There were over 1 million active real estate licenses in the U.S. at last count, and more than 86,000 real estate brokerages nationwide.
As you can imagine, this makes choosing the best real estate company for both new and experienced agents to work for very difficult. If you’re like most officers, you’ve thought at least of a major brand as a place to hang your badge. Yet, which is the right business for you?
We have looked at five industry leaders to help make your choice a little easier and evaluated them on the criteria that matter most to agents. We ‘re ready after hours of research and interviews to help guide you through the top real estate companies.
How we assessed the best real estate company to work for
On this one the Close Team has done their homework. Using extensive independent research, we analyzed each franchise through interviews with local agents and brokers. We had conversations with corporate leadership members, too.
We evaluated data on professional review sites such as Glassdoor, Comparably, and Indeed, taking into account the feedback Realtors gave to each of these brands about their experiences working.
On the basis of our research, let’s see how each of our major brands: Keller Williams, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, RE / MAX and eXp Realty stack each other in the categories that matter most to real estate agents.
The Housing Companies of 2020
Brokerage at its best
- Keller Williams (Best Overall) Agents at all career stages
- RE / MAX High-performance, verified agents
- Fresh Agents for Coldwell Banker
- EXp Part-time Realty Agents
- Members of the century 21 who aim to meet more millennials
Don’t forget: You’ll need to pass your real estate exam before you’re able to launch your dream brokerage. Head over to Real Estate Express for online classes and robust study materials at an affordable price to help you complete the required coursework and master exam topics.
Overall , the best real estate company to work for: Keller Williams
Keller Williams brings home our Best Real Estate Company To Work For award.
Its affordable compensation plan, dedication to building a culture of achievement at all levels (including women in leadership prioritization), and the hard work it does to establish career-lasting relationships with its agents make it our top choice.
Why the best real estate company to work for is Keller Williams
Keller Williams is getting quite a lot of things right. Keller Williams has positioned its commission structure, company culture and growth potential at the top of our list.
Preferences & Agent Fees for Keller Williams Group
When it comes to commissions, just about everyone we spoke to across our various brands told us the same thing:
“Well it’s different.”
A traditional commission structure has many moving parts, but at a glance this doesn’t always make it easy to understand. Keller Williams removed that ambiguity and the way their system works is very clear.
Structure of the Keller Williams Pre-Cap Commission
|Pre-Cap Commissions||64% to Agents||30% to Market Center||6% to Franchise|
|3% on $250,000 sale||$4,800||$2,250||$450|
Every office in Keller Williams (or, as they’re called, Market Center) has what’s called a cap. The cap is a certain amount of money that will be paid out to Keller Williams by each agent to support the company at large. Each market center has its own price, defined by the requirements of the local market, operating expenses etc. Any Keller Williams agent in that office has the same cap; whether you’re a 20-year-old veteran or a brand-new agent doesn’t matter.
When an agent receives a commission pre-cap, they retain 64 percent of it, 30 percent goes to the Market Center, and 6 percent goes as a franchise fee to the national brand. You keep 100 per cent of your commission until you meet the cap — no hidden fees, no sly figures, that’s it.
Post-Cap Commission Structure for Keller Williams
|Post-Cap Commissions||100% to Agents||0% to Market Center||0% to Franchise|
|3% on $250,000 sale||$7,500||$0||$0|
Knowing that the playing field is level to how you can earn money with the real estate company, and that hard work (and not somebody’s sweetheart deal) is the differentiator for successful agents is a huge upside to work with this major brand.
Share the gains
Agents also earn another piece of the action in the form of a secondary fee when a deal is being completed by someone they hire. That benefit continues when your recruitment goes out and other agents are successfully recruited (up to seven deep levels). The opportunity with Keller Williams to earn passive income is getting pretty great.
Also, as part of leadership councils, when an agent hits a certain level of production, they get opportunities to participate in companywide decision making. This is unique to the brick and mortar landscape, and a place leads the way for Keller Williams.
Keller Williams Culture Company
Keller Williams’ corporate culture is based on constant improvement and encouragement with a commission structure that honors the success of the entire Market Center and not just the individual employees.
If you are recruiting another agent to come and join KW as an agent, their success is in your best financial interest. Therefore many relationships of de facto mentorship develop.
Keller Williams takes this a step further with extensive training both live and on demand, truly investing in his people across all sorts of subjects. They are widely regarded as a leader in training and career development in the industry.
We ‘re also impressed by the KW corporate leadership’s clear efforts to make gender equality and diversity a top priority. Fifteen of the company’s top twenty-five executives are women, and in 2017 the company was named to the Top 50 Franchises For Women by Franchise Business Review.
It is evident that a culture of inclusion and diversity exists from the highest levels and it plays a vital role in the continued success of the brand.
Potential for Keller Williams brand growth
Even though Keller Williams is a relative new kid on the block, having been founded in 1983 and only starting franchising in 1991, it continues to grow at an impressive clip every year. Sales volume rose over 4.2 percent in 2018, a rise of more than $256.5 billion.
Growth potential for the business appears to be sky high. Although only 10 of the top 200 Real Trends agents in 2018 came from KW, 2019 expects to see the total agent volume worldwide reaching over 190,000, making this company a force to be counted on.
With an innovative business model and a rising customer base, Keller Williams agents have great opportunities to get in on a fast-moving company’s ground floor.
Best Real Estate Company To Work With – High Performance Agents Established: RE / MAX
RE / MAX is one of the most recognizable brands in all real estate, and has held a 14-year streak of market share leading across the U.S. and Canada until five years ago.
Because of its Industry Leadership, Brand Awareness, and Commission Split options we chose RE / MAX as the preferred spot for established high-performers.
Leadership in the RE / MAX sector
Of the top 200 agents of 2018, a staggering 57 of them were RE / MAX agents according to Real Trends (by transaction sides). This is a performance- synonymous brand, especially for those who know the business well.
An agent operating on a high level knows that RE/MAX’s reputation for the market will support and enhance their personal brand and reputation.
RE / MAX Overlay
RE / MAX has a strong presence in the vast majority of major metropolitan areas, and is further recognized as a reliable brand across multiple industries.
Most recently Entrepreneur Magazine named it the top Real Estate Franchise in 2018, a position it has kept for 14 of the last 17 years.
According to a 2017 Millward Brown Demographic Ad Tracking Survey, RE / MAX ‘s iconic hot-air balloon is one of the most recognizable symbols in all real estate
RE / MAX Contracts and Agent Fees
There is no brand-wide division, desk fees and caps scheme, each of which is agreed at the local level.
Though not transparent in the same way as Keller Williams, RE / MAX does offer agents lots of flexibility in terms of how they receive their commissions.
With a 95 percent spectrum starting out, seasoned agents with a proven track record can get more pay on the pre-cap front end. It helps them to apply the capital to urgent uses, such as more marketing and promotion.
Such lucrative splits also come with higher desk fees, but the higher desk fees are worth it for most rock star managers, in order to pursue certain aspects of their business.
At the Inman Connect NY 2019 conference, we heard Adam Contos, CEO of RE / MAX, speaking and he had this to say about the advice he gives to agents who are just beginning with the company:
“Don’t get overwhelmed by the whole crowd, the stuff that’s thrown at you. Concentrate on your company and its success. Step up to the plate, be a professional, be confident, do your job . ”
Best Inmobiliary to Work For – New Agents: Coldwell Banker
Coldwell Banker has emerged to a bit of a surprise as our pick for new agents for the best real estate brand.
The reputation and popularity of one of the oldest real estate brands in America is amazing but how does it help new agents? How about an ultra-recognizable and trusted brand, a corporate culture that is all about nurturing long-term growth, great training for new agents and the potential to develop a personal business where the sky is the limit.
Coldwell banker all of a sudden became our easy choice.
Branding by Coldwell Bankers
As anyone who has once been a new agent will tell you, you don’t have much to go on in the early days of your career.
You have your own personal sphere of influence and the brand you are a part of has the reputation and recognition.
Since the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, Coldwell Banker has been associated with trusted real estate service, and its recent Blue marketing effort (see video below) is yet another example of how this brand doesn’t go anywhere.
This refreshed direction of brand awareness speaks not only to the commitment of this company to keep its name relevant and in conversation, but also to its understanding of the changing real estate landscape.
The verdict: This is no longer Coldwell Banker for your grandfather.
Coldwell Corporate Banking Culture
The phrase that comes to mind when assessing Coldwell Banker’s corporate culture is consistently customer focused. While we would certainly not say other brands on our list fail to prioritize client needs, it shines through as a cornerstone of what Coldwell Banker calls Big Blue Culture.
This kind of customer-centric focus is great for new agents still learning the ropes as far as interaction, sales, and best practices are concerned. It’s pretty compelling to have a company where rock stars can model that behavior for the newbies.
We heard something similar when we spoke with Tracy Bacigalupi, the country’s largest Coldwell banker franchisee, vice president of marketing for Coldwell Banker Schmidt Family of Companies.
Coldwell Banker has been around for quite a long time, as mentioned. They are in so many different markets and have so many different agents at so many different levels of the business, it is obvious that the road to success has been paved here already. Anything a new agent needs to do is ask for directions.
Tools & Agent Fees with Coldwell Banker Committee
Although Coldwell Banker’s commissions and fees are reasonable, they are not anything to write about at home either. If you consider Coldwell Banker as the place you want to go, though, you should know the details.
There’s no companywide number for caps, splits or desk fees, much like RE / MAX. All these items are handled at the franchise level so you need to talk to a local broker to really delve into these numbers.
Although the figures may shift, we will assure you that, unlike Keller Williams or EXP, agents are still expected to pay your franchise fee, which is 8 per cent, even after you meet your limit for the year.
It would be great if we could use a prepackaged model to figure out exactly what your take home would be. But, it’s also nice to know that those numbers are negotiable, like everything in real estate.
Best Working For Real Estate Company – Part-time Agents: eXp Realty
You have not even read our explanation yet and we can hear what you’re thinking already.
“And what?! A mobile brokerage beat out other major brands of bricks and mortars?! Yes, it did.
And here’s why: There are three things that are important to you when it comes to being a part-time agent. Can you get the money into working?
- If you have loads of upfront fees and out-of-transaction charges, the math would make this side hustle unlikely. You don’t have to worry on that with eXp Realty. Remote and self-paced resources: Your development should be on your own agenda.
- eXp Realty has you covered. Remote corporate culture: You need a business that really embraces the remote lifestyle of working.
- Lives remotely with eXp Realty. Options / Agent Fees eXp Realty Commission
The Commission and Cap eXp Realty system is simple and easy to understand.
Every agent in the company universally has a cap of $16,000. Splits are 80/20, and you keep 100 per cent of your commissions after you meet that cap — no desk fees, no royalty fees, no franchise fees.
|Pre-Cap Commissions||80% to Agents||20% to eXp|
|3% on $250,000 sale||$6,000||$1,500|
|Post-Cap Commissions||100% to Agents||0% to Market Center|
|3% on $250,000 sale||$7,500||$2,250|
Sharing revenue: Greater than sharing profits
Like Keller Williams, EXP also has passive income options, paying you a percentage of the commission any recruiting agent makes. But, unlike Keller Williams who offers a share of PROFIT (which may be a relatively thin margin depending on your Market Center), EXP offers a share of REVENUE. This brings more money into the pockets of recruitable EXP agents, which makes recruitment a more profitable venture than at Keller Williams.
EXP is taking it a step further by offering agents stock options after they hit their cap for the year. Even though this may be a part-time gig, eXp Realty can provide you with a legit retirement savings plan.
This straightforward system is ideal for agents who can’t commit their entire lives to real estate right now, and need low upfront investment in the business.
eXp Realty Training and Support
Since EXP is a fully remote company with no brick and mortar locations, a virtual environment is the only real option for training and education.
EXP offers a lot of live-stream training and networking (up to eight hours of live content per day), but there’s an even bigger library of pre-recorded material available for agents to use on their virtual campus at their convenience.
No longer having to rearrange your life to become a classroom; the classroom is wherever you want to be, whenever you want it to be.
And, since the model of eXp Realty is similar to that of Keller Williams as far as the benefits of your recruits’ success are concerned, close ties of mentorship form throughout the company, making the other agents in the firm the final (and most powerful) training tool.
We asked Gogo Bethke, a high-performance agent with eXP\p Realty, about the opportunities for training with EXP.
EXP Culture Realty Company
Every real estate recruiter will say “A Realtor can do her own hours, work when she wants to! The recruiter sometimes forgets to mention mandatory office hours, conference room sessions twice a week and the floor time most brokerages rely on every other Monday.
Since EXP has no physical location, you can (and must) really work from anywhere you are from.
Home with kiddo sick?
Take up your laptop. You are now in your office. Did you have a break at your 9 to 5 lunches? Step into the virtual classroom on EXP. You have just gone through some training. The kind of flexibility offered by a totally remote position makes this a perfect choice for Realtors who aren’t sure exactly how many hours they will log this week, or where they will be when logging in.
Best Real Estate Company to Work With Millennials: 21st Century
This pick should come as no surprise for those who are following the big players’ marketing efforts in this space.
Century 21, especially in the last year or so, has consistently impressed us with its branding and marketing efforts. New logo, new strategic marketing, new people talking about Century 21.
If you’re a good marketer of your own brand, mixing those skills with what Century 21 has to offer makes for a powerful combination. C21 has lots of tools to get you started if you need some help on the marketing end of things.
Century 21 Branding
That’s the question the Century 21 marketers are basing their whole new strategy around, and it’s working. New corporate mission (“To Offer Extraordinary Experiences”), new logo, all together fresh look.
Century 21 is taking a bold approach to where that idea is being moved towards. They book guest spots on shows such as SportsCenter, not 60 Minutes. They ‘re backing Viceland ads, not Fox News ads.
It is clear they have identified their next customer as more likely than Antiques Roadshow to watch the Big Bang Theory.
If you are a Realtor who has in your sights the millennial (and younger) homebuyers or sellers, the message from C21 will resonate nicely with you (and with them).
Diversity of the sexes in century 21
Apparently Century 21 takes diversity seriously at every stage of its service.
We have also been added to the 2019 Forbes List of Best Employers In Diversity.
Century 21 is actively recruiting veterans to become real estate professionals, and its chief marketing officer, Cara Whitley, has been recognized as a 2018 Woman of Influence from Housing Wire.
The Empowering Latinas Scholarship forms part of C21 ‘s efforts to empower Hispanic women in real estate, paying for all the classes and licensing necessary to get young entrepreneurs.
The agents we spoke to at local level have confirmed this commitment to diversity and inclusion as part of the culture of the company. This adds to the cachet of this changing brand and places it on the cutting edge even further.
Century 21 Potential for Brand growth
With the recent brand redesign and new marketing approach, it feels like the Century 21 growth path is turbo charged. The current CEO, Mike Miedler, began his career with C21 over 20 years ago, and has been at the helm of the ship during Whitley’s bold rebranding initiative.
Before taking the reins as CEO, he was the company ‘s Chief Growth Officer. In that role, the last two years has seen the fiercest expansion seen since 2006, and the new marketing legs are poised to accelerate that growth even further.
This sort of aggressive growth is a real ally to agents who can use not just the new logo, but the fact that more C21 signs are appearing in the neighborhood to their advantage.
Century 21 Commission Options & Agent Fees
Similar to the situation with Coldwell Banker, the commission structure at Century 21 is fine, but nothing we ‘re crazy over either. Just about everything (except for that 8 percent franchise fee,) is negotiated at the local level, so there isn’t much that we can tell you about here.
The one differentiator is that Century 21 doesn’t charge a desk fee. This is helpful for a lot of agents , especially those who are new to the business, because it means that C21 doesn’t ask for a penny before you close a deal. There are certainly trade-offs for this flexibility, but helpful nonetheless.
Looking for a Little More Indie?
We realize the national brands aren’t for everyone. We also have a list of the Top 20 largest private brokerages, thanks to our friends at RealTrends.
|1||HomeServices of America, Inc. (Independents Only)||Minneapolis||MN||230,289|
|4||eXp World Holdings, Inc.||Bellingham||WA||46||24,655|
|5||Real Estate One||Southfield||MI||44||24,589|
|6||Allen Tate Companies||Charlotte||NC||43||22,273|
|7||Douglas Elliman Real Estate||New York||NY||110||22,272|
|8||REALHOME Services and Solutions, Inc.||Atlanta||GA||19||21,862|
|9||William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage, and Insurance||Shelton||CT||128||20,871|
|10||West USA Realty, Inc.||Phoenix||AZ||17||20,762|
|11||Ebby Halliday Real Estate, Inc.||Dallas||TX||33||18,835|
|13||Baird & Warner||Chicago||IL||29||17,450|
|14||John L Scott||Bellevue||WA||34||16,743|
|15||Watson Realty Corp.||Jacksonville||FL||52||15,943|
|16||The Keyes Company / Illustrated Properties||Miami||FL||50||14,174|
|17||Equity Real Estate||Sandy||UT||63||13,585|
|20||Sibcy Cline Realtors||Cincinnati||OH||23||11,441|
Why a Privately-Owned Brokerage?
Privately-owned brokerages are a little more agile than the larger publicly traded firms. When a realty company is beholden to stockholders, turning the ship is a lot like turning the Titanic.
However, when you ‘re a part of an indie firm, once the leadership makes up its mind, a decision can be implemented overnight.
Just because a firm is privately owned does not make it small or a non-competitor. Responsible for billions of dollars of sales every year, this segment of the professional market is a vital player in the real estate industry.
Also, don’t forget about the smaller mom-and – pop operations. Yes, having the major infrastructure of the realty companies that process tens of thousands of transactions a year is nice, but remember, real estate is a hyper-local market. What the mega players gain in infrastructure is often lost in a personal relationship with a community.
We’ve listed our top picks for the top real estate companies to work for. Now, we want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts on our picks, do your experiences line up with what we found?
Think your office is the best one in town? We are looking for nominations for the best real estate OFFICE in the country. If you’re a Realtor in a local office, no matter if you’re part of a major brand or a mom and pop shop, we ‘d like to hear from you.
Leave us a comment to work for with your thoughts on the BEST bureau.