punched far above its class in terms of sales. In 2016, according to information Hasson submitted to the Business Journal, the company had 141 brokers who rang up $1.5 billion in sales, putting them at No. 5 on the list of the largest metro-area residential real estate firms. In the No. 1 slot was RE/MAX Equity Group, which had nearly $2.9 billion in sales from 575 agents.
Now, however, after more than 35 years at the helm, Hasson is seeing other opportunities, both for himself and his company. Those include him stepping away from the CEO role, easing toward retirement, and passing the reins over to a new set of hands.
“I felt like you get to the point where opportunities are presenting themselves and you’re not taking advantage of those opportunities because you don’t have the commitment, the time, the drive, the passion to do so that you’ve always had, then it’s time to look at a different way of doing things,” Hasson said. “It’s something where the timing for a plan is right now. That’s an opportunity in itself that you don’t want to pass by.”
Hasson and his leadership team, including president Lynae Forbes, have been mulling over a succession plan for the past few years. The eventuality came into sharp focus in 2011, when Hasson was diagnosed with lung cancer, a disease he continues to manage.
One option for the future of the company might have been to go the acquisition route and be snatched up by a larger firm, which is happening across the industry at present. Hasson said plenty of the big players have come knocking, but all they’re interested in is gaining market share and that’s not what the Hasson Company is about.
“If there was a big franchise out there that gave us something of value that put us in a better position as a company, (Hasson) would have been the first person to look at it,” Forbes said. “But we have all that. We have the technology, we have the quality people, the appearance of being bigger than we are and still having that local brand that means so much. It’s unique.”
Instead, Hasson called up Steve Studley in October, a broker who had been with the company in a few different capacities since 2008 and who had shown the leadership abilities Hasson was looking for.
“The phone rang and he said, ‘Are you interested in doing something different?’” Studley said. “And I was. The thing for me is, good leadership and a good vision from the inception of this company has been proven to withstand the test of time. When you can lead an organization that has the foundation this company has, it’s opportunity time.”
As of Jan. 1, Studley has officially taken on the title of CEO, while Forbes remains president. Hasson has not stepped away entirely, but will stay on as director of strategic planning.
“Real leaders are hard to find,” Hasson said of Studley. “To find one that has the operational experience and the sales experience in this business, and one who has earned the respect of his peers, is not easy.”
The transition comes at a time of new opportunities for the company, which could include expanding either by adding more brokers or acquiring any number of the smaller boutique firms that have popped up and operate in a way similar to Hasson. In addition, the agency has also toyed with the idea of launching a commercial division, which Hasson said he never felt they were equipped to do up to this point. Now, however, that opportunity — and others that will shape the Hasson Company’s future — has come into play.
“That’s just another one of those opportunities that is presenting itself,” Hasson said, “and now all the pieces are in place.”
The List: Metro-Area Residential Real Estate Firms
Ranked by 2016 metro sales volume
Rank Name 2016 metro sales volume 1 RE/MAX Equity Group $2.862 billion 2 Windermere Stellar $2.196 billion 3 John L. Scott Real Estate $1.954 billion View This List