Real Estate - Residential

Hanover Merger Ends An Era In Wilmington Real Estate

By Jason Frye, posted Sep 3, 2010

On Aug. 17, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty and Hanover Realty announced the merger of their companies. With this merger, Hanover Realty, one of the oldest real estate firms in Wilmington, will be fully absorbed by Sea Coast Realty.

This merger marks the passage of an era in the Wilmington real estate world as the legacy of Hanover Realty fades into history.
Founded in 1965 by Doky Saffo, father of current Broker-in-Charge and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, Hanover Realty built a reputation in Wilmington. The early success of the company, and much of Wilmington’s real estate market, was built on the back of Doky Saffo, said LaNelle Clontz, a Hanover Realty broker since 1967.

“Doky was a genius when it came to developing land,” she said.

“He could walk a piece of property and see it for what it could be, a rare talent in any profession and one that served him well in real estate.”

Clontz said the economic boom of 1970s Wilmington was “very successful for me, thanks in no small part to Doky and all of his partnerships.”

He played host to visiting representatives from companies like DuPont and Corning, who were interested in expanding operations to Wilmington, she said. Once the companies committed to joining the Wilmington community, Doky and a few handpicked agents from Hanover Realty worked with them to find area real estate, from homes to developments.

It was this kind of foresight that helped foster Hanover Realty’s partnerships with area builders and construction companies and led to the development of 34 subdivisions in the company’s 45-year history.

“[Doky] was a brilliant developer. He read the signs and trends in real estate, had a sense of the lifestyle of Wilmingtonians and found the place where those things met. The developments Hanover Realty helped build or represented have always been successful because of this,” Clontz said.

By reading real estate trends and taking cues from the lifestyle of Wilmington-area residents, Doky and Hanover Realty were able to offer properties different from any others at the time. In developing Eagles Nest and Park Place, the decision was made to keep every tree possible, opposed to clearing the parcel as was the trend at the time. Preserving trees was a way to retain the beauty, shape and structure of the properties, and, as it turned out, homebuyers found developments that stood out from the competition.

In 1984 Bill Saffo stepped into the role of Broker-in-Charge, continuing his father’s legacy. Under Bill’s guidance, Hanover Realty continued to grow and build new partnerships, joining forces with Stevens Fine Homes in the early 1990s. In the late 1980s, Hanover Realty brought the first Coldwell Banker franchise to Wilmington, but broke off the partnership due to the overwhelming success Hanover Realty was having without the aid of the real estate giant.

Donna Giradot, executive officer of the Wilmington-Cape Fear Home Builders Association, said, “Doky truly is one of the pillars of the development industry in our corner of North Carolina, and Bill is certainly one of the young, promising real estate professionals in our area. Hanover Realty meant a lot to a lot of people, but the merger with Sea Coast Realty should only expand the horizons for [Hanover Realty’s former] clients.”

At its largest, Hanover Realty employed more than 40 agents, although the decline in the housing market in recent years trimmed staff down by more than half. The merger with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Realty means better marketing and a wider audience for the developments represented by Saffo’s former company.

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