Evolution is all part of the process of re-engineering the real estate industry and the home buying process so every time I come across a new business model that is working I get excited. Some may say that this concept is not truly new, but with its format and European origin, it is definitely unique and very different.
Originally launched in 1977 as Engel & Cie., the company changed its name in 1987 to Engel & Völkers. It operated pretty much as a traditional real estate franchise until the mid 1990's when its owner and Managing Director, Christian Volkers, decided to completely change the direction of the company.
The concept was to create a Real Estate Shop Concept. Similar to most franchise businesses where the design, layout, system and brand of the franchise is more uniform. Volkers felt that if you wanted to maintain high quality then you need more consistency and there was no reason that real estate franchises should be any different than other service industry franchises.
The first Real Estate Shop in 1995 and the company never looked back. Now in over 25 countries with over 350 Real Estate Shops, Engel & Völkers has become one of the world's truly global real estate brokerage companies offering a much higher quality of service and consistency to their high-end clients for the brokerage of prestige residential property, commercial real estate and yachts.
I first wrote about the company in 2006 and mentioned them in the 2007 edition of the Swanepoel TRENDS Report. Since then they refined their shop model for the American market and have opened some 14 Engel & Völkers shops in New York, the Hamptons and Florida. And now Engel & Völkers has expanded to the single largest real estate market in the world - California - by opening their West Coast Head Office in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles.
Some initial responses might be that the shop concept won't work in the American real estate industry, but I think that the 350 shops in 25 countries, include the US disprove that. The shop concept is unquestionably not for everyone, but it is a progressive new concept for an industry that has long been looking for innovation.
I definitely think there is a place for this concept and it is going to be interesting to watch their growth in the US. What do you think?