RE/MAX Australia and New Zealand’s new owners are aiming to double the franchise group’s office and agent numbers in the next five years, the multinational company’s most senior executive has said while on a visit to Australia.
Vinnie Tracey, president of RE/MAX International, told Real Estate Business in an exclusive interview that the combination of a new ‘entrepreneurial’ leadership team based locally should spark strong growth for the company in Australia and New Zealand.
“There’s nothing like an entrepreneur that has their own finances and life savings on the line,” he said.
Earlier this week RE/MAX Australia managing director Michael Davoren, Keith Walker, the current RE/MAX Australia franchise director, and Chris Chapman, the current RE/MAX New Zealand regional director, purchased the Australia and New Zealand RE/MAX regional franchises from the company’s international head office.
Mr Tracey, who is in Australia to meet with RE/MAX management and franchisees, said it had been difficult trying to manage the local franchises from 17 time zones away in Colorado, where the head office is located. The international office had run the local franchise since the early 2000s, after the original regional franchisors – which brought the RE/MAX brand to Australia in 1997 – left the business.
“When we had employees [running Australia and New Zealand], it was difficult,” he said. “It’s hard to react [quickly] to local conditions. Michael [Davoren] has a great real estate background, almost 40 years in the industry, and having that local entrepreneur, [he has] the new freedom to basically accomplish his goals … which over the next five years are to double the number of offices and agents in Australia and New Zealand.
“You don’t hear employees say that.”
The franchise group currently has 525 employees in Australia and 360 in New Zealand.
Mr Tracey said the group’s international footprint – it has offices in 85 countries and more than 90,000 employees – gives it an edge in the marketplace. “More companies are attempting to go global,” he said. “The consumer now demands that you’re global. While global to some companies is being in two countries, we’re in 85 countries around the world.”
“A big advantage in being global is our website,” he continued. “The new website, global.remax.com, which is active in 60 countries, gives consumers access to around 750,000 listings [globally] in the language for that country.”
In the US alone, Mr Tracey says around $82 billion in property was sold to foreigners in 2011, well up on the $62 billion offloaded in 2010 and short of the $100 billion in property that’s expected to be sold this year.
“We’re going to see that trend continue,” he said. “People start their property search online.”
Mr Tracey said top performing agents are similar the world over.
“Real estate agents are pretty much the same [across the world] when you get into the higher quality agents,” he said. “They’re very serious, they want to know how they can do things differently … and better. The best realtors see it not as a job but as a career,” he said. “They get as much education … and they understand technology and how to put that to use for consumers.”
Mr Tracey sees most of the company’s growth coming from outside North America. Part of that will now include China, with the group’s official launch scheduled for that country in January. And while he expects the US market to show signs of improvement in the year ahead, less realtors should be required to handle the amount of homes being sold.
“We are coming out of the doldrums,” he said. “What we have seen is a contraction in number of realtors – in 2006 we had 1,400,000 realtors, and now we have 1,005,000, which is 250,000 more than we need.
“We did five million sales this year, and we’ll do 380,000 new home sales, and the last time we had those numbers there were 750,000 realtors.”