RE/MAX founder Dave Liniger and CEO Nick Bailey cemented the Denver-based franchisor’s 2023 R4 conference with personal keynotes reflecting on RE/MAX’s past and hopes for its future.

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Nearly 50 years ago, Dave Liniger hosted his first RE/MAX conference at the Thunderbird Inn.

“It was a dump,” Liniger said while facing a crowd of thousands of agents sporting 50th-anniversary hats in RE/MAX’s signature colors. “It had 50 rooms and we were in one meeting room with 26 people there.”

“Our keynote speaker walked into the hotel, and he said, ‘I’ll be back tomorrow morning.’ He went over to the Hilton,” he added, stirring up a round of laughs. “I think the Thunderbird Inn was built on this land, and they took it down and put this gigantic place up. So in 50 years, we’ve come a long, long way.”

Liniger went on to give a heartfelt review of RE/MAX’s history, detailing how the U.S. Air Force helped him hone the leadership skills needed to succeed in real estate and how mounting debt almost crushed RE/MAX in its formative years until he hired Gail Main, the woman who’d get the burgeoning franchisor back on its feet before becoming Mrs. Liniger nearly a decade later.

“She was the real deal,” he said before showing a video reel of Gail’s contributions to RE/MAX as an executive and wife. “Charismatic, hard-working, stubborn, if you will, confident, optimistic and a perfect partner.”

Adam Contos escorts Gail Liniger onstage during Dave Liniger’s opening message. | Stones Throw Images

From there, Liniger drew parallels between his first years in the market and now, saying that larger and more resourced competitors doubted RE/MAX’s ability to last through the volatility of the 1970s. However, the franchisor has been able to outlast them all.

“Everybody said they were going to be the biggest, the best,” he said. “And of course, it’s often quoted by Darwin, that it’s the strongest that survives. That’s not true. And that isn’t what he said.”

“It’s not the strongest that survive,” he said. “After all, the dinosaurs were the strongest, and they’re gone. But mosquitoes are still here, hundreds of years later. It seems to me that we’ve always talked about the quality of our agents, but in reality, it’s the adaptability of the best brokers and the best agents that makes this system work.”

After concluding his opening message, Liniger welcomed RE/MAX CEO Nick Bailey onstage to cast a bold vision for the Denver-based franchisor’s next 50 years, saying that adaptability and a commitment to strong business ethics will be what enable RE/MAX to thrive through a volatile market.

Nick Bailey delivers his R4 keynote. | Stones Throw Images

“People have a lot of questions [about this market],” Bailey said. “But we have to focus on what we can control and not what we cannot control. With the market, can we control the interest rates, inflation, the [Federal Reserve] or the economy?”

“No,” the crowd roared back.

“But isn’t that all the stuff we worry about?” he continued. “We have to focus on what can we control in our businesses and not worry about what we can’t control.”

Although the market is facing a downturn, Bailey said generational trends and life circumstances — marriage, divorce, retirement, job opportunities — will continue to drive consumers to buy and sell homes, and agents who master the basics and remain adaptable will be the ones to succeed.

“I am very clear on two things: One, guess what’s going to happen in 2023? People are going to buy and sell houses. It’s going to happen,” he said. “And number two, that the most experienced agents have the upper hand.”

“Consumers really want three things,” he added. “They want trust, they want knowledge and they want experience.”

Bailey said the rapid-fire conditions of 2020, 2021 and part of 2022 enabled agents to slack on some of their basic skills — such as maintaining a database and nurturing a strong referral funnel — and still be wildly successful. That, he said, won’t work anymore.

“There are only three things that I want you to focus on,” he said. “No. 1, drive connections right now, and what I mean by that is pour into your sphere.”

“There was the frenzy of the market. My forecast last year in January was that I thought a lot of agents are gonna go from burnout to broke. You were so busy, right?” he added. “Our spheres have been ignored.”

“Top producers, the vast majority of their business, over 90 percent, generally comes from repeats and referrals. Pour into your sphere the business is there.”

Bailey also encouraged agents to better leverage technology to better serve consumers and to reinvest in open houses, staging and other sales methods that fell out of vogue when the market was moving much faster.

“Tech can be a toy, or tech can be a tool,” he said about the growing influence of artificial intelligence a’la ChatGPT and DALL-E. “We’re not going to have tech to be a toy. We’re going to look at tech and fill in the gaps of what makes you more efficient as an agent and what helps drive the buyer and seller experience.”

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

Bailey went on to tout the power of MAX/Tech by kvCORE and the RE/MAX Hustle platforms, which help streamline transactions and customer relationship management and automate the marketing process for agents and brokers.

The CEO also announced a major upgrade to the RE/MAX Global Referrals Platform, which will use GryphTech technology to auto-translate referrals in more than 50 languages — something he said will give RE/MAX and its affiliates a major advantage as the global real estate market continues to normalize.

“Get your smart tech humming,” Bailey said. “Get it humming for you because it will deliver business to you.”

He added, “And when it comes to your marketing, get loud. Use the RE/MAX resources that don’t have any expense to them so that your consumers and future consumers don’t forget who you are.”

Finally, Bailey ended the keynote with a brief story about his professional journey, saying that like Liniger, his first years in the industry were tough as he balanced a 200-mile commute three days a week to attend college classes. He, and others, weren’t sure he’d make it in real estate until he came to RE/MAX.

“I learned from being around all of you that there was something that totally outweighed the chances of him not succeeding and his enthusiasm and willingness to learn,” he said, concealing the fact the hero of the story was him. “The odds are stacked against you when you first get your license, aren’t they? Some of you have been in the business 20 or 30 years, the market changes, and the odds are stacked against you.”

With cheers from the crowd growing, Bailey said he believes RE/MAX’s tech investments and performance this year will enable the franchisor to reach 200,000 agents worldwide by 2028 — a mark that would make them one of — if not the biggest — real estate companies in the world by agent count.

“We have to just have the enthusiasm that overrides anything,” he said. “I want you to leave R4 with confidence in the housing market, confidence knowing that you are the most trusted, knowledgeable and productive agents in the history of this business and that you are without question in the right place at the right time.”

“You’re unstoppable.”

Email Marian McPherson

Dave Liniger | RE/MAX
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