How Keller Williams plans to take down Zillow, Opendoor

Starting with Dallas, program could reach 8 major markets by year's end

Keller Williams CEO Gary Keller (Credit: Twitter and iStock)
Keller Williams CEO Gary Keller (Credit: Twitter and iStock)

Keller Williams, the nation’s biggest franchise brokerage, is joining the likes of Opendoor and Zillow Offers in the all-cash, online home-buying craze.

The Austin-based firm will be launching its iBuyer program, Keller Offers, in Dallas this May, with plans to expand to as many as eight “major” markets by the end of 2019, Marketwatch first reported. The company plans to spend $100 million through the program this year.

iBuying start-up Opendoor is currently active in 19 markets nationwide, while Zillow Offers has a presence in nine.

A Keller Williams spokesperson told Inman that the company believes the sector “represents less than 10 percent of the overall market,” though the company does see “this as an important additional option for KW agents to be able to offer their sellers.”

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The Keller Offers program will pair users with a Keller Williams agent, which may be a point of differentiation from other more automated iBuyer programs. Earlier this month, Opendoor announced that it would also be pivoting back to human agents for properties that fall outside its requirements, through its “Opendoor Agent Partner Program”.

Keller Williams’ move may have been partially forced by new market realities. “I feel like I have no choice now,” CEO Gary Keller said during a presentation in January. “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.’”

The company confirmed in September that it had been testing such a program, and had completed nearly 100 transactions.

Co-founder Keller returned to the brokerage as CEO in January amid a leadership shakeup, and is spearheading a $1 billion plan to build out the company’s own tech platform, as The Real Deal chronicled in its April 2019 Los Angeles magazine edition. [Inman, Marketwatch] — Kevin Sun