The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reports there are more than 3 million active real estate licensees in the U.S. and more than 106,000 real estate brokerages nationwide. Choosing the best real estate company to work for can be challenging, whether you’re a new agent or an experienced veteran.
According to NAR’s research, the median agent tenure at a brokerage is five years, so it’s likely that at some point in your career, you’ll consider making a switch. But how do you decide which company is best for you? Through research and interviews, we evaluated dozens of real estate companies based on the criteria that matter most to you, and selected our top five from a field of big-name brands.
Best Real Estate Companies of 2021
|Keller Williams||(Best Overall) Agents at all stages of their career|
|RE/MAX||High-performing, established agents|
|Coldwell Banker||New agents|
|eXp Realty||Part-time agents|
|Century 21||Agents who want to reach more millennials|
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The Best Real Estate Company to Work for Overall: Keller Williams
Keller Williams takes home our prize for the best real estate company to work for because they excel in the areas that matter most to agents.
We were impressed with their competitive compensation plan and commitment to creating a culture of success on all levels, including prioritizing women in leadership. Keller Williams also made the top of our list because of the work they do to create career-lasting relationships with their agents.
Keller Williams Pros
Keller Williams Cons
Keller Williams agents make money in two ways: through commissions earned from the purchase or sale of real estate, and through a program the company refers to as profit-sharing, but which is more of a recruitment and retention strategy from which you can make additional cash. Here are the details on each.
Keller Williams’ Pre-Cap Commission Structure
Each Keller Williams office (or, as they call them, Market Center) has what’s called a cap. The cap is a certain amount of money that each agent will pay to Keller Williams to support the company at large.
Each Market Center has its own cap, determined by local market conditions, operating expenses, and so on. Keller Williams agents at each office have the same cap; it doesn’t matter if you are a 20-year veteran or a brand-new agent.
|3% on $250,000 Sale|
When an agent receives a pre-cap commission, they keep 64% of it, 30% goes to the Market Center, and 6% goes to the national brand as a franchise fee. Once you hit the cap, you keep 100% of your commission—no hidden fees, no sneaky percentages—that’s it.
Keller Williams’ Post-Cap Commission Structure
One an agent’s annual cap has been met, they keep 100% of their earned commissions. So if the agent’s split is 3%, they receive $7,500 on a $250,000 property sale.
Agents can also receive a secondary commission when someone they recruit closes a sale, something the company labels “profit-sharing.” If someone you invite to the company closes a sale, whether they’re a member of your team or not, you get a piece of the company’s share of the commission.
Profit-sharing at Keller Williams is multi-level, meaning that if the person you recruited turns around and successfully recruits other agents, you’ll see a portion of the company’s share of their sales too.
Keller Williams Company Culture
Keller Williams’ company culture is focused on constant improvement and support. They are widely regarded as an industry leader in training and professional development.
Their development mindset isn’t only a top-down approach. Thanks to the Keller Williams profit-sharing structure, agents benefit directly from the success of their recruits. Thus, agents develop mentorship relationships, making Keller Willliams a very team-oriented real estate company to work for, even in the absence of any official “teams” in a particular Market Center.
Keller Williams Branding
Keller Williams has an extremely recognizable brand throughout the U.S. and Canada. Though their branding isn’t groundbreaking or exciting (if branding is important to you, check out Century 21), their relatively conservative brand guidelines are high-quality, consistent, and easy for agents to apply to their marketing.
Best Real Estate Company to Work For—Established High-performing Agents: RE/MAX
RE/MAX is a great place for high-performing, established agents to take their business to the next level. Though they offer tools, training, and mentorship for agents at any stage of their career, the RE/MAX system is set up to benefit a market’s top performers the most.
RE/MAX doesn’t have a brand-wide policy about splits, desk fees, and caps; each of those decisions is negotiated at the local level.
Though we wish they provided the same transparency on commissions as Keller Williams, RE/MAX does offer agents lots of flexibility in terms of how they receive their commissions.
With a split range topping out at 95%, experienced agents with a proven track record can get paid more on the front end of each commission, allowing them to leverage that revenue toward time-sensitive needs, including marketing and promotion.
Their generous splits often come with higher desk fees, but for most rock star agents, the higher desk fees are worth the investment to further other aspects of their business.
RE/MAX Company Culture
The RE/MAX company culture is built around success and leadership within the communities they serve. Of the top 200 agents of 2021 according to Real Trends (by transaction sides), a staggering 55 of them are RE/MAX agents. This is a brand synonymous with performance, especially for those who know the business well.
An agent who operates on a high level knows that their personal brand and reputation are going to be supported and enhanced by the market reputation of both their brokerage and the other agents who belong to it.
RE/MAX has a strong presence in the vast majority of major metropolitan markets across the United States. RE/MAX’s iconic hot air balloon is one of the most unique and recognizable symbols in all of real estate, according to a Millward Brown Demographic Ad Tracking Study in 2017. Entrepreneur Magazine named RE/MAX the top Real Estate Franchise of 2020, a spot it’s held for 15 of the last 18 years.
Best Real Estate Company to Work For—New Agents: Coldwell Banker
In a bit of a surprise, Coldwell Banker has emerged as our pick for the best real estate brand for new agents due to their consistent commitment to training and mentorship of new agents. Their commitment is demonstrated by their top-down training resources and constant encouragement (and funding) of their franchisees to effectively spur professional development. Their dedication to agent growth makes them a great choice for someone just starting off.
Coldwell Banker Pros
Coldwell Banker Cons
Even though the commission and fees at Coldwell Banker are reasonable, they aren’t anything to write home about. If you are considering Coldwell Banker a real estate company to work for, consider the following:
- No companywide policy for cap, split, or desk fees; all are negotiated at the local level on an agent-by-agent basis
- Universal 8% per commission franchise fee even after you hit cap
Coldwell Banker Company Culture
Throughout our analysis of Coldwell Banker company culture, we kept coming back to the same phrase: client-focused. They live this value with something they call “Big Blue Culture,” which can best be summarized as a “relentless pursuit of the best possible client experience.”
This sort of client-centric focus is great for new agents who are still learning the ropes as far as interaction, sales, and best practices. Corporate leaders all the way down to local franchise officials consistently spoke about this aspect of the company’s culture.
We spoke with Tracy Bacigalupi, Vice President of Marketing for Coldwell Banker Schmidt Family of Companies, the largest Coldwell Banker franchisee in the country, and here’s what she had to say about the resources available to agents to get them into the swing of Big Blue Culture:
“Coldwell Banker has an amazing amount of resources that it provides to realtors and brokers on a local level. Our programs like CBU (Coldwell Banker University) provide an incredibly rich and customizable approach to training that is perfect for experienced agents or people brand-new to the business.”
Coldwell Banker Branding
Coldwell Banker is a legacy brand that’s been associated with trusted real estate service since the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Its recent rebranding and logo updates show that the company is committed to moving forward and building a business that has an exciting future, not just a storied past.
We’ll admit it—we were skeptical at first to see changes to a trusted logo, but they come with a new-and-improved set of marketing resources that facilitate every agent’s efforts, but especially those of new agents.
[Related article: Learn about the best and worst real estate logo designs]
Best Real Estate Company to Work For–Part-time Agents: eXp Realty
You haven’t even read our explanation yet, and we can already hear what you’re thinking. “What?! A virtual brokerage beat out other major brick-and-mortar brands?!” Yes, yes it did.
And here’s why: When it comes to being a part-time agent, there are three things that are important to you.
- Can you make the financials work? If you have lots of upfront fees and costs due outside of a transaction, the math can sometimes makes your real estate side hustle impossible. With eXp Realty, you don’t have to stress about that.
- Self-paced and remote resources: Your growth should be on your own schedule. eXp Realty has you covered.
- Remote company culture: You need a company that really embraces the remote working lifestyle. eXp Realty lives remotely.
eXp Realty Pros
eXp Realty Cons
How eXp Realty Agents Get Paid
The eXp Realty commission structure is simple and easy to understand. Similar to Keller Williams, eXp Realty also offers a revenue-sharing program for agents you recruit to join the brokerage. They also offer some stock options for high-performing agents. Here are the details.
eXp Realty Commission Structure
Every agent in the company has a cap of $16,000. Splits are 80/20, and after you meet that cap, you keep 100% of your commissions—no desk fees, no royalty fees, no franchise fees.
|3% on $250,000 Sale|
Revenue Sharing: Better Than Profit-sharing
Similar to Keller Williams, eXp Realty also offers passive income options, paying you a percentage of the commission made by any agent that you recruit.
While Keller Williams offers agents a share of PROFIT (which can be a relatively thin margin depending on your Market Center), eXp offers a share of REVENUE. This approach puts more money in the pockets of eXp Realty agents who can recruit. It also makes recruiting a potentially more profitable pursuit than at Keller Williams.
eXp Realty also offers stock options to agents after they’ve hit certain performance marks each year. Stock options generally only benefit high-performing agents, but anyone can work toward this goal, whether they’re working part time or full time.
eXp Realty Company Culture
Since eXp is a completely remote business with no brick-and-mortar locations, the only real option for developing a company culture is through a virtual environment.
eXp offers a LOT of livestreamed training and networking (up to eight hours of live content per day). A massive library of prerecorded material is also available on eXp’s virtual campus for agents to use at their convenience. Seriously, you’ll find thousands of hours of on-demand training on just about every subject you can think of.
Through these tools, it’s pretty clear that the eXp Realty company culture is all about providing agents and teams with the tools they need to create an individualized path that makes sense for their business. eXp Realty agents seem to be very excited about this sort of self-reliance and support.
We asked Gogo Bethke, a high-performing agent with eXp Realty, about training opportunities and company culture. Here’s what she told us.
“The best that I’ve ever experienced on any level, period. There are so many different groups of eXp agents, so many different platforms that they (eXp Realty) provide access to.
“And, you can’t get more convenient than eXp. I could be sitting with my feet in the sands of Mexico and attend a live session on post-closing occupancy in the eXp virtual classroom. I’ve been with multiple real estate brands across my career, I have never seen anything like what eXp offers.”
—Gogo Bethke, Agent at Gogo’s Real Estate
eXp Realty Branding
The eXp Realty branding strategy is a little different than others on this list. Since eXp Realty is the only company that isn’t built on the franchise model, you’d think that they’d have a strong, centralized brand presence. But, given the fact that they don’t have any brick-and-mortar locations and the success of the company is really built off the success of each individual agent and team, this isn’t the case.
The eXp Realty branding is minimal, limited, and often a very minor part of an agent’s marketing. Yes, it appears on business cards and yard signs, but it’s likely not a logo you can picture in your head, and the standards to which it has to be applied are loose.
Best Real Estate Company to Work For—Reaching Millennials: Century 21
Century 21 has consistent involvement and advocacy in issues important to the next generation of homeowners, including fair housing, LGBTQ rights, and the transformation of commercial space into new and innovative residential space. The company’s focus on issues important to millennials has caused many to sit up and take notice of this legacy real estate brand.
A new logo, new marketing strategy (an entire revamp of their brand, actually) means that younger people new to the brand are talking about Century 21.
If you are a strong marketer of your own personal business, combining your skills with Century 21’s clout and market positioning can make for a potent formula for success—especially when it comes to reaching the elusive millennial market.
Century 21 Pros
Century 21 Cons
Century 21 Commission Options & Agent Fees
Similar to the situation with Coldwell Banker, the commission structure at Century 21 is fine, but nothing we’re crazy about, either. Just about everything (except for a universally applied 5-8% franchise fee) is negotiated at the local level, so there isn’t much we can tell you about here.
The one differentiator is that most Century 21 franchises don’t charge a desk fee. Some major metropolitan markets, where office space is at a premium, will charge a monthly desk fee to literally have a desk, but this is optional.
Century 21 doesn’t ask for a penny before you close a deal, which is helpful for a lot of agents, especially those who are new to the business.
Century 21 Company Culture
Century 21’s company culture is all about relentless progress, whether we are talking about social issues, issues of equity and inclusion, or the pursuit of the company’s business objectives.
For example, Century 21 was named to the Forbes 2019 list of best employers for diversity.
The company actively recruits veterans to become real estate professionals, and their chief marketing officer, Cara Whitley, is recognized as a HousingWire Woman of Influence.
Their partnership in the Empowering Latinas program is part of Century 21’s efforts to empower Latinas in South Florida to earn a real estate license. The scholarship pays for all the necessary classes and licensing fees for aspiring Latina entrepreneurs.
Century 21 Branding
“What if we changed everything?”
That’s the question that marketers at Century 21 have based their entire new strategy around, and it’s working. New company mission (“To Deliver Extraordinary Experiences”), new logo, new vibe altogether.
Century 21 is taking a bold approach to pushing this new message in new quarters. They’re booking guest spots on shows like SportsCenter instead of 60 Minutes. They are backing ads on Viceland, not on Fox News. It’s clear that they’ve identified their next customer as more likely to be watching the Big Bang Theory than Antiques Roadshow.
If you are a realtor who has millennial (and younger) homebuyers or sellers in your sights, Century 21’s message will resonate nicely with you (and them).
Now, we want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts on our picks. Do your experiences line up with what we’ve found?
If you’re a real estate professional working in a local office, whether a major brand or a mom-and-pop shop, we want to hear from you.