6 Feb 2009

Mark Zawaideh

Why I Left Coldwell Banker & Chose Keller Williams...

There isn't a week that goes by that a real estate agent or a past client doesn't call me and ask how I like Keller Williams or why I left Coldwell Banker after spending my entire career with them. Most real estate agents call me and wonder why, after finishing 2008 with 102 transactions, I would leave?


I'm going to be perfectly honest. I am a salesman, and it's my job to be an expert at marketing for my clients, right? How can you honestly say you're an expert at marketing your clients' properties if you can't even market yourself? So a couple years ago I decided to create the MARK Z. brand. It was the most successful marketing strategy I have ever created. My clients all love the signs because you can't help but notice the real estate signs. This creates more exposure for my clients and in turn more exposure for myself. It's a win-win for everybody. I thought it was great exposure for Coldwell Banker Schweitzer. They didn't agree and in November of last year, Paul Schweitzer and John North came in my office one day and said the signs must come down! I was devastated. They said it looks like it's my own company and not a part of the franchise. They went on to say it is against corporate policy on sign panels. I thought it was good exposure for Coldwell Banker Schweitzer because the Coldwell Banker Logo was 8" tall on the sign. Although a month later they agreed if I changed my signs and made the "Z" smaller, and no bigger than the Coldwell Banker logo, I could keep the "Z" on the signs.

Honestly, by then it was too late. I had already looked at other opportunities. I wanted a company that would stand behind me and my success, and not try to interfere with it. The MARK Z. brand that I created was working for me and my clients. I wasn't going to let someone or some company modify what was working for me. I needed a company who appreciated the fact that it was working. Again I can't blame Paul Schweitzer or John North, as they were just enforcing the rules that corporate has set. I just wish they would have went to bat for me, knowing the success it has brought for me.


For years real estate agents have been branding the company they work for. I see no benefit to that, in fact I feel it's the duty of the company to brand themselves. The yard signs we put in our clients yard, should no doubt have our company name and logo, but I don't believe it should dominate your sign. When was the last time someone called your company and said "I want to list with your company I just need you to send out an agent." It doesn't happen. It's not my duty to brand the company I work for since last time I checked we are independent contractors. It's my duty to brand myself. That is what I did and it was frowned upon. I think agents are silly for putting any sign out in the world without having their name on it.

That was just the start of what made me entertain offers from other Real Estate companies. The icing on the cake was in December when Coldwell Banker Schweitzer approached me and every agent in the office to notify us that our compensation plan was going to change and the fees we once paid were not good enough to keep the company profitable. They have been taken losses and believe me I can appreciate that, but the fact of the matter is other companies in the Metro Detroit real estate market have concepts that seem to be holding their own. Don't get me wrong no Real Estate Brokers are getting rich in this economy, but while some are folding like cheap tents, others are paying the bills and even growing.

Well, it has been a little over a month now and I can honestly say all the negative things I was told about Keller Williams over the years were all false. I have to be realistic at the same time. I'm sure my manager at Coldwell Banker would never tell me "Yea Keller Williams is great you should definitely check them out." That was never going to happen. I have to give credit to Coldwell Banker for doing a great sales job making me believe that all the fees would end up being the same and the services could never compare. Over the years, whenever I would bring up Keller Williams, these are the things I would hear:

  • KW (Keller Williams) would nickel and dime me to death every month with desk fees.
  • KW doesn't have any agent training and agents are on their own, you get a desk and a phone.
  • They also told me that KW wouldn't be around much longer, because they couldn't afford to keep the doors open.
  • The KW profit sharing is very minimal and not even worth talking about.

If that was true, how do you explain this, which was reported at the end of January of this year:

Keller Williams® Realty Inc., the fourth largest real estate company in North America, announced today that it outpaced the market in 2008, while remaining free of debt, and gave back more than $30 million in profits to its agents.

"Our strategy is no secret. We faithfully follow the sound financial model of leading with revenue – the same model our market centers follow," said Mark Willis, CEO of Keller Williams Realty Inc. "As we watch companies throughout the country take on billions of dollars of debt, we are proud to say that our company has not one dollar of financing debt and we remain strong and financially sound. "It is our joy to be able to give back to our agents during these times."

The fact of the matter is that the training is awesome. In fact, I am addicted to this website called Agent Mountain. The website is filled with interviews by Gary Keller and a lot of the top agents across the country, including Craig Proctor, Chris Heller and many other agents that have sold over 200-500 homes a year. Some of which are not even with Keller Williams, yet he went the extra mile to interview them so Keller Williams agents can learn and benefit from them. I think that I have learned more from that website than any other website I can think of. Talk about training? Hands down I have never seen anything like the training at Keller Williams. Almost every week a different agent in the office holds a class about what they know best and try to pass their knowledge on to other agents in the office. Everyone tries to help everyone as if we are all family.

Okay, so what about the monthly fees at Keller Williams? Here is a copy of a Keller Williams monthly office bill. Keep in mind color copies at KW are 16 cents a copy for agents.

  • $10.00/month for a website
  • $25.00/month for E&O Insurance
  • $45.00/month for advertising in color KW magazine
  • $25.00/month for Realtor.com upgraded placement for listings

Now at Coldwell Banker Schweitzer, here are the fees I incurred each month:

  • $10.00/month for voicemail
  • $40.00/month for Realtor.com
  • $30.00/month for a National Ad Fee
  • $37.00/month or $450/year for E&O Insurance

Total: $117.00/month, plus color copies are 32 cents a copy at Coldwell Banker Schweitzer. Here's the best part: franchise fees are capped, so no agent pays more than $3,000 in franchise fees in any given year, and then your commissions are split at 70/30 until the company reaches $18,000 from you. No monthly rent, which I thought was really nice in this economy. You only pay when you earn a commission.

Look, the point of this email is not to put down Coldwell Banker, Century 21, or any other Realogy franchise. Realogy is the parent company of Century 21, ERA, Coldwell Banker, and Sotheby's International Realty. I don't regret working at Coldwell Banker Schweitzer. After all, if Paul and Kathy Schweitzer didn't introduce me to Mike Ferry, there is no way I would be doing 100+ transactions a year. Management was great, my fellow employees were great. The front desk staff will be missed a lot, in particular my favorite Carol Lemeire. Carol was like a second mom to me, and I could always count on her to be there when I walked in at 7:00 a.m. every morning. I just think the Realogy concept isn't competitive anymore.



Picture courtesy of AMagill of flickr

Topics: Mark Z