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by CareyBot

Editor’s note: See related story: "Should I stay or should I go?"

Tucson’s second-largest brokerage, Realty Executives Southern Arizona, is rebranding as a Keller Williams franchise, but Realty Executives expects 100 or more of the brokerage’s 324 agents won’t make the move.

Keller Williams Southern Arizona owner Anthony Azar told Inman News he’s spent the last 12 months researching every major franchisor in the U.S. and Canada, "looking for the right systems and tools to support our agents."

Keller Williams is "culturally a very good fit for us, because it’s an agent-centric company, which is very much what we have been at our former brand," he said. "The agents are considered to be the brand, and we support the agents in their growth … the agent is in effect our customer."

In a press release announcing the launch of Keller Williams Southern Arizona on Tuesday, Austin, Texas-based Keller Williams Realty Inc. said it’s opened 30 new franchises in the last year, growing its North American agent count by 3 percent, to 76,879.

"When I saw Keller Williams was the only (franchisor) growing and others were shrinking — some virtually collapsing — that was proof to me of the real efficacy of their system," Azar said. "Their per-agent productivity was up last year in one of the most difficult real estate markets ever seen."

Phoenix-based Realty Executives International Inc. has been losing franchises in the U.S. in recent years, according to Entrepreneur.com, which gathers statistics about franchises and other businesses.

The number of U.S.-based Realty Executives franchises declined from 736 in 2006 to 585 in 2008, Entrepreneur.com reported. During that period, the company added 22 Canadian franchises and 25 foreign franchises, for a total of 122 franchises outside the U.S., the site said.

Realty Executives CEO Glenn Melton acknowledged that "absolutely there’s been attrition," but said the company continues to recruit and convert small and mid-sized brokerages around the country with between 30 and 220 agents.

Realty Executives has a presence in Tucson that dates back to 1972, and will continue to operate in the market as Realty Executives Tucson, he said.

Realty Executives has already leased and furnished a Tucson office that was recently vacated by a large title insurance company, Melton said, and plans to open at least two more offices in coming weeks.

Tuesday’s announcement that Realty Executives Southern Arizona would rebrand as a Keller Williams franchise came as a surprise to both Realty Executives and the brokerage’s agents, Melton said. …CONTINUED