The Re/Max real estate brand is infinitely better-known than Keller Williams, but that hasn't stopped the little upstart from Texas from overtaking Re/Max to become the third largest real estate brand in the country, according to REAL Trends.

Keller Williams had 72,794 US real estate agents at the end of 2008, representing growth of 52% since 2006. Keller Williams has been successful in luring top agents away from competing firms with what it claims is an innovative commission structure characterized by profit sharing -- a system that allows agents who recruit other agents to earn a percentage of their sales. In 2008, the company paid out more than $30 million in profit sharing revenue.

"The success of Keller Williams Realty can be directly attributed to the hard work and perseverance of our associates and the soundness of our economic and organizational models," said CEO Mark Willis in a press release. "While others might be looking at this market and seeing fear and uncertainty, we have always approached it as our opportunity to shine and grow. And that mindset has paid off."

The company patriarch Gary Keller has written a trio of bestselling real estate books, only one of which I've read in its entirety (The Millionaire Real Estate Investor) and it is one of the fluffiest, least-substantive books I've ever seen in my entire life. In his new book Shift, he suggests sales tactics that I believe are extremely questionable.

I've never worked with a Keller Williams agent, but from what I've read of their programs, it's probably not a company most consumers will benefit from getting involved with. Of course in real estate, what really matters is the individual agent, and many of the company's 72,794 people undoubtedly do a fine job.

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