Keller Williams saw an uptick in deals last year as the franchise brokerage continued on its growth plan and doubled down on tech, it said in a statement Thursday.
In the U.S. and Canada, agents closed $332.4 billion in sales volume last fiscal year, up 5.7 percent from 2017, according to the franchise brokerage. Closed deals ticked up 2.2 percent, while contracts rose 2 percent to 1.2 million. According to the company, contract volume in the U.S. and Canada totaled $365 billion, up 5.5 percent over 2017. And listings volume totaled $256 billion, a 14 percent uptick over the prior year.
It previously reported a decline in franchisee owner profit in the third quarter, but said it would not be releasing those profit figures in its full-year results. The company also does not release net income totals, so its financial figures are somewhat murky.
Outside the U.S. and Canada, Keller Williams agent closed $4.5 billion in sales volume, up 37 percent from 2017. Contracts surged 43.9 percent.
Official agent count has remained fairly consistent, with 159,447 agents in the U.S. and Canada as of Jan. 31. The brokerage headed into 2018 with 159,631 agents. A recent report said that many of the firm’s U.S. agents actually “ghosts,” meaning they are inactive, unlicensed, and even deceased. The company said it became aware of “inconsistencies” in agent count earlier this year and “took immediate action to reconcile our roster.”
The results come as founder Gary Keller returns as CEO of his namesake brokerage, replacing John Davis. Davis, who held the role for almost two years, headed the company’s growth initiative since it launched in 2011. He also worked on the company’s effort to building a consumer-facing platform and introduced Kelle, Keller Williams’ AI-powered virtual assistant.
In 2018, 27,311 live referrals were sent through Kelle, which represented $8.3 billion in sales volume, the company said. Roughly 146,000 agents have downloaded the tool.
The company also said it is further developing its tech tools, aiming for “the most robust, global, fully connected, AI-powered real estate platform” by the end of this year. Currently, Kelle is available in the U.S. and Canada.
“Our entire job, the whole reason we’re doing all of this is so that our people can offer the personalized, digital experience that consumers demand,” said Josh Team, president of the firm.
Keller Williams is also likely launching its own iBuyer program in the second quarter this year. At a presentation in January, Keller said he was reluctant to do it but feels like there isn’t another option.
“I feel like I have no choice now,” he said. “I can’t allow Opendoor or Zillow to go out and be the only player in the iBuyer space and then begin to dictate terms and build brand around ‘they buy houses.’”
In New York, Keller Williams Midtown has struggled to keep CEOs. Michael Guerra, who was hired in June, was forced out earlier this month, The Real Deal reported. The Midtown franchise lost two other leaders last year in quick succession, including Lezley Charles, who oversaw a massive hiring spree.