Above, RE/MAX Founder Dave Liniger and his dog Max open up this year’s R4 annual RE/MAX convention in Las Vegas this week. Photo credit: Stones Throw Images.
The journey to half a century in business was no cakewalk for RE/MAX by any stretch of the imagination, but as the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
The first 50 years did just that for the Denver-based franchisor as it faced myriad highs and lows over the decades on the road to becoming the thriving company it is today.
“In 50 years, we’ve come a long, long way,” said RE/MAX Holdings Chairman and Co-Founder Dave Liniger at the 2023 RE/MAX R4 Convention, as the organization came together to celebrate the five-decade milestone at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas Feb. 27-March 1.
Liniger indulged more than 9,300 attendees in a heartfelt account of RE/MAX’s journey through the years, sharing stories of the company’s history and the five lessons he has learned that helped shape the RE/MAX network.
Two of the most important lessons came in his list’s first and last spot.
The first stressed the importance of aligning with great people and pulled at the heartstrings as Liniger regaled attendees with the story of the challenges that the company experienced early on, which ultimately led him to make the first hire at the company, his wife and RE/MAX Co-Founder Gail Liniger—Gail Main at the time—whom he credited for her role in the company’s evolution.
“She was the real deal,” he said. “Charismatic, hardworking, stubborn, if you will, confident, optimistic and a perfect partner.
“Little did I know that day when I hired her to be a partner that one day, 11 years after we started RE/MAX, we would become partners for life,” Liniger added, just before Gail Liniger joined her husband on stage, drawing a massive ovation.
While he went on to list four more lessons that highlighted the importance of being trustworthy and fearless along with continuously seeking growth, Liniger’s fifth lesson underscored an aspect of the RE/MAX journey that has arguably made it the company it is 50 years after its inception: adapt quickly to change.
“It’s often quoted by Darwin that it’s the strongest that survives,” Liniger said. “That’s not true, and that isn’t what he said. It’s not the strongest that survives. After all, the dinosaurs were the strongest, and they’re gone. But mosquitoes are still here, hundreds of years later.”
Instead, Liniger emphasized the adaptability in RE/MAX agents and brokers, which has helped the company survive and thrive through eight recessions, nine presidents and more.
To further illustrate the lesson, he referenced the 2008 financial crisis and recession as well as RE/MAX’s response of educating thousands of agents and brokers in REOs, short sales and foreclosures.
“We realized very quickly that this was going to be an enormous problem with hundreds of thousands of foreclosures, and it required us to take a new look at how we run our business,” Liniger said.
The shift in thinking included helping educate more than 20,000 agents through the Certified Distressed Property Expert® program and working with the nation’s largest lenders to drum up business.
While the company still took its hits during the recession—admittedly losing 30,000 agents from 2008 to 2011—the move ultimately paid off for RE/MAX.
“We adapted, and we took action, and we not only survived, but we prospered,” Liniger said, characterizing the era as an “amazing adventure.”
Following his trip down memory lane, Liniger looked at the current state of the housing market while offering a forecast for the future.
Despite the headwinds of a shifting housing market, the RE/MAX founder reassured attendees that there is nothing to fear as the market enters a new cycle.
He predicted that the market would start recovering in the U.S. between the fourth quarter of this year and the first quarter of next year as the Federal Reserve continues increasing interest rates to reel in inflation.
While he acknowledged that times might be challenging in the current market transition, Liniger encouraged the audience before welcoming RE/MAX CEO Nick Bailey onstage to provide further insight and forecasts for the franchisor’s future.
“This market will continue to go through cycles,” Liniger said. “It will never stop going through cycles. The people that succeed in the down cycles are people who have a great work ethic and are willing to bust their butts. Period.”
Bailey kept the party going after ziplining onto the stage before kicking off his address.
Reflecting on the state of the housing market, Bailey acknowledged concerns regarding market headwinds and the continued cooldown from the pandemic-induced frenzy that yielded record sales industry-wide.
Despite mounting challenges lying ahead, Bailey advised the network to stay focused on what they can control in their businesses, reassuring agents and brokers that the fluctuations are overall a positive development for the industry.
Highlighting the growing demand—albeit pent-up—among millennials and even Gen Z to certain degrees, Bailey said the next decade is poised to be a fruitful time for the industry, especially as generational trends and life events—marriage, kids, divorce, etc.—continue occurring for the cohorts.
“Those life events aren’t going to stop just because of the Feds and the economy…none of that stops,” he said.
He also stated, “We need to be the voice of reason to say ‘if you are a buyer and you think you are now out of the market, you may not be.’”
Bailey shared his three keys to thriving in any market: Connection, Technology, Marketing.
Stressing the importance of pouring into their sphere of influence as the market rebalances and leaning on referrals, the RE/MAX executive touted the company’s refreshed Global Referral Program announced earlier this week.
“There is a way to better connect us, and we believe this is it,” he said.
Leveraging tech to better serve consumers is also slated to be a gamechanger for the franchisor, according to Bailey, who delved into the growing influence of automation and artificial intelligence in the industry.
He encouraged agents to “meet the consumer where they want to be met.”
“With over 250 million leads flying around the industry, I don’t believe you want more leads,” Bailey said. “I believe you want more transaction-ready consumers. You want to know who is ready to buy or sell.
“That’s how we are thinking about the future of tech,” Bailey continued. “We are going to look at tech and fill in the gaps of what makes you more efficient as an agent and what helps drive the buyer and seller experience.”
In particular, Bailey indicated that using new tech to help maintain relationships with their sphere of influence is a gap they want to fill.
“We get busy, and we’re not great about keeping in touch, and the once-a-month newsletter drip isn’t cutting it anymore,” he said. “We have to have personalized contact, but we need something to do it for us, and that is where automation comes in.”
Bailey touted RE/MAX’s investment in tech as a catalyst for the franchisor’s projected growth in the coming years. During his speech, he claimed that the company could reach 200,000 agents globally in three to five years.
Bailey elaborated further on that forecast in an exclusive interview with RISMedia following the conference.
Looking at adding 60,000 new agents by 2028, Bailey says that while that’s a hefty order, they are looking at adding 10,000 agents in the U.S., 5,000 in Canada and 35,000 globally.
“They sound like big numbers, but they would only be huge numbers if they weren’t 144,000,” he says, noting that the company added 10,000 new agents to the brand last year in the U.S., nearly 4,000 in Canada and 27,000 globally—and so that’s a lot of new people that joined the brand.
“We just have to continue to rely on that growth, but I think more importantly it’s driven by when you put a stake in the ground, and when you stand up on stage and say we can go from 144,000 to 200,000…it’s not that hard and, by the way, it’s going to be market driven because I think agents are going to stop trying to save 50 bucks, and they want to figure out how to do another closing, and so it’s all production,” Bailey says.
“Over the last couple of years, recruiting has been based on a pipe dream of coming over here and saving 100 bucks, and I just don’t think that is the future,” he continues. “I believe anyone getting into this business—or is in this business and struggling—will be looking at what company helps them get another $8,000 commission check, and so this is, over the next two to three years, why I think we drive growth through production.”