Four and a half months after launching a franchise brand, Chicago’s @properties today announced that Detroit-based Alexander Real Estate will become its first franchise company.
As a franchise, Alexander Real Estate will rebrand itself to operate under the @properties banner. It also aims to “quickly grow from $120 million to $500 million in annual sales by gaining market share in the areas it currently serves and expanding throughout the Detroit metro area,” according to a company statement.
Eric Walstrom and Alex Irrer founded Alexander Real Estate in 2016. Since then, the company has grown quickly and is now the top broker in downtown Detroit, among other things, the statement notes.
Thad Wong, @properties co-founder and co-CEO, told Inman that conversations with Alexander Real Estate began last year. During those conversations, it quickly became apparent that the two companies shared similar DNA. They both grew rapidly and became leaders in their respective cities, for example, and initially focused on new construction. And over time, Wong and his team became convinced @properties’ technology and resources could help propel Alexander Real Estate even higher.
“In talking with them and getting to know them,” Wong said, “we saw a position in the city that could be grown. We thought we’d be able to partner very nicely with them.”
Wong also said he appreciates that @properties’ first franchise is in a city that’s close to his company’s Chicago base. Because people frequently move between the two metro areas, @properties has some name recognition and clout in Detroit, making it an ideal place to expand the brand.
“The proximity for us is a huge advantage,” he added. “I’m really happy that the first franchise we can announce is so close to home.”
Walstrom, from Alexander Real Estate, said that he explored numerous options for franchising, ultimately leaving “no stone unturned.” It wasn’t a fast process, but ultimately has he learned about @propertiers the decision became “a no brainer.”
“I think culture was number one,” he added of the things that drew him to @properties. “And then all the offerings with technology. They’ve done an amazing job of building technology for their own agents. They’ve definitely been a leader in the Chicago market, so we’re looking to replicate that.”
Alexander Real Estate currently has 45 agents. Walstrom said the goal now is to grow the company by attracting capable, top-producing agents who can help push the company into surrounding communities. There isn’t a specific target with regard to the company’s agent count, though Walstrom did say the plan is to open more offices in the near future.
Walstrom added that among his company’s existing agents, the reaction to joining @properties has “been really, really positive.”
The launch of @properties franchise brand came at the very end of last September. At the time, Wong touted his company’s technology and track record as among the most appealing reasons other real estate firms might want to join @properties.
Speaking with Inman this week, Wong said that @properties is currently in discussion with a number of other firms about joining the franchise program. He didn’t say which companies those were, but noted that “we’ve got a good number of franchises we’ll be announcing in the next six months.” Additional announcements should happen in 2022.
The goal going forward is to grow the brand, though growth will only happen at “the pace we can sustain.”
Asked why @properties opted to start a franchise brand, rather than simply acquiring and absorbing brokerages the way a company like Compass has done, Wong said that there is an advantage to having the “soul of an independent operator” running offices.
“I think they’ll be more successful having their own skin in the game,” he continued, adding that by going the @properties route “you have the local knowledge of the entrepreneur” at your disposal.
In the case of Alexander Real Estate, the on-boarding has already been under way for some time now, meaning that the company should be able to hit the ground running as an @properties-branded firm. The existing leadership team will remain in place, and Walstrom ultimately expressed excitement about what comes next.
“It’s been an amazing process working with the @ team,” he concluded. “We’re very much looking forward to this.”