Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors, one of the largest and most influential real estate agencies in Waco, has been sold to a Dallas-based real estate powerhouse that will enjoy $1.6 billion in projected sales this year and operates 16 offices in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Coldwell Banker Apex President Lori Arnold, confirmed Friday the company has joined forces with its counterpart in Waco that employs about 50 agents and whose commercial division includes such high-profile performers as Bland Cromwell, Brad Davis and Gregg Glime, who is involved in several development projects downtown.

The merger will create the ninth-largest Coldwell Banker operation in the United States and the largest owned by a woman, Arnold said. Real estate tracking website Real Trends ranked the agency 181st on its most recent list of the 500 largest real estate firms in the U.S. based on sales.

“My relationship with the Waco office is very old, and we will work together to accomplish great things,” Arnold said. “Jim Stewart and I go back to his early days. He was a wonderful man, very encouraging when we started out as just a small company, one office with five agents.”

Stewart, who died in February, formed Jim Stewart Realtors in 1970, and it became the dominant real estate firm in Greater Waco, attracting the attention of and becoming part of Coldwell Banker in 1999.

Arnold said management of the Waco office will not change under the ownership of Coldwell Banker Apex, adding the two companies already have a close working relationship in that they often share information and make referrals when clients move between the Dallas area and Waco.

“Kathy Schroeder and I have known each other for 20 years, and we talk to each other two or three times a month,” Arnold said, referring to the Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors staffer who oversees residential services. “During our first month together, I’m already seeing more back-and-forth between agents, the synergy we were hoping to achieve.”

Arnold said in 1990 she assumed ownership of the company her parents founded, and it joined the Coldwell Banker system in 1993. It has steadily grown to 635 agents, with acquisition of the Waco agency.

“I’m very excited about the transaction. I think it will bring a whole new energy, cutting-edge technology and marketing that will create all kinds of benefits to sellers,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder, Davis, Cromwell, Earl Patrick and Steve Cunningham, all partners in Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors, approved the sale of the company to the Apex unit, according to Cromwell and Davis.

“I think it’s exciting, but also bittersweet,” said Cromwell, a 41-year veteran of the local real estate scene and a perennial leader in brokered commercial and industrial sales among Coldwell Banker agents nationwide. “I think Jim (Stewart) would be happy, and that’s most important.

“We’re basically being folded into a larger company, giving us access to a larger network while maintaining the status quo when it comes to management and keeping the name, which will not change.”

Davis said Arnold has done a remarkable job of growing the reach of her enterprise, with her energy and knack for elevating the performance of those around her. He said the sale was a mutual decision among the parties, which know and respect the values of each other.

Arnold said her son, Josh Arnold, attended Baylor University, receiving undergraduate, MBA and law degrees there. Her daughter-in-law, Natalie Arnold, also graduated from Baylor and now serves as marketing director for Coldwell Banker Apex, Arnold said.

Arnold described Waco as a “nice, strong market” that often mirrors Dallas in housing trends, “which should prove to be a real advantage when it comes to sharing information among our agents.”

“It’s always nice to see what happens first,” she said. “Dallas tends to mirror states out West, and agents I knew in Las Vegas tipped me off to the housing downturn of 2007, which happened there first.”

She said agents affiliated with her company will broker sales on about 6,500 properties this year, with exact figures available in two weeks. Transactions have a value of about $1.6 billion, up from $1.2 billion in the top-500 ranking compiled by Real Trends.

Arnold confirmed that her company, in a separate transaction, bought the office building that Coldwell Banker Jim Stewart Realtors occupies at Valley Mills and Waco drives.

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