Steve Murray and Chris Heller discuss challenges and opportunities in real estate
By Steve Murray, publisher, REAL Trends
“There are two basic kinds of people—the traditional people and the innovative people. The traditional ones stick to the tried and true, and there is nothing wrong with that approach. Innovative people tend to anticipate changes ahead and try to leapfrog them. We are trying diligently to be the innovative kind of organization. There is a growing gap between the two groups,” says Chris Heller, CEO of Keller Williams Realty International. “This business is changing, and we are going to try to stay ahead of it—that is a big focus of ours.”
A Good Sales Year (Not Great)
Heller, who has a strong background in building real estate sales teams (including his own nationally ranked team), thinks that 2016 will be a good, not great, sales year. “We think sales units and prices will still be up, just not as strong as 2015 versus 2014. It is an election year, and you typically don’t see a great deal of shifting going on in the market,” he added.
New Business Models
He does see a proliferation of new business models appearing throughout the industry and while he doesn’t see anything that worries him, he pays attention to what they are doing. “It doesn’t pay to ignore new models and new ways of doing business. At the least, we can learn something from them and become aware of serious new threats well ahead of when they may begin to affect our business. I know some of them are fads, but some of them have some real substance to them,” Heller commented.
Asked about how things are going at KW, Heller said that their focus on growth across the board is paying large dividends. “What [KW President] John Davis is achieving with our Growth Initiative is unbelievable. Our local and regional leaders are buying-in and building momentum for their businesses.” Heller said that by virtually any metric KW will have another record year in 2015, and he believes the stage is set to top it in 2016. “We have good momentum right now. We are going to grow our market center count by 20 or more in the next year, and we expect total agent and assistant count to be near 129,000 at yearend—up significantly from yearend 2014. “We strongly think our growth is going to accelerate in the year ahead.”
He says Keller Williams is a strong proponent of Upstream and the Broker Public Portal and have key executives involved in both. “We think these are both hugely worthwhile projects. There are significant challenges to both projects. In Upstream, we have to create the technologies to make it work. We have to create a safe environment for all participants, and we have to create an entire educational process to ensure that brokerage industry participants understand how it works and what the benefits are to them.”
On the Broker Public Portal, Heller says that the drive to create the kind of public listing portal in-line with the Fair Display Standards is also a big challenge but that it needs to get done. “We think the benefits could be substantial to have such a platform, if nothing else than to have more competition and a safe place for agents to market their properties.”
Asked about his view of the real estate world, Heller said, “These are exciting times. When things are changing it allows for more room for incumbents to try new ways, to experiment.” He says KW has several things in its pipeline for 2016, some which are improvements to what they have built and some that may surprise people as they are outside the box. He demurred when asked what these might be, but said they represent a significant new direction for the company. “These times require that an organization develop a sense of awareness and a sense of urgency to accept new ideas and new ways of growing. We are working on both all the time.”
This article originally appeared in the December 2015 issue of the REAL Trends newsletter and is reprinted with permission of REAL Trends Inc. Copyrighted 2015