When you hear people in the real estate industry talk about which franchises are “taking over the world,” they usually don’t mean that phrase literally, but in the case of Keller Williams, it might just be appropriate.
Keller Williams, one of the fastest-growing franchise groups in the country, announced its expansion to five new countries at its Mega Camp event today: Israel, Nicaragua, France, Monaco and Poland.
According to a company release, Keller Williams now has 2,921 international agents (outside the U.S. and Canada) across 31 countries and regions.
In 2016, the company has grown its overseas real estate agent base by 810 net agents — that’s an increase of more than 38 percent year-over-year.
“In 2016, we have continued our historic rate of growth internationally, adding 27 new real estate offices,” said Bill Soteroff, president, Keller Williams Worldwide, the international division of Keller Williams, in a statement. “As we add our newest countries and regions into our KW family, we’re extremely proud of the momentum underway surrounding our franchises across the globe.”
There are now 88 international Keller Williams market centers outside the U.S. and Canada, and as Soteroff stated, in 2016, the company has grown by 27 net market centers (more than a 44-percent year-over-year increase).
One of the largest outposts outside of the U.S. and Canada is in Turkey. The Keller Williams Turkey region contains 11 market centers and more than 450 agents, according to the company.
How the company expands overseas
Soteroff stressed in a phone call with Inman that when Keller Williams expands overseas, it’s not selling a brand — it’s establishing its culture.
“There’s a plethora of brands out there,” he said. “It’s more important for us to share our culture and systems.”
Soteroff spends the better part of a year training each operating principal for every new country to which Keller Williams expands. “Just because that person comes forward and says, ‘I’m from France, from Poland, from Israel; I like your brand and would like your brand to come here’ — that’s what has happened for traditional branded real estate companies.
“At Keller Williams, what we want to look for is, what’s the correct role and responsibility for that person?”
The operating principals set the standards for Keller Williams operations in each country and hold the agents and brokers accountable, so it’s an important position and worth Soteroff’s time to find the best people for the job.
“We’re not going forward and selling a Keller Williams sign or brand. What we’re selling, matching people up with, is people who can understand our culture — and if they’re able to understand it, transform it. They take care of family and what they want to do is take care of their agents, and in many cases they compete with their agents. We want our market centers to establish a small, profitable business and not compete with their agents.
“We’ve spent the better part of a year saying to them: This is not the purchase or acquisition of an American brand that you can put in your offices; this is the sharing of a worldwide culture that will enable your agents to better their work with your customers and clients.”
Tech support is another wrinkle: Obviously, the tools that Keller Williams agents enjoy in the United States don’t always transfer seamlessly overseas.
“We do not provide the same tech support for every single culture,” explained Soteroff. “We provide the tech support required for working with their customers and clients, and then we work with certain regions that have their own technology that they would like their agents to use, and then we integrate that with our corporate headquarters in Austin.
“We don’t try to force all our partners around the world to use the products we have; we give them the opportunity to use local products. The challenges are language, culture, how things are done — process — and currency restrictions.
“Every single country that we work with in Europe, Asia and Central and South America have been listing and selling property for hundreds, if not thousands, of years,” he added. “The U.S. is the newcomer.”
The new outposts, in their own words
The KW France and KW Monaco operating principal will be Jérôme Fabre. “The Keller Williams’ systems, models and training will foster big change in France and Monaco, increasing the level of professionalism for real estate agents,” said Fabre in a statement. “With transactions currently up, prices stable and rates very low, it’s an optimum time to introduce Keller Williams as people are craving something new.”
In Israel, operating principal Amos Naim will take the helm. “The real estate profession in Israel is not appreciated,” said Naim in a statement. “Currently, 4,000 people a year take the broker exam in Israel, yet less than 10 percent stay in the business. There is a strong need for real estate coaching and training to teach real estate professionals how to operate businesses and grow long-term careers.
“And, we’re going to mature the market with Keller Williams’ models and systems,” added Naim.
Operating principal Roberto Serrano will lead the KW Nicaragua franchise. “An emerging market, Nicaragua continues to produce increasingly strong opportunities for real estate investors across the U.S. and the globe,” said Serrano in a statement. “The Nicaraguan economy has grown 4 to 5 percent consistently over the past seven years and tourism is also growing at more than 6 percent a year.
“We chose Keller Williams as the franchise’s vision and mission just clicked with how our family has already chosen to conduct business for decades inside the country,” he added.
The KW Poland operating principal will be Krzysztof Kraicziczek. “Currently, the quality of the experience provided by real estate profession in Poland has been decreasing,” said Kraicziczek in a statement. “With Keller Williams, we will have high-quality business and real estate training to raise the quality and ethics in our industry.
“We also plan to launch each new real estate office with a commercial real estate division to leverage the current trend of corporate relocations to Poland,” added Kraicziczek. “We fully expect commercial real estate deals to encompass approximately 10 percent of local office profits.”
What’s up next?
According to the company statement, “Keller Williams Worldwide is currently exploring further expansion opportunities across Central and South America, Central and Eastern Europe and throughout Asia.”
“In business development conversations, our focus remains solely on choosing the right people to lead Keller Williams’ franchises worldwide,” added Soteroff in the statement.
“On average, we spent more than eight months in extensive training before officially launching a franchise. It is a complex process for a reason as each new leader becomes the standard-bearer in their country.”
“We don’t choose a country and then decide we’re going there, we’re going to get there by March and come heck and highwater we’re going to get there,” he added via phone. “We spend an awful lot of time sourcing, selecting, choosing, getting to know our prospects.
“Currently I’m dealing with more than 60 countries, all in various phases of knowledge. Most of them will either become agents or own market centers in different countries, and a few will emerge as country leaders and become our operating principals in different countries. We find the correct people to be the leaders.”