At last count, there were more than 1 million active real estate licenses in the U.S., and more than 86,000 real estate brokerages nationwide.
As you can imagine, this makes choosing the best real estate company to work for very difficult for newer and experienced agents alike. If you’re like most agents, you’ve at least considered a major brand as a place to hang your license. But, which realty company is the best for you?
To help make your choice a little easier, we’ve looked at five industry leaders and evaluated them on the criteria that matter most to agents. After hours of research and interviews, we’re ready to help guide you through the top real estate companies.
How We Evaluated The Top Real Estate Company To Work For
The Close Team did its homework on this one. We evaluated each franchise using significant independent research, including interviews with local agents and brokers. We also had conversations with members of corporate leadership.
We evaluated data on professional review sites like Glassdoor, Comparably, and Indeed, taking into account the feedback Realtors gave about their experiences working for each of these brands.
Based on our research, let’s see how each of our major brands: Keller Williams, Coldwell Banker, Century 21, RE/MAX, and eXp Realty stack up against each other in the categories that matter most to real estate agents.
Best Real Estate Companies of 2020
|Keller Williams||(Best Overall) Agents at all stages of their career|
|RE/MAX||High-performing, established agents|
|Coldwell Banker||New agents|
|eXp Realty||Part-time agents|
|Century 21||Agents who want to reach more millennials|
The Best Real Estate Company To Work For Overall: Keller Williams
Keller Williams takes home our prize for Best Real Estate Company To Work For.
Its competitive compensation plan, commitment to creating a culture of success on all levels (including a prioritization of women in leadership), and the hard work it does to create career-lasting relationships with its agents makes it our top choice.
Why Keller Williams is the Best Real Estate Company To Work For
Keller Williams gets a lot of things right. Its commission structure, company culture and growth potential have positioned Keller Williams at the top of our list.
Keller Williams Commission Options & Agent Fees
Just about everyone we talked to across our different brands told us the same thing when it comes to commissions:
“Well, it varies.”
A traditional commission structure has a lot of moving parts, but that doesn’t always make it easy to understand at a glance. Keller Williams has removed that ambiguity and is very clear about how their system works.
Keller Williams’ Pre-Cap Commission Structure
|Pre-Cap Commissions||64% to Agents||30% to Market Center||6% to Franchise|
|3% on $250,000 sale||$4,800||$2,250||$450|
Each Keller Williams office (or, as they call them, Market Center) has what’s called a cap. The cap is a certain amount of money that each agent will pay to Keller Williams to support the company at large. Each Market Center has its own cap, determined by local market conditions, operating expenses, etc. Every Keller Williams agent at that office has the same cap; it doesn’t matter if you are a 20-year veteran or a brand-new agent.
When an agent receives a commission pre-cap, they keep 64% of it, 30% goes to the Market Center, and 6% goes to the national brand as a franchise fee. Once you hit the cap, you keep 100% of your commission—no hidden fees, no sneaky percentages, that’s it.
Keller Williams’ Post-Cap Commission Structure
|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 as far as how you can earn money with the realty company, and that hard work (and not someone’s sweetheart deal) is the differentiator for successful agents is huge upside for working with this major brand.
Agents also receive another piece of the action in the form of a secondary commission when someone they recruit closes a sale. That benefit continues when your recruit then goes out and successfully recruits other agents (up to seven levels deep). The opportunity for passive income with Keller Williams becomes pretty great.
Also, when an agent hits a certain production level, they get opportunities to participate in companywide decision making as a part of leadership councils. This is unique to the brick and mortar landscape, and a place Keller Williams is leading the way.
Keller Williams Company Culture
With a commission structure that rewards the success of the entire Market Center and not just individual agents, Keller Williams’ company culture is focused on constant improvement and support.
As an agent, if you recruit another agent to come and join KW, their success is in your best financial interest. Thus, many de facto mentorship relationships develop.
Keller Williams takes this a step further with extensive training both live and on demand, across all sorts of topics, truly investing in its people. They are widely regarded as an industry leader in training and professional development.
We’re also impressed with the obvious efforts on the part of the KW corporate leadership to make gender equality and diversity a priority. Fifteen of the top twenty-five executives in the company are women, and, in 2017, the company was named to Franchise Business Review’s Top 50 Franchises For Women.
It is clear that, from the highest levels, a culture of inclusion and diversity matters, and it plays a vital role in the brand’s continued success.
Keller Williams Brand Growth Potential
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 for 2018 was up more than 4.2%, a gain of over $256.5 billion.
The company’s growth potential continues to be sky high. Even though only 10 of the Real Trends top 200 agents in 2018 were from KW, 2019 expects to see the total volume of agents worldwide to be more than 190,000, making this company a force to be reckoned with.
With an innovative business model and a growing agent base, the opportunities for Keller Williams agents to get in on the ground floor of a fast moving company is great.
Best Real Estate Company To Work For – Established High-Performing Agents: RE/MAX
RE/MAX is one of the most recognizable brands in all of real estate, and until five years ago, held a 14-year streak of being the leader in market share across the U.S. and Canada.
We chose RE/MAX as the preferred spot for established high-performers because of its Industry Leadership, Brand Awareness, and Commission Split options.
RE/MAX Industry Leadership
Of the top 200 agents of 2018 according to Real Trends (by transaction sides), a staggering 57 of them were RE/MAX agents. This is a brand synonymous with performance, especially for those who know the business well.
An agent who is operating on a high level knows that their personal brand and reputation is going to be supported and enhanced by the market reputation of RE/MAX.
RE/MAX has a strong presence in the vast majority of major metropolitan regions, and moreover is recognized across multiple industries as a dependable brand.
Entrepreneur Magazine most recently named it the top Real Estate Franchise in 2018, a spot it’s held for 14 of the last 17 years.
RE/MAX’s iconic hot air balloon is one of the most recognizable symbols in all of real estate, according to a Millward Brown Demographic Ad Tracking Study in 2017
RE/MAX Commission Options and Agent Fees
There is no brand wide policy about splits, desk fees and caps, each of those decisions are negotiated 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 range topping out at 95%, experienced agents with a proven track record can get paid more on the front end pre-cap. This allows them to leverage that money toward time-sensitive needs like more marketing and promotion.
Those generous splits often come with higher desk fees, but for most rock star agents, the higher desk fees are worth it in order to further other aspects of their business.
We heard Adam Contos, CEO of RE/MAX speak at the Inman Connect NY 2019 conference, and he had this to say about advice he gives to agents who are just starting with the company:
“Don’t get distracted by all the noise, by the things that are thrown at you. Focus on your business and your success. Step up to the plate, be a professional, be confident, do your job.”
Best Real Estate Company To Work For – New Agents: Coldwell Banker
In a bit of a surprise, Coldwell Banker has emerged as our pick for the best real estate brand for new agents.
The legacy and prestige of one of America’s oldest real estate names is impressive, but how does that help new agents? How about an ultra-recognizable and trusted brand, a company 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’s the limit.
All of a sudden, Coldwell Banker became our easy choice.
Coldwell Banker Branding
As anyone who was once a new agent will tell you, in the early days of your career, you don’t have much to go on.
You have your own personal sphere of influence, and you have the reputation and recognition of the brand you are a part of.
Coldwell Banker has been associated with trusted real estate service since the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906, and its recent Blue marketing effort (see video below) is another example of how this brand is not going anywhere.
This refreshed brand awareness direction speaks to not only this company’s commitment to keep its name relevant and in the conversation, but also to its understanding of the changing real estate landscape.
The verdict: This isn’t your grandfather’s Coldwell Banker any more.
Coldwell Banker Company Culture
Consistently, the phrase that comes to mind when evaluating the company culture of Coldwell Banker is client focused. While we certainly wouldn’t say that other brands on our list fail to put client needs in high priority, it shines through as a cornerstone of what Coldwell Banker calls Big Blue Culture.
This sort of client-centric focus is great for new agents who are still learning the ropes as far as interaction, sales, and best practices. Having a company where the rock stars can model this behavior for the newbies is pretty compelling.
“Coldwell Banker has an amazing amount of resources that it provides to Realtors and brokers on a local level. Our programs like CBU (Coldwell Banker University) provide an incredibly rich and customizable approach to training that is perfect for experienced agents or people brand-new to the business.”
As mentioned, Coldwell Banker has been around a long time. They are in so many different markets and have so many different agents at so many different levels of the business, it is clear that the road to success has already been paved here. All a new agent has to do is ask for directions.
Coldwell Banker Commission Options & Agent Fees
Even though the commission and fees at Coldwell Banker are reasonable, they aren’t anything to write home about either. However, if you are considering Coldwell Banker as a place you want to go, you should know the details.
Much like RE/MAX, there is no companywide number for cap, splits, or desk fees. All of those things are negotiated at the franchise level, so to really dig into these figures, you need to talk to a local broker.
Even though the numbers might change, we can tell you that, unlike Keller Williams or EXP, even after you hit your cap for the year, agents are still expected to pay their franchise fee, which is 8%.
It would be nice to have a prepackaged formula we could use to figure exactly what your take home would be. But, it’s also nice to know that, like everything in real estate, these numbers are negotiable.
Best Real Estate Company To Work For – Part-Time Agents: eXp Realty
You haven’t even read our explanation yet, and we can already hear what you’re thinking.
“What?! A virtual brokerage beat out other major brick and mortar brands?!”
Yes, yes it did. And here’s why: When it comes to being a part-time agent, there are three things that are important to you.
- Can you make the money work?: If you have lots of upfront fees and costs due outside of a transaction, that math makes this side hustle impossible. With eXp Realty, you don’t have to stress about that.
- Self-paced and remote resources: Your growth should be on your own schedule. eXp Realty has you covered.
- Remote company culture: You need a company that really embraces the remote working lifestyle. eXp Realty lives remote.
eXp Realty Commission Options / Agent Fees
The eXp Realty commission and cap system is simple and easy to understand. Universally, every agent in the company has a cap of $16,000. Splits are 80/20, and after you meet that cap, you keep 100% of your commissions—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|
Revenue Sharing: Better Than Profit Sharing
Similar to Keller Williams, EXP also has passive income options, paying you a percentage of the commission that any agent you recruit makes. But, unlike Keller Williams who offers a share of PROFIT (which, depending on your Market Center can be a relatively thin margin), EXP offers a share of REVENUE. This puts more money in the pockets of EXP agents who can recruit, and makes recruiting a more profitable venture than at Keller Williams.
EXP takes it a step further by offering stock options to agents after they hit their cap for the year. Even though this might be a part-time gig, you can have a legit retirement savings plan with eXp Realty.
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 completely remote business with no brick and mortar locations, the only real option for education and training is in a virtual environment.
EXP offers a LOT of live-streamed training and networking (up to eight hours of live content per day), but an even larger library of pre-recorded material is available for agents to use at their convenience on their virtual campus.
No more having to rearrange your life to make it to a classroom; the classroom is anywhere you want to be, anytime you want it to be.
And, since eXp Realty’s model is similar to Keller Williams as far as the benefits of success from your recruits, close ties of mentorship form across the company, making the other agents in the firm the final (and most powerful) training tool.
EXP Realty Company Culture
Just about any real estate recruiter will say “A Realtor can make her own hours, work when she wants!”
That recruiter often forgets to mention the mandatory office meetings, the training in the conference room twice a week, and the floor time most brokerages insist on every other Monday.
Since EXP has no physical location, you truly can (and must) work from wherever you are.
Home with a sick kiddo? Grab your laptop. Now you are in your office. Got a lunch break at your 9 to 5? Hop into EXP’s virtual classroom. You just did some training.
The sort of flexibility that a completely remote position offers 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 they log them.
Best Real Estate Company to Work For Reaching Millennials: Century 21
This pick should come as no surprise to those who follow the major marketing efforts of the big players in this space.
Century 21 has consistently impressed us with its branding and marketing efforts, especially in the last year or so. New logo, new marketing strategy, new people talking about Century 21.
If you are a strong marketer of your own personal business, combining those skills with what Century 21 has to offer makes for a potent mixture. If you are needing some help on the marketing end of things, C21 has lots of tools to get you started.
Century 21 Branding
“What if we changed everything?”
This is the question the marketers at Century 21 are basing their entire new strategy around, and it’s working. New company mission (“To Deliver Extraordinary Experiences”), new logo, new vibe all together.
Century 21 is taking a bold approach to where they are pushing this message too. They’re booking guest spots on shows like SportsCenter, not 60 Minutes. They are backing ads on Viceland, not on Fox News.
It is clear that they’ve identified their next customer as more likely to be watching the Big Bang Theory than Antiques Roadshow.
If you are a Realtor who has the millennial (and younger) homebuyers or sellers in your sights, C21’s message will resonate nicely with you (and them).
Century 21 Gender Diversity
It is clear that Century 21 takes diversity seriously at all levels of their operation.
Recently, they were named to the Forbes 2019 List of Best Employers For Diversity.
Century 21 actively recruits veterans to become real estate professionals, and their chief marketing officer, Cara Whitley, was recognized as a Housing Wire 2018 Woman of Influence.
The Empowering Latinas Scholarship is part of C21’s efforts to empower Hispanic women in real estate, paying for all the necessary classes and licensing to get young entrepreneurs.
The agents that we spoke to on the local level confirmed this commitment to diversity and inclusion as a part of the company culture. This adds to the cachet of this transforming brand, putting it even further out on the cutting edge.
Century 21 Brand Growth Potential
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% 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 Something a Little More Indie?
We understand that the national brands aren’t for everyone. Thanks to our friends at RealTrends, we have a list of the Top 20 largest privately owned brokerages as well.
|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.
The bottom line, you want to be in the environment that not only encourages your success, it creates the path for you to achieve your best life. Complete the information below to talk about real estate as a career.
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