OPINION: Ex-Keller Williams market centre owner exposes failings at KWUK

Keller Williams – the global ‘real estate’ giant that boasts of 200,000 agents in 55 countries. ‘The largest real estate franchise in the world’.

On many levels KW is a success, and the rumour is that this will soon be converted into a billion-dollar cash fortune for ‘Guru in Chief’ Gary Keller, its founder and majority shareholder, by way of a lucrative IPO.

Gary has presided over an impressive empire in the USA having started the business in the 1980’s and, like all good entrepreneurs, failed here and there along the way including firing himself as CEO, then reinstating himself and then stepping down again as the job changed from requiring one skillset to another. Then, switching to a franchise model and having an impressive US leadership team around him later helped him to grow what is undoubtedly as American a business model as there can be – the property equivalent of a hamburger and fries.

More recently KW has seen success in France, Japan, Ireland, Portugal, India, Poland, Israel and even Outer Mongolia (seriously).

Yet, the UK entity has bombed badly.

It is reported on almost a monthly basis that one market centre or other has closed, has gone bust or has lost yet another high-profile industry figure that’s walked away from KWUK.

The list of casualties is impressive and includes people such as Simon Leadbetter, Gaven Swan, Chris Buckler, Russell Quirk, Andy Reid, Nicky Stevenson, Wayne Albutt, Matt Thomson, Will Clark and Jason Cannon. Most have not lasted a year before bailing on UK CEO Ben Taylor who, it must be said, is the undoubted common denominator in this sorry tale.

Ben Taylor started talking about opening an additional 25 market centres each year to add to the 11 that KWUK had, back in 2019. The maths would therefore suggest that KWUK should by now have 111 market centres up and running with 100 agents working from each, as is their stated goal. That would be 11,100 UK agents – a proposed market share of about 20% of all UK agents.

And at 100 agents per centre it is said in the KW literature that a market centre will be ‘highly profitable’.

The sad reality is that the Keller Williams map in Britain has shrunk, not grown. In truth, it stands at about five arket centres now because many have closed or ‘merged’ with others. It is the strangest of so-called ‘strategic growth plans’ since Blockbuster ignored Netflix, to its considerable peril.

Of the market centres that have ‘merged’, KWUK has lost Weybridge, Exeter, Glasgow, Bristol, Leeds and my own centre which I closed in August 2022: KW Warwick. And there’s more to add to the casualty list soon I hear.

As for profitability, you will struggle to find any UK KW market centre that has made an annual profit. Nor has the master UK franchise, Grifettey Limited, ever made one (in fact its losses are in the millions and rumours of monies owed to HMRC are prolific).

OK, so why has KW UK failed so monumentally?

Well, I’m writing this article to be honest about my experience with Keller Williams. Call it therapy if you like, however it’s also a cautionary story to ensure that others do not wander into the hypnotic gaze of this business only to soon leave without the shirt on their back. That’s what happened to me and my wife and business partner Sarah Downes in the autumn of last year.

The KW ‘sell’ so to speak is strong. In the process before signing up to a KWUK franchise (or SLA as they call it), you are wowed with the impressive credentials of the global business – its size, history, provenance and its mission and, of course, the Gary Factor. The mission is to ‘make millionaires’. To ‘have businesses worth owning and legacies worth leaving’. To ‘back yourself to live your best life’. It’s truly a sales pitch of metaphors, anecdotes, ambitious sounding goals and word salads.

Books written by Gary Keller, corporate training courses on the subject of mindset, preaching visits from American KW royalty and weekly leadership calls together with monthly Town Halls and State of Your Business sessions are the absolute focus. ‘Do as we say and you will be rich’ we are told. ‘Follow the model’ is the phrase repeated Wicker Man-like on a daily basis as some kind of cure-all spell.

‘Quantum Leap’ indoctrination, ‘Six Personal Perspectives’ and the One Thing book are staple fare that are heavily encouraged together with reading the ‘Bible’: Gary’s bestselling book, The Millionaire Real Estate Agent several times over.

For Sarah and I though, it didn’t take long to realise that the teachings were little more than window dressing, imported from Texas as a very convincing means of persuading would-be franchise buyers of ‘gold in them there hills’. Except, all we found was mud… stodgy, black mud that we now face having our £80,000 investment buried in permanently.

You see, our property market is nothing like America’s. And we’re not known for being a happy-clappy lot like our cousins across the pond. We are not ‘real estate agents’ but are estate agents and we’re not great at sucking up buckets of Tony Robbins type mantras if they are in effect printed on a house of cards.

Market centre owners or ‘OPs’, together with those that were seconded into leadership positions by Ben Taylor, all soon expressed their opinions and concerns at the direction in which the CEO and his American backers were taking KWUK, or rather the lack of direction. The wise heads, acting as the NEDs that they were brought in to be, would ultimately be dismissed as dissenters and ‘non-believers’ and were then marginalised by a CEO who is, in my opinion, quite deluded as to his own abilities and even more so on the ‘success story’ that he talks incessantly about presiding over.

Add to all this the market centre model whereby the UK head office rakes in 10% of all selling fees as its franchise charge in addition to a cut that heads to the US for the privilege of using the KW name and an email address which is worth little in the UK. Plus the UK bills market centres per agent for ‘training and support and technology’ none of which live up to the hype.

There’s lots of talk internally about ambition and growth and everyone being wealthy soon. But the opposite outcome is true in my experience.

The Kool-Aid was indeed intoxicating at first and has taken a lot of people in, most of whom realised soon enough that Keller Williams UK is the industry’s very own version of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

These are some of the reasons that KWUK has failed in this country. Russell Quirk recently labelled KWUK as a ‘clown show’ and that just about sums it up – except that clowns are funny and my three years trying to make a business work that was doomed from the beginning, has not been an amusing experience at all.

Those at the top of the UK business are astoundingly unimpressive and have presided over colossal mis-steps, errors of judgment and foolishness that has unsurprisingly led to an embarrassingly poor performance here versus KW franchises in other countries.

As the church becomes emptier each week, one wonders how long it will be before it collapses all together.

JP Downes operated KW Warwick between 2020 and 2022, along with Sarah Downes


KWUK CEO Ben Taylor has been invited to respond to this opinion piece.

More misery for Keller Williams UK as yet another market centre set to shut



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  1. digitalfix

    Not all heros wear capes; step up Simon Padgett.

  2. Bless You

    So confused. For every closure or bankruptcy, there is a story of agents opening more shops…

    What is going on?

    Funny money?

  3. Mike Robson


    I firmly believe everyone has the right to reply as this is very much one side of the story… but these stories seem to be mounting up day after day with very little news of change out of the top of KW.

    Good luck to the writer in whatever they do next

  4. Simo

    This article is nothing but bias sour grapes. AKA Boris and Donald. Keller Williams is the most successful estate agency in the world. Why? Because it works. It’s a great company from what I have experienced and is changing the face of estate agency in the UK. Why because it offers a great customer service from great agents with great training and systems. As with all businesses you need to follow the model and work hard. Then you will succeed.

    1. Woodentop

      No it isn’t and no it hasn’t.

    2. morrisseysillegitimateburger

      In other words you need to believe the diatribe you have written, so you can mentally justify the thousands you have invested into this “model”.

    3. KByfield04

      Ben- you’ve spelt your name wrong.

    4. J-P Downes

      KW the largest real estate company in the world with revenues of over $380bn, c1100 offices and close to 200,000 agents. Operating in 50 countries worldwide and counting – it is even thriving in France. BUT… after over 9 years in the UK it is a dismal failure. 

      Since the start of the pandemic they’ve opened 1 market centre (Exeter); yet Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Leeds, London Bridge, Warwick, & Weybridge have all closed. The UK CEO (Ben Taylor) promised 25 new MCs in 2022 and the same in 2023; the reality is just 1 versus 7 closures. 

      Changing the face of estate agency in the UK – you must be joking?

  5. Norfolk Steve

    There is only one, very basic, reason why this sort of estate agency franchising doesn’t and won’t work in the UK …. The UK’s low fee percentage.   Yes, it works is countries with 4, 5, 6 or even 7% fees, as there is enough to share around at the various levels of hierarchy requiring their cut.    However, at 1% – 2%, not a chance of success!

  6. Chris Arnold

    KW is a training company masquerading as a real estate.

    It follows the time-worn formula of copying others success, but that no longer works. Different economic climate, different cultures, different people, different priorities – all trying to follow the blueprint.

    I’m surprised how many seemingly intelligent people are fooled into the promise of future prosperity.

  7. Propertyman556

    Sounds like the writer of this article is trying to blame everyone else rather than himself. You invested 80k into something, failed miserably and are now blaming someone else for it.

    is Ben Taylor the reason YOU couldn’t recruit agents to your market centre? (Other market centres were recruiting agents). Is he the reason YOU couldn’t nurture and develop the agents that did join?

    Yes, you might have been sold the dream, but it’s on you for not doing you due diligence first. I have some magic beans that will make you rich if you want to send me 80k.

    1. Ohmygod

      Sounds like Propertyman556 is Ben Taylor, or he is drinking the same Kool-Aid and probably out the same straw.

    2. J-P Downes

      I invested £80k on our own money and declined investment from others until I was confident it would work. 

      We got KW Warwick to an operating profit within the first year. By the time we decided to close we had the highest retention and the highest production per agent (by a factor of 3). If we thought a prospective agent was unlikely to succeed we would not let them join, this was not liked by the UK CEO who only appeared to care about gross recruitment and showed no interest in retention nor production.  

      In the UK, there are better models out there which are far more attractive to agents; models which reflect that the UK is quite different to the USA. Fees, licensing, lack of MLS, dominance of Rightmove, shoddy tech all played a part. 

      We decided it was poor business to throw good money after bad because the UK leader would not even discuss adjusting the model to make it work in the UK. 

  8. Propertyman556

    This has nothing to do with Ben Taylor. The writer bought a franchise, failed miserably at it and wants to blame everyone else rather than look at their own shortcomings. Would you invest 80k in something on the word of someone else and without looking at the finer details and proof of other mc’s income? I highly doubt it. He is just jumping on the bandwagon because KW are in the press again

    1. Woodentop

      Maybe, just maybe someone who has had an experience at the coal face should be shouting out loud. Then others who would fall into the same trap are better informed.

    2. Scottish_Mist42

      Hmm how do you know?   Ben?

    3. J-P Downes

      We joined in March 2020, we ensured that all our agents were correctly and individually registered from AML – as should be the case. We discovered early on that the UK leadership believed this was not necessary and a disagreement continued for about 6 weeks afterwards until the UK leadership realised that they were we wrong. I cite this as an example of their incompetence. 

      Search for Boyle V Zoom Partnership interlocutor and judgement Sheriffdom of Tayside & Fife at Dundee. Even the sales agreements that the UK leadership insist market centres use are not fit for purpose. The cite this as a further example. 

      When the UK leadership launched a new version of the introductory training course for agents called ‘Ignite’; I voiced my concerns that the course material was not fit for the UK. It was too American and even more alarmingly referenced to USA specific property legislation rather that UK. I had previously offered to help rewrite it; I was told by the UK CEO that we had to agree to disagree and nothing was done about it. I cite this as yet another example.

    4. FreeAgent

      The problem seems to be that all franchises sold by Ben Taylor are failing. Is that a failure of every franchisee or the fact that Ben Taylor is selling a dud product and lying about what he will deliver and the ‘success’ of market centres.


    Its seems to me a lot of high quality experienced agents join these type of companies with the promise of better work/life balance and untold riches. It seems to me at times some are  are suckered into giving up  solid well paid fully employed careers and now find themselves on the scrap heap moaning and groaning.

    I feel sorry for those that make such moves but at the end of the day it was their decision and you need to live by the decisions you make-good and bad.

    I don’t know about everyone else thinks but this whole work /life balance issue is causing a huge issue in our industry. Without sounding like an episode from Jackanory  when I started out in the industry we worked form 8.30 to 8 and mostly  7 days a week (11 to 4 on a Sunday !) and until the job was done. It was great fun as well-how times have changed ! Maybe with the cold wind blowing down the High street we will see some of these old time values return (or else risk going out of business )  Will this will put even more pressure on these type of companies who just don’t have “we are all in it together/team  ethos” critical when the going gets tough


    1. morrisseysillegitimateburger

      Balance is priority now for any business. Burnt out, low paid employees are no use to anyone.

      I’ve been in the industry 23 years and I have never understood this need for agents to be open all the time? Why do we need to provide the public access to property all hours of the day? Why do we create this urgency that property buying must be as accessible as takeaways? I’ve worked these shifts in the past and all you end up with are resentful employees, bored out of their minds, watching people walk past their windows enjoying their leisure time. Fortunately with the advent of technology, that access is granted to the public without the need of working 12 hour days, 7 days a week. Living to work is a waste of a life.

      The pandemic proved that time is precious and working should be to compliment life. It’s not the be all and end all.

  10. Woodentop

    So ……… “For Sarah and I though, it didn’t take long to realise that the teachings were little more than window dressing, imported from Texas as a very convincing means of persuading would-be franchise buyers of ‘gold in them there hills’. Except, all we found was mud… stodgy, black mud that we now face having our £80,000 investment buried in permanently.”


    How many times have we all seen this scenario play out with sell, sell, sell promises that FAIL? Its not just our industry, every town has a franchise business that has failed with misery in its wake. Some are very good and successful but when it comes to Estate Agency and any other service sector ……. I truly wonder what the real success rate is. Reminds me of all the promises of the 1980’s direct sales companies “You can make meggar £k’s”, when it reality all they were doing was using people to raise their brand awareness, at the other liability, expenses, time and grief …… while the real motive is to be the chimp on their back, taking a risk free cut. A numbers game for them, burn you out and replace with another duped person to replace you. Yes a few did make the top of the sales league but didn’t they have to work for it, which history has proven was unsustainable and they burnt out ………… (burned!).


    You can argue for and against the KW model, but just like Purple Bricks and all those other companies that have gone over the last decade with “you can do it with us”, the reality is in the UK it isn’t working, it is failing because they fail to understand the UK market, the consumer and trying to reinvent the wheel to hoodwink their troops. You can’t fix something that isn’t broken. The principle of Estate Agency hasn’t changed for decades, all that has improved is digital technology and communication outlets. It hasn’t changed at the coal face and if you don’t understand that, you will fail.

  11. hereforthecomments

    Agree Keller Williams as a company is successful worldwide this is not the case in the UK. Agents basic concerns are not addressed. Countless agents have complained that property viewing enquiries are not being passed on. You can see from Google reviews this is true across the MCs.

    On top of this you have OPs and TLs who manipulate deals to their advantage.  One TL was notorious for seeking out agents off market deals presenting those as their own to get a slice of the pie. They would then go back to the original agent with a potential buyer who they found  from another Keller agent (presented as their buyer)This way they could double dip every deal. Senior Management were informed about this nothing was done.

    1. Ohmygod

      This sounds like you are a talking about a TL from the Gatwick Market Centre and her name was Sarah as she was notorious for this.

  12. Mike Ross

    (Sentence removed as it breached posting rules)

    I give it 3 months before KW UK is no more. The American owners must be preparing to cut off the leg to save the body.

    At the end of this month KW Prime, central London will not be renewing their office contract. All agents will be able to hot desk but the flagship KWUK Market Centre will no longer have an official office in London. Oh and btw this is Ben Taylor’s MC.

    Even Mark Readings Regional Director has set up a separate business. Looks like Mark doesn’t want to go down with the ship either.


  13. Gangsta Agent

    The UK market is DIFFERENT, estate agents in the UK are DIFFERENT and more and more people/companies will fail until they realise this. Stop trying to reinvent the wheel, concentrate on making the wheel go round properly.

  14. FutureWarrior

    It’s a little sad to read people pointing the failure on JP Downs. Yes of course he takes ownership, but I can tell you  that the model is broken in the UK and KW is quite frankly coming to its end over here.

    SE agency is not broken there is nothing wrong in that concept.

    When you are in KW it’s like a cult. You are literally sucked in! You start believing that you can be a millionaire, and the MREA is literally shoved down your throat every. Single. Day. It’s so hard to describe how it swallows you up, I never ever understood how cults did this, until I fell into Keller Williams. I almost lost everything financially, but got out becuase those on the outside could see what it was doing to me. It’s like being in an abusive relationship!!!

    Ben is a work of art. Full of Glib and superficial charm, pathologically lying to people, cunning, manipulative, shallow he has no remorse of guilt when people leave penniless after falling for his sales pitch and he breaks people. Yet he still has a Grandiose estimation of himself and believes he is making 100’s of KW agents millionaires.

    Those SE that succeed have done so becuase they are good people. Not because of KW and most of the powered by would be better off detaching themselves

    KW Who? Exactly that.

  15. Long Time SE Agent

    It’s hard to decide which part is real and which part is bias when simple things like the fact Keller Williams Scotland literally has an open and functioning office in Glasgow isn’t checked?

    Are we at a point now when anyone looking to place blame on their own decisions can just write an article and not bother fact checking it because it suits their agenda?

    If the model is as bad as is being portrayed here… then what prompted the author to meet with Chris Watkin’s and inform us all via YouTube just how great it was?

    Was that simply the same bias employed here just in reverse because it suited the authors position at the time?

    1. FreeAgent

      KW Scotland as now branded is a re-working of previous Glasgow (KW Evolve https://propertyindustryeye.com/another-keller-williams-market-centre-closes/) and Caledonia. There was 2 Scotland MCs: Glasgow went bust, Caledonia bought out to replace…. (Directors of Caledonia sought an exit for the same reasons as Mr Downes I believe. And the fact that when they lost a court case over the Terms of Business provided by KWUK, KWUK washed their hands of it).
      If you had bought a franchise in good faith and were working hard to build the business, would you not seek publicity for it? You’re hardly likely to sit on Chris Watkin’s sofa and say what you bought was worthless…  Maybe an opportunity for Watkin v Downes take 2?

  16. FutureWarrior

    When you start KW you are sold a dream, you do a course called personal perspectives where D Griffin would cry at the same point about how she, a single mum, almost penniless rebuilt her life in KW and now is so wealthy and so successful……… so much emotional stuff like this pulls you in, plays on vulnerability.  The whole dreaming big thing I get and we all know life is about mindset but it’s done in a way that brainwashes you.

    it’s so hard to understand if you are not in KW leadership…..

    we all posted on Linked in or you tube whilst in that “state” because every cult wants to attract more people into the “family” your success is on recruiting more.

    think of the stage play “the Book of Mormon” door knocking with the big red book and its exactly that.

    so don’t berate JP for his YouTube videos, because when you are on the inside and fully believing the promised land you are under the spell.

    when you wake up out of it on the outside like many have, you just stare at yourself in disbelief and wonder what the hell!!!

    that said  KW works in other countries and I know many many people in other lands where it works..



  17. J-P Downes

    I’d like to point out that I’m a massive exponent of the SE model of EA for the UK. It’s a model I been working in for nearly 10 years and it’s been rewarding professionally, personally and financially. 

    I’ve helped many agents transition from employed roles to truly owning their businesses and see them thrive as a result. I passionately believe that a brokerage model can play a huge part in enabling smaller agents to thrive (the vast majority have only 2-4 employees). These small agencies have a lot offer but struggle to grow and succeed. A brokerage (for want of a better term) can help.

    There’s a lot of people that agree: The Agency UK, eXp, The Property Experts, The London Brokerage, Agent & Homes, Hortons, The Avenue… there’s too many to list. For the model to work, it needs to be scaled: most of the rewards of a transaction (rightly so) go to the agents but only leveraged costs (delivered through economies of scale) deliver the services that agents need at the price they want to / are able to pay.

    The entrepreneur’s lot is one of failing before you succeed and I’m comfortable with that. I’ve learnt a hell of a lot in the process. Feel to reach out if you want advice or to discuss further but please, whatever you do, don’t buy a KWUK franchise.

  18. morrisseysillegitimateburger

    Some fire fighting going on via LinkedIn. Basically taking potshots at the article and references to you only get back what you put in. Funny thing is, it’s only the people at KW posting positive responses!




  19. MadHatter

    This stinks of MLM nonsense and “bots” they create.

  20. property_person

    KW the modern Snake Oil Salesmen. agents are sold a dream and non agents are sold even more, the promise of a glittering career by following the model – simple & paying their fees. The reality is very different and far less professional


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