The Norman Transcript

June 14, 2008

Keller Williams Realty celebrates 10 years

By Andrew Knittle

Transcript Staff Writer

Keller Williams Realty of Norman is celebrating 10 years of operation in the city — a fact co-owner Jan Mulinix said is no guarantee in the real estate business.

“In a lot of places around the country, you drive around town one day and you see a real estate business. Drive around a week later, and they could be gone,” she said.

Today’s real estate market, coupled with the mortgage and lending crises, is making it hard for everybody involved in the business of selling homes.

Keller Williams of Norman is no exception.

“The first nine years we were open — that was the best time to sell a house,” Mulinix said. “The toughest period has been now, during the last year.”

But Mulinix doesn’t seem worried. Instead, along with new Team Leader Dru Lee, the company seems confident in its future.

“We’ve been profitable every year we’ve been open,” Mulinix said. “I don’t see that changing.”

One reason for the confidence stems from the culture at Keller Williams, Lee said.

“This training is never-ending,” Lee said. “There are 7,000 hours of online training available for our associates. You would have to watch 24 hours a day for 291 days to finish it all.”

On-site classes also are taught on a regular basis. The Austin-based company even has its own university, which is available to all associates.

Lee said there’s a reason for the “never-ending training.”

“I think the hardest thing for an agent is doing the basics and having the discipline to do them day in, day out,” Lee said. “With the things we offer, it really keeps them plugged in and ready to get after it.”

In fact, Lee claimed that new agents usually increase their productivity by 31 percent after they join Keller Williams.

Mulinix and Lee said they don’t sell homes, which is unusual in Norman’s real estate industry.

“In Norman, in almost every single real estate office, the owners are competing against their agents,” Mulinix said. “How can I say: ‘Here let me help you,’ when I’m competing against you?”

Lee said Keller Williams of Norman further distinguishes itself from competitors by treating its employees fairly, whether they’re a top producer or somewhere in the middle.

“We treat our associates like partners, whereas a lot of real estate companies focus all their attention on one or two agents,” he said. “If that agent has a bad month, bad year, then it changes the company’s whole outlook.”

One big change

In the decade since Keller Williams of Norman opened, things have changed in the real estate business. Prices have gone up. Lending practices have gotten weird. But Mulinix and Lee agree the Internet has had the biggest impact on their business and how it’s conducted today.

“The last 10 years have changed for the positive,” Lee said. “Technology has changed the face of real estate nationwide. It’s taken us to a much more proficient, professional level.”

Mulinix said the Internet also has changed the buyer.

“When I first started, we had to get people in the cars, get them out to the house,” Mulinix said. “Today 80 percent of home buyers check online first, so they’ve already seen what they like and what they don’t. The Internet has saved us so much time.”

Norman’s Keller Williams agency has more than 60 associates, but only five full-time employees. The company is co-owned by Mulinix’s brother Russell, a corporate attorney in Oklahoma City.

“I will only work with family,” Mulinix said. “You trust them, you don’t have to question their loyalties.”

Russell’s profession also comes in handy, Mulinix said.

“It’s wonderful having a lawyer as part of the company,” she said. “We have access to Rusty pretty much whenever, unless he’s in court.”

Mulinix said she and her brother also have a system of checks and balances that keep the business running smoothly.

A good place

to sell homes

Oklahoma’s real estate industry is safe — at least compared with rest of the country — the Realtors said.

It may not be the sexiest place to sell a house and you probably won’t get rich off one quick sale, but it has the stability that many parts of the country are lacking at the moment.

“We’ve had a steady appreciation of home values in the area,” Lee said. “You haven’t seen the astronomical gains like on the West Coast or Northwest, but you haven’t seen the huge losses either. Our economy is stable here in Oklahoma.”

Lee said the market, which has been difficult for sellers nationwide, offers Keller Williams a challenge the company is eager to meet.

“In a great market, anyone can sell real estate,” he said. “In a shifting market, it really allows the better companies to come to the front and succeed.”

Mulinix said she plans to expand, but doesn’t seem too ambitious or greedy about the future.

“Our definite plan is for growth — from growth of the company to growth among our associates,” she said. “We want to be in business with the top people.”

Only time — and the real estate market — will tell.

Andrew Knittle