KW’s Gary Keller tells agents to “Buy dirt.”

"Everyone is in the real estate business and in search of profits," said KW's Gary Keller, in describing iBuyers, Power Buyers, search portals and other businesses.

Striding out on stage to AC/DC’s Back in Black and a standing ovation, Keller Williams Founder Gary Keller looked every bit the Austin-based, hip tech executive in an all-black ensemble, and a message for the real estate professionals in the audience at this year’s Family Reunion — a tee shirt that said, “Buy dirt.”

The Keller Williams event, held in Orlando, is the first brand-wide, in-person event since the pandemic began. Almost 12,000 people registered to attend the event in person.

The majority of Keller’s 2.5 hour “vision speech” focused on housing fundamentals, economic indictors and record-breaking statistics concerning low inventory, inflation and still-low interest rates. “Never underestimate the government and the gifts they give you with bad decisions, no matter how well-intentioned they may be,” says Keller on stage. His point was that while the pandemic stimulus money was well intentioned, the repercussions are inflation and, eventually, higher interest rates.

Despite that, Keller was overwhelmingly positive about the next year of real estate sales and the company’s position in the market. To combat low inventory, Keller told the audience to find opportunity in new home development. “Find land, invent new builders… buy dirt,” he said. “It’s a big opportunity. We need to find the inventory and bring it to market.” One way to do that, he noted, was to buy land and look for development opportunities.

Everyone wants a piece of your commission

However, he was a bit more weary when discussing Rocket Mortgage and Zillow. He discussed the demise of Zillow’s iBuying program, but warned the audience that celebrating that failure was not something he thought should be done. If only because, he says, “Zillow gave up it’s iBuying, and then you realize, they’re just coming back to take [more of] your money,” a comment based on the recent Zillow earnings call where Rich Barton announced that they would be rolling out a “housing super app.”

Control the leads

“He who controls the leads, controls the industry,” says Keller, warning agents to diversify by using three to five lead sources, rather than be weighted too heavily in one source, whether that be through Rocket Mortgage, Zillow or another company. “Using Rocket is a lot like using RE/MAX mortgage [aka Motto Mortgage], but do what you need to do to help your buyers and sellers.” He noted that “all of these companies are moving further upstream to get to the lead.” He also noted that he started Keller Mortgage primarily to be ” the governor on what everyone charges. If you have a choice on pricing, it holds prices down.”

Keller discussed how competition is heating up in the lead generation niche, with CoStar, a commercial database that recently invested in some residential companies, including, having twice the value of Zillow.

When it comes to financing solutions, Keller noted that companies like Knock, Orchard and Homeward, an Austin-based company, offer clients solutions to financing problems and that they are “likely here to stay.”

A national initiative to educate veterans

Keller ended his time on stage by bringing up Levi Rodgers, founder of the San Antonio, Texas-based Levi Rodgers Real Estate Group and recently named director of KWMilitary, an education push to help veterans and their families choose real estate as a career. Rodgers recently moved to KW from RE/MAX. 

KW Military is a business and networking community with a mission to honor KW agents’ service and sacrifice by providing the tools, training, and camaraderie necessary to build a big business and an even bigger life.   

“Thirty seconds of honesty from a real estate agent changed my life. It’s my mission to inspire and encourage my people – veterans and their families – to thrive in civilian life,” said Rodgers, when describing how the real estate agent who sold him his first home talked him out of buying a doublewide trailer in favor of a home that would appreciate in value.

“Real estate can help transform their futures, and offering resources like free real estate school for veterans and their families will be part of how we remove barriers that exist for their entry into the profession,” said Rodgers. 

Keller also brought Stacey Onnen on stage. The newly minted director of new business development discussed her rise from college drop out to an executive at Realty ONE Group, eXp Realty and now KW.