This annual list of the best real estate franchises was revised and updated on March 15, 2023.
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Property is a fundamental part of the economy, arguably the most fundamental. It’s a limited resource, but one that everyone is reliant upon. We all need somewhere to live, and businesses need somewhere to work even in the internet age. This means that there will always be demand for property and opportunities to make money through its sale and marketing, as real estate franchises do.
Real estate values have grown hugely in the 21st century, and with them the commission that can be earned on sales. Demand for single-family homes, and for greater space in those homes, has boosted the residential market, and interest in moving to the suburbs has boosted sales in popular Sunbelt cities.
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Economic growth has driven the commercial market, while cost-cutting measures have shaped business decisions and, ironically, fed more money to real estate agents. Many businesses are willing to take the short-term hit of real estate fees for the long-term benefits of a better positioned building, making the most of business-friendly cities and low-cost workforces. This corporate cost cutting is likely to continue thanks to the growth in home working.
The real estate market is vulnerable to shifts in the wider economy, and this was clearly shown during the Covid pandemic. Property sales plummeted and the real estate sales and brokerage market was predicted to fall dramatically in value, as families locked down and businesses cancelled expensive plans. Across the sector, businesses braced themselves for a system shock.
In the end, the damage was nowhere near as bad as expected. Even in 2020, the market grew slightly, reaching over $218 billion in value, before reaching $238 billion in 2021. Individuals and families who delayed house moves during the peak of the pandemic took their life plans off pause, and their rush to get moving again caused a price surge. The house price index rose in 2021, strong consumer demand driving profits for those working in real estate.
This growth proved unsustainable. The market stagnated in 2022 and is now expected to fall by 6.4% in 2023, as an economic downturn impinges on property values and sales. The house price index fell in the last quarter of 2022, for the first time since 2019, a potential omen of things to come.
Despite this, professionals remain cautiously optimistic. The enduring value of property means that, if they can afford to take a long-term view, then most businesses involved in property will return to profit once the downturn passes.
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It’s beneficial to get involved in the right sort of property. With buildings accounting for 39% of global carbon and emissions and energy use, there’s a lot of concern about environmentally friendly housing, and this is shaping demand. Concern about the consequences of environmental harm may also explain why most top-ranked markets are away from the coast.
Multi-family homes and industrial properties continued to rise in demand and value throughout the Covid crisis, while retail continued to suffer an existing decline. With workers in some industries moving permanently to working at home for at least some of their time, the demand for office space is in decline, and 10-20% of office stock might have to be converted into something else. The reduction in demand will also put downward pressure on rents and push landlords into providing more – and better – services for their business tenants.
The real estate industry looks set to take a sharp hit, but it’s ahead of where it was five years ago, and professionals remain optimistic about long term prospects. For franchisees in the right part of the industry, there’s potential to benefit from a shifting economy.
The Top Real Estate Franchises of 2023
RE/MAX is far ahead of the nearest competitor when it comes to real estate franchises, and it’s recognized as one of the most successful franchises across all industries. In their business model, each individual agent runs their own business, but multiple agents come together to share the overhead of an office location and administrative support.
And there are now more than 124,000 RE/MAX agents worldwide who conducted more than 1,004,000 real estate transactions. In other words, nobody sells more real estate than RE/MAX. Agents also benefit from what has become the most recognizable brand in real estate just about everywhere on the planet.
Founded by Dave and Gail Liniger in Denver, Colorado in 1973 and franchising since 1975, the number of locations has continued its upward march in recent years from 6,398 in 2013 to the current total of 9,120 (up from the previously reported total of 8,775) of which none are company-owned and 5,600 are located outside the US.
2. HomeVestors of America
HomeVestors of America is on the lookout for people who need to sell their house quickly and know they’re probably not going to get a high price for it. These homes tend to be in fairly bad shape, hence the company’s “We Buy Ugly Homes” marketing slogan. Their customers don’t need to go through a long listing process, they just need to get rid of the house through a quick cash offer.
What HomeVestors is doing is essentially “flipping” these houses by fixing them up and selling at a substantial profit. Given the chain’s recent growth, the business model seems to be working well. HomeVestors has purchased more than 100,000 homes since it first opened.
Founded in 1996 and franchising since that same year, the number of locations has expanded rapidly in recent years from 393 in 2013 to the current total of 1,155 (up from the previously reported total of 1,154), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
3. Keller Williams
Keller Williams likes to say how it beats RE/MAX on several fronts, mostly the number of agents they boast, which currently stands at nearly 170,000. Its formula for success has been created by studying all the most successful agents and teaching every agent the same strategies and tactics.
The chain is also proud of staying on the cutting edge of technology, most recently by launching “Command,” a suite of CRM-plus apps for better customer relationship management that leads agents to more closed transactions.
Founded by Gary Keller and Joe Williams in 1983 and franchising since 1987, the number of locations has grown in recent years from 687 in 2013 to the current total of 1,091 (up from the previously reported total of 1,085), of which none are company-owned and 292 are located outside the US.
NextHome has the most dynamic website of all the companies on this list, which might just be a function of how recently the company was started. The other chains listed here would do well to follow their lead on this aspect. It calls itself a “progressive” real estate franchise, though it’s not clear what that means.
It does boast of its consumer-focused branding, technology, and marketing. With all the other companies emphasizing their agent-centric approach, NextHome emphasizes its consumer-centric approach. Not that it doesn’t support its agents because it does, but it tests all of its tools, strategies, and tactics from the customer perspective, which is ultimately where agents need to shine.
Founded in 2014 and franchising since then, there are already 578 locations (up from the previously reported total of 500), of which none are company-owned and all are located in the US.
5. Weichert Real Estate Affiliates
Weichert Real Estate Affiliates supports franchisees with a wide range of tools to achieve success, including a “lead and listing funnel” that relies heavily on digital marketing, its proprietary myWeichert CRM System for customer relationship management, the Weichert PR Portal to assist with building an agent’s personal brand, and the online Weichert University and WeichertOne real estate marketing educational program.
The chain also offers streamlined services for mortgages, title and closing services, home insurance, title insurance, home inspections, home protection plans, property management services, relocation/expatriate tax preparation and advisory services, corporate housing solutions, and corporate relocation services.
Founded by Jim Weichert in Chatham, New Jersey in 1969 but only franchising since 2000, the number of locations has increased in recent years from 369 in 2013 to the current total of 489 (down from the previously reported total of 490), of which 111 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
6. Realty One Group
Realty One Group aims for “a modern, lifestyle real estate experience,” clearly targeting Millennials and a younger audience with its modern branding – it doesn’t talk about the chain’s culture, instead calling it “coolture” (cool + culture).
Its training program is called Wake Up to Win, relying on successful industry veterans for free training, expert insights, and plenty of inspiration. There is also a heavy emphasis on franchisees supporting their communities with strong charitable giving. Customers can get the chain’s vetted recommendations for a variety of home-buying services through the One Network.
Founded in 2005 and franchising since 2012, the number of locations has climbed since then from 40 in 2013 to the current total of 344 (up from the previously reported total of 320), of which 12 are company-owned and nine are located outside the US.
7. Epcon Communities
Epcon Communities is very different from the other real estate companies on this list. It doesn’t go around looking for listings – it builds the houses it sells, and these are high-end homes constructed in groups that become Epcon communities geared to meet the needs of the 55+ market. To date, there are more than 30,000 Epcon homes in 86 different Epcon communities spread across 18 states.
In other words, this a franchise homebuilder that builds entire neighborhoods for those approaching senior citizen status. Each home is single-level and begins with the company’s well-researched floor plans that can then be customized to meet the customer’s needs. Clearly, this is an opportunity best suited to those who have homebuilding experience or expertise in managing a homebuilding business.
Founded by Ed Bacome and Phil Fankhauser in Dublin, Ohio in 1986 and franchising since 1995, the number of locations has been in decline in recent years from 90 in 2014 to the current total of 72 (down from the previously reported total of 88), of which 13 are company-owned and all are located in the US.
An Important Note About Our Methodology
The franchises on this list were ranked according to the number of units in the franchise system. If you are a prospective franchisee searching for franchise opportunities that meet or exceed certain performance benchmarks for sales, profits, and return on investment, please check out this list of America’s Most Lucrative Franchises.