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Michael Saunders & Co. Affiliates with the European Real Estate Network

Sarasota Herald Tribune, October 31, 2007

Along with a Manhattan firm, Michael Saunders & Co. has established a pipeline of potential luxury real estate deals from 20 of Europe's top firms.

Saunders and Halstead Properties LLC have signed an exclusive trans-Atlantic affiliation with the European Real Estate Network, or "EREN" as it is called in Europe.

The idea is to cross-market properties between Southwest Florida, New York and the 10 European countries represented by EREN. It is the first time that EREN has invited American companies into the group.

"With an ever-increasing share of today's buyers of luxury homes and condominiums in Southwest Florida coming to us from major European markets, this is yet another valuable international connection that brings our sellers into contact with a large and important pool of qualified, well-capitalized buyers," said Michael Saunders, founder and president of the firm bearing her name, in a statement Tuesday.

The importance of European customers to the Southwest Florida real estate market has been growing in recent years. Now, with the euro and pound trading at historically high levels when compared with the U.S. dollar, Europeans have extraordinarily strong buying power in the sagging domestic market.

In September, the Sarasota Association of Realtors sent a delegation to the United Kingdom aimed at sparking interest in the region's properties.

Brits are the biggest percentage of European foreign property buyers in the United States. Last year, 15 percent of all Florida real estate transactions were with buyers from overseas, and one third of those involved UK buyers.

EREN, whose firms have 53 offices in 10 countries, bills itself as the only pan-European network of independent luxury brokerage companies.

The addition of Saunders and Halstead is a "very natural fit for all the companies involved," said Jose Ribes Bas, a member of EREN's Executive Committee who visited Sarasota recently.

"Whenever we want to refer customers to Florida or New York, we will contact Michael Saunders & Co. in Sarasota, or Halstead Properties in Manhattan," said Bas, president of Spain's Rimontgo Properties and a member of the advisory board of Christie's Great Estates in Europe.

The deal came together during a trip by Saunders and Diane Ramirez, Halstead's president, to the Luxury Portfolio Fine Property Collection International Symposium in Spain.

"Michael and I recognized a synergy between our companies and those that comprise EREN," Ramirez said.

EREN was formed in 2005 when the 20 high-end real estate firms came together to promote business between members.

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