HomeLife Realty Services, headquartered in Toronto, is offering territory franchises in foreign countries in a bid to take its brand deeper into the international market.
The decision to push his franchise brand into the international market has been a long-standing goal for HomeLife CEO and company founder Andrew Cimerman. He is also the head of two other real estate brands, Realty World and Red Carpet, which already have an international presence.
He says queries both from within and outside the company has spurred the offering. It was initially made to HomeLife broker/owners and agents, says Cimerman, but it’s also available to other individuals who have not have had the opportunity to pick up territorial franchises or are bound by different restrictions in Canada. “We have no problem saying to these people if you want to go into business (outside Canada), we are willing to talk,” says Cimerman.
Cimerman is no stranger to the international market. More than 30 years ago when he started his own company, he realized the potential of franchising both in Canada and in other countries. He has had international master franchise agreements and sales representative offices in place in several countries, mainly for Realty World and Red Carpet. They are both active in the U.S. and Realty World also has international offices. It has sold master franchise agreements in Bulgaria, Serbia, Turkey and Mexico, and the brand has a single franchise in Panama (but no master agreement).
The HomeLife brand is less developed. It has a multi-office franchisee in Portugal but no master franchise, a Romania master franchise that was sold earlier and a representative office in Slovenia (with no intent to sell a master franchise). There’s an office in China but no master franchise there, and Cimerman says he is open to selling the whole country or any of the 50 regions.
Armenia’s rights were sold to HomeLife Vision Realty broker of record Ken Kakoullis.
Cimerman is now talking to representatives of an investment fund in India about the rights to that country. In mid-March, an inquiry came in regarding Moscow.
The price that Cimerman wants for the master franchise rights varies and is based on the potential to open franchisee offices. “A smaller country that may only be able to support 20 to 50 (franchise) agencies might cost $50,000,” he says, adding that in larger countries such as India, which can sustain 5,000 agencies, the price could rise to $2 million.
Acquiring international rights by master franchisees is a multi-phase process, he says. Initially, there is an inquiry relating to an interest, followed by exploratory sessions and then a face-to-face meeting with the principals. They are brought to the Toronto head office of HomeLife.
“We want them to see what we have available, to look at our systems and tools, to see our technology and model operation,” he says. “We want them to have a good idea of what we do and ensure that they will fit into our style.” In some countries, modifications to the HomeLife system may be required and such aspects are considered and discussed.
“We let them do their due diligence on us and we are also doing our due diligence on them,” he says.
Once an investor or a group of investors has acquired the rights to a territory or master franchise, they can sell franchises within that territory. The master franchisee receives 100 per cent of those sales proceeds.
When the HomeLife Canada corporate, foreign master franchisee and franchisee offices are in place, there is a sharing of revenues on real estate sales. Cimerman gives the example of a Munich HomeLife office (a franchisee agency) selling a home for 500,000 Euros and earning a five per cent commission of 25,000 Euros. The German master franchise owner would be entitled to five per cent of that 25,000 Euro commission, or 1,250 Euros. HomeLife in Canada would be entitled to 15 per cent of the German master franchisee’s 1,250 Euros or 187.50 Euros. However, if there is a need for the master franchisee to serve in a consulting capacity (because of language or other related issues), then the 15 per cent commission is split 50-50 between the two entities.
Cimerman is not waiting for deals to fall into his lap, but has a sales strategy in place that offers wealth-building opportunities for individuals who broker deals for a buyer or group of buyers.
“We pay 50 per cent to the broker who sold those rights,” he says, adding that if rights to India are estimated at $2 million, the broker gets a $1 million commission. He said the broker can be anyone who sees an opportunity, or an individual who is only working part-time but has the potential to find investors.
Selling internationally is proving a positive fit for Cimerman’s franchise business, as he has been fast to adapt computer and Internet technology that reaches around the world. Once a franchise is established, the agency or master franchisee has access to HomeLife’s online resource centre.
“We have more than 100 courses on the website and they only have to click to get the education they need,” he says, adding courses relate to all aspect of the business from selling to operating a master franchise.
Cimerman is also not unaware of the business synergies that can be created through an international network and agencies in the U.S. and Canada. HomeLife has programs in place to capture those benefits. There is the opportunity to assist with international moves as agents have access to both rental and home sales in all international markets. He also has programs in place that can determine the cost of moving items from country to country.
Ever the entrepreneur, Cimerman, who began in real estate with one suit and few dollars in his pocket, wants his international venture to create opportunities for new entrepreneurs; those individuals who may not have financial resources but are willing to work at a master franchise.
“We are really open to helping the world; it is not just about money but helping people reach a level they have dreamed of. I have a special place in my heart for people who are not financially strong but are entrepreneurial. We are welcoming these people even if they can’t pay upfront.”