The Real Deal New York

Keller Williams claims it’s now the No. 1 franchise in the US

Texas-based firm sold $303.4B worth of U.S. real estate in 2017
By E.B. Solomont | January 31, 2018 01:00PM

Gary Keller and John Davis

UPDATED: Jan. 31, 4:36 p.m.: In 2010, Keller Williams Realty launched an aggressive campaign to boost its ranks. Now, the firm said it is the largest franchise firm in the U.S. based on its 2017 sales.

Keller Williams agents sold $303.4 billion worth of real estate in the U.S. in 2017, up 15 percent year over year, the company said in a news release. The company said it’s now the top firm in the U.S. based on units sold and sales volume. With 177,000 agents worldwide — up nearly 13 percent from last year — the Texas-based brokerage is the largest franchise globally based on sheer size.

According to CEO John Davis, KW agents outperformed the market during 2017’s fourth quarter — typically a slow time of year — by anticipating the dip and going after new business ahead of time. For the full year, KW agents closed 1.04 million deals in the U.S., up 10 percent from 2016.

Despite the strong numbers, the company’s sales growth (15 percent) fell short of a 20 percent uptick in 2016. Davis attributed the deceleration to low inventory. “When we look at existing home sales in the U.S., they were up 1.1 percent in 2017,” he said. “That’s the inventory impacting that.”

Keller Williams — which shares profits with agents — said agents turned $171 million in profits in 2017, up 13 percent from 2016. Franchise owners received a total of $196.7 million, a year-over-year increase of 11 percent. (In 2017, Keller Williams International received $196 million in royalties.)

Although Keller Williams is a dominant player nationally, it’s a relatively new player in New York. Keller Williams NYC, owned by Ilan Bracha and Haim Binstock, opened in 2011.
Keller Williams Tribeca, led by CEO Mark Chin, opened last year.

The NYC operation was No. 6 on The Real Deal’s most recent ranking of residential firms, based on its agent count. As of that ranking, in May 2016 Keller Williams had nearly 600 agents in Manhattan. It had another 661 in Queens as of June 2017, as well as 131 agents in the Bronx. “We’re fairly new to the New York area,” Davis said. “We’re really excited to grow and have roots there.”

Nationally, Keller Williams competes with the likes of RE/MAX, Century 21, Coldwell Banker and HomeServices of America, a subsidiary of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.

Steve Murray, founder of data firm Real Trends, said RE/MAX still does more business globally than Keller Williams. “RE/MAX in Canada alone is many multiples of Keller in Canada,” he said. Based on agent count, however, Keller Williams has grown at a “much faster rate” than any of its competitors.

“What’s really interesting,” he added, “is that Keller Williams has achieved this growth without spending any money on national, regional or local advertising of the Keller Williams brand.”