Academy merges with Prudential Fox and Roach

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From left are Nick Marotta, Don Wristbridge, Ed DiCamillo and Kathleen DiGuglielmo of Academy Real Estate which is merging with the Battersea Road office of Prudential Fox and Roach. From left are Nick Marotta, Don Wristbridge, Ed DiCamillo and Kathleen DiGuglielmo of Academy Real Estate which is merging with the Battersea Road office of Prudential Fox and Roach.

OCEAN CITY — Academy Real Estate and a tight-knit group of sales agents have found a new home. Last week, broker and owner Donald Wristbridge and six agents merged with Prudential Fox and Roach and are working out of the firm’s Battersea Road office.

“We’re very excited,” Wristbridge said. “It’s a great match for us at this office. There is a lot of the same office culture and we feel very comfortable. We’ve only been here for a few days and things are very good. It’s nice to be a part of a market leader.”

Academy’s six agents and 15 listings join Prudential’s 75 agents and 250 listings. The firm’s offices collectively handle over 2,500 rental listings on the island.

“It’s great for us and great for them,” said Pete Madden, manager of the Battersea Road office. “We picked up their sale listings and all of their rental listings, which is huge. They did quite a bit of rentals.”

Wristbridge brings agents Nick Marotta, Kathy DiGuglielmo, Ed Dicamillo, Peter Moran and Lorraine Wilent with him.

Marotta is the president of the Ocean City Board of Realtors; he and Wristbridge serve as mentors for Madden.

“Nick has been in the business for a gazillion years, Don has, too,” Madden said. “To have this opportunity to learn from them, and have them, with all of their experience, be a part of our team is tremendous. Everyone has blended very well. We have worked hard to establish a good culture here and they will only enhance that effort. Everyone has meshed very well.”

The former Academy team is excited about the partnership and the opportunities it is opening up.

“We couldn’t be happier,” Marotta said. “It was a very good decision on Don’s part. I think the world of Pete Madden, and the fact that we’re all here together with all of the resources that Prudential offers, is wonderful. They have a tremendous marketing capability, it’s a tremendous opportunity for us.”

Marotta said he is looking forward to working with Madden.

“It’s a win-win, and I can’t tell you how welcome we feel,” he said. “Pete is like a little kid on Christmas morning. We started talking about it and he just couldn’t wait to get those presents unwrapped. When we came and started really getting to work he really made us feel good. He couldn’t wait for us to get here.”

In the current economy, it hasn’t been easy for real estate offices, especially small ones.

“With the struggles of operating a small office, we’ve been talking about this for quite a while,” Marotta said. “On the national scene, a lot of people are talking about how difficult it is for a small office to stay competitive.”

It’s a sign of the times, Wristbridge said, as the cost of doing business for small agencies becomes overwhelming.

“The economic climate is tough,” he said. “On top of that you have overhead. There is a certain economy of scale with a large office. Like all small businesses, you have to look at efficiency. It made more sense for us to be part of Prudential. The real estate business has become so complicated and sophisticated that it’s tough to keep up. It’s hard for a small operator like myself to handle all the regulatory and technical aspects. Our customers expect us to be competitive, and it’s hard to compete with the technology that they have.”

As a broker, Wristbridge said he felt responsible for those who work under him.

“I have a paternalistic view and felt responsible that they were able to make their mortgage payment and put food on their tables,” he said.

Years ago, he said, national chains did not fare so well in Ocean City. Times have changed.

“My father, God rest his soul, opened the first, a Fox and Lazo office in 1980,” he said. “He bought Sindia Realty and only lasted a few years. He did not do rentals, and that was the downfall. The regional and national powerhouses finally realized that in Ocean City, the rental business is an integral part of a real estate office. They simply paid no attention for a long time.”

Ironically, when Wristbridge’s father closed Fox and Lazo, he moved to Prudential. Life’s twists and turns are “fascinating,” he said.

“He worked right here, at Battersea Road,” Wristbridge said. “So we have come full circle. When they opened the new 34th Street office, my father moved to 34th Street, but he was here for quite a while.”

Wristbridge said Academy made the right move at the right time.

“I think the market is going to getting ready to take off,” he said.

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