Keller Williams Realty... Cult or Culture?

Real Estate Agent with Wagner iTeam -The Platinum Group Realtors
Goal of this blog: Do you think that Keller Williams realty is like a cult? MLM? Why or why not? Please be prolific- explain yourself. thanks.

Now, with my thoughts...(some taken from a previous blog)

Seriously folks... I didn't think anyone really though keller williams was a cult. but, I have heard to the contrary over the past year. I have done extensive research on cults over the past 12 years (for my own reasons) and find nowhere in my studies a logical connection with KW and a cult. hmmm. I am perplexed, so I really would like a little light shed on the topic.

Honestly, I am a heavy promoter of blue bunny ice cream and verizon wireless, but i would not call those "cults"... I guess kw draws very passionate people to it, and passionate people can be great advocates- but it is hard not to be an advocate when you have so much to be happy about/ proud of?

Thanks for your time, Mariana and Derek

Posted by: Mariana Wagner - Colorado Springs Real Estate - Monument Real Estate


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Liz Demaree
Keller Williams Realty - Maplewood, NJ


When I was first approached by KW, I totally bought into the business model (and I've always thought of the profit sharing part as a lovely bonus). When I told my husband (a financial advisor) about it, he thought it was too good to be true. After a meeting with my (now) Team Leader and one of the Principles, he said, go ahead, this is a great opportunity. So I joined KW. After a couple of months there, attending some trainings, and going to seminars, I realized that I'd pretty much wasted my first 2 years in the business. So now I'm a pretty big advocate for the company. Here in the Northeast, KW isn't very well known, but when the sharp people hear the story, they come on board. Cult? No, just the best business model that the real estate industry has ever seen.

Sep 27, 2007 03:12 PM #55
Larry Brewer - Benchmark Realty llc
Benchmark Realty LLc - Nashville, TN
I am a newbie at Keller WIlliams, but after spending 4 years with Century 21, I am not new to real estate at a large brokerage. The reason I moved was because I didn't belong at Century 21 anymore. The Century 21 business model I was working under is good for new agents working alone with less than 10 transactions per year. Once you get beyond that, It becomes very expensive. In my area, most of the top agents are at Keller Williams.
Oct 15, 2007 03:07 AM #56
A few posts back Tanya made a comment about KW being nonexistent in her market area. That was same problem we had in our general area. It was Keller who? When KW started up we had a group of agents leave including the #2 producer in our office. Our broker at C21 started the cult and Amway/pyramid scheme stories. We listened for a couple years but ended up reading the MREA book and talking to someone we knew who went over from another office. Three years ago we made the move and never looked back. We tease friends who came over before us saying, "Why didn't you tell us about KW." When we made the move we helped change the image of KW locally. We used the local press to build up our name and we never hear Keller who? anymore. We are in the papers all the time and not just the real estate advertorial section and I think that has helped with agents and clients. The local offices have around 500 agents between them. The real estate writer from the local paper always calls us for comments first. The only cult mentions we get are mainly C21. The biggest compliment we got was when they were having a meeting in Austin and on the overhead screens they had several of our articles shown to everyone. One big thing that has also helped is our KW Cares fundraising. We make sure we promote the events in the local paper. So the cult mentions are rare anymore. And becuase of our use of the local media, people know who KW is and who are agents are. Great topic.
Oct 16, 2007 11:25 AM #57
Gary Woltal
Keller Williams Realty - Flower Mound, TX
Assoc. Broker Realtor SFR Dallas Ft. Worth
Mariana, your topic has elicited much discussion from those inside and outside KW. Keller Williams as any brokerage is not perfect. Some like the recruiting and profit sharing. Others couldn't care less about it. They do provide less risk for more opportunity though. Are there massive numbers of low producers and washout after one year? Yes, but look at the industry as a whole. Washout is high there too. KW does offer great training if you take advantage of it and apply it. They also have a national footprint now and are not like your local boutique firm. With the downturn in the overall market those that have the high desk fee independent models will be stressed to keep agents if they can't pay the desk fees. It's all about having the best opportunity to make a go of it as a business. I've found the vast majority of KW coworkers to be very helpful.
Oct 21, 2007 03:47 PM #58
Derek and Mariana Wagner
Wagner iTeam -The Platinum Group Realtors - Colorado Springs, CO
Wagner iTeam - Colorado Springs REALTORS®

Everyone ... I REALLY appreciate these great comments. The insight is invaluable.

I am noticing that, overall, that the success of Keller Williams varies from area to area, but little by little the reputation is getting more accurate.

Thank you again to all that have added to this discussion, and I look forward to what others have to say as well ...

Oct 22, 2007 02:49 AM #59
Jim Talbot
Keller Williams - New Fairfield, CT

I returned to Real Estate just over a year ago and before I decided to hang my shingle I hit the pavement to interview different brokerages in the area. Of course I covered all the corporate "Big Name" Agency's as well as the small yet successful boutiques. Well the big corporate names were all about the big corporate name and its bottom line. The boutiques were usually some famous local person name and customers wanted them. Well I live in the Northeast and KW is still relatively in it's infancy here. 2 of the 3 big name corporate managers bashed KW so badly, unprofessionally, fearfully, ignorantly. I mean they went out of their way to scare me away from KW. They told me that "KW thinks it's wise to have faith in something, Put family first then business". I was sitting there thinking whats wrong with that? I think if most people put faith, family and business in the correct order society would be a little better off. Thats just me. So, that was it. I just had to go to KW now. I figured if it's that bad I should start there at the bottom and work my way up. Well, the fact of the matter is that most of the people in our KW office came from all those big corporate agancy's and couldn't be happier working at an agent centric agency. Open books, non-stop training for all levels of professionals, higher splits, profit share, $35 per month for E&O, Technology, desk and computer if you need it,....etc.,etc. The KW Business Model is now a course of study at Yale. Its a business course not a course on cults. I could continue to ramble on but the bottome line is that KW has been a great deal for me, it's not a cult and if you think it is.....I'm sorry you feel that way.


Oct 22, 2007 04:17 PM #60
Derek and Mariana Wagner
Wagner iTeam -The Platinum Group Realtors - Colorado Springs, CO
Wagner iTeam - Colorado Springs REALTORS®
Jim- The concept of "Agent-Centric" brokerages is foreign to many folks, but once they really experience it, there is no going back, IMHO. Thank you for your insight!
Oct 23, 2007 09:02 AM #61
Cami Pinsak
Keller Williams Realty - Camarillo, CA


I've been with KW for just over a year.  I "chose" them even prior to obtaining my license.  IMHO any top producer in my area is a fool if they aren't with KW.  It makes no economic sense to be anywhere else, especially in CA.  KW is just getting known in my area and that is one of the reasons local agents are wary of joining.  One agent told me she couldn't join KW because she needed the "brand" of her current brokerage for her clients.  My first thought was, "wow - that doesn't say very much for your ability to sell yourself!". 

I love going to work in my office - great people, great culture - everyone trying to help everyone else.  It makes me happy to come to work.  And honestly, I haven't referred that many agents in.  Not everyone is right for KW, just as KW isn't right for everyone.  It does have to be a good fit and there are a lot of agents out there that would detract from our culture.

Oct 27, 2007 09:46 AM #62
Jeanie Hoholik - Keller Williams Maple Grove, MN
Think of it this way,  Keller Williams International encourages its agents to each have his or her own style of business.  They know that we are independent contractors.  Other large real estate firms expect the agent to promote the company, not themselves.  For instance, web leads go to the company and then are sold back to the agent.  Yikes!  I think that the Koolaid drinkers are the followers of the corporate execs at those companies and can't think for themselves.
Oct 28, 2007 08:10 AM #63
Joe McRoberts
Select Homes & Services - Myrtle Beach, SC

Mariana and Derek,

I have not read every post here but I will say this... Most major/successful companies have "Credos" or their philosophy's of doing business, many are secretive & controlling with this "insight". Someone from outside the company may perceive or label it as a cult. Taking it back to the "Witch burning" days, if they don't understand they label it as a cult.

I must say I do like definition number 6. earlier post by Mike Nelson "An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric, usually artistic or intellectual interest.  If that is how you define "cult", then yes, we are a cult.

Where KW is all about SHARE the knowledge & CARE about the people around you. I believe the openness may intimidate some. I have been with KW for only a few months and have embraced the culture, and found the root of my motivations, being a driving part of something bigger. My client base has increased by 10x by sharing and exchanging ideas & knowledge, but it could be the koolaid? :}

Nov 03, 2007 05:16 AM #64
Linda Giordano, Southern New Hampshire Real Estate
I think you'll get bad ownership at pretty much any company. Keller Williams is no exception. A company is only as good as its management. I've been with my kw office for almost 3 years. I have been through one ownership change. Since the change, we have been recruiting the top agents from every company in the area. In just 1 year's time, we grew from somewhere near the bottom, in terms of market share, to #2. Actually, we flip flop between the #2 position and #1. We're right on RE/MAX's heals. A few more top producers, and we'll hold steady at #1.
Nov 09, 2007 12:14 AM #65

What a great blog. I am the Team Leader for the Simi Valley, CA MC and first joined in 2002 to Keller Who in Westlake Village. From Re/Max to Keller Who was scary....but the first time I said with the Team Leader...I GOT IT... I must admit, I was "Kellerized" without knowing already. I have always lived my life by the KW philosophies, and now found a company that shares it back with me...... I opened our office last February with 18 agents in a dependent dominate office market area, we are now at 117 agents as of today with another 10-15 coming over on the 1st of Jan... because THEY now get it... Thank you Gary, Mo and Mark for your visions..



Nov 28, 2007 11:20 AM #66
Chris Loveall

One more thing to add..... My ex-wife and son had their home burn down in San Diego during the fires. KW Cares contacted me to see how they could help. My Ex had just changed jobs and money was tight... I asked if they could help with the hotel bill (one weeks worth, about $500) they said, "Oh No!.. we want to GIVE her $4000 to help get her and your son up and running quicker..." It was direct deposited the very next day into her bank..... Funny thing is..... She is a Re/Max agent and they did nothing to help, nor offer... wonder if I can inviter her to KW now.....

My own office heard about it, and with out my knowing donated gift cards, clothing, and toys and gave it to me at the sales meeting I was holding...I was they have never met her. We are truly a FAMILY!



Nov 28, 2007 11:30 AM #67
Dean Carver
United Brokers Group/Carver Home Team - Ahwatukee, AZ

Wow, hot topic....

Nov 14, 2009 10:20 AM #69

Does anybody have a Keller Williams University password they would like to share?

Jan 12, 2010 12:53 PM #70
George Herrera

There are 2 types of Agents: 


Keller Williams Agents & Future Keller Williams Agents


KW Associates are passionate about the Company because it changes people's lives. Call it what you like, but we love our Company!


Thanks for posting...

Oct 18, 2010 10:44 AM #72

Can someoneenlighten to what the kool-aid analogy is about.  What does drinking red kool-aid refer to?

Dec 09, 2011 07:55 AM #74

@Jeremiah: The Kool-Aid analogy is referencing the Jim Jones Guyana Incident.  In 1978, Jim Jones and his followers (The People's Temple Cult) committed mass suicide by drinking poisoned Kool-Aid.   This reference has become used perjoratively as an analogy to anyone blindly following a leader.  Red is the dominant color in the KW color scheme, hence "Red Kool Aid".  The posters were saying that they *gladly* are drinking the red kool aid because the KW experience has been so beneficial for them, and of course most of them are saying that tongue-in-cheek.

Feb 11, 2012 02:44 AM #75
Greg Jarvis

Cult?  probably not.  BUT, also not the place for all agents.  Personally I've always worked for boutique or larger family owned real estate companies, mainly because of reputation, prestige and lack of franchise fees.  I'm also more self-taught and am not so into the rah-rah kind of business experience.

I sell in both Miami and Chicago, KW has a decent reputation in Miami... pretty much anyone can get a job there.  And in Miami it might make sense for a lot of people.

In Chicago, there are just too many established companies for KW to really catch on.  In fact CB just bought out several KW offices.

If anything, the KW model of entrepreneurship and micro-branding has been picked up by major players in real estate.  Big companies are "buying out" and/or partnering with boutique firms all over Chicago, though sometimes without the huge "franchise fees."  My biggest beef with KW is really only high MLS co-op fees and that the agents (for the most part) seem to be really new or doing real estate as a part time job.


Mar 19, 2012 03:07 AM #76
Lise Howe
Long and Foster - Washington, DC
Assoc. Broker and Attorney Licensed in DC, MD, VA,

I loved reading through the comments- We joke at KW about not drinking the Kool-Aid- and i think you can love KW w/o drinking the Kool-Aid - I am glad I joined KW!

Dec 17, 2014 10:07 AM #77
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