This annual list of the best real estate franchises was revised and updated on May 19, 2021.
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, which is what 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 like Raleigh/Durham.
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.
That said, the real estate market is vulnerable to shifts in the wider economy, and this was clearly shown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Property sales plummeted and the real estate sales and brokerage market fell from over $180 billion in value to $156 billion in 2020, as families locked down and businesses cancelled expensive plans.
That said, the real estate market is still huge, and in the long term very healthy. Even in 2020, the market was worth more than it had been just five years before, and it’s set to grow slightly in 2021. Though this growth is predicted to be only 0.4%, it’s a remarkable comeback compared with 2020’s losses, and is likely to lead into a period of far stronger growth as vaccinations and government stimulus rebuild the American economy.
Individuals and families who delayed house moves during the pandemic will now be looking to move, helping to balance sales lost due to constrained finances. Businesses will also be looking again at moves and expansions that were cancelled during 2020. Construction is on the rise again, meaning that both supply and demand will push up the real estate market. The house price index is expected to rise in 2021.
Right now, it’s beneficial to get involved in the right sort of property. Single-family homes, data centers, and industrial properties are all expected to rise in demand and value in the post-COVID America, while retail and hospitality continue to suffer a decline. While more people will be working from home, office-based businesses may still be looking for larger spaces, to facilitate socially distanced collaboration. While brick and mortar retail is in decline, this provides an opportunity for real estate franchises, which can help small businesses downsize to affordable properties and big brands move into vacated space for new and better rental deals.
The real estate industry has taken a sharp hit, but it’s still ahead of where it was five years ago. For franchisees in the right part of the industry, there’s huge potential to benefit from a shifting economy.
The Top Real Estate Franchises of 2021
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 8,405 (down from the previously reported total of 8,629), of which none are company-owned and 4,759 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 1,122 (up from the previously reported total of 1,102), 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 683 in 2012 to the current total of 1,055 (up from the previously reported total of 1,026), of which none are company-owned and 254 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 482 (up from the previously reported total of 477), of which 115 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 416 locations (up from the previously reported total of 361), of which none 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 16 in 2012 to the current total of 209 (up from the previously reported total of 153), of which 14 are company-owned and four 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 69 (down from the previously reported total of 76), 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.