Guest post by Julie Kinnear, a Toronto real estate agent.

As is the case in most developed countries in the world, so it is in Canada: there are a handful of major players in the real estate business who collectively dominate the vast majority of the market. Even online services have been largely unable to shake the strong tradition of the real estate agent profession thus far.

This is in part because of the fact that human contact and personal trust are indispensable when it comes to an investment as large as a house. Most of us feel comfortable ordering a book, a movie, or a pizza over the internet, but a house is a completely different story.

Ontario Real EstateFor these reasons, about two thirds of the market in Ontario alone is controlled by five to six large agent networks (according to 2010 bought and sold statistics). In Ottawa, six players control as much as 90% of the local market. And when you’re dealing with so much power, it is good to know something about your Realtors®, isn’t it?

Let’s now look at a brief history of each of the largest real estate firms in Ontario.

RE/MAX

RE/MAX was established in Colorado in 1973 to organize real estate agents and allow them to benefit from the synergy of their working together. It had a rocket start, selling the first franchise outside of Colorado a mere two years later.

The first Canadian branch sprouted on the East Coast in 1979. This is still the primary area of influence for the company in the country. RE/MAX has since then “overgrown North America” and settled in many European countries. Israel and a couple of Asian countries are now familiar with the iconic red-and-blue hot-air balloon, too.

RE/MAX is the network with the largest turnover in most Ontario areas, closely followed by Royal LePage.

Royal LePage

Royal LePage is a respected real estate agent network with the longest experience in the Canadian market. It was founded in 1913 by Albert Edward LePage, a 26-year old realty enthusiast, as A. E. LePage Real Estate. The company will thus be celebrating its centennial in 2013. In Canada, Royal LePage is the largest real estate network originating within the country.

Albert LePage was also a founding member of the Ontario Real Estate Association and the Toronto Real Estate Board — two of his many realty career achievements. Nearly 14,000 agents are affiliated with Royal LePage today.

Among the strengths of Royal LePage is its presence across the nation and its reach within relatively small municipalities — this is, of course, in addition to the metropolitan centres. The second largest network in terms of property turnover in Toronto is Royal LePage.

Sutton Group

The Sutton Group came to Ontario with the western wind. Founded in Vancouver in 1983, it had spread across to Atlantic Canada within the first ten years of its existence. Claiming to be the first company to have a website, Sutton is now the home-brand of over 8,700 Realtors®.

In most areas (including Ontario), Sutton ranks within the top seven for its number of closed deals, on the buyers’ as well as the sellers’ side. While RE/MAX and Royal LePage are the industry leaders, there is nonetheless a much smaller bite of the real estate cake left for the smaller players.

Century 21

Century 21 came to Canada as a Vancouver-based franchise in 1974, after its successful launch in California in 1971. There are several hundred independently owned brokers operating in Canada under the Century 21 franchise.
Century 21 is a significant player in Ontario, ranking among the top five big realty networks.

HomeLife

HomeLife has been around for over 35 years. Founded in 1985, HomeLife has been consistently spreading its presence inside and outside of Canada.

HomeLife has considerable presence in certain parts of Toronto — namely Richmond Hill and Central Toronto. Here, it is only slightly lagging behind RE/MAX and Royal LePage.

Keller Williams

Keller Williams was, unsurprisingly, founded by Gary Keller and Joe Williams, in the United States. While the company was busy climbing to the #3 residential real estate company in the US, it has been spreading its nets in Canada as well.

In Ontario, the company has 13 Keller Williams-branded offices, including three in Toronto and four in Ottawa.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this brief enumeration of Ontario’s most influential real estate networks. Please let us know in the comments if you’d like to know more details about either of them.

Brought to you by Julie Kinnear, a Toronto real estate agent. Visit Julie’s GTA and Toronto MLS here. See here for more detailed real estate statistics.

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