The Billionaire’s Club consists of the top U.S. real estate brokerage firms that closed at least one billion dollars’ worth of real estate in 2021, according to data from the 2022 RealTrends 500 brokerage rankings. Not only does this rarified group include more firms than ever before: 435, versus 347 last year, but this year’s rankings also feature many firms on the list for the first time.
The new players
Among the 88 new firms with the highest representation on The Billionaire’s Club, 46 are Keller Williams companies, 13 are with RE/MAX, six Coldwell Banker, and three HomeSmart.
Steven Barks, President and COO, Worth Clark Realty, a 100% commission model based in Missouri and in The Billionaire’s Club for the first time, said, “Last year was a stress test in expansion.” Both his firm’s transaction and agent count grew by 39%. “We learned a lot about the expansion process by entering two new states and opening nine new major markets last year,” he reveals. Looking ahead, Barks predicts that inventory and closed sales will continue to trend down or stay relatively flat this year, making agent productivity a key metric to watch.
Mauricio Umansky, CEO, The Agency, a Beverly Hills-based brokerage that submitted to the RealTrends 500 rankings for the first time, explains how his company expanded its global network while still maintaining its boutique, luxury approach. The Agency expanded to more than 50 offices (including 11 new franchises opening in 2021), with just over 1,000 agents total. “My dream is to create a global company that still operates as a boutique,” he explains.
“Probably the single biggest factor behind this jump is the price increase in housing,” says Steve Murray, Partner, RTC Consulting and a senior advisor to RealTrends. “The median price of a home jumped 22-25% in two years. We’ve never seen that before.”
Beyond the strong market, Murray describes a wave of consolidation that began two years ago. “Suddenly, the larger firms — and those striving to be larger — got larger faster than ever before,” he says. He attributes this primarily to the major brokerages being more tech-savvy, using Zoom and Microsoft Teams to communicate with their agents to keep relationships personal and strong.
These bigger firms also used their more advanced technology suites to rapidly complete virtual transactions, and — in the case of Keller Williams — recruit and train agents. Basically, “the brokerages with the better tech platforms performed better,” he explains. While the larger firms got stronger, the middle of the market shrank. “More agents are gravitating towards firms that are either big and very strong or have a niche specialty,” summarizes Murray.
Interestingly, some of the firms new to the list are in smaller markets. For instance, “from 2019 through the end of 2021, business increased by about 230% for Four Seasons Sotheby’s in Vermont and New Hampshire,” notes Murray. Brokers in the Poconos in Pennsylvania and in Portland, Maine also saw record sales. “People have been coming out of big cities with money to buy a second home or they just packed up and moved,” he says.