The sluggish housing market has put a damper on Keller Williams’ business.
In the first quarter, the franchise brokerage’s agents closed $63.5 billion in sales volume in the U.S. and Canada, down 1.9 percent from a year earlier, the company said in a statement. At the same time, the number of transactions dipped 1.7 percent, which Keller Williams attributed the decline to lower sales across the country.
“We expect to continue to see a year-over-year decline in total existing home sales in the U.S. throughout 2019, likely in the 2 to 5 percent range,” chief economist Ruben Gonzalez said in the statement. “Price growth is also slowing with median existing home prices tracking in the low single digits now.”
Existing home sales in the U.S. fell 6.6 percent in the first quarter, with sales volume declining 4.3 percent year over year, according to the National Association of Realtors.
The brokerage’s official agent count in the U.S. and Canada was 157,377 was of March 31, down from 159,447 agents on Jan. 31. Keller Williams said the count was revised downward to account for “agent roster cleanup.” Josh Team, Keller Williams’ president, told Inman in February that the company may have between 10,000 and 15,000 “ghost agents” — agents that are inactive or unlicensed.
Globally, the company saw an uptick in business as it expanded into Italy and opened 12 new offices. Outside the U.S. and Canada, agents closed $1.1 billion in sales volume, up 11.5 percent from a year earlier. The number of transactions rose 27.3 percent to 7,364.
Keller Williams, which is the largest franchise brokerage in the country, has been contending with aggressive poaching and the need to expand its tech, which The Real Deal detailed in a profile this month. Earlier this year, a report noted that Keller Williams is seeking to take on Redfin. Team noted that the brokerage thinks it can “copy the technology of Redfin before Redfin can take the market share.”
Keller Williams has viewed tech-powered brokerages like Redfin as rivals. Last year, the company acquired a startup specifically to help building a strategy to challenge aggregator listing portals. It also developed Kelle, an artificial intelligence-powered virtual assistant, which the company has compared to Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.
At the same time, Keller Williams is also joining the iBuyer craze, alongside the likes of Opendoor and Zillow Offers. The company previously said it plans to spend $100 million through the program this year.