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Two residential real estate firms, Morris & Schneider and Jacksonand Hardwick, will merge March 1 to create a firm with more than 60offices in the Southeast. The new firm will be called Morris HardwickSchneider. Randolph H. Schneider will oversee operations for the new firm, andNathan E. Hardwick IV will handle marketing and business development.The two will serve as joint managing partners. As senior partner, ArthurJ. Morris will help with strategy, while continuing to manage Morris,Schneider & Prior, a separate firm that handles foreclosures, bankruptcyand litigation. Schneider said the motivation for the merger was to expand in theSoutheast, not to become more competitive in the Atlanta market, wherethere are several sizeable firms handling residential closings. “Thereis no one-stop shop for residential real estate closings in theSoutheast. Our vision is to service clients — builders, lenders andrelocation companies — in the Southeast and beyond,” he said. Morris & Schneider, founded in 1978, has 42 offices. Jackson andHardwick, established in 1994, has 17. Morris Schneider Hardwick willhave 79 lawyers, with 13 of them partners. The managing partner of McCalla, Raymer, Padrick, Cobb, Nichols & Clark,an Atlanta competitor, agreed that the merged firm will not increasecompetition locally. “It won’t affect our business,” said Richard E.Raymer. He said that his firm, which has offices only in Atlanta,concentrates on residential resale, not newly built homes, which heestimated make up only about 20 percent of its business. The building industry is consolidating, which creates an opportunity fora firm that can offer one-stop closing services to regional and nationalhome builders, said Hardwick. “It will be excellent to go to a bigbuilder and say, ‘If you have problems in the region, you’ll be takencare of,’” he said. In several Southeastern states, residential real estate closings must behandled by a lawyer, not a title agent, as is the norm in many states.”National lenders come to the Southeast and suddenly they’ve got to dealwith all these lawyers. That’s the void we hope to fill,” saidSchneider. The new firm plans to expand rapidly in the region. It will open anoffice in Nashville, Tenn., on March 1, then in Charleston April 1, tobe followed by other South Carolina locations. Its headquarters will remain in Atlanta with hubs in Nashville,Greenville, S.C., Birmingham, Ala., Charlotte, N.C., and Tampa and WestPalm Beach, Fla. Hardwick said he envisions Morris Schneider Hardwick as the biggest realestate firm in the nation in 10 years. In states where title agentsperform closings, the firm simply will morph into a title agency. Hardwick also would like to expand into foreclosures and commercial real estate, so that the firm truly is aone-stop shop for real estate. “We want to create a fully functional regional deal and then moveforward [nationally]. By the end of this year, we hope to be in NewJersey,” he said.

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