Austin, Texas-based Keller Williams Realty Inc., which bills itself as the largest franchised real estate brokerage firm in the US, is the latest of the big American brokerage companies to detect hidden gold along Germany’s streets. The group is launching a new business region serving Austria, Germany and Switzerland, to build upon its drive beyond US shores which it embarked upon in 2010.
According to Rauert Peters, the master franchisee who is leading the new venture, the Europeans should be crying out for the standards of service his company brings. “Despite their sophistication, the German, Swiss and Austrian real estate markets all lack companies with a clear commitment to professional services and their associates,” said Rauert Peters, the master franchisee who is leading the new venture. “Keller Williams has clearly shown its commitment to a high level of agent education by remaining a company ‘by agents, for agents.”
Founded in 1983, Keller Williams has around 700 offices and 80,000 associates around the world, including specialised agents in luxury homes and commercial real estate properties. Since heading overseas in 2010, the company has concluded franchise agreements in Indonesia, Vietnam, South Africa and Turkey.
As we reported in a recent issue of REFIRE, the current debate raging in Germany about the merits of the existing system – where it’s nearly always the prospective buyer or future tenant who pays the broker’s commission – has proved the catalyst for a number of foreign operators with a variety of business models to move into the market to show the Germans how to do it better.
ReMax Realtors has now been operating in German for several years, and seem to have been enjoying rapid growth, to judge by the number of stores REFIRE sees throughout our travels in Germany. Anumber of other new arrivals are also announcing ambitious plans.
The US franchise network Century 21, which claims to be the world leader in private residential estate agency, started up in Germany last year with one office in Düsseldorf, growing to six offices by the end of the year. This year it plans to open fifty offices, and is ambitiously targeting more than 300 offices with more than 3,000 employees by 2017.
Century 21 has over 8,000 independent sales offices in 71 countries worldwide, employing more than 121,000 sales agents. The company is a part of NYSE-listed Realogy Corporation, headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, which also owns ERA Franchise. ERA itself started up in Germany in 1998 with ambitious plans to open up 400 offices, although after initial growth, this seems to have settled down now at just over 50 offices nationwide.
Also entering into the fray is Swiss broker Betterhomes, which set up headquarters in Stuttgart in March. To date active only in Switzerland and Austria, the company brokered property in Switzerland last year worth CHF 1.1bn, or about €900m. The company’s strategy is to build a multi-level sales distribution structure nationwide, rather than a chain of bricks-and-mortar offices, and to ‘pass on the resulting savings to the end customer.’ Rather than relying on property expertise, the company says it will be looking to looking to attract sales professionals from the financial services sector. The Betterhomes business model is based on direct sales and a powerful IT system, which scours online websites for classified property ads which feed its network of sales-hungry reps.