Coralee Barkela (l) and Suzanne Drace. Press Democrat photo by Jeff Lee

The fast-growing Wine Country Group by Better Homes and Gardens has become one of Sonoma County’s largest real estate firms with its recent acquisition of three local Pacific Union offices.
The six-month-old Wine Country Group has absorbed the Santa Rosa and Petaluma Pacific Union offices that had been owned since 2006 by Coralee Barkela and Suzanne Drace.
The change took effect last week. Drace now works as a manager of the three former Pacific Union offices, which have 37 agents. Barkela is staying on as an agent.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The firm now has 219 agents in 11 offices in Sonoma and Napa counties.
Pacific Union has been “historically one of the great companies in Santa Rosa,” said Dougan Jones, Wine Country Group’s managing partner. The acquisition shows the company is “attracting the best and brightest agents in our market.”
The company was formed in February when it took over the Wine Country offices formerly affiliated with Frank Howard Allen. In June, it gained 30 additional agents who previously had worked for Frank Howard Allen Sebastopol.
Wine Country Group is a part of Pleasanton-based Better Homes and Gardens Mason-McDuffie Real Estate, which has more than 2,000 sales professionals in 40 offices in Northern California and Nevada.
The company could be the largest in Sonoma County in terms of real estate agents working for the same firm, Jones said. He noted there may be national franchises composed of different companies that combined would have more agents.
The real estate industry is suffering through a slump of historic proportions. The value of homes sold last year was $1.92 billion, less than half the amount of 2005 sales.
Earlier this summer, Hurd Real Estate, one of the largest independent real estate agencies in Santa Rosa, closed its doors. And last fall Century 21 NorthBay Alliance acquired Prudential California Realty offices in Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park.
“This is the kind of market where you are going to see this,” said Mike Kelly, a Keller Williams agent who has hosted KSRO’s “Real Estate Hour” for 33 years. “Consolidations are happening because of economy of scale.”
In a statement, Barkela said the new relationship “provides our agents with a significant upgrade in technology and marketing services.”
“We have joined a powerhouse brokerage firm with a strong legacy,” she said.
Jones said the technology includes state-of-the art web pages for each agent. There, buyers can search for homes on the multiple listing service and agents can host blogs and utilize social media to spread the word about their businesses.
“We’re all about promoting the agents and promoting the agents’ brand over everything else,” Jones said.

— Robert Digitale