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20 Things You Didn't Know about Century 21 Real Estate

If you haven’t noticed, Century 21 Real Estate has been doing a self-imposed makeover. So while you may still be seeing the gold, white, and black Century 21 signs around the neighborhood, they will continue to disappear from the “home for sale” landscape. There are some who are impressed with the result of the rebranding, while other believes it takes away from the American tradition of everyone being able to own their own home.

But times have clearly changed, and the general populace is becoming less mobile, choosing to stay put rather than sell their home and move to a new location. With this rebranding process, we thought it was a good time to move forward and back in time to visit 20 things you didn't know about Century 21 Real Estate. Number 14 may come as a shocker to you. Many of the items on this list are recent changes made by Century 21 to bring their brand to a higher level and move away from some of the practices that were perfect for their time, but now need to be replaced or modified.

1. How the business got its name.

According to co-founder Art Bartlett, the idea for the name was a bit challenging, in part because the original thought was to name the business Century 20. After all, they were starting it up in the 20th century so it made perfect sense. The problem was getting the name registered since it was so generic. One suggested alternative was Green Valley. Century 21 sounded too futuristic to his partner, but it was finally agreed on. Far better than Green Valley.

2. It is an international real estate organization.

Century 21 offices can be found in more than 80 countries and uses more than 122,000 independent sales agents to buy and sell homes throughout the world. While it is not the largest real estate organization in the world (REMAX currently holds the #1 position) it is quickly moving up, and its recent rebranding has to be a critical component of the goal to be Number One.

3. The business was started in 1972.

This small fact is important when you consider the number of economic downturns that have engulfed the world since then. The Great Recession of 2007-2008 played havoc with virtually every kind of financial institution, yet Century 21 lives on. Add to that the increasing global competition on the real estate market, and their longevity is even more amazing. One has to think that with 2022 not far off, management has their eyes set on combining the celebration of their 50th anniversary with reaching their long term goal of being Number One.

4. Almost everyone knows who Century 21 is.

In a Millward Brown research study in 2017, the Century 21 brand was the most recognizable of all the real estate brands in the country. As we know, brand recognition is more than just a way for consumers to remember your company name. It is a matter of long term survival in the global marketplace. Though this is not a new reality for many businesses, keep in mind that real estate in general tends to be a bit stodgy in its business model.

5. They take their brand image very seriously.

Connected with the rebranding of their image is an overarching company theme called “Relentless.” This idea is to motivate and inspire the collective sales force, but also to remind them that their sales force will be leaner and more committed to excellence. There is no longer any room for people who simply want to do their job.

6. “Relentless” is more than a catch phrase or an ad campaign.

The business calls it “The CENTURY 21 System” and the fact that thus far only 8,000 of its franchise brokers have become a part of The System says that there is still a lot of work ahead to do at all levels to promote the new attitude. Internally, The System is referred to as a movement. Both new and existing brokers can expect to be challenged wherever they are, and it is also possible that some of the long standing brokers may decide to take down their shingle.

7. They have a long history of working with Easterseals.

Like its brand, Century 21 has a long standing relationship with a number of charitable organizations. Among those, Easterseals has been a focus to donate to and work with for 4 decades. The partnership began back in 1979, and more than $120 million has been raised since then. The most recent total for 2016 came in at $3.4 million.

8. They do timeshares.

Many people who got caught up in the timeshare craze a few decades ago have found themselves stuck with a timeshare that ends up being more expensive to hold on to than it is worth. While Century 21 does work with people wanting to rid themselves of the burden, they are careful to say that any offer of help depends on the real estate agent’s “level of expertise and preference.” If you know that everybody else in your timeshare area has trouble dumping theirs, Century 21 is not likely to bail you out.

9. You do not pay a standard commission on a transaction.

This is something very useful to know because it is possible to actually negotiate a commission with the agent. Generally, it will depend on the customer’s specific needs and the company policy, but commissions on real estate transactions are generally not set by law. This is an important fact for first time home buyers to know when negotiating a deal to buy or sell a home.

10. The three key management figures have all assumed their positions in the last two years.

Nick Bailey, President and Chief Executive Officer; Cara Whitley, Chief Marketing Officer; and Mike Miedler, Chief Growth Officer, all have risen to their offices since 2016. This is significant because it indicates a shift in the approach to how Century 21 will be operated in the future. If you were wondering who is behind the recent rebranding model, this is very likely the answer to the question.

11. In less than a decade from its startup, Century 21 experienced insane growth.

By 1976, less than 5 years after its beginning, Century 21 was adding as many as 150 new real estate brokers a month to its sales force. To get some perspective, in 1979 there was no Internet as we know it today, and even PCs were just beginning to make their way into businesses and homes. Achieving the number of more than 100,000 worldwide real estate agents is definitely noteworthy, but doubling that number can be considered to be a realistic goal.

12. Fun fact: There is actually a Century 21 Notting Hill office in the U.K.

If you think this is a Julia Roberts reference – you are correct. But many locales in movies have fictitious names, and so it was deemed important that you should know this fact. The question is whether the movie would have been better if Julia played a very wealthy, successful Century 21 real estate broker instead of a movie starlet.

13. The initial investment to start your own Century 21 franchise is a bit steep.

Once you get through going to all those real estate classes required for licensing, then go through the entire licensing process, you will need somewhere between $31,000 - $131,000 to have your own franchise in the U.K. In the United States, the high end of that range can be more than $500,000. It generally is expected for a potential franchisee to have at least a $75,000 net worth.

14. Century 21 is not actually a company.

Century 21 is one of many brands that are offered by Realogy, a company that owns other business properties including Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, Coldwell Banker, Coldwell Banker Commercial, Corcoran, ERA, and Sotheby's International Realty. Century 21 is just one of several recently acquired businesses by Realogy, which has no connections to Scientology to the best of our knowledge.

15. The brand has been kicked around over the years.

After the boom in new real estate agents in 1979, Century 21 became a brand that many other, larger companies came to have a keen interest in. The list includes Trans World Corporation, MetLife in 1985, and Hospitality Franchise Systems (which later was rebranded to Cendant) in 1995. Cendant would later split its business interests, at which point Century 21 became part of Realogy. While it shows the value of the Century 21 brand, it also shows the vulnerability of a business that has yet to find a way to anchor itself as a business.

16. The 121% approach to real estate sales.

Connected with their “Relentless” theme is taking things up yet another notch by what Cara Whitley, the company’s recently appointed Chief Marketing Officer said - “121 percent wins!” Notice that it goes above and beyond the 110% number that is used by so many people and companies ad nauseum. Of course, it fits very nicely into the Century 21 brand. What is also interesting about the number is that it is likely to stay as unique as the company’s original brand name. How do you top 121% as a meaningful goal?

17. They have formed a partnership with ESPN.

At first this may seem more than a bit odd, but Whitley makes the observation that sports are a “passion point” and the market that ESPN serves, the 25 – 49 age demographic, corresponds with the key home buying population segment for real estate. The idea is, you get excited about sports, and you can get excited about buying a home. It is all about identifying with the experience. A careful look at the recent events involving the ESPN network and you will know that this relationship has the potential to be very beneficial to them. #relentless.

18. The new management team adopted a quote from the CEO of Netflix.

It’s hard to argue with the success of Netflix, and Century 21 learned from Reed Hastings, who is also the co-founder and chairperson of Netflix. He said, “Companies rarely die from moving too fast, and they frequently die from moving too slowly.” Often, the real estate market and investors play a waiting game to see when is the right time to buy or sell. Century 21’s new attitude is to move forward relentlessly, seeking new opportunities and expanding their market share.

19. Downsizing has a different meaning to Century 21 franchisees.

The increasing number of Baby Boomers who are selling their homes because they simply have become too big to manage has led to existing homeowners of large homes seeking smaller, more manageable homes. In real estate jargon, this is known as downsizing. The children have grown and left the nest, and there is a lot of empty spaced left unfilled. All this costs money, so Century 21 educated their team to help in the transitioning process of downsizing. They take care of everything from selling to packing to moving, making the transition easier for everyone involved.

20. Their critics are few, but vocal.

Websites such as Consumer Affairs show a number of complaints against Century 21 realtors, but when considering the size of the company the percentage of complaints is actually very few. This can be attributed to not only the reputation of the business, but also of its global network of franchisees, who are carefully selected.

To sum up this list, it is clear that changes are afoot in the House of Century 21, and it appears to be a sleeker and better direction for the company. For those who are considering starting your own franchise, either as a real estate agent or a fast food owner, know that the starting price for a Century 21 franchise is not really that high when comparing it to other major industry brands. Perhaps the most important difference is the training and licensing process, and Century 21 has the toolkits to help you become successful.

The injection of new blood into the key management positions bodes well for the future of the company. The real test of the changes will come when the real estate market takes a dive, which from an economic perspective is more likely than not. Come 2022 when the business celebrates 50 years of serving customers, we will see if there have been marked achievements that are worth celebrating.

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Garrett Parker

Written by Garrett Parker

Garrett by trade is a personal finance freelance writer and journalist. With over 10 years experience he's covered businesses, CEOs, and investments. However he does like to take on other topics involving some of his personal interests like automobiles, future technologies, and anything else that could change the world.

Read more posts by Garrett Parker

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