Every year, RealTrends chooses GameChangers based on five-year, transaction side percentage data from the RealTrends 500. This year, we chose seven independent brokerage firms and 10 franchises who grew their businesses at astronomical rates.
In analyzing this list of top-growth brokerages, these GameChangers grew their brokers in multiple different ways — from mergers and acquisitions to recruiting and coaching and retention.
As founder of Realty Group LLC in Minneapolis, Long Doan brought about 292% growth between 2017-2021 by transaction side percentage to be named a 2022 RealTrends GameChanger.
RealTrends spoke with Long about the growth of his brokerage:
Tracey Velt: What was your biggest aha moment or lessons learned while building your firm?
Long Doan: My first 15 years, I was on the mortgage side. The last 15 years has been in real estate. I started Realty Group in 2009, and everyone in real estate remembers 2009. A lot of my real estate friends were like, “You’re crazy Long, why do you want to get into real estate?” I believe, as a business owner, it’s a leading and lagging indicator.
Because I was fortunate enough to be on the mortgage side. I know the leading indicator is that all the type of loans were being offered there. With the market adjusting, there has to be a way to come out on the other side. So I went into bank owned.
I started Realty Group and I signed up with Freddie and Fannie before everyone figured it out. I became the foreclosure listing broker for them. And I closed a thousand transactions my first four years in industry.
So as I go through this, my aha moment was the realization that we’re in the people business. It’s all about people work with people that like and trust. I figured out right away where I should be going to meet the people, to let them get to know me so they can like me and trust me. So, every three weeks or so, I would fly to Dallas as that was where Freddie and Fannie were.
I would arrive around 10 a.m. and meet with people — coffee, lunch, dinner, happy hour. I set up six to eight meetings with asset managers. So I got to know them, I built a relationship with them. They become my friends. I did it for about eight months.
Then I learned also that you have to own your own brokerage because if you’re with somebody else, the broker owns the contract. So I have to get my brokerage set up, and I call them. And I said to all my friends, I’m ready to go. I asked them what they liked, and didn’t like about other agents they were working with. And I tweaked the system and asked them if this would work. So I said, I’m ready to go. And I went from zero to 400 properties in like six months.
That was my aha moment, so our company is based on culture and trust and we take really good care of our people.
Tracey Velt: In the past five years, what percentage of your growth was organic and what percentage was mergers and acquisitions?
Long Doan: We track everything, and 81% of our real estate agents come to us by referrals. A unique thing about us is that, in the flat-free model space, a lot of them hire more part-timers and newer agents. They just want to keep their costs down. They don’t want to keep more.
But for us, we actually went the opposite. We were after producing agents. Because for us, they don’t produce, we don’t make any money. Because we’re transactional, it’s a flat fee. As a result, we have a really high deals, per-agent production, at Realty group compared to a lot of our competitors in our market.
The rest was us going after teams and smaller brokerages who become partners with us.
Instead of them having their own expenses, risks, and liability, they come to us and we cost share. We have a subscription base where it’s $100 per month, per agent to be with us, which allows them to have everything they need, like a full-service brokerage company.
Tracey Velt: Moving forward, what is your main focus for growth?
Long Doan: We believe that in the future with the way the industry is going, we’ve seen a lot of changes in real estate, right? A lot of industries already went through this change and now it’s our turn. You know, people still get rides, but they use Uber. People still travel, they use Expedia. People still shop, they use Amazon. People still watch movies, they use Netflix.
People are still going to buy and sell homes, but, they’re going to do it differently and the real estate professional will have to adjust, which means the brokerages model has to adjust as well.
We believe that the flat-fee model is going to get a lot of attention and growth. Many small independent brokerages are not organized. We believe there’s an opportunity for us to start acquiring those brokerages, as well recruit more brokers — smaller brokerages and teams — to come to us, we’re very team friendly.