Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the September 2020 issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine. Subscribe today.
Two years ago, Century 21 Real Estate made a series of bold decisions to differentiate themselves from the “sea of sameness” in the market. First, they completely overhauled one of the world’s most recognizable icons. Second, the CENTURY 21® System challenged the existing conventions of complacency and mediocrity in an industry vulnerable to consumer distrust and indifference. Third, the global franchisor set out to transform the industry from transactional alone to experiential, recognizing that a holistic approach to providing an experience consumers demand—and deserve—from their real estate company and agent of choice was the best way to enhance its 50-year legacy as the “gold standard” in real estate. The market reaction, from industry professionals and consumers alike, has been nothing short of extraordinary as the CENTURY 21 brand realizes significant market growth and adds the very “best of the best” companies and industry professionals to its fold (see sidebar).
“Innovation doesn’t just happen in the form of technology,” explains Michael Miedler, president and chief executive officer, Century 21 Real Estate LLC. “It’s also about starting each day with a foundation of exceptional fundamentals and delivering elements of surprise or additional value at certain touchpoints or pain points in the process that create unique and personalized experiences. We are convinced that we are better positioned, by far, for our broker franchise network and their relentless sales professionals to win in our industry over all the competition—no matter the circumstances.”
During the first four months of 2020, in the face of COVID-19 and market uncertainties, the CENTURY 21 System added 10 new companies and renewed 38 franchisees, including the renewal of its eighth, 10th and 11th largest companies, respectively: CENTURY 21 Scheetz, CENTURY 21 Real Estate Alliance and CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises. Overwhelmingly, owners at these companies cited the CENTURY 21 brand’s leading quality service ratings, agile productivity platform and the continued relevance with consumers as the primary reasons for choosing Century 21 Real Estate as the best growth option for their affiliated agents and best experience for their home-buying and -selling clients.
“It’s all about having a consumer mindset and delivering the best agent technology, learning and marketing programs so they, in turn, can go above and beyond in helping their clients achieve the best outcomes possible, whether they are buying, selling or investing in real estate,” explains Craig Beggins, whose company has eight offices and more than 400 relentless sales professionals in Tampa and throughout Southwestern Florida. “We have strong relationships and deep roots in the communities we serve. The thousands of individuals and families we have served trust and rely on us for our local market expertise and the empathy we bring to each one of their experiences.”
In addition to industry-leading companies choosing to be a part of the CENTURY 21 family, the brand’s overall mission to defy mediocrity and deliver extraordinary experiences is also resonating with some of the very best professionals in the business. A recent case in point is the announcement that the No. 1 agent in transaction volume in the country, Kyle Seyboth, chose to affiliate with Century 21 Real Estate and is now operating in Southern Massachusetts and Rhode Island as CENTURY 21 The Seyboth Team (see sidebar). Seyboth intends to leverage the people, the culture and the platform behind the CENTURY 21 System.
“What sold me on the CENTURY 21 brand is the senior management team, and the understanding and entrepreneurial mindset they have for this business, which starts at the top with Mike. He is all about having his team deliver the best technology, learning and marketing programs to my affiliated agents so they, in turn, can go above and beyond to help their clients,” explains Seyboth, who, unsurprisingly, was courted by most, if not all, major real estate brands and franchises. “We have worked hard to develop strong relationships and deep roots in our communities, and this new affiliation ensures that our homebuyer, home seller and investor friends will be able to continue to trust and rely on us to assist with the best real estate outcomes possible.”
With Century 21 Real Estate committed to being the most sought-after brand in real estate, and its devotion to delivering experiences rather than transactions, the CENTURY 21 brand sits among the top overall customer-centric brands. According to the 2019 KANTAR Ad Tracking Study, Century 21 Real Estate is the most recognized company in brand awareness (coincidentally, for 21 consecutive years), the most recognized name in real estate and the most respected brand in the real estate industry. Plus, and more importantly to the CENTURY 21 brand in its efforts to perfect the real estate experience, homebuyers and home sellers in the last six months have given the System’s relentless sales professionals quality service scores of 97 percent in overall satisfaction and a recommendation rating of 98 percent on their RealSatisfied QSS (quality service surveys) ratings.
“We believe that the path to extraordinary requires giving 121 percent, and consumer ratings like these are definite market differentiators,” explains Miedler, who notes that agents who deliver extraordinary experiences and have enough transactions to meet the minimum QSS award threshold generate 22 percent more in commission than agents who don’t earn the award. “While others might be concerned with fees and splits, many of today’s top real estate agents understand that these are the most valuable figures to their overall long-term business growth and ability to build lifelong relationships with clients.”
Another step in the 20-year history of the CENTURY 21 brand’s focus on QSS was the introduction in 2018 of the CENTURY 21 Relentless Agent Awards (RAA). The RAA highlights groups of agents who have gone “above and beyond” for their clients, like Kathy Dipp of CENTURY 21 Redwood Realty, who knowing full well a landscaped lawn would show better, brought over her very own tools, mulch, flowers, etc., and did the landscaping herself on the listing property. Or, Misty Dowling of CENTURY 21 Broughton Team, who, after learning that a young, recently-separated single mother and homeowner could possibly lose her home to foreclosure, went above and beyond with the lien-holder, government agency and title company involved to save the homeowner’s credit and sell the home to another single mom. RAA winners, like Dipp and Dowling and many more, receive specially crafted trophies and have their stories showcased via a dedicated microsite, custom social media content, and national and local media outreach. Each was celebrated with their very own extraordinary experience like a trip to the ESPYs, the NCAA Final Four Tournament, the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament and even Broadway’s hottest show.
“We know full well that agent expectations will continue to evolve,” says Miedler. “Looking forward, we promise agility and speed, and a continued focus on delivering the extraordinary to cement in the future our status today as an early adopter of perfecting the home-buying and -selling experience. That way, the CENTURY 21 brand will remain in the hearts and minds of consumers when the real estate decision-making process begins in earnest.”
Founded by industry trailblazers Art Bartlett and Marsh Fisher in 1971, Century 21 Real Estate was created for the sole purpose of galvanizing entrepreneurs, challenging the status quo of real estate and enabling broker independence to achieve unprecedented success. Not only were Bartlett and Fisher the first to introduce the franchise system and a focus on consumer ratings to grow and stand out from the competition, they also understood the importance and value of giving back to people and communities. It’s this corporate social-responsibility culture that is baked into the CENTURY 21 DNA.
“Our people are ‘go-givers’ as well as ‘go-getters,'” says Miedler, highlighting the brand’s 41-year history with its philanthropic partner, Easterseals. In that time, the C21® System has raised in excess of $126 million for the organization, which speaks volumes about the brand’s commitment to the community. “My team’s primary goal is to ensure that each C21 professional feels 100 percent included and 100 percent empowered to deliver the extraordinary, no matter the circumstances.”
As the world continues to grapple with COVID-19, CENTURY 21 System brokers and agents are continuing to touch countless thousands of lives with local fundraisers, food deliveries from local restaurants to area first responders and even a first-time homebuyer wedding ceremony at one of its offices to help the couple secure a mortgage loan.
One such act of community support earned special media recognition. Thomas McGowan, of CENTURY 21 New Millennium, Fredericksburg, Va., was honored as a HomeGROWn Hero by CNBC for volunteering to serve as an EMT in Queens, N.Y., one of the hardest-hit districts during the pandemic. As a Lieutenant at Virginia-based LifeCare Medical Transports, McGowan and his team deployed to New York with eight ambulances and 16 fellow EMTs as he led a strike team that, when called upon to relieve overworked EMS employees with 911 calls and medical transports, provided advanced and basic life support, and they did so working 12-hour shifts with their own PPE. And yes, in true relentless fashion, McGowan stayed in touch with his sphere of influence and went “above and beyond” for his real estate clients as well.
“Our people never feel alone,” explains Miedler, noting that even in a pandemic, his team is able to ensure that CENTURY 21’s relentless sales professionals are equipped to always elevate and go above and beyond for their clients. “We are a family, and we will get through this. Together, the CENTURY 21 System will come out of this stronger and better than ever as we look ahead to the next 50 years as a brand.”
Excitement will continue to build for the CENTURY 21 brand in the coming months and years ahead. In 2021, the global franchisor will celebrate its 50th anniversary—a “golden” time for the original innovators of the real estate franchise model. While the brand promises some typical “pomp and circumstance” to commemorate the milestone, how it evolves, adapts and transforms its customer-experience vision, leverages data-driven customer journeys and creates an emotional bond with property sellers, buyers and investors will help to ensure that the CENTURY 21 brand will reach the century mark as the leader in real estate franchising that it is today.
If the past few years are any indication, and if COVID reminded the industry of anything, with a new brand identity, aggressive senior leadership team, and the very “best of the best” companies and agents continuing to affiliate with Century 21 Real Estate, the CENTURY 21 System will continue to consist of relentless “go-givers” who together are stronger no matter the circumstances. They’re not just working to transform the industry from transactional to experiential—they’re better as a whole because they’re in it together, giving 121 percent to their clients.
The future at Century 21 Real Estate is so bright, the CENTURY 21 family and their clients will need to wear shades (thanks to Timbuk3 for the song and the reference).