P. Wesley “Wes” Foster Jr., the co-founder of Long & Foster, one of the largest independent brokerage firms in the country, died on March 17 at his home in Alexandria, Virginia, as first reported by the Washington Post.
Foster was 89 and no cause of death was given.
“Wes Foster was truly one of the giants of the US brokerage business of the last 50 years. From a standing start in 1968, he grew the firm to a peak of nearly 12,000 agents,” Steve Murray, the co-founder of RealTrends Consulting, said. “Year after year, his firm was the largest privately owned residential brokerage in the country. Most importantly he was a man of great dignity and strong entrepreneurial instincts. For those who knew him well, regardless of his passing, we will remember some of our great Wes stories, for he also had a great sense of humor.”
At the time of his death, Foster was the chairman emeritus of the firm he co-founded with Henry A. “Hank” Long in 1968 in Fairfax, Virginia.
“Wes was an extraordinary leader, businessman and person, and my heart goes out to his family and all those he touched through his caring and generosity,” Patrick Bain, president and CEO of The Long & Foster Companies, said in a statement on the company’s website. “[W]hat stood out the most was his appreciation and attention for everyone he met. Wes always treated you as the most important person and knew it was the agents and employees who chose to work here, who were the heart and soul of the company.”
Foster, who attended the Virginia Military Institute on a partial football scholarship and received a bachelor’s degree in English in 1956 before serving as in artillery officer in Germany, met Long shortly after transitioning from his career as a salesman for Kaiser Aluminum into real estate. The men were in their 30s when they started the firm and both were relatively new to the real estate industry.
In an interview with the Washington Business Journal, Foster recalled that the two men “flipped a coin” to decide whose name would come first. As the loser of the coin toss, Foster got to become president of the fledgling firm.
At first, the firm had one employed agent with Long, who died in 2020. At that point, Long focused on commercial real estate and Foster on residential real estate.
In 1974, Long & Foster launched its first expansion, opening an office in Maryland, and three years later, the firm expanded further into Washington, D.C.
In 1979, Foster bought out his business partner after Merrill Lynch offered to buy the firm. Long wanted to sell the firm, but Foster felt otherwise.
“I told him, ‘Gosh, I liked this crazy business,’” Foster told the Washington Post in 1988.
In 2017, however, Foster agreed to an acquisition, selling The Long & Foster Companies to HomeServices of America.
Since its founding, Long & Foster has grown to more than 200 offices in Virginia, Maryland, D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina, employing more than 8,500 sales agents and staff, and offering real estate, mortgage, settlement, and insurance services, according to the company’s website.
Throughout his career, Foster maintained that the recruitment of successful real estate agents was always at the core of his business strategy. His ideal agent possessed both “empathy” and “ego.”
“If you have a lot of empathy and you don’t have ego drive, you might make a good priest, but you won’t make a good salesperson or sales manager,” he told the publication American Executive in 2005. “If you have equal quotients of empathy and ego drive, you’re a good person, but you’re aggressive and you make things happen.”
According to the firm’s site, Long & Foster recorded $27 billion in sales volume in 2022.
Foster is survived by his wife, Betty Foster, son Paul Wesley Foster III, daughter Amanda Foster Spahr and stepson Rod Lawrence.