How do independent Real Estate brokerages compete with the massive franchises? For firms that are members of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, chances are they are not only competing, but dominating.
LeadingRE is a worldwide network of independent brokerages — an answer to franchises such as Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, Better Homes and Gardens, Sotheby’s and others. Currently, it includes more than 500 firms with 4,000 offices and 120,000 agents in more than 40 countries. In the United States in 2012, LeadingRE had the top sales ranking in 39 percent of the biggest 108 markets.
“Sellers expect us to be a member,” said Tom Day, senior vice president of Illustrated Properties Real Estate in Palm Beach County, Florida. Illustrated Properties has 550 agents spread across 25 offices. “For a company of our size — we double the second place company in the areas we operate in — it’s a good housekeeping seal of approval. We’re so big that we have to have all the tools ... out there.”
But while the LeadingRE network provides the power of a global brand, it allows each brokerage to retain its local identity.
“One of the taglines we use is ‘making the best brokerages better,’” LeadingRE spokeswoman Robin LaSure (@LeadingRE) said. “Our goal is to be a support and not to rebrand them. We try to give them a big global network to be a part of, but still give them the freedom to continue to do what has made them a market leader in the first place.”
LeadingRE’s roots date back to the early ‘60s as a network that focused on relocation. A group of brokers from around the country got together to talk about how they could help one another with business outside of their markets, forming an organization known as RELO. In the ‘90s, several independent broker networks came together under the RELO name.
“Over the years, the network’s focus expanded to a full-service brokerage services organization, with broker-to-broker referrals being a key component, complemented by technology tools, events, educational offerings and more,” LaSure said. “The mix has allowed us to attract the best names in the business. They network and learn from each other.”
LeadingRE provides its members many of the same services that franchises give franchisees: Its broker-to-broker network results in more than 30,000 annual referrals (with a conversation rate of 40 percent). Its website is a consumer smorgasbord, leading from the LeadingRE site to hundreds of member sites — and the organization has very strict standards for members to have a modern and professional site.
That’s just a start. A sister relocation management company (RELO Direct, Inc.) provides corporate relocation services to companies worldwide. Member brokerages that have numerous $million or higher listings and are leaders in the luxury market have the option to join the Luxury Portfolio International network. A public relations and marketing program gives each member tools to turn an already strong local brand into a global one. An online support community (OUR WORLD) enhances communication among members.
“It’s great for meeting other brokers around the country and the world, and to be able to throw ideas at them,” said Scott Cooper, owner of Cooper Real Estate in Queens, New York. “It creates communities and we’re not in competition with each other because we’re in different markets.”
An International Symposium, an annual Conference Week and numerous regional events increase global communications, networking and learning opportunities. Meanwhile, an online education platform provides courses, guidebooks and other materials for virtually every job position or topic that might come up at a brokerage: Relocation and referrals, working with seniors, international clients and technology. Cooper said these resources have been among the most valuable to his small brokerage.
“It gives you the type of support you’d expect from the franchises, while remaining independent,” he said.
Not every indy brokerage can be a member of LeadingRE, though. The organization recruits only those with a ranking among the top independents in their market, have a solid reputation, stability and relocation capabilities. Membership can be pulled at any time. After all, each brokerage’s performance reflects on the organization as a whole.
“We get a lot of inquiries from companies that want to affiliate with us, but, in keeping with our name, we limit it to top independent brokers in any given market,” LaSure said. “We really do foster what we intend to be long-term relationships.”