Revised and updated May 14, 2020.
Just as the real estate industry was finally looking strong after the Great Recession, along comes the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of the outbreak on real estate is two-fold. First, with the economy having ground to an abrupt halt, most people are feeling far too economically uncertain to embark on what is the biggest purchase most people will ever make. Second, even for those who are in a position to buy, many are feeling reluctant to explore other people’s homes or try to attend an open house with social distancing in place.
Real estate franchises eventually bounced back stronger than ever after the financial crisis, and there’s no reason to think they won’t do the same after the pandemic-induced recession. It’s really just a matter of time. One silver lining is that the Federal Reserve is keeping interest rates very low to limit the economic fallout from what is seen as a sharp recession, which means if things bounce back quickly after the pandemic, there will be serious opportunities to meet pent-up demand.
For entrepreneurs interested in making their mark in real estate, the tried-and-true concepts offered by the top 7 real estate franchises of 2020 are a great place to start.
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 climbed steadily in recent years from 6,227 in 2012 to the current total of 8,629 (up by 644 from the previous year’s total), none of which are company-owned and 4,905 of which 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 191 in 2011 to the current total of 1,102 (up by 122 from the
previous year’s total), none of which are company-owned and all of which 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 683 in 2012 to the current total of 1,026 (up by 48 from the previous year’s total), none of which are company-owned and 232 of which are located outside the US.
4. 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 477 (a loss of two from the previous year’s total), 126 of which are company-owned and all are located in 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 361 locations, which is impressive. None are company-owned and all of them are franchised 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 16 in 2012 to the current total of 206 (up by 53 from the previous year’s total), of which 13 are company-owned and three 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 105 in 2012 to the current total of 76 (up by three from the previous year’s total), of which 14 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.