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As the market shifts and competition among big brands grows ever more intense, a new Keller Williams franchise has launched in Jackson, Wyoming, this month with roughly two dozen agents that it managed to lure away from Compass.
Tyler Davis is leading the new franchise, dubbed Keller Williams Jackson Hole, as operating principal. Davis previously worked for local brokerage Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates but left several years ago to branch out on his own, he told Inman in a phone conversation.
In the ensuing years, he built a business that focused on investment and management. But he eventually wanted to add sales and opted to go with Keller Williams due to the company’s support programs and because the franchise could be locally owned. Davis also said he was attracted to Keller Williams’ caps on commission splits, which he believes can lead to agents taking home more money.
Davis said that at the end of August, his office has 27 agents. Of those agents, 24 joined from Compass. Defectors from Compass include Michael Pruett, the Neville Asbell Team, the Budge Kelley Team, Cindee George, Kelsey Spaulding and many others. According to Davis, both teams and individual Compass agents joined his office, though the entire group “considers themselves one big team.”
“Their loyalty was more to each other than it was to any brokerage or brand,” he added. “They kind of all sort of came together. It was kind of a snowball effect.”
The origins of the defections go back to May 2021, when Compass acquired Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates — though Davis had already left the company by the time of the acquisition. The deal was in keeping with Compass’ then-aggressive expansion strategy, which involved buying large and successful brokerages as it pushed into high-end markets across the country. Other high-profile acquisitions over the years includ Pacific Union, Paragon and a variety of ancillary service providers.
The strategy paid off for Compass, turning it in to the largest brokerage by sales volume in the U.S., though the costs were also great and so far profitability has eluded the company.
Compass has since paused its geographic expansion project amid a broader belt-tightening effort aimed at achieving profitability by next year.
According to Davis, the agents he recruited were attracted to Keller Williams for many of the same reasons he chose the company.
But asked if his success in recruiting Compass agents was due more to the appeal of Keller Williams or to dissatisfaction with Compass, Davis replied, “both.” He went on to point to Compass’ lack of profitability as a factor weighing on agents’ minds.
“Where do they sit in six months? Where do they sit in a year?” Davis wondered. “And what does that mean for individual agents?”
By contrast, Davis characterized Keller Williams’ model as more stable, particularly in a shifting market.
“The KW model has been proven, it’s not as risky from a financial standpoint,” he argued.
Overall, Compass has consistently been a recruiting juggernaut, to the point that the company’s efforts have stoked rivalries with many other major players in the industry. But agents leaving after their original brokerage is acquired is also not unheard of. Coldwell Banker, for instance, has repeatedly picked up agents and teams after big Compass acquisitions.
In Keller Williams’ case, the company’s best-known rival is eXp Realty, though founder Gary Keller’s comments about pivoting to technology do put it on something of a collision course with similarly tech-focused firms like Compass.
In any case, these high-level rivalries are likely to keep raging, even as franchises on the ground, such as Keller Williams Jackson Hole work to build their operations. And Davis said that even in a shifting market, he’s confident that the team of agents who have joined up already will be successful.
“The model that we have, with the agents we already have, even with the dip in the market we’re good,” he said.
Davis also said he plans to hire more agents from other brands, though thus far recruiting “caught fire with Compass” and he hasn’t yet had a chance to look further afield.
Davis’ agents similarly struck an optimistic tone.
Keller Williams provides “an amazing experience for agents and their clients,” Chad Budge, of the Budge Kelley Team, said in a statement. And Spaulding added in the statement that she “couldn’t be more excited for Keller Williams Jackson Hole and the brokers that make up our dynamic and collaborative office.”
“It is all about our clients and providing exceptional service and vast industry knowledge,” Spaulding continued. “Keller Williams is all about local ownership and local decisions, and I am thrilled to be a part of this office.”