Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

From Austin to the Alps, Keller Williams expands globally 

Keller Williams Worldwide leads a trend among U.S. residential real estate companies to grow operations internationally.

October 28, 2022
4 minutes

Key points:

  • William Soteroff, president of Keller Williams Worldwide, says the company’s training and technology are a “powerful combination.”
  • KW Switzerland is the company’s newest franchise and its 16th in Europe.

William Soteroff has traveled to more than 70 countries across several continents to seek new global opportunities for Keller Williams.

After eight years of expansion, Keller Williams Worldwide operates franchises in more than 55 countries, from Albania and Aruba to Thailand and the Turks and Caicos. 

"Our proprietary systems and models, training and technology are a powerful combination," said Soteroff, president of Keller Williams Worldwide, who leads an Austin-based team focused exclusively on KW expansions beyond the U.S. and Canada.  

In mid-October the company announced KW Switzerland, a new franchise that is expected to open in the first quarter of 2023. KW Switzerland will be the company's 16th franchise in Europe. 

Christian Fabre, who has been operating Keller Williams brokerages in France and Monaco since 2017, is launching KW Switzerland. He told Real Estate News that the KW approach to real estate has provided him more opportunities for business growth in competitive markets.

Fabre was introduced to Keller Williams by his adult son, Jerome, who learned of the company while working as an intern in Florida. The younger Fabre today serves as president of KW France. 

"With Keller Williams, I discovered the 'interdependent' business model, a very powerful value proposition and an opportunity without limit," Christian Fabre said. "This was very disruptive and became my best advantage to succeed in a very established market," Fabre said about his real estate companies in France and Monaco. "Our growth is exponential."

Global expansion is part of a trend

Keller Williams represents a trend among U.S. residential real estate companies to grow their operations internationally in nations where the government is stable and commerce is open and welcoming to American businesses. 

RE/MAX continues to extend its reach, with franchises in more than 115 countries and territories — the most of any real estate brand. Sotheby's International Realty operates in more than 70 countries, from Cannes, France, to Cancun, Mexico.

The National Association of Realtors also is growing its organization globally, supporting members who are agents and associates working around the world. NAR Global's mission is to bring transparency and reliability to international real estate transactions, according to the trade association.

'Entrepreneurs for Keller Williams'

At Keller Williams Worldwide, Soteroff is careful to recognize and respect another country's culture and customs. But the company also focuses on educating agents and associates on the Keller Williams business model.

"We don't go into a country to change the way business is done," Soteroff said. "We allow individuals in the industry to maximize their energy as entrepreneurs for Keller Williams and organize as agents or teams and work in market centers," Soteroff said.

But future KW agents and business owners "need to have a passion for bringing our [company] culture to their country," Soteroff said.

Keller Williams expects new licensees to have a qualified leadership team in place that understands and will implement the company's business practices and approach to buying and selling homes. That approach, according to Keller Williams, is agent-centric, technology-focused and supported by education and training.

"We want to help agents become professional entrepreneurs," Soteroff said. "We want to create a path for people to own and operate a KW market center," the company's term for a Keller Williams-branded real estate agency.

Keller Williams organizes conferences in Asia, Europe, Central and South America and the Caribbean to promote the company's business model and draw interest from potential investors. The informational meetings are paying off.

Keller Williams Worldwide today has more than 300 market centers outside of the U.S. and Canada. There are 16,613 international agents for Keller Williams, up 22.7% since the end of August 2021.

'Our work is with people'

Future franchisors must abide by certain principles to open and operate. "They need to lead with revenue, not expenses; keep overhead and fixed expenses low; and have a high volume/low margin business strategy," Soteroff said. 

"We cannot open and start them off in debt; they have to be profitable in three months by regulation," he said. "When we open an office, it is very important for it to run efficiently. Not a lot of business schools teach that. They are using the Keller Williams' system and models to be better and more efficient as they run their real estate business."

At its core, said Soteroff, "Our work is with people — to give them guidance about Keller Williams' unique culture and unique proprietary technology."

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