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Tri-City real estate leader switches to Sotheby’s

Dave Retter, owner of the largest real estate firm in the Tri-Cities, holds one of the new yard signs debuting the new name and brand for his residential real estate company affiliation — Retter & Company Sotheby’s International Realty.
Dave Retter, owner of the largest real estate firm in the Tri-Cities, holds one of the new yard signs debuting the new name and brand for his residential real estate company affiliation — Retter & Company Sotheby’s International Realty. Tri-City Herald

The largest real estate firm in the Tri-Cities has a new name and brand.

David Retter, owner of the former Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities, severed his franchise agreement with the Seattle-based company on Monday.

As of Nov. 1, the residential side of his business is operating as Retter & Company Sotheby’s International Realty under a 10-year franchise agreement with Sotheby’s, a subsidiary of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY)

The commercial side is now affiliated with SVN, a global commercial brokerage. Sotheby’s does not have a commercial division.

Sotheby’s and SVN offer the international reach Retter said the growing Tri-Cities needs.

From technology and education to wine and food processing, the Mid-Columbia is increasingly reaching toward international markets for business and talent. The Sotheby’s and SVN brands give it the tools and recognition it needs to step beyond a regional name.

The change also affects the former Windermere Theater at the Toyota Center Arena in Kennewick. It is being rebranded as the Retter & Company Theater, sponsored by Retter & Company Sotheby’s International Realty.

The name of the former Windermere Theater at the Toyota Center Arena in Kennewick will change to the Retter & Company Theater.

Retter is the sole sponsor of the theater, which is a temporary set-up within the arena designed to hold Broadway and other theatrical productions between sporting matches.

Retter said he’s committed to continuing to support the community. In June, it will inaugurate the George and Pat Jones Community Service Day, named in honor of the late developer as well as his wife.

Sotheby’s parent company operates a corporate relocation business to assist with executive moves.

Retter said he approached Sotheby’s as he contemplated a change to reflect the broader reach of the maturing economy. After a four-month review, Sotheby’s agreed to bring his company into its network.

Sotheby’s bills itself as a luxury brand, but Retter said it refers to service and not the types of properties it sells. Retter said he’s proud his office caters to all price ranges and boasts his firm holds the Tri-City record for the lowest-priced transaction — a $5,000 deal for a manufactured home in a park.

You don’t secure luxury listings without doing a good job at all levels, he said.

At 62, Retter said the move is personal. While circumspect about his relationship with Windermere, he said he’s been in the real estate business for nearly four decades. He has no retirement plan, or even a succession strategy for his business.

But he wants to reach the 50-year mark like his mentors. The new partnerships let him do that.

“I love this business. I want to go out with the best,” he said. “I’m in the fourth quarter of my career.”

I love this business. I want to go out with the best.

David Retter, Retter & Company Sotheby International Realty

The Windermere name will not disappear from the Tri-City market.

Windermere Real Estate Group One/Tri-Cities is a separate Richland-based Windermere franchise that split with Retter’s firm several years ago. Group One has two offices, including a newly opened outpost in Kennewick’s Southridge neighborhood.

Shelley Rossi, vice president of communications for the Seattle parent, said the split is an amicable one and Windermere wishes Retter and his team nothing but the best.

She said the company is eager to remain a player through Windermere Group One, which has aggressive growth plans of its own.

“The growth in the Tri-Cities is tremendous,” she said.

Retter formally announced the change to the company’s 85 residential and commercial agents and staff as the new Sotheby’s/SVN sign was hoisted over its flagship office at 329 N. Kellogg St. in Kennewick.

After the morning gathering, agents planned to fan out to replace more than 300 yard signs in front of their current listings.

Retter’s affiliation with SVN commercial real estate won’t be quite as noticeable as the Sotheby’s change, but it promises to make local properties more visible to a larger audience of tenants and investors.

Rob Ellworth, senior adviser, said SVN’s marketing and research abilities will help advertise Tri-City commercial real estate well beyond the Northwest.

“This instantly brings us light years ahead,” he said.

Retter began his real estate career in 1979 and formed a real estate firm with long-developer Harold Thompson in 1992. A year later, they brought the Windermere brand to the Tri-Cities.

Retter said his goal was always to provide top drawer service rather than growth. The approach paid off. The company closes about 120 transactions a month, more than any other Tri-City real estate firm.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514, @WendyCulverwell

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