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Century 21 Turns 50

Learn how the franchise is evolving and addressing the tough issues facing real estate today and in the future.

August 26, 2021

Hanna Pate

Hanna Pate

When Hanna Pate decided to open her own brokerage, she chose to buy a CENTURY 21 franchise.

“Not only do they have a strong network, but they share the same vision and the same mission that I had for my company,” says Pate, who became broker-owner of CENTURY 21 The Avenues, Calhoun, Ga., in March 2021. “The whole focus is on the consumer and delivering extraordinary experience, not just a transaction.”

That philosophy has been guiding CENTURY 21 in innovative technology, education for agents and franchise owners, and recruitment efforts for the past 50 years, says Michael Miedler, president and CEO.

“We are hanging our hat on the consumer experience,” he adds.

The company, which celebrates its golden anniversary this year, continues to grow throughout the world. It has more than 150,000 independent sales agents with 13,500 offices across 85 countries and territories worldwide.

“Real estate is a global business, and there is so much room to grow in the 85 countries we are in and other countries. We are just scratching the surface,” he says.

The History

In 1971, two real estate agents, Art Bartlett and Marsh Fisher, created the company in Santa Ana, Calif. A year later, the famous CENTURY 21 gold jackets became the visual marketing tool that every employee had to wear.

By 1976, the co-founders convinced thousands of independent real estate firms to sign on to the company.

Over the years, several companies have bought CENTURY 21, including Trans World Corporation, MetLife, and Hospitality Franchise Systems (later named Cendant). Realogy derived from Cendant when the latter split into different companies.

The franchising of CENTURY 21 began in 1981 and grew exponentially with more than 100 offices starting up per month including those in Canada, France, New Zealand, Mexico, and other countries.

Mike Miedler

Mike Miedler

The Accolades

In March, the real estate giant was named No. 1 on Entrepreneur Magazine’s list of top 500 fastest growing franchises. In the magazine’s July-August issue, CENTURY 21 also came in at No. 7 on its list of top global franchises overall, making it the top-ranked real estate brand on the list of 500 companies.

Miedler believes the professionals at CENTURY 21 who are intentional about bringing people through the home buying and selling process, are special and allows them to do double the amount of business, according to the company’s quality service survey.

Last year, Forbes named CENTURY 21 35th on its list of top 500 companies of best employers for diversity.

The Recent Changes

The company has been adding new technology to help agents, franchises owners, and consumers.

In 2018, the company applied a modern twist on its brand by designing a new C21 seal, which still included the gold and black scheme everyone recognizes. “The brand recognition has evolved so much,” Pate says. “The new rebranding was so attractive to me, and that went hand-in-hand with the feel I wanted for my office.”

Pate also was impressed with the 21Online platform that allows agents to personalize tools and online classes to help them with their individual goals and needs.

Miedler feels the recent unveiling of the company’s TRACKER app, which streamlines communication between agents and clients, brings clarity to a complex and confusing process.

“The biggest complaint consumers have is that is they don’t hear from their agents enough,” he says. “We’ve tried to figure out a way to help our professionals connect and communicate through this intuitive app that allows consumers to see through those 180 steps.”

The app helps relieve worries with push notifications and in-app alerts that allow clients to monitor every step of the transaction.

“It’s like the Domino’s pizza app. Once you put your order in, you know exactly where in the process your pizza is, from when it’s in the oven to the delivery truck to being at your front door,” he states. “We want to make the real estate process that easy.”

Thomas Bretz

Thomas Bretz

Thomas Bretz, CEO of CENTURY 21 Affiliated in Chicago, owns more than 100 offices with over 2,500 agents in five states with plans to grow new offices in other states, too. It’s the largest CENTURY 21 franchise.

“CENTURY 21 has a fantastic reputation both in the industry and at the consumer level,” he says.

Bretz believes a “good” real estate professional is extremely necessary in the home buying process.

The Tough Issues

Pate says that she is seeing more online brokerages buying up homes in her area. Plus, many investors are buying new construction and then turning around and leasing the entire neighborhood.

“That makes it hard in terms of inventory. How can we compete?” she says.

Miedler understands the concerns of franchise owners today—there have been real estate disruptors for as long as he’s been in the business.

“There’s just a segment of the market that do things differently. I don’t know if we have to compete with them,” he says.

CENTURY 21’s own version of doing business keeps the professional in the center of the transaction, he says, and quality service will never be unnecessary or unwarranted in real estate.

“The truth of the matter is, if you are an agent in this profession and provide tremendous service, those other things won’t get in your way. It’s a personal business, and you really need a human in between it all,” Miedler says.

Because CENTURY 21 embraces the philosophy that the real estate agent as integral to the transaction, Bretz believes it helps them develop the right technological advancements.

“They’ve done a good job—those dollars they spend are very important. Consumer eyeballs are on there all the time,” he admits. CENTURY 21’s web presence has been an asset, he adds, both in terms of attracting clients and recruiting sales professionals. “We get several leads a week from perspective agents.”

Another tough area CENTURY 21 is addressing is racial disparities in real estate and the housing gap. The company became one of the founding members of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP). It also collaborates with the Eva Longoria Foundation as part of “Empowering Latinas,” a scholarship initiative that helps Latinas obtain their real estate license and provides hands-on experience to prepare them for success in the real estate industry.

After the killing of George Floyd, Bretz says the company shifted its giving efforts from one bigger organization like Easter Seals to neighborhood-level organizations that address social inequality and racial issues. The company also provides paid time off for employees to vote and moved money to Black-owned banks.

Just this summer, CENTURY 21 formed a new alliance with Project Destined, a national platform providing diverse high school and college students and military veterans with business and real estate fundamentals for future careers. It includes mentors, career guidance, education, and “Shark Tank”–like competition in which recruits can win more than $5,000. The program is starting with diverse students from colleges and universities throughout Chicago.

The Future

Miedler believes that the 160 million millennials and Gen Z will be looking to get into homes sooner rather than later.

“Real estate propped up and got this economy moving again right during COVID-19. We’ve been on this wild ride the last 19 months,” he says.

There’s a greater awareness about and desire to build wealth through assets, he says. Plus, one in three people can work from home or telecommute. That’s allowing the possibility for people to look for homes in better weather and lower tax destinations, he adds.

But because housing in the U.S. has been underbuilt during the last decade, it’s a simple supply and demand issue, which is going to continue, Miedler says.

“Millennials won’t peak as first-time home buyers for another four years. It will be interesting to see,” he adds.


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Lee Nelson

Lee Nelson is a freelance journalist from Illinois. She writes for several state REALTOR® association magazines along with LawnStarter.com and Nurse.org. She has written for Yahoo!Homes, MyMortgageInsider.com, and TheMortgageReports. Contact Lee at leenelson77@yahoo.com.

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