Three former founders of online estate agencies have signed up to the ‘hub’ model of Keller Williams.
Mark Readings, Russell Quirk and his cousin Anthony Quirk respectively launched House Network, Emoov and HomeSeller.
Emoov went into administration last December, while House Network followed in March.
HomeSeller launched in 2015, aired some prime-time TV adverts starring TV actress Sarah Parish, but has since closed.
The trio’s deal with US franchise firm Keller Williams sees them taking a territory covering most of Essex.
This morning, they are starting to recruit self-employed agents to cover the county, with the aim to establish a network of about 100.
They will operate the Essex market centre from first-floor offices in Chelmsford.
The new Essex business will be run by Mark Readings, with his sister Claire Readings – formerly in charge of sales at House Network – alongside him.
Russell Quirk is a director of the business and will be “as involved in it as I need to be”. He will maintain his focus on his new PR firm Properganda.
Anthony Quirk will continue to run his agencies, Anthony Quirk & Co at Canvey Island, and Beaulieu Estates in Chelmsford.
Keller Williams launched in the UK in 2014 and currently operates six other market centres: London Prime in Victoria; London Bridge; Bromley; Kingston upon Thames; Leeds; and Glasgow.
In recent months Ben Taylor, formerly managing director of Countrywide’s John D Wood, who runs Keller Williams in the UK, has grown his team.
Hires include Nicky Stevenson, formerly of Peter Knight’s Estate Agency Events; Daren Cridge, of PurpleBricks; and Andrew Benn, previously a managing director at Spicerhaart.
Russell Quirk told EYE yesterday that the online sector would never achieve more than 10% of market share, leaving the likes of Purplebricks, Yopa and easyProperty “like ferrets fighting in a sack”.
He said: “Clearly the industry has to settle somewhere and we are attracted to the Keller Williams model.
“This doesn’t exactly mark a return to the high street for me, but it is a return to traditional charging, where there will be a full fee charged for a full service.”
Quirk added: “Months of contemplating and reflection have led me to invest in Keller Williams as the brand and model that has the potential to be one of the biggest estate agency businesses in the UK in addition to its worldwide status.
“It’s not until you push the boundaries of the industry as Mark, Anthony and I have done that you start to see that customers will pay a decent fee for decent attention and that this can be achieved by recruiting a significant number of motivated, ambitious local agents that will have the ability to earn proper money.”
Quirk does not anticipate any problem recruiting a large number of freelance operators in Essex, believing that there are a number of disillusioned agents who have been working for online agents as well as high street corporates.
Mark Readings said: “With our huge collective experience gained from many years pioneering and evolving online estate agency and as high street agents for many years, we are well placed to understand where the future of estate agency lies and it’s destined to be a traditional fee approach meets high service, greater accessibility and tech empowerment.
“This is exactly what Keller Williams have been all about since they were founded in the 1980s. No one does it better or makes more money.”
Keller Williams operates globally, with 180,000 agents across 1,200 market centres in 40 countries.
Keller Williams – which has described itself as a training company that happens to be in estate agency – offers franchisees ‘market centres’ or hubs. The franchisees then recruit their self-employed agents, who get to keep 70% of commission. Once they have handed over a certain amount of cash – it was £60,000 in 2017 in the London market, and £30,000 in Leeds – they get to keep 100% of their earnings.
The UK business has always been ambitious, saying in 2017 that it planned to launch 50 market centres within five years.
However, growth stalled when the first franchisee stepped down and the UK master franchise business changed hands.