Gary Keller

Co-Founder and CEO, Keller Williams Realty International

Overall Rank: 2

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Gary Keller has been one of the five most powerful people in residential real estate every year since 2014, when the SP200 debuted. This year is no exception.

Keller rose to the No. 1 slot last year based on Keller Williams Realty’s staggering recent growth. At the end of 2017, his firm had unseated Re/Max’s 20-year run as the largest residential real estate brokerage brand by annual sales volume in North America. In addition, Keller Williams Realty entered 2018 as the world’s largest residential real estate brand by agent count and it continues to set new records. In 2018, it passed 980 offices, 165,000 US agents and over 190,000 affiliates worldwide.

While our analysis shows that Keller William’s US growth rate slowed in 2018, the company still grew. For the first nine months of the year, the company reported 842,186 transactions (up 3.5 percent from the same period a year previous) and $256.5 billion in sales volume (up 4.2 percent from the previous year) in North America. Its international growth remains torrid: transactions, sales volume, listings and new contracts jumped by more than 50 percent from 2017.

In 2015, Keller Williams began its evolution from a real estate industry education company to a technology company. To date, more than 135,000 Keller Williams agents have downloaded the company’s new AI assistant, Kelle, which won Inman News’ “Best Real Estate Technology of 2018” award. The new technology strategy is young, so the jury is still out on whether the move, and all the work in KW Labs is doing, will further Keller’s visionary, pioneer status or fizzle as an overplayed hand. Based on his track record, the odds are in his favor.

In January 2019, Keller let the third Keller Williams Realty CEO in the past four years go. First it was Mark Willis (2015), then Chris Heller (2017) and in early January 2019, it was John Davis. Keller has taken back the CEO reigns, which he relinquished in 1995 when he handed them to Mo Anderson. Keller, now more than ever before, is firmly at the helm of the company he co-founded thirty-five years ago.

Keller Williams has never faced as significant competition as it has in the past four years. Fast-growing cloud-based eXp Realty claims to take the Keller Williams model to a new level with its virtual environment, and thousands of agents have voted with their feet. Compass continues to pillage some of the brand’s best agents and teams, and longstanding competitors Re/Max, Realogy and HomeServices of America have all built strategies to counter the onslaught Keller Williams has waged for the better part of a decade.

Keller’s big technology bet exemplifies his style: strategic thinking, action based upon beliefs, and bold moves. 2019 will be a pivotal year for Keller Williams as it may determine whether the company remains atop the leaderboard in real estate’s next era.


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