Image: Eric Anderson

Today, if you call the number that formerly belonged to Martha Turner Properties (MTP), you may receive an unexpected greeting: “Hello, Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty!” That’s right—Houston’s most successful independent real estate brokerage announced this morning that it had been acquired by Sotheby’s. Although best known as an auction house, Sotheby’s has operated a real estate service since 1976, and maintains offices in many of the toniest enclaves in the country, including Beverly Hills, Greenwich, CT, Palm Beach, and now—with this acquisition—Houston.

With over 200 sales associates spread across six offices, MTP is one of Houston’s largest and most profitable brokers. Thanks to its ubiquitous yard signs and memorable advertising (which claim that the realtor sells homes ranging from $20,000 to $20 million), the company enjoys high visibility. In 2013, MTP sold over $2 billion worth of property, the best year in the company’s 32-year history, according to Turner. REAL Trends, the real estate analysis firm, recently ranked MTP  as No. 8 in the nation based on closed sales volume per agent, with each agent bringing in an average of $7 million.

MTP and Sotheby’s had been in negotiations for a little over a month before announcing the deal this morning. Turner said that it was a natural fit because the two companies’ cultures are so similar. “We have two fine companies that knew it would be a win-win situation,” she said. “The fact that they want a local company to run this says a lot.” Turner will be co-president, with her business partner Tom Anderson, of the newly christened (and somewhat unwieldy) Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty.

When asked what advantages the acquisition would bring, Anderson said that Sotheby’s, as an international real estate company, would help promote Houston properties to people around the world. You can access the Sotheby’s website in 15 different languages, including Mandarin, Russian, Vietnamese, and French; by the end of the week, the same will be true of the MTP website. “You reach plateaus in your career,” Anderson said. “I’ve been in this business 40 years, and I’ve seen growth and plateau, growth and plateau. This acquisition will take us to the next level.”

As for Turner, she said she looks forward to stepping back from the day-to-day management of the company to focus on what she loves best—going on home visits with her agents, and delivering invited lectures. She hastens to add that she’s not retiring. 

“This [acquisition] means everything in the world, because it allows me to do what my dream is, which is to work as long as I want to,” Turner said. “I told Sotheby’s that I hope when I’m 90 I’ll still be in the office.”

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