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Mike Miedler is relentless.
The Century 21 president and CEO’s schedule is jam-packed from dawn until dusk, as he juggles meetings with executives, team leaders and broker-owners from across the globe. When he signed into his call with Inman at 9 a.m., Miedler was wide-eyed and energetic — stopping to make a brief comment about being a die-hard Taylor Swift fan — before jumping into his 2024 strategy for the C21 brand, which hinges on leveraging artificial intelligence, bullish merger and acquisition moves, and a focus on New York City.
“It’s been a strange and interesting marketplace,” he said. “We went from 2021 with the most homes that we’ve sold in a decade — over 6 million — to the following year where we had the least amount of homes that we sold in a decade. This year, we’re on pace to sell even less. There’s a lot of work we need to do as a country and as a real estate industry to improve affordability and get more inventory out there.”
“The big thing we’re focusing on is the proliferation of good, solid agents who treat consumers like the most important thing. They’ll continue to take their fair share of the market,” he added. “That comes through them doing the basics of this business every single day: Doing revenue-producing activities, using their technology, touching base with their sphere of influence, educating consumers about where the market is, and what their dollars will buy them and helping them through the process.”
Miedler spoke to Intel earlier this month about his 25th anniversary with the brokerage, using AI to recruit agents, gaining market share in New York City, and his plan to grow marketshare in 2024.
You started your real estate career with Century 21 25 years ago as the vice president of franchise sales. How has the real estate industry evolved over that time?
As much has changed over the course of my 25-plus years, so much has stayed the same, right? When you look at the actual real estate transaction itself, the amount of information that the customer has access to — the market knowledge and the data that’s readily available — has absolutely changed.
And for us as real estate professionals, the transaction has gotten simpler over time. I think back to when I first started, with the fax machine, the BlackBerry and those types of technologies. We’ve obviously leaped forward, but whether you like it or not, this business is all about being face-to-face, talking to people, and making as many connections and discussions as possible.
The folks who have had longevity and success over many years and decades, even, they’re all about taking care of that customer. They’re the ones who are earning that repeat and referral business. So a lot has changed in the way that we approach [the transaction], but I think it always keeps falling back to really giving [buyers and sellers] the best experience — you get the job done and can play to the emotional component, which is the biggest part of the real estate transaction in a lot of ways.
Let’s talk more about technology. The pandemic accelerated real estate’s journey into the digital age, and this year’s technology obsession, of course, has been OpenAI’s ChatGPT. What are your thoughts about artificial intelligence and how it can help (or hinder) the transaction experience for consumers and agents?
Where AI really becomes interesting is when we think about data and data privacy. It’s almost a little bit of a double-edged sword.
I believe that AI products that are out there will absolutely help us be more pinpointed, more accurate and more successful. In our organization, we are using AI to identify and prospect specific recruits that we believe at some point will have greater success in the industry based on the value proposition that we have as the Century 21 brand.
Data and information will also help our real estate professionals find consumers who are more likely to transact over time, so I do think it points us to places where we should be putting more of our time and energy into trying to build our books of business.
But it is a little bit scary when you think about it in the amount of data and information that’s in there, and we’ve got to be careful to make sure we’re managing it appropriately. It’s going to be interesting to see as it evolves and what happens to the industry. But, I know certainly industries are already disrupted by it.
Let’s talk more about recruiting. The current market has pushed a lot of brokerage leaders to fine tune their recruiting and retention strategy, and from my understanding, Century 21 has had quite a bit of success this year with expanding the brand in New York City and a few other key areas on the East Coast. How did this strategy come about?
We, obviously, during COVID have seen a great reshuffling around the country. A lot of it was driven by people transitioning to remote work, and they were moving to destinations that either had better weather, were better from a tax perspective, cheaper to raise families, or places they always wanted to visit and or be in.
As life has come back a little bit to normal, I’ve seen a little bit of a swing of a pendulum and folks coming back to some of the cities that they migrated away from. The big cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco — places where you have a large density of population. We’re seeing folks really want to be in those areas again and soak up the culture, the diversity and the job activity and opportunity.
So, we’ve been very intentional about New York City and some of the other major markets that we’ve moved into. We’ll continue to see folks really attracted to places that are international hubs and where the jobs are as sectors come back into the office and spend more time collaborating with one another.
What’s the process of determining if a potential affiliate is a good match? I’d imagine that you have a lot of brokers who want to connect themselves to such an established brand.
In New York City, every couple of blocks is a different marketplace. The city is incredibly diverse, and diversity is obviously in the DNA of Century 21. Right? We’re in 84 different countries with 140,000 sales professionals worldwide. New York City is the global headquarters of the United States from a financial perspective, an arts perspective, a culture perspective, a fashion perspective, etc.
The National Association of Realtors ran a report about the increase in residential real estate spending from global buyers, which subsided a bit during COVID. That spending is coming back, and having a presence in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and all of these boroughs is super important.
We have a great young, diverse company that operates in Manhattan and the Bronx. We’ve gone to Brooklyn, we’ve been in Queens and I think there’s still room for us to grow in each one of those markets. If you walk down certain boulevards in in Queens or Brooklyn, the diversity of people and the diversity of the marketplace, you could see a listing for $678,000 and move a couple more blocks away and you’re talking about $1.2 million to $1.5 million.
That’s why it is super important for us to make sure that we are aligning ourselves with entrepreneurs, broker-owners and agents who have the same culture and belief in our brand promise. We rebranded ourselves five years ago and along with that rebranding came a new mission statement for our organization — we’re relentless.
When we’re out there speaking with people, we talk about an opportunity to grow and an opportunity to help bring them solutions to serve their consumers better. They really have to match with our culture. We’ve had 80-plus new companies come into the Century 21 system in the past 18 months, and there’s not one new company that I haven’t spoken to to make sure that they aligned with what we’re trying to accomplish. They’ve got to have that same kind of mindset around serving the consumer and making it an amazing experience when they deliver that dream of homeownership.
I’ve written about New York City, and they’ve often been on the other side of the pendulum. When markets were experiencing a pandemic boom, NYC was in the midst of a downturn. And when those pandemic hotspots started to slow down, NYC was on the upswing. Outside of that period in time, I know NYC is a beast of its own. How are you making sure your new affiliates are successful?
No matter what market I go to, everybody says, “Our market is a little bit different.” And honestly, the markets aren’t that different. I think the core of what it takes to be successful in real estate is absolutely true. However, that said, New York City is just different. It’s different for so many reasons. There’s the diversity of the people, the diversity of the economic marketplace, the relationship of renters and buyers, the property types and the neighborhoods. I mean, some neighborhoods have been there for centuries.
One of the things that we try to help our agents recognize is the core of the business, which surrounds having a positive mindset, making sure you’re prospecting and making sure you’re using your sphere of influence. We’re also training them to provide great experiences and great customer service by providing the best tools, the best systems, the best marketing, and the best intelligence so that those agents can absolutely serve their customers in the best way possible.
We’re spending a lot of our time, energy and effort on that, as I mentioned earlier in our conversation about AI. They get consumer feedback after closing a transaction through our quality service program, and we encourage them to better themselves using that feedback. That’s where we believe the rubber hits the road. That’s where we believe that you have the longevity of real estate professionals.
As you look toward 2024, what’s on your mind? The industry is changing and there’s anxiety about what’s coming next. How do you see C21 being able to break through the noise and lead?
Great question. So I think first and foremost, we’ve already ramped up our strategy for 2024. We’re getting into budgeting season and trying to figure out exactly where we’ve got to put in time, money and energy to grow. Whether you’re an agent, whether you’re a broker, whether you’re a leader of a big organization, you should obviously go about anything with a growth mindset.
For us, it’s all about extending the Century 21 system, both through bringing in new companies, and mergers and acquisitions for some of our better, well-established, ready, willing and able companies. We’ve seen consolidation in the market, and we see that trajectory continuing to move in the upward direction.
We have a strong value proposition. We have a new emphasis on our presence in the digital and social space, which has been really cool. And I think it’s going to continue to build momentum for us through the end of the year alongside some of the big announcements that we’re going to make at our conference in March. We continue to elevate the products that we bring to our agent base so that they become more productive, and the Moxi[Works] platform has made a big difference in agent production. [Anywhere] did a deal with RealScout, which I think will bring another benefit to the organization.
We also invest a lot in our training and education platforms and take [affiliates] on a path of continuous learning throughout the year in order for them to elevate their game. So we’re just focused on growth, whether it’s for our system, for our entrepreneur broker-owners, or for our agents. We believe when we focus on growth good things will happen to the entire C21 system.