Keller Williams Realty is an international real estate franchise with headquarters in Austin, Texas. Founded in 1983 by Gary Keller and Joe Williams, it grew from a single office in Austin to approximately 700 offices and 125,000 associates worldwide. It is the largest real estate franchise by agent count in North America and the one of the largest privately held global residential real estate brokerage. It is an Inc. 5000 company and has been recognized as one of the highest rated real estate company and franchise by numerous publications including Entrepreneur Magazine and Forbes.
Keller Williams Realty was founded in 1983 by Gary Keller and Joe Williams. It started out as a single office based in Austin, Texas, selling the local residential real estate in the Austin area. After two years in business, Keller Williams became the largest single office residential real estate firm in Austin with 72 licensed agents. In the mid-1980s, the company suffered from the United States housing bubble and began to offer profit sharing to existing and potential associates in order to retain agents and help get through the recession. Within a year, the company grew to 130 agents and began to climb back as the top real estate broker in Austin.
In the early 1990s, Keller Williams Realty expanded outside of the state of Texas, opening up its business model to franchising beginning in 1991. It opened an office in Oklahoma in 1993, marking the firm’s first office to be located outside of its home state. The Oklahoma office was later recognized as the most successful single real estate office in that state. Keller Williams expanded at a rapid rate throughout the United States, much of which was attributed to a 70/30 commission split for agents. In 1997 the company was recognized by being on the Franchise Gold 100 list by Success Magazine. As it moved into the next century, Keller Williams became the 6th largest real estate agency in the U.S. An example of its rapid expansion came in the state of Florida wherein 2004 it was attributed as the largest real estate office in Polk County with 114 agents. That same year, it was attributed as the fastest growing real estate office in the entire state with 45 market centers, bringing its total nationwide agent count to over 30,000.
Keller Williams Realty continued expanding and in 2007, the company launched Luxury Homes by Keller Williams, a division within the company that brokers luxury only real estate. Eligible agents receive training and certification through The Institute of Luxury Home Marketing and are designated as experts for sale of the company’s high-end properties. In 2008, it launched KW Commercial, a division providing commercial real estate associates with specialized technology, marketing tools, and resources. The division is known for allowing agents to keep more commission splits in their favor, retaining at least 60 percent more based on $300,000 gross income It also allowed profit-sharing similar to residential agents. As of 2012, the division boasted of more than 1,000 brokers nationally.
At the end of April 2014, Keller Williams Realty reached 100,575 agents worldwide. This was due to an 18 percent increase in agents during 2013. As of 2014, it is the largest real estate franchise by agent count in North America and the only privately held global residential real estate brokerage. In 2014, the company also announced the opening of a region in Dubai. The first Dubai franchise was awarded to a leadership group affiliated with IFA Hotels & Resorts which is considered the largest foreign investor in the Palm Jumeirah. By the end of the decade in 2010, Keller Williams had 77,672 real estate agents in the United States. It surpassed Century 21 as the second largest real estate agency in the U.S., two years after taking over the third spot from RE/MAX International. Between 2005 and 2011, the company saw a 40 percent increase in the number of offices in North America. Keller Williams Realty went international in 2012, launching Keller Williams Worldwide as a subdivision to manage its international franchising. It awarded its first overseas franchise in Vietnam in 2012. The same year, franchising of the company was made available in Indonesia and Southern Africa, and in 2013 expanded to Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Turkey, and the United Kingdom.