Chris Heller: ‘There’s always business for agents who are willing to work’

Keller Williams Worldwide president gives his 2 cents on 2015

Chris Heller is president of Keller Williams Worldwide.

Are you optimistic about 2015?

Yes!

The economy?

We’re cautiously optimistic. The U.S. economy is fundamentally sound. We’re seeing strong GDP growth, and the unemployment rate is coming down. What we’d like to see is wage growth.

The housing market?

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Conditions vary from market to market, but overall the housing market continues to improve and is primed for steady growth. There’s more inventory coming online, price increases are stabilizing and mortgage rates remain very attractive.

Your success?

We believe 2015 is going to be another historic year for Keller Williams and our associates. We’ll become the worldwide leader in agent count and continue on our path to becoming the worldwide leader in transactions and sales volume.

What are you worried about?

We’re keeping a close eye on affordability and student loan debt. The housing affordability index has declined the past two years, which affects agents and consumers. And while the benefits of college still make advanced education a great long-term investment, the increasing debt load that students are taking on has implications for the real estate market. Student debt affects loan qualifications. It can also delay the homebuying cycle as graduates wait longer to buy their first homes.

How much do you fret about global events?

As we continue our expansion outside of North America (in 2014, we opened regions in Dubai, Mexico and Portugal), we are watching global events closely. That said, we’ve been very purposeful about who we have gotten into business with — experienced business leaders in stable, growing markets.

Will mortgage rates go up or down next year?

We anticipate they will rise slightly but remain at historically low levels. The average 30-year rate from 1990-2004 was 6.7 percent. Today’s 4.2 percent rate is very attractive by comparison.

Will home prices appreciate next year?

After the dizzying price increases we experienced early in the year, prices have settled into a healthy 4-6 percent range in most markets.

Will agents be more productive next year? Why or why not?

Keller Williams agents will be more productive! There’s always business for agents who are willing to work. We’re committed to providing our associates with the training and technology they need to grow their businesses and deliver exceptional client service.

Will the portals play a bigger role in real estate next year?

The portals will continue to serve as a marketing outlet. The bulk of consumers’ experiences buying or selling a home will come from interactions with their agent. The agent will continue to be the center of the transaction.

What will be the biggest source of real estate leads next year?

The same one it was this year and last year: individual agents’ spheres of influence. Most agents do business with people they already know. Homebuyers and sellers want to work with an agent they know, trust and value.

Are you making plans to expand, contract or maintain your business this year?

We’re planning on expansive growth. We’ve added 15,000 net associates this year and anticipate continued strong agent count growth. More important, we’re increasing agent productivity and office profitability. We’ll be entering new regions around the world and helping our Mega Agents expand into additional markets.

What is the biggest challenge for the industry in the coming year?

Differentiating the services of a great agent. Our opportunity as a profession is to exceed rising consumer expectations. We have to be responsive, knowledgeable and deliver great value.

Would you like to participate in our 2015 outlook series? Email us at contributors@inman.com!