San Juan’s RE/MAX, Friday Harbor Realty will merge, become Sotheby’s

Two real estate companies merging; ‘We want to be the premier real estate company in the San Juan Islands,’ Paul LeBaron says

The owners of the RE/MAX San Juan Island franchise will buy Friday Harbor Realty and the combined offices will become Island Group Sotheby’s International Real Estate, effective July 1.

Paul LeBaron, co-owner of Island Group, which owns the RE/MAX franchise, said Friday all employees of the merged companies will be located in what is now the Friday Harbor House building. LeBaron said he and his partners — Sybil Mager, Travis Mager and Chris Spaulding — are not buying the Friday Harbor Realty building.

Under the Sotheby’s banner, Friday Harbor Realty owners Greg and Natalie King will be agents. Spaulding will be the broker. LeBaron and Sybil Mager will manage the office and sales. Travis Mager will be an investor. The combined company will have 22-25 employees, LeBaron said.

The new Sotheby’s franchise will lease its new offices from the Kings, who will retain ownership of the building.

Island Group will vacate its offices on Spring Street and in Churchill Corner, the latter of which it shares with the Magers’ San Juan Property Management. The property management company will continue to occupy the Churchill Corner office, LeBaron said.

Contracts were signed Thurtsday night at Friday Harbor Realty, LeBaron said. Messages were left for Greg King on his cell phone. LeBaron would not disclose the terms of the sale.

The merger ends Friday Harbor Realty’s run as the oldest non-franchise real estate agency on San Juan Island. The company was founded in 1967. Greg and Natalie King bought it after owner Dorothy Tollenaar died in 2004. They bought and remodeled the old San Juan Inn, moved the realty office there, attracted agents from other companies and raised the realty’s profile in the community.

Regarding Friday Harbor Realty’s change from longest-running independent to franchise, LeBaron said, “There are a lot of benefits to being franchised. Sotheby’s has been around forever. It’s the premier international real estate company and auction house. It’s the Bentley of real estate.”

Sotheby’s International Realty is a subsidiary of Sotheby’s, the world’s oldest international auction house in continuous operation. Its predecessor, Baker’s, was founded in London on March 11, 1744. The real estate subsidiary has offices in 34 countries.

LeBaron said he and Spaulding tried to buy a Sotheby’s franchise before they purchased RE/MAX from Bill and Diane Giesy, but Sotheby’s wasn’t ready to move to Washington. Sotheby’s now finds the market and demographics appealing and is opening offices in Gig Harbor and on Mercer Island, as well as in Friday Harbor.

“We will sell the same real estate (as before),” LeBaron said. “It’s the same group of people, but we’ll be working together versus working separately.”

Besides the prestige of the name, LeBaron said the association with Sotheby’s International will give global exposure to people looking to buy or sell real estate in the San Juans.

“We want to be the premier real estate company in the San Juan Islands,” LeBaron said.

The merger reduces the field of real estate companies on San Juan. The others are Coldwell Banker San Juan Island, J.B. Herren Real Estate, John L. Scott Real Estate, Kent Meeker Real Estate Services, and Windermere Real Estate San Juan Island.

“It will please people that there will be one less real estate office on Spring Street,” John L. Scott’s Pat O’Day quipped Monday.

He wasn’t concerned about Sotheby’s presence.

“No, we’ll always have 50-60 agents out there who get up every morning and try to make a living.”

He said the competition between Coldwell Banker, Windermere and the companies merging into Sotheby’s is “fierce.”

“It will be interesting to see how they battle it out.”