In the mid-1990s, Nick Bailey was a rookie agent at Century 21 Real Estate (C21). Little did he know that 21 years later, almost to the day, he would be named CEO and president of the company at the age of 42, his career coming full circle.
Bailey’s appointment, effective August 28, was announced today. The former Zillow executive’s new gig marks “the beginning of a new era” for C21, according to CEO and president of parent company Realogy Franchise Group, John Peyton.
Bailey, who has held senior roles in franchising, brokerage, management and technology, leaves his current position as VP of broker relations at Zillow Group where he has provided innovative online technology and marketing solutions for real estate professionals and driven the expansion of products and services through partnerships, business development and broadening of brand awareness across the industry since mid-2014.
Prior to this, the executive was SVP of strategic relations at Market Leader, acquired by Zillow Group in 2013. He also worked in a number of senior regional management roles at Re/Max, helping to drive agent growth and retention, for over a decade.
“We are an agent-centric company, and with Nick’s analytical understanding of the needs and wants of today’s digital consumers, he will immediately begin fostering a culture of developing and retaining high-performing talent within C21 that leverages the company’s branding and marketing, knowledge-base and the Realogy Franchise Group’s ‘Centers of Excellence’ in delivering an unparalleled value proposition for personal and professional growth,” Peyton said in a statement.
The CEO and president position at C21 has been vacant since April when Rick Davidson moved aside after holding the position for seven years. In the meantime, C21 was run by the senior leadership team and managed day to day by COO Greg Sexton.
To-do list of the incoming CEO
Having been an agent, broker, franchisor and tech leader, Bailey brings a wide range of real estate experience to the table.
“Working in these different verticals has given me a unique look at what is happening in the real estate industry, the changes that have happened,” he told Inman.
The experience is enabling him to ask some key questions in his new role.
“I think brands and the brand value proposition are somewhat having an identity crisis,” he said. “Who is Century 21 today? What’s their value?”
As a leader, he will be helping agents better understand consumer needs.
“Buyers and sellers give us a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’ because buying and selling is still very difficult,” he said. “But for someone who has bought and sold and had a frustrating time, how can I take such a legacy brand and make it relevant for the consumer?”
Bailey is formulating what he called a “fresh image” or “re-imaging” for the C21 brand to attract more consumers, grow the brand’s market share, and continue the company’s growth path with a diverse sales force.
C21, established in 1971 in Orange County, currently has close to 7,450 independently owned and operated franchised broker offices in 79 countries and territories worldwide with more than 115,000 sales professionals.
‘The real estate transaction is pretty clunky right now’
The newly named CEO, who hosted last week’s Indie Broker Summit at Inman Connect San Francisco, laid out one of his biggest priorities in the new role.
“Century 21 has not been at the table in the industry having conversations,” he said. “I have been very visible at Zillow, and I want to use that [profile] to continue to bring Century 21 to the forefront.
“Century 21 has been invisible for the past two years. I will springboard off Zillow and continue to have a high profile in the industry on what’s ahead and what we can do. I’m looking forward to making the conversation.”
One pressing topic is how real estate companies are helping to solve problems for their agents, making their agents’ lives easier to better earn their commission, and improving the process for consumers at the same time, Bailey said.
“Netflix and Amazon have helped overcome consumer problems,” he added. “The real estate transaction is pretty clunky right now. How can I help, as a thought leader, to make agents’ lives easier and improve the transaction process as consumers demand?”
Woe betide the agent who is not ready for change, Bailey said; those who are will be doing the business. But despite the ways real estate is evolving, agents are still trying to connect with consumers who want to buy and sell homes while becoming successful ‘CEOs’ of their businesses, he said.
“I’m looking forward to being part of how to help agents be successful in a space that is really noisy,” Bailey told Inman. “When I talk to agents and brokers, there are so many choices and difficulties in making those choices, I want to help get them through some of that.”
And as the new C21 leader arranges his family’s relocation from Denver, Colorado, to C21’s headquarters in Madison, New Jersey, the task is bringing home to him how valuable the agent’s role is when searching for a new place to live. After having conversations with two agents, he has changed his target location.
An agent’s most important value add is the ability to guide you through all the details, he said.