In July the Re/Max empire put a bow on the largest regional acquisition in its history, finalizing the purchase of the North American areas of sub-master franchisor Re/Max Integra for US$235 million.
This game plan has always been in the cards as a key pillar of the network’s growth strategy and push for competitive advantage. It brings more than 1,100 independently owned and operated Re/Max brokerages (and over 19,000 agents – 12,000 of them in Canada) under the Re/Max, LLC tent.
Re/Max, LLC president Nick Bailey says, “operating as one entity” means that Re/Max will be better able “to align and streamline operations across many functions by delivering the best tools, training and technology” at a greater and more consistent clip. The company says that hand in hand with improved efficiencies, many brokerages report receiving higher levels of service and attention after these transitions.
The acquisition includes operations in five Canadian provinces – Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland/Labrador, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island – and nine U.S. states – Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Here in the Great White North, all acquired brokerages were folded into Re/Max Canada.
The landmark sale is “a huge opportunity for us to be even stronger in the Canadian marketplace,” says Re/Max Canada’s new senior vice president, Christopher Alexander, who was formerly chief strategy officer and executive vice president of Re/Max Integra. “I love the brand. Having an opportunity to lead them in Canada has been a dream my whole life. I’m honoured.”
But it’s also the end of an era.
Alexander’s grandfather is Frank Polzler, who along with long-time business partner Walter Schneider co-founded Re/Max Integra over 40 years ago, eventually building it into Re/Max’s largest affiliate. Polzler and Schneider are hailed as trailblazers and Re/Max legends, one of the company’s great success stories. They’re widely credited with digging the then-fledgling Re/Max network out of debt and were instrumental in shaping it and revolutionizing commission structures, despite initially being so broke that Re/Max nearly rejected them outright.
“This sale fits the stage of life Frank and Walter are in. It made sense,” says Alexander. “But I speak for both families when I say it’s bittersweet.”
The franchisor publicly thanked Polzler and Schneider and their families, “for their dedication and passion in growing the Re/Max brand.”
The European region was not included in the sale, so Re/Max Integra will continue to own the master franchise there and manage operations. Their story “moves forward with Integra’s Re/Max Europe region, where they’ll continue to have a positive impact on region owners, franchisees, sales associates and consumers,” says head office. Michael Polzler (Alexander’s uncle) will continue as CEO of Re/Max Integra Europe.
Simon Schneider (Walter’s son) has been transitioned into the position of director of regional development for Re/Max Canada. “Simon is the only one staying on, on the Schneider side. And I’m the only one now on the Polzler side,” says Alexander.
When asked about Frank (now 88) and Walter (67), Alexander explains, with notable hesitation, that you could say that they are essentially retired from active operations. You know, pretty much. Well, perhaps not entirely…
Real estate is “a hard career to escape” in the Polzler and Schneider families, says Alexander with a laugh. Various family members on both sides over three generations have played key roles in Re/Max Integra. (Walter once described the enterprise as “a journey of two fellows and their extended families.”)
This includes Alexander’s mother Pam, who was CEO until retiring a couple of years ago. (“She says her inbox is now finally down 85 per cent.”)
With the sale there has been re-structuring all up and down the line.
“There were redundant roles that needed to be eliminated. Some people are still transitioning,” says Alexander. “About 35 to 40 per cent of the total Integra staff has been impacted in terms of job loss. The total Canadian staff roster is now about 35 people…It’s always hard. We had great people who worked for us for a long time.”
A few of them have been re-hired by the new regime, he adds.
“It’s a bit of a mixed bag. As needed we will continue to build the team. In terms of Re/Max Canada, our own staff is fired up at all the opportunities and nationally consistent offerings.”
Having the brokerages all under one umbrella aligns resources, says Alexander. “Agents and brokers will start to feel the power of a bigger marketing and tech budget. They’ll have more horsepower, so to speak.”
He says, “We’re streamlining offerings now. Re/Max’s (latest) lead management program will launch in Western Canada in the fourth quarter of 2021, and in Ontario and Atlantic Canada in the third quarter of next year. ”
There’s also a powerful data mining tool “with a recruiting portion for brokers,” used in the U.S. that he’d like to see in operation here in Canada. “But there’s only a 50/50 probability we can bring it here in its full capacity, due to our privacy laws.”
Asked for his views on the market, Alexander forecasts that due to limited supply, housing prices in Canada will continue to rise, although not at the speed of the past few months. He’s adamant that the government must find ways to address the inventory challenges. We’ll be hearing more from Re/Max Canada about this and about housing policy in general, he says.
“Consumers trust our brand. People look to us for real estate information. We feel the need to speak out.”
It sounds like speaking out is standard procedure in the Polzler and Schneider families.
“I was deeply involved with the sale, and I’ll tell you what the hardest part was when the negotiation started,” says Alexander. “It was managing the personalities and dynamics on both sides – all dominant personalities. Keeping everyone’s spirits up was fun …and exhausting.”