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Portions of the registrant’s Proxy Statement for the 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders are incorporated into Part III of this Annual Report on Form 10-K where indicated. Such proxy statement will be filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission within 120 days of the registrant’s fiscal year ended December 31, 2020.
RE/MAX HOLDINGS, INC.
2020 ANNUAL REPORT ON FORM 10-K
TABLE OF CONTENTS
This Annual Report on Form 10-K contains forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking statements give our current expectations and projections relating to our financial condition, results of operations, plans, objectives, future performance and business. You can identify forward-looking statements by the fact that they do not relate strictly to historical or current facts. These statements are often identified by the use of words such as “believe,” “intend,” “expect,” “estimate,” “plan,” “outlook,” “project,” “anticipate,” “may,” “will,” “would” and other similar words and expressions that predict or indicate future events or trends that are not statements of historical matters. Forward-looking statements include statements related to:
|●||our expectations regarding consumer trends in residential real estate transactions;|
|●||our expectations regarding overall economic and demographic trends, including the health of the United States (“U.S.”) and Canadian residential real estate markets, and how they affect our performance;|
|●||our strategies for growing our RE/MAX and Motto Mortgage brands, including (a) increasing RE/MAX agent count, increasing the number of closed transaction sides and transaction sides per RE/MAX agent, and (b) increasing the number of open Motto Mortgage offices;|
|●||the anticipated benefits of our technology initiatives;|
|●||the continued strength of our brands both in the U.S. and Canada and in the rest of the world;|
|●||the pursuit of future acquisitions and the anticipated benefits of past acquisitions, including the future performance of businesses we have acquired;|
|●||our intention to pay dividends;|
|●||our future financial performance including our ability to appropriately forecast;|
|●||the effects of laws applying to our business and our future compliance with laws;|
|●||our ability to retain our senior management and other key employees;|
|●||other plans and objectives for future operations, growth, initiatives, acquisitions or strategies, including investments in our technology;|
|●||our ability to effectively implement and account for changes in tax laws;|
|●||the anticipated outcome of the Moehrl-related suits, including any risks or uncertainties with regard to any favorable or unfavorable judgements and implications to our industry.|
These and other forward-looking statements are subject to risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ materially from those that we expected. We derive many of our forward-looking statements from our operating budgets and forecasts, which are based upon many detailed assumptions. While we believe that our assumptions are reasonable, we caution that it is very difficult to predict the impact of known factors and it is impossible for us to anticipate all factors that could affect our actual results. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from our expectations, or cautionary statements, are disclosed in “Item 1A.—Risk Factors” and in “Item 7.—Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
We caution you that the important factors referenced above may not contain all of the factors that are important to you. In addition, we cannot assure you that we will realize the results or developments we expect or anticipate or, even if substantially realized, that they will result in the consequences or affect us or our operations in the way we expect. The forward-looking statements included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K are made only as of the date of this report. We undertake no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statement as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.
ITEM 1. BUSINESS
We are one of the world’s leading franchisors in the real estate industry. We franchise real estate brokerages globally under the RE/MAX brand (“RE/MAX”) and mortgage brokerages in the U.S. under the Motto Mortgage brand (“Motto”). We also sell ancillary products and services, primarily technology, to our franchise networks and, in certain instances, we commercialize those offerings outside our franchise networks. We organize our business based on the services we provide in Real Estate, Mortgage and our collective franchise marketing operations, known as the Marketing Funds. RE/MAX and Motto are 100% franchised—we do not own any of the brokerages that operate under these brands. We focus on enabling our networks’ success by providing powerful technology, quality education and training, and valuable marketing to build the strength of the RE/MAX and Motto brands. We support our franchisees in growing their brokerages, although, they fund the cost of developing their brokerages. As a result, we maintain a low fixed-cost structure which, combined with our recurring fee-based models, enables us to capitalize on the economic benefits of the franchising model, yielding high margins and significant cash flow.
RE/MAX was founded in 1973 with an innovative, entrepreneurial culture affording our franchisees and their agents the flexibility to operate their businesses with great independence. In the early years of our expansion in the U.S. and Canada, we accelerated the brand’s growth by selling regional franchise rights to independent owners for certain geographic regions, a practice we still employ in countries outside of the U.S. and Canada. RE/MAX has held the number one market share in the U.S. and Canada combined since 1999, as measured by total residential transaction sides completed by our agents. On June 25, 2013, RE/MAX Holdings, Inc. (“Holdings”) was formed as a Delaware corporation. On October 7, 2013, we completed an initial public offering of our Class A common stock, which trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “RMAX”. In October 2016, we launched Motto, the first national mortgage brokerage franchise offering in the United States.
RE/MAX. The RE/MAX strategy is to sell franchises and help those franchisees recruit and retain the best agents. The RE/MAX brand is built on the strength of our global franchise network, which is designed to attract and retain the best-performing and most experienced agents by maximizing their opportunity to retain a larger portion of their commissions. Some RE/MAX affiliates may also sell luxury real estate under The RE/MAX Collection® brand and commercial real estate under the RE/MAX Commercial® brand. As a result of our unique agent-centric approach, we have established a nearly 50-year track record of helping millions of homebuyers and sellers achieve their goals, creating several competitive advantages in the process:
|●||Leading agent productivity. RE/MAX agents are, on average, substantially more productive than the industry average. RE/MAX agents at large brokerages on average outsell competing agents more than two-to-one in both the 2020 REAL Trends 500 survey of the largest participating U.S. brokerages and the RISMedia 2020 Power Broker Top 1,000 survey.|
2019 U.S. Transactions Per Agent
(1) Transaction sides per agent are calculated by RE/MAX based on 2020 REAL Trends 500 data, citing 2019 transaction sides for the 1,711 largest participating U.S. brokerages.
|●||Technology, Tools and Training. In the U.S., we introduced the powerful booj Platform in 2019, a fully integrated technology platform custom-built for RE/MAX's unique entrepreneurial culture and expect to expand our technology offerings to certain RE/MAX affiliates in Canada in 2021 and subsequently to the RE/MAX network globally. We are enhancing the platform over time including, securing the location intelligence data that powers the platform with the acquisition of The Gadberry Group (“Gadberry”) in 2020 and integrating premium offerings to drive enhanced lead generation opportunities with the acquisition of First in 2019. We also provide agents and brokers the tools to help maximize their productivity through approved supplier arrangements and top-quality education and training.|
|●||Leading market share. Nobody in the world sells more real estate than RE/MAX, as measured by residential transaction sides.|
|●||Leading brand awareness. The RE/MAX brand has the highest level of unaided brand awareness in residential real estate in the U.S. and Canada according to a consumer study conducted by MMR Strategy Group. Our iconic red, white and blue RE/MAX hot air balloon is one of the most recognized real estate logos in the world.|
|●||Leading global presence. We have a growing global presence and our agent count outside the U.S. and Canada continues to increase. Today, the RE/MAX brand has over 135,000 agents operating in over 8,000 offices, and a presence in more than 110 countries and territories—a global footprint bigger than any other real estate brokerage brand in the world.|
The following summarize key statistics for the RE/MAX brand:
119 Countries and Territories
As of December 31, 2020
Motto Mortgage. The Motto Mortgage franchise model offers U.S. real estate brokers, real estate professionals, mortgage professionals and other investors access to the mortgage brokerage business. Motto is highly complementary to our RE/MAX real estate business and is designed to help Motto franchise owners comply with complex mortgage regulations. Motto franchisees offer potential homebuyers an opportunity to find both real estate agents and independent Motto loan originators at offices near each other. Further, Motto loan originators provide homebuyers with financing choices by providing access to a variety of quality loan options from multiple leading wholesale lenders. In addition, Motto provides powerful technology to its franchisees that simplifies the mortgage process. Motto franchisees are mortgage brokers and not mortgage bankers. Likewise, we franchise the Motto system and are not lenders or brokers.
Motto’s revenue model consists of fixed, contractual fees paid monthly by the broker on a per-office basis for being a part of the Motto network and for use of the Motto brand and technology, and from sales of individual franchises. Motto Mortgage has grown to over 125 offices across more than 30 states and we expect Motto to continue to grow as we sold more Motto franchises in 2020 than we did in 2019. In 2020 we acquired wemlo, an innovative fintech company that developed the first cloud service for mortgage brokers, combining third-party loan processing with an all-in-one digital platform to add to our mortgage value proposition.
Number of Open Motto Offices (1)
|(1)||only includes full physical Motto offices; excludes virtual offices and Branchises (as defined below)|
Industry Overview and Trends
With approximately 95% of our revenue coming from our real estate franchising operations in the U.S. and Canada, and 100% of our Motto revenues being in the U.S., macro developments in the U.S. and Canadian real estate markets significantly influence our business.
The U.S. and Canadian Real Estate Industries are Large Markets. The residential real estate markets in the U.S. and Canada are approximately $2.0 trillion and $0.3 trillion, respectively, based on 2020 sales volume data from the National Association of Realtors (“NAR”), the U.S. Census Bureau and the Canadian Real Estate Association (“CREA”).
The Residential Real Estate Industry is Cyclical in Nature. The residential real estate industry is cyclical in nature but has shown strong long-term growth. As illustrated below, the number of existing home sales transactions in the U.S. and Canada has generally increased during periods of economic growth:
U.S. Existing Home Sales
U.S. Housing Trends. As we entered 2020, the U.S. housing market started strong as the growth in home sales transactions continued despite ongoing constraints related to shrinking inventory and affordability; however, during the second quarter, the COVID-19 pandemic caused homes sales to decline. After the pandemic’s initial impact, the housing market quickly rebounded in the second half of 2020 with full year existing home sales ending at its highest level since 2006. This momentum, according to NAR, is likely to carry into 2021 despite the continued constraints related to housing inventory and affordability. NAR’s January 2021 forecast has called for existing home sales to increase an average of 15.1% in 2021 compared to 2020 as sellers are expected to take advantage of favorable interest rates, greater mobility of working remotely and potential gains in construction that may help increase the availability of housing.
Canadian Existing Home Sales
Canadian Housing Trends. Similar to the U.S. the Canadian housing market also experienced declines in the first half of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, during the second half of 2020, it quickly rebounded as the number and pace of existing home sales accelerated. This strength of the Canadian housing market is expected to continue in 2021; however, ongoing inventory shortages continue to present challenges for homebuyers and put upward pressure on home prices. CREA projects the average residential sale price for Canada will increase 9.1% in 2021, which indicates that the desire for home ownership remains strong and according to the 2021 RE/MAX Canadian Housing Market Outlook Report, 52% of Canadians see real estate as one of the best investment options in 2021.
Favorable Long-Term Demand. We believe long-term demand for housing in the U.S. and Canada is driven by many factors including the economic health of the domestic economy, demographic trends, affordability, interest rates and local factors such as demand relative to supply. We also believe the residential real estate market in the U.S. and Canada will benefit from fundamental demographic shifts over the long term, including:
|●||An increase in demand from rising household formations, including as a result of immigration, population growth, wealth accumulation and wage growth of minorities. According to The State of the Nation’s Housing Report 2020 compiled by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (the “JCHS Report”), U.S. household formations are projected to reach 12.0 million between 2018 and 2028. Likewise, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the U.S. will continue to experience long-term population growth and predicts net immigration of 25 million individuals from 2016 to 2060. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau projects the U.S. total population to grow by more than 81 million people by 2060. And in Canada, Statistics Canada reports that Canada has the highest annual population growth rate of G7 nations and expects the nation’s population to grow by more than 40 million people by 2068 even in its low-growth scenario.|
|●||An increase in demand from lifestyle and generational shifts. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a substantial increase in homebuying activity in the second half of 2020. Some industry experts believe this is also an indication of shifts in the way people live and work that could support housing demand longer term. Also, the millennial generation is moving into their prime home-buying years as they form households just as many retirement age homeowners from the “baby boom” generation may be likely to take advantage of improved housing market conditions in order to sell their existing residences and retire in new areas of the country or purchase smaller homes.|
|●||Pent-up demand from supply shortages. Supplies of single-family homes for sale remain relatively scarce, particularly at the lower-cost end of the spectrum. Single family construction that continues to lag demand and ongoing decline in residential mobility rates are likely contributors to the low level of supply, according to the JCHS Report. Additionally, while affordability pressures have eased, the JCHS Report notes this issue remains widespread, a long-term trend which has not been solved, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada is faced with similar challenges with Statistics Canada noting more than 5% or more than 700,000 households are in housing that is not suitable for their needs and nearly 20% of households do not report being satisfied with their housing. Should these supply constraints be remedied, we believe the real estate industry would see a substantial benefit.|
Notable Real Estate Trends. Notable trends impacting residential real estate brokers and agents include:
|●||Almost 90% of all U.S. homebuyers and sellers use an agent – About 88% of sellers and purchasers were represented by a real estate agent in 2020, according to NAR data. These figures have climbed over the last decade and a half—a period of time during which technology has materially changed the typical home-buying or selling transaction:|
Percentage of Home Buyers and Sellers Using an Agent
Source: NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers
|●||Competition for agents and listings remains fierce – Competition for agents and listings has always been fierce, and today is no different—especially highly productive agents. Franchisors and brokers are continually refining and fine-tuning their economic models in order to craft what they believe to be the most compelling value proposition in order to attract and retain the most productive agents and to capture consumer listings. The year 2020 remained heated in this regard as many well-financed competitors continued to offer a wide variety of business models. See Competition for additional discussion.|
|●||The importance of technology continues to increase – We believe industry market participants will continue to focus on technology investments as evidenced by increased capital flowing into the industry. We believe mobile platforms, artificial intelligence and predictive analytics are increasingly becoming a point of focus as the industry looks to use technology to simplify and streamline the process of lead cultivation and completing transactions. In response, many established brokers are favoring proprietary technology as opposed to purchasing it from third parties.|
|●||Competitive new business models increase amid high level of investment in new residential real estate strategies – While the majority of home buyers and sellers still use agents, the number of alternate business models continues to expand, including iBuyers, discounters and technology driven platforms. Furthermore, investments into these alternate models, continues to increase. This trend has continued as investors are looking to make more aspects of the real estate industry digital. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the focus on alternative web-based platforms and other new competitive residential real estate strategies.|
The Long-Term Value Proposition for Real Estate Brokerage Services. We believe the traditional agent-assisted business model, especially those supported by professional and highly productive agents, compares favorably to alternative models of the residential brokerage industry. We believe full-service brokerages are best suited to address many of the key characteristics of real estate transactions, including:
|(i)||the complexity and large monetary value involved in home sale transactions,|
|(ii)||the infrequency of home sale transactions,|
|(iii)||the high price variability in the home market,|
|(iv)||the intimate local knowledge necessary to advise clients in a fiduciary capacity in general and as it relates to unique neighborhood characteristics,|
|(v)||the unique nature of each particular home, and|
|(vi)||the consumer’s need for a high degree of personalized advice and support in light of these factors.|
For these reasons, we believe that consumers will continue to favor the full-service agent model for residential real estate transactions. In addition, although listings are available for viewing on a wide variety of real estate websites, we believe an agent’s local market expertise provides the ability to better understand the inventory of for-sale homes and the interests of
potential buyers. This knowledge allows the agent to customize the pool of potential homes they show to a buyer, as well as help sellers to present their home professionally to best attract potential buyers.
The Long-Term Value Proposition for Mortgage Brokerage Services. Likewise, we believe mortgage brokers provide choice and a valuable “concierge” service for consumers. Mortgage brokers are familiar with the latest loan programs and choices available through various wholesale lenders. A professional mortgage broker can introduce consumers to loan programs from several lenders, providing choice and information that consumers may be unlikely to locate on their own. In 2020, the percentage of mortgage originations handled by mortgage brokerages continued to grow but remained below average historical levels, which we believe shows potential for continued growth in the mortgage brokerage channel. As interest rates fell to historic lows in 2020, refinance volumes across the mortgage industry and within the mortgage brokerage channel soared. As demand for refinance activity wanes in 2021, increased demand in purchase originations could occur given the potential for strong housing demand, which we believe would benefit the mortgage brokerage channel.
Total Mortgage Originations
Source: Inside Mortgage Finance Publications, Inc. Copyright © 2021 Used with permission.
Purchase-money mortgage originations (loans that arise during the purchase of a property) correlate to the overall number of home sales and home prices. Home purchases are driven primarily by the buyer’s personal and professional circumstances, whereas refinances depend mainly upon interest rates.
According to Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (known as “Freddie Mac”), purchase-money originations are expected to increase gradually in the next few years. As compared to competitors, Motto has a significantly higher ratio of purchase-money mortgage originations to refinances. We believe that the expected increase in purchase-money originations could provide a growth opportunity for Motto franchisees.
Purchase Mortgage Originations
Our Franchise Model and Offering
Introduction to Franchising. Franchising is a distributed model for licensing the use of the franchisor’s brand and technology, tools, and training. In return, the franchisee retains ownership and sole responsibility for the local business and its risks, and therefore a substantial portion of the profits it generates. The successful franchisor provides its franchisees: i) a unique product or service offering; ii) a distinctive brand name, and, as the system gains market share, the favorable consumer recognition that brand comes to symbolize; and iii) technology, tools and training to help franchisees operate their business effectively, efficiently and successfully. Because franchising involves principally the development and licensing of intellectual property, and the costs of retail space and employees are borne by the individual unit owner, it has a low fixed-cost structure typified by high gross margins, allowing the franchisor to focus on innovation, franchisee training and support, and marketing to grow brand reputation.
How Brokerages Make Money. Residential real estate brokerages typically realize revenue by charging a commission based on a percentage of the price of the home sold and/or by charging their agents, who are independent contractors, fees for services rendered. The real estate brokerage industry generally benefits in periods of rising home prices and transaction activity (with the number of licensed real estate agents generally increasing during such periods) and is typically adversely impacted in periods of falling prices and home sale transactions (with the number of licensed real estate agents generally decreasing during such periods).
Residential mortgage brokerages typically realize revenue by charging fees for their service, which are based on a percentage of the mortgage loan amount. The mortgage brokerage industry generally benefits from periods of increasing home sales activity and rising home prices, as this generally results in increased purchase-money mortgage originations and periods when homeowners refinance to take advantage of lower interest rates. The mortgage brokerage industry is usually adversely impacted in periods of decreasing home sales activity, as this results in fewer purchase-money mortgage originations, and periods of less favorable interest rates, making homeowners less likely to refinance.
The RE/MAX “Agent-Centric” Franchise Offering. We believe that our “agent-centric” approach is a compelling offering in the real estate brokerage industry, and it enables us to attract and retain highly productive agents and motivated franchisees to our network and drive growth in our business and profitability. Our model maximizes our agents’ productivity by providing the following combination of benefits to our franchisees and agents:
|●||High Agent Commission Split and Low Franchise Fees. The RE/MAX high commission split concept is a cornerstone of our model and, although not unique, differentiates us in the industry. That differentiation is most evident when our brand advantages and services are factored in as part of the concept. We recommend to our franchisees an agent-favorable commission split of 95%/5%, in exchange for the agent paying fixed fees to share the overhead and other costs of the brokerage. This model allows high-producing agents to earn a higher commission compared to traditional brokerages where the broker often takes 20% to 40% of the agent’s commission, and it provides brokers with the resources to offer key services and support to their agents.|
|●||Affiliation with the Leading Brand in Residential Real Estate. With number one market share in the U.S. and Canada combined as measured by total residential transaction sides completed by RE/MAX agents, and leading unaided brand awareness in the U.S. and Canada, according to a consumer study by MMR Strategy Group, we reinforce brand awareness through marketing and advertising campaigns that are supported by our franchisees’ and agents’ local marketing.|
|●||Entrepreneurial, High-Performance Culture. Our brand and the economics of our model generally attract driven, professional, entrepreneurially minded franchisees, and we allow them autonomy to run their businesses independently, including the freedom to set commission rates and oversee local advertising aligned with RE/MAX standards.|
|●||Powerful Technology and Marketing Tools. We believe we offer industry-leading technology, which is highlighted by our proprietary booj Platform, First mobile app, and our enhanced consumer facing app and remax.com website supplemented by Gadberry data. The highly customized booj Platform integrates a suite of digital products that empower high-producing agents, brokers and teams to proactively establish, manage and grow client relationships. With Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) at the core of this ecosystem, the booj Platform utilizes deal management and lead cultivation tools to streamline the work of agents from lead generation to post-close nurturing and beyond, while integrating key partnerships that are widely adopted across the industry. The First mobile app leverages data science, machine learning and human interaction to help real estate professionals better leverage the value of their personal network. The 2020 acquisition of Gadberry secured key data for our platforms and created additional revenue opportunities for sales outside our traditional customer base, synergizing existing RE/MAX data with Gadberry data to create new data products.|
|●||RE/MAX University® Training Programs. RE/MAX University offers on-demand access to industry information and advanced training in areas such as distressed properties, luxury properties, senior clients, buyer agency and many other specialty areas of real estate.|
|●||RE/MAX Marketing and Promotion. We believe the widespread recognition of the RE/MAX brand and our iconic red, white and blue RE/MAX hot air balloon logo and property signs is a key aspect of our value proposition to agents and franchisees. Representing the majority of our Marketing Funds activities, a variety of advertising, marketing and promotion programs build our brand and generate leads for our agents, including leading websites such as remax.com, advertising campaigns using television, digital marketing, social media, print, billboards and signs, and appearances of the well-known RE/MAX hot air balloon.|
Event-based marketing programs, sponsorships, sporting activities and other similar functions also promote our brand. These include our support, since 1992, for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals® in the U.S. and Children's Miracle Network® in Canada, to help sick and injured children. Through the Miracle Home® program, participating RE/MAX agents donate to Children's Miracle Network Hospitals once a home sale transaction is complete.
Our franchisees and their agents fund nearly all of the advertising, marketing and promotion supporting the RE/MAX brand, which, in the U.S. and Canada, occurs primarily on two levels:
|●||Marketing Fund Regional, Pan-Regional and Local Marketing Campaigns. Funds are collected from franchisees by our Marketing Funds entities in Company-Owned Regions to support both regional and pan-regional marketing campaigns to build brand awareness and to support the Company’s agent and broker technology. The use of the fund balances is restricted by the terms of our franchise agreements. Independent Regions may contribute to national or pan-regional creative and/or media campaigns to achieve economies of scale in the purchase of advertising but are generally responsible for any regional advertising in their respective areas.|
|●||Agent Sponsored Local Campaigns. Our franchisees and agents engage in extensive promotional efforts within their local markets to attract customers and drive agent and brand awareness locally. These programs are subject to our brand guidelines and quality standards for use of the RE/MAX brand, but we allow our franchisees and agents substantial flexibility to create advertising, marketing and promotion programs that are tailored to local market conditions. |
RE/MAX Four-Tier Franchise Structure. RE/MAX is a 100% franchised business, with all of the RE/MAX branded brokerage office locations being operated by franchisees. We franchise directly in the U.S. and Canada, in what we call “Company-Owned Regions.” Brokerage offices, in turn, enter into independent contractor relationships with real estate sales agents who represent real estate buyers and sellers. In the early years of our expansion in the U.S. and Canada, we sold regional franchise rights to independent owners for certain geographic regions (“Independent Regions”), pursuant to which those Independent Regions have the exclusive right to sell franchises in those regions. We have pursued a strategy to acquire those regional franchise rights from Independent Regions in the U.S. and Canada.
The following depicts our franchise structure and the location of our Company-Owned versus Independent Regions:
Owns the right to the RE/MAX brand and sells franchises and franchising rights.
Independent Regional Franchise Owner
Owns rights to sell brokerage franchises in a specified region.
Typically, 20-year agreement with up to three renewal options.
RE/MAX, LLC franchises directly in Company-Owned Regions, in the rest of the U.S. and Canada.
In Company-Owned Regions in the U.S. and Canada, RE/MAX, LLC performs these services.
Operates a RE/MAX-branded brokerage office, lists properties and recruits agents.
Typically, 5-year agreement.
Branded independent contractors who operate out of local franchise brokerage offices.
In general, the franchisees (or broker-owners) do not receive an exclusive territory in the U.S. except under certain limited circumstances. Prior to opening an office, a franchisee or principal owner is required to attend a four- to five-day training program at our global headquarters.
The Motto Mortgage Franchise Offering. Through our Motto business, we are a mortgage brokerage franchisor, not a lender or mortgage brokerage. Our franchisees are brokers, not lenders, and so neither we nor our franchisees fund or service any loans. As a franchisor, we help our Motto franchisees establish independent mortgage brokerage companies, with a model designed to comply with complex regulations, essentially providing a "mortgage brokerage in a box". This model not only creates an ancillary business opportunity for current real estate brokerage firms, but also offers opportunities for mortgage professionals seeking to open their own businesses and other independent investors interested in financial services. The Motto Mortgage model offers value to our franchisees by offering:
|●||Setup Guidance. We guide owners through every step of the setup process.|
|●||Compliance, Training, and Support. We provide robust compliance support, including examination assistance and a system built with transparency in mind. To help each franchise owner, we provide support structures that allow them to spend their time getting more business.|
|●||Access to multiple lenders. Motto Mortgage franchisees work with a pre-vetted group of wholesale lenders to streamline the shopping process and to provide customers with competitive choices.|
|●||Technology. We’ve seamlessly integrated industry leading systems into one, time-saving technological ecosystem including best in class mortgage origination, CRM and marketing platforms. The 2020 acquisition of wemlo combined third-party loan processing capabilities with an all-in-one digital platform.|
|●||Franchising Expertise. As a member of a family of companies with over 45 years of franchising experience, we provide best practices to franchisees.|
Our Motto Mortgage brokerage franchisor, Motto Franchising, LLC, offers seven-year agreements with franchisees. Motto sells franchises directly throughout the U.S. as there are no regional franchise rights in the Motto system. Our customers are both RE/MAX and non-RE/MAX real estate brokers, real estate professionals, independent mortgage professionals and other investors seeking access to the mortgage brokerage business. We are also in the early stages of offering supplemental franchising models in which Motto offers brokers with an existing Motto franchise the ability to expand their physical and/or virtual presence for a reduced contractual fee (aka “Branchise”). The aim of these new models is to give franchisees the flexibility to expand their business to places where it would not have been feasible to support a full additional franchise while keeping offices compliant with state branch regulations. These alternative models are not
included in our count of open Motto offices. There are not presently any other national mortgage brokerage franchisors in the U.S.
As a franchisor, we maintain a low fixed-cost structure. In addition, our stable, fee-based model derives a majority of our revenue from recurring fees paid by our RE/MAX and Motto franchisees, RE/MAX Independent Region franchise owners and RE/MAX agents. This combination helps us drive significant operating leverage through incremental revenue growth, yielding healthy margins and significant cash flow. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during the second quarter we offered our RE/MAX franchisees in Company-Owned Regions in the U.S. and Canada and our Motto Mortgage franchisees temporary financial relief options to support their businesses, which resulted in reductions of Continuing franchise fees and Marketing Funds fees of $7.0 million and $4.9 million in the second quarter, respectively. See “Item 7.—Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” for further discussion.
|(1)||Revenue (less Marketing Funds fees) and Adjusted EBITDA are non-GAAP measures of financial performance that differ from U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Revenue (less Marketing Fund fees) is calculated directly from our consolidated financial statements as Total revenue less Marketing Funds Fees. See “Item 7.—Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations” for further discussion of Adjusted EBITDA and a reconciliation of the differences between Adjusted EBITDA and net income.|
|(2)||Excludes adjustments attributable to the non-controlling interest. See "Corporate Structure and Ownership” below.|
The chart below illustrates our consolidated revenue streams excluding the Marketing Funds.
Holdings Revenue Streams as Percentage of 2020 Total Revenue
Segment Revenue Streams.
We have three reportable segments: Real Estate, Mortgage and Marketing Funds. Real Estate comprises our real estate brokerage franchising operations under the RE/MAX brand name, corporate-wide shared services expenses and Gadberry. Mortgage is comprised of our mortgage brokerage franchising operations under the Motto Mortgage brand name and wemlo mortgage loan processing. Marketing Funds represents our marketing campaigns designed to build and maintain brand awareness and the development and operation of agent marketing technology. Other contains the operations of booj’s legacy business, which is not a reportable segment due to quantitative insignificance which we expect to continue to decline over time as booj’s legacy customers leave. See Note 17 for additional information about segment reporting. We evaluate the operating results of our segments based on revenue and adjusted earnings before interest, the provision for income taxes, depreciation and amortization and other non-cash and non-recurring cash charges or other items (“Adjusted EBITDA”). Please see Note 17, Segment Information, for further disclosures about segments and descriptions of Adjusted EBITDA.
The amount of the various fee types will vary significantly depending on whether coming from Company-Owned Regions, Independent Regions, or Global Regions, with the greatest amounts in Company-Owned Regions. See discussion of revenue per agent below.
Continuing Franchise Fees. Continuing franchise fees are fixed contractual fees paid monthly by regional franchise owners in Independent Regions or franchisees in Company-Owned Regions based on the number of RE/MAX agents in the respective franchised.
Annual Dues. Annual dues are a fixed membership fee paid annually by RE/MAX agents directly to us to be a part of the network and to use the RE/MAX brand. Annual dues are a flat fee per agent.
Broker Fees. Broker fees are assessed against real estate commissions paid by customers when a RE/MAX agent sells a property. Generally, the amount paid to us is 1% of the total commission on the transaction, although the percentage can vary based on the specific terms of the broker fee agreement and in certain locations (mainly Canada and Texas) is capped at a certain level of commissions, and in Independent Regions in Canada is not charged. The amount of commission collected by brokers is based primarily on the sales volume of RE/MAX agents, home sale prices in such sales and real estate commissions earned by agents on these transactions. Broker fees, therefore, vary based upon the overall health of the real estate industry and the volume of existing home sales. Additionally, agents who were in Company-Owned Regions prior to 2004, the year we began assessing broker fees, are generally “grandfathered” and continue to be exempt from paying a broker fee. As of December 31, 2020, grandfathered agents represented approximately 16% of total agents in U.S. Company-Owned Regions. We expect that over time, exempt agents will be replaced by new agents who will pay broker fees, which will have a positive impact on our broker fee revenue independent of changes in agent count, sales volume and home sale prices.
Franchise Sales and Other Revenue. Franchise sales and other revenue primarily consists of:
|●||Franchise Sales. Revenue from sales and renewals of individual franchises in RE/MAX Company-Owned Regions, Independent Regions, as well as RE/MAX regional and country master franchises for Independent Regions in global markets outside of North America (“Global Regions”). We receive only a portion of the revenue from the sales and renewals of individual franchises from Independent and Global Regions. The franchise sale initial fees and commissions related to franchise sales are recognized over the contractual term of the franchise agreement.|
|●||Other Revenue. Revenue from (a) preferred marketing arrangements and approved supplier programs with such revenue being either a flat fee or a percentage of revenue from products and services sold to RE/MAX agents), (b) event-based revenue from training and conventions, including our RE/MAX annual convention, and (c) technology and data subscription revenue such as for Gadberry and the First app.|
Revenue per Agent in Owned versus Independent RE/MAX Regions. We receive a higher amount of revenue per agent in our Company-Owned Regions than in our Independent Regions in the U.S. and Canada, and more in Independent Regions in the U.S. and Canada than in Global Regions. We receive the entire amount of the continuing franchise fee, broker fee and initial franchise and renewal fee in Company-Owned Regions, whereas we receive only a portion of these fees in Independent Regions. We generally receive 15%, 20% or 30% of the amount of such fees in Independent Regions, which is a fixed rate in each particular Independent Region established by the terms of the applicable regional franchise agreement. We base our continuing franchise fees, agent dues and broker fees outside the U.S. and Canada on the same structure as our Independent Regions, except that the aggregate level of such fees is substantially lower in these markets. For the year, the average annual revenue per agent was as follows:
|(1)||Annual dues are currently a flat fee of US$410/CA$410 per agent annually for our U.S. and Canadian agents. The average per agent for the year ended December 31, 2020 in both Independent Regions and Company-Owned Regions reflects the impact of foreign currency movements related to revenue received from Canadian agents. The ratio of Canadian agents to U.S. agents in Independent Regions has increased as a result of U.S. Independent Region acquisitions.|
Our revenue is derived from continuing franchise fees and franchise sales.
|●||Continuing Franchise Fees. Fixed contractual fees paid monthly by Motto franchisees. The monthly fees paid by the brokers are initially discounted and it takes approximately 12 to 14 months after the sale of a Motto franchise for a franchisee to ramp up to paying a full set of monthly fees. Motto franchisees do not pay any fees based on the number or dollar value of loans brokered.|
|●||Franchise Sales. Revenue from sales and renewals of individual Motto franchises. The franchise sale initial fees and commissions related to franchise sales are recognized over the contractual term of the franchise agreement.|
|●||Other Revenue. Revenue from mortgage loan processing.|
Our revenue is derived from marketing fund fees, which are fixed contractual fees paid primarily by franchisees in Company-Owned Regions based on the number of RE/MAX agents in the respective franchise, with smaller contributions by Independent region owners.
Value Creation and Growth Strategy
As a franchisor, we generate favorable margins and healthy amounts of cash flow, which facilitate our value creation and growth strategy. As a leading franchisor in the residential real estate industry in the U.S., Canada and globally, we create shareholder value by:
|a)||growing organically by building on our network of over 8,000 RE/MAX franchisees and 135,000 agents and our network of over 125 open Motto mortgage brokerage franchises;|
|b)||catalyzing growth by reacquiring regional RE/MAX franchise rights and acquiring other businesses complementary to our RE/MAX and Motto franchises; and|
|c)||returning capital to shareholders.|
Organic Growth. We believe we have multiple opportunities to grow organically, including principally through: a) RE/MAX agent count growth in Owned Regions; b) pricing; c) increases in agent productivity and higher home prices; d) agent count growth in Global and Independent Regions and e) RE/MAX and Motto franchise sales. Other potential organic growth opportunities include monetizing our First, Gadberry and wemlo technology offerings and developing our approved supplier relationships to drive additional revenue.
RE/MAX Agent Count Growth. With respect to RE/MAX agent count growth, we experienced agent losses during the downturn starting in 2007/2008, but we returned to a period of net global agent growth in 2012 and our total year-over-year growth in agent count continued from 2013 through 2020.
RE/MAX Agent Count
Number of Agents at Quarter-End (1)
|(1)||When we acquire an Independent Region, agents in that region are moved from the Independent Region agent count to the Company-Owned Region agent count during the quarter of the acquisition.|
RE/MAX Agent Count Year-Over-Year Growth Rate by Geography
From time to time we use recruitment programs to increase agent count growth, including some that incentivize recruitment through temporary waivers of fees for new agents. We also focus on initiatives designed to improve the value proposition offered to both franchisees and agents, which we believe will help recruiting and retention. Two key initiatives are:
|●||Technology. We continue to develop the powerful booj Platform, which is a custom-built, integrated platform with products that interact and evolve with one another. With CRM at the core of this ecosystem, the booj Platform is a holistic real estate technology solution that allows agents to be more strategic in their interactions with current transactions and new potential business, with the goal of improving our agents’ productivity. In addition, we will continue to focus on enhancing and investing in the booj technology and evaluating complementary technology through partnerships or smaller acquisitions. Providing the best online and offline experience for RE/MAX and Motto affiliates and consumers is one of our primary strategic technology goals and we expect to continue to invest meaningfully in technology as we seek to enhance our overall value proposition, as with the acquisitions of First, Gadberry and wemlo.|
|●||Agent Count Growth and Retention. We continue to reinforce our growth culture through the continued execution of our recruiting and retention strategy. This strategy includes quarterly growth initiatives, playbooks, incentives, coaching and accountability. We believe our franchisee base is reinvigorated and focused on growth. Heading into 2021, we plan to continue to expand our recruiting and retention initiatives and incorporate other direct contact opportunities (such as the RE/MAX annual agent convention, speaking tours, and other company events both in virtual and in-person formats) at various times throughout 2021, as the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic allows.|
Pricing. Given the low fixed infrastructure cost of our RE/MAX franchise model, modest increases in aggregate fees per agent should positively affect our profitability. We may occasionally increase our aggregate fees per agent in our Company-Owned Regions as we enhance the value we offer to our network. We are judicious with respect to the timing and amount of increases in aggregate fees per agent and our strategic focus remains on growing agent count through
franchise sales, recruiting programs and retention initiatives. Following are the annualized average price increases for the previous five years, reflected in the year in which the increase was effective.
Continuing Franchise Fees
Company-Owned Regions - U.S.
Company-Owned Regions - Canada
Company-Owned Regions - U.S.
Company-Owned Regions - Canada
We recently announced an average price increase of 3.8% in continuing franchise fees in our U.S. Company-Owned regions beginning on April 1, 2021, with the exception of New York state which will become effective July 1, 2021.
Organic Growth from Global Regions. We have a growing global presence with our agent count outside the U.S. and Canada growing almost 16% in 2020 and 34% over the past two years combined and now surpasses 50,000 agents. Over the last two decades, the size of the RE/MAX network outside of the U.S. and Canada has grown to represent approximately a third of total RE/MAX agent count. However, we earn substantially more of our revenue in the U.S. than in other countries as a result of the higher average revenue per agent earned in Company-owned Regions than in Independent Regions, and in the U.S. and Canada as compared to the rest of the world. In regions where the booj Platform would not be included with our core technology offerings to franchisees, we believe offering the booj Platform internationally is another long-term growth opportunity.
RE/MAX Agents by Geography
As of Year-end 2020
RE/MAX Revenue by Geography (a)
Percent of 2020 Revenue
|(a)||Excludes revenues from the Marketing Funds, Mortgage and booj.|
RE/MAX and Motto Franchise Sales. We intend to continue adding franchises in new and existing markets, and as a result, increase our global market share and brand awareness. Each incremental franchise leverages our existing
infrastructure, allowing us to drive additional revenue at little incremental cost. We are committed to reinvesting in the business to enhance our value proposition through a range of new and existing programs and tools.
Growth Catalysts through Acquisitions. We intend to continue to pursue acquisitions of the regional RE/MAX franchise rights in a number of Independent Regions, as well as other acquisitions in related areas that build on or support our core competencies in franchising and real estate and are complementary to our RE/MAX and Motto businesses.
Independent Region Acquisitions. The acquisition of an Independent Region franchise substantially increases our revenue per agent and provides an opportunity for us to enhance profitability, as we receive a higher amount of revenue per agent in our Company-Owned Regions than in our Independent Regions. While both Company-Owned Regions and Independent Regions charge relatively similar fees to their brokerages and agents, we only receive a percentage of the continuing franchise fee, broker fee and initial franchise and renewal fee in Independent Regions. By acquiring regional franchise rights, we can capture 100% of these fees and substantially increase the average revenue per agent for agents in the acquired region, which, as a result of our low fixed-cost structure, further increases our overall margins. In addition, we believe we can establish operational efficiencies and improvements in financial performance of an acquired region by leveraging our existing infrastructure and experience.
Flow through Independent Regions
Other Acquisitions. We may pursue other acquisitions, either of other brands, or of other businesses related to our core competencies of real estate, mortgage and franchising that we believe can help enhance the value proposition that we provide to our affiliates and can diversify and enhance our revenue and growth opportunities.
Return of Capital to Shareholders. We are committed to returning capital to shareholders as part of our value creation strategy. We have paid quarterly dividends since the completion of our first full fiscal quarter as a publicly traded
company, or April of 2014. We have annually increased our quarterly dividends since then, as we have deemed appropriate. On February 17, 2021, our Board of Directors announced a quarterly dividend of $0.23 per share.
Our disciplined approach to allocating capital allows us to return capital to shareholders while investing to drive future organic growth and catalyzing growth through acquisitions.
RE/MAX. The residential real estate brokerage business is fragmented and highly competitive. We compete against many different types of competitors - traditional real estate brokerages; non-traditional real estate brokerages, including some that offer deeply discounted commissions to consumers, and other newer entrants, including iBuyers. We compete in different ways for franchisees, for agents, and for consumers.
The majority of brokerages are independent, with the best-known being regional players. At the individual office level, oftentimes our most formidable competition is that of a local, independent brokerage. Brokerages affiliated with franchises tend to be larger, on average, than independents and are part of a national network. Our largest national competitors in the U.S. and Canada include the brands operated by Realogy Holdings Corp. (including Century 21, Coldwell Banker, ERA, Sotheby’s and Better Homes and Gardens), Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, Keller Williams Realty, Inc. and Royal LePage. Our franchisees also compete to attract and retain agents against real estate franchisors which offer 100% commissions and low fees to agents. These competitors include HomeSmart and Realty ONE Group.
We also compete against non-traditional real estate brokerages in the U.S. and Canada such as Redfin that offer deeply discounted commissions to consumers. Even among competitors with traditional models, there are variations such as the “hybrid” classification of Compass (a national bricks-and-mortar brokerage focusing on technology and funded by venture capital), and the virtual brokerage (no brokerage offices) platform of eXp Realty.
Our efforts to target consumers and connect them with a RE/MAX agent via our websites also face competition from major real estate portals, such as Zillow and Realtor.com.
We also compete for home sales against newer entrants, often referred to as iBuyers, which offer to buy homes directly from homeowners, often at below-market rates, in exchange for speed and convenience, and then resell them shortly thereafter at market prices. Our largest national competitors in the U.S. in this category include Opendoor, Zillow, Offerpad, and Redfin. Some traditional brokerages have begun to adapt to iBuyers by either partnering their agents with an iBuyer directly or by launching their own iBuyer program. Although several iBuyers paused their home purchases in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, their activity has since resumed. Agents most often interact with iBuyers by evaluating iBuyer offers for home sellers (comparing to what the seller might receive by selling their home on the MLS), referring home sellers to an iBuyer for a referral fee or listing homes that are owned by iBuyers.
Likewise, the support services we provide to RE/MAX franchisees and agents also face competition from various providers of training, back office management, marketing, social integration and lead generation services. We believe that competition in the real estate brokerage franchise business is based principally upon the reputational strength of the
brand, the quality of the services offered to franchisees, and the amount of franchise-related fees to be paid by franchisees.
The ability of our franchisees to compete with other real estate brokerages, both franchised and unaffiliated, is an important aspect of our growth strategy. A franchisee’s ability to compete may be affected by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of the franchisee’s independent agents and the presence and market span of the franchisee’s offices. A franchisee’s success may also be affected by general, regional and local housing conditions, as well as overall economic conditions.
Motto. Motto does not originate loans, and therefore does not compete in the mortgage origination business. The mortgage origination business in which Motto franchisees participate is highly competitive and competition for talented loan originators and loan processors has increased as a result of the current falling interest rate environment in the U.S. While there are no national mortgage brokerage franchisors in the United States at the present time other than Motto, the mortgage origination business is characterized by a variety of business models. While real estate brokerage owners are our core market for the purchase of Motto franchises, such owners may form independent, non-franchised mortgage brokerages or correspondent lenders. They may enter into joint ventures with lenders for mortgage originations, and they may elect not to enter the mortgage origination business themselves, but instead earn revenue from providing marketing and other services to mortgage lenders.
We regard our RE/MAX trademark, balloon logo and yard sign design trademarks as having significant value and as being important factors in the marketing of our brand. We protect the RE/MAX and Motto brands through a combination of trademarks and copyrights. We have registered “RE/MAX” as a trademark in the U.S., Canada, and over 150 other countries and territories, and have registered various versions of the RE/MAX balloon logo and real estate yard sign design in numerous countries and territories as well. We also are the registered holder of a variety of domain names that include “remax,” “motto,” and similar variations, including addresses that we offer to our Global regions to use as their primary internet address.
Corporate Structure and Ownership
Holdings is a holding company incorporated in Delaware and its only business is to act as the sole manager of RMCO, LLC (“RMCO”). In that capacity, Holdings operates and controls all of the business and affairs of RMCO. RMCO is a holding company that is the direct or indirect parent of all of our operating businesses, including RE/MAX, LLC and Motto Franchising, LLC. As of December 31, 2020, Holdings owns 59.4% of the common units in RMCO, while RIHI, Inc.
(“RIHI”) owns the remaining 40.6% of common units in RMCO. RIHI, Inc. is majority owned and controlled by David Liniger, our Chairman and Co-Founder, and by Gail Liniger, our Vice Chair and Co-Founder.
The diagram below depicts our organizational structure:
The holders of Holdings Class A common stock collectively own 100% of the economic interests in Holdings, while RIHI owns 100% of the outstanding shares of Holdings Class B common stock.
Pursuant to the terms of the Company’s Certificate of Incorporation, RIHI, as holder of all of Holdings’ Class B common stock is entitled to a number of votes on matters presented to Holdings’ stockholders equal to the number of RMCO common units that RIHI holds. Through its ownership of the Class B common stock, RIHI holds 40.6% of the voting power of the Company’s stock as of December 31, 2020. Mr. Liniger also owns Class A common stock with an additional 1.1% of the voting power of the Company’s stock as of December 31, 2020.
Holdings ownership of RMCO and Tax Receivable Agreements
Holdings has twice acquired significant portions of the ownership in RMCO; first in October 2013 at the time of IPO when Holdings acquired its initial 11.5 million common units of RMCO and, second, in November and December 2015 when it acquired 5.2 million additional common units. Holdings issued Class A common stock, which it exchanged for these common units of RMCO. RIHI then sold the Class A common stock to the market.
When Holdings acquired common units in RMCO, it received a step-up in tax basis on the underlying assets held by RMCO. The step-up is principally equivalent to the difference between (1) the fair value of the underlying assets on the date of acquisition of the common units and (2) their tax basis in RMCO, multiplied by the percentage of units acquired. The majority of the step-up in basis relates to intangible assets, primarily franchise agreements and goodwill, and the step-up is often substantial. These assets are amortizable under IRS rules and result in deductions on our tax return for many years and, consequently, Holdings receives a future tax benefit. These future benefits are reflected within deferred tax assets on our consolidated balance sheets.
If Holdings acquires additional common units of RMCO from RIHI, the percentage of Holdings’ ownership of RMCO will increase, and additional deferred tax assets will be created as additional tax basis step-ups occur.
In connection with the initial sale of RMCO common units in October 2013, Holdings entered into Tax Receivable Agreements (“TRAs”) which require that Holdings make annual payments to the TRA holders equivalent to 85% of any tax benefits realized on each year’s tax return from the additional tax deductions arising from the step-up in tax basis. We believe 85% is common for tax receivable agreements. The TRA holders as of December 31, 2020 are RIHI and Parallaxes Rain Co-Investment, LLC (“Parallaxes”). TRA liabilities were established for the future cash obligations
expected to be paid under the TRAs and are not discounted. Similar to the deferred tax assets, the TRA liabilities would increase if Holdings acquires additional common units of RMCO from RIHI. The deferred tax assets and related TRA liabilities are valued, in part, based on the enacted U.S. and state corporate tax rates. The Tax Cut and Jobs Act enactment in December 2017 substantially reduced the value of both due to a decrease in the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. President Biden’s campaign proposals included increasing the U.S. corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. The outcome of the January Senate elections in Georgia, which has given the Democratic party effective control of the Senate, substantially increases the possibility of such a tax increase. If tax rates are increased, the Company’s tax expense would increase prospectively and the value of our deferred tax assets would go up substantially, as would the value of the TRA liabilities and related payments to be made thereunder.
Human Capital Management
The majority of our 545 full-time employees are located in Denver, Colorado, with the remainder spread throughout the U.S. and Canada. Approximately 39% of our employees directly support technology. Our sales and franchise development employees represent 26% of our workforce across both of our franchising brands. Marketing, training and events staff represent 14% of our employees. Finally, our shared services team accounts for the remaining 21% of our staff. As a franchisor, we refer to ourselves as “A business that builds businesses,” and our franchisees are all independently operated. Their employees and independent contractor agents are therefore not included in our employee count. None of our employees are represented by a union.
When searching for new employees, we look for bright, forward-thinking individuals who want to help entrepreneurs build their businesses. Our mission is to deliver the best experience in everything real estate; our vision, to be the global real estate leader – the ultimate destination for professionals and consumers. To achieve this, we hire individuals who reflect our M.O.R.E. core values:
|●||Deliver to the Max. You stay hungry and are never satisfied, pushing yourself to maximum heights. You bring maximum energy and enthusiasm to everything you do, moving the ball forward as far as you can. You actively learn, listen, improve and evolve. Your growth never stops.|
|●||Customer Obsessed. You put customers first, obsessing on their needs and exceeding their expectations. You know the company is built on relationships, and you’re serious about maintaining them. You think big, delivering a service that is far beyond the norm.|
|●||Do the Right Thing. You act with integrity, honesty and transparency, every day. You hold yourself to a higher standard in performance, ethics, accountability and decision quality. You own your actions and outcomes, taking smart risks with confidence and decisiveness while keeping an enterprise perspective.|
|●||Together Everybody Wins. You collaborate and communicate, contributing to an environment in which everybody wins. You lead by example, helping others develop their talents and reach their goals. You show gratitude and respect. Everybody’s voice matters. You strive to use resources efficiently, for everybody’s greater good.|
Employee wellness and engagement. The safety of our employees is a top priority. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we effectively transitioned to a remote working strategy and continue that today, with only those employees whose duties are facility-dependent coming into our facilities on a limited basis. Our previous investments in technology made the transition relatively free from disruption. We have continued to invest in new collaboration tools and technology to allow our workforce to effectively work remotely well into the future.
We conduct regular confidential surveys of our employees to determine employee satisfaction and to identify areas of employee engagement that require management attention. Two fundamental questions that senior leadership weighs heavily and their results compared to U.S. national averages (per our engagement survey vendor) are as follows:
Leadership compensation and retention. Our philosophy is that compensation should aim to align the goals of management with the interests of the Company and its stockholders and attract and retain talented people with the skills to help the Company achieve its goals. Toward these ends, we seek to provide a competitive level of compensation that balances rewards for both short-term performance and longer-term value creation, promotes accountability, incentivizes and rewards both corporate and individual performance without encouraging imprudent risk taking. This philosophy drives all aspects of officer compensation, including our base pay guidelines, annual incentive, and grants of long-term equity-based compensation awards. A substantial portion of each of our executive officer’s compensation is at risk. Annual
succession planning for senior leadership is overseen by our Board of Directors, including development plans for the next level of our senior leaders. Annual talent reviews focus on both high performers as well as those with high potential to keep our pipeline of tomorrow’s leaders full.
Diversity and inclusion. As a franchisor, human capital development and opportunity are foundational elements of our business model. Diversity and inclusion permeates our networks as we offer motivated entrepreneurs in over 110 countries and territories the opportunity to be successful small business owners in real estate. Moreover, we have been a leader in expanding opportunities for women within real estate since our founding almost 50 years ago. In our early days, one of the keys to our initial success was an intentional decision to target women to join our RE/MAX network as real estate agents, which helped create professional opportunities for women in a persistently male-dominated industry at the time. Through the years, we have made leadership opportunities for women a priority within our organization. For example, in the history of the Company, two of our five CEOs were women, and today, two of our five executive officers and five of our 12 board members are female. Globally, approximately 46% of our RE/MAX franchises have at least one female owner and 52% of our agents are women, as of December 31, 2020. We have an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion and continue to expand our efforts around this important topic. To ensure our affiliates as well as our employees are informed, educated and engaged, we infuse education on diversity and inclusion at key Company events and routinely promote available educational resources. RE/MAX has partnered with multiple industry advocacy groups that promote diversity and equality in homeownership. These partnerships include providing financial support in their efforts, participating in panel discussions at their events, attending national and chapter educational sessions, and much more.
The residential housing market is seasonal, with transactional activity in the U.S. and Canada typically peaking in the second and third quarter of each year. Our results of operations are somewhat affected by these seasonal trends. Our Adjusted EBITDA margins are often lower in the first and fourth quarters due primarily to the impact of lower broker fees and other revenue as a result of lower overall sales volume, as well as higher selling, operating and administrative expenses in the first quarter for expenses incurred in connection with the RE/MAX annual convention.
Franchise Regulation. The sale of franchises is regulated by various state laws, as well as by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). The FTC requires that franchisors make extensive disclosures to prospective franchisees but does not require registration. A number of states require registration or disclosure by franchisors in connection with franchise offers and sales. Several states also have “franchise relationship laws” or “business opportunity laws” that limit the ability of the franchisor to terminate franchise agreements or to withhold consent to the renewal or transfer of these agreements. The states with relationship or other statutes governing the termination of franchises include Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. Some franchise relationship statutes require a mandated notice period for termination; some require a notice and cure period; and some require that the franchisor demonstrate good cause for termination. Although we believe that our franchise agreements comply with these statutory requirements, failure to comply with these laws could result in our company incurring civil liability. In addition, while historically our franchising operations have not been materially adversely affected by such regulation, we cannot predict the effect of any future federal or state legislation or regulation.
Real Estate and Mortgage Regulation. The Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (“RESPA”) and state real estate brokerage laws and mortgage regulations restrict payments which real estate brokers, mortgage brokers, and other service providers in the real estate industry may receive or pay in connection with the sales of residences and referral of settlement services, such as real estate brokerage, mortgages, homeowners’ insurance and title insurance. Such laws affect the terms that we may offer in our franchise agreements with Motto franchisees and may to some extent restrict preferred vendor programs, both for Motto and RE/MAX. Federal, state and local laws, regulations and ordinances related to the origination of mortgages, may affect other aspects of the Motto business, including the extent to which we can obtain data on Motto franchisees’ compliance with their franchise agreements. These laws and regulations include (i) the Federal Truth in Lending Act of 1969 (“TILA”), and Regulation Z (“Reg Z”) thereunder; (ii) the Federal Equal Credit Opportunity Act ("ECOA'') and Regulation B thereunder; (iii) the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act and Regulation V thereunder; (iv) RESPA, and Regulation X thereunder; (v) the Fair Housing Act; (vi) the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act; (vii) the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and its implementing regulations; (viii) the Consumer Financial Protection Act and its implementing regulations; (ix) the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act-FACT ACT and its implementing regulations; and (x) the Do Not Call/Do Not Fax Act and other state and federal laws pertaining to the solicitation of consumers.
RE/MAX Holdings, Inc. is a Delaware corporation and its principal executive offices are located at 5075 South Syracuse Street, Denver, Colorado 80237, telephone (303) 770-5531. The Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, and amendments to those reports are available free of charge through the “Investor Relations” portion of the Company’s website, www.remax.com, as soon as reasonably practical after they are filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”). The content of the Company’s website is not incorporated into this report. The SEC maintains a website, www.sec.gov, which contains reports, proxy and information statements, and other information filed electronically with the SEC by the Company.
ITEM 1A. RISK FACTORS
RE/MAX Holdings, Inc. and its consolidated subsidiaries (collectively, the “Company,” “we,” “our” or “us”) could be adversely impacted by various risks and uncertainties. An investment in our Class A common stock involves a high degree of risk. You should carefully consider the following risk factors, as well as all of the other information contained in this Annual Report on Form 10-K, including our audited consolidated financial statements and the related notes thereto before making an investment decision. If any of these risks actually occur, our business, financial condition, operating results, cash flow and prospects may be materially and adversely affected. As a result, the trading price of our Class A common stock could decline, and you could lose some or all of your investment.
We have grouped our risks according to:
|●||Risks Related to Our Business;|
|●||Risks Related to Our Industry;|
|●||Risks Related to Our Legal and Capital Structure;|
|●||Risks Related to Governmental Regulations; and|
Risks Related to Our Business
We may fail to execute our strategies to grow our business, which could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance and results of operations.
We intend to pursue a number of strategies to grow our revenue and earnings and to deploy the cash generated by our business. We constantly strive to increase the value proposition for our franchisees, agents and loan originators. If we do not reinvest in our business in ways that make our networks attractive to franchisees, agents and loan originators, we may become less competitive. Additionally, we are exploring opportunities to acquire other businesses, including RE/MAX independent regional franchises, or other businesses that are complementary to our core businesses, particularly those offering differentiated technology. If we fail to develop, execute, or focus on our business strategy, fail to make good business decisions, fail to enforce a disciplined management process to ensure that our investment of resources aligns with our strategic plan and our core management and franchising competencies or fail to properly focus resources or management attention on strategic areas, any of these could negatively impact the overall value of the Company.
Our business is heavily reliant on technology and product development for certain key aspects of our operations. We may fail to roll out technology platforms as expected or their effectiveness in attracting or retaining agents, loan originators and franchisees may be more limited than anticipated.
Our systems may not perform as desired or we may experience cost overages, delays, or other factors that may distract our management from our business, which could have an adverse impact on our results of operations. Further, we may not be able to obtain future new technologies and systems, or to replace or introduce new technologies and systems as quickly as our competitors or in a cost-effective manner. Also, we may not achieve the benefits anticipated or required from any new technology or system, including those related to our recent technology acquisitions.
Recent technology acquisitions were made to bolster our value proposition and ultimately assist in attracting and retaining agents, loan originators and franchisees. If these technology platforms are delivered later than expected, do not create a distinct competitive edge for agents, loan originators and franchisees, or have a poorer than expected adoption rate by agents, loan originators and franchisees, the introduction of such platforms may not be effective in attracting or retaining agents, loan originators and franchisees.
Failing to attract and retain highly qualified franchisees could compromise our ability to maintain or expand the RE/MAX and Motto networks.
Although we believe our relationship with our franchisees and their agents and loan originators is open and strong, the nature of such relationships can give rise to conflict. For example, franchisees, agents or loan originators may become dissatisfied with the fees and dues owed to us, particularly in the event that we increase fees and dues. They may disagree with certain network-wide policies and procedures, including policies dictating brand standards or affecting their marketing efforts. They may also be disappointed with our marketing campaigns. If we experience any conflicts with our franchisees on a large scale, our franchisees may decide not to renew their franchise agreements upon expiration or may file lawsuits against us or they may seek to disaffiliate with us, which could also result in litigation. These events may, in turn, materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
An organized franchisee association could pose risks to our ability to set the terms of our franchise agreements and our pricing. A group of broker/owners from around the country have founded and committed to the continued success and funding of the RMX Association (RMXA), an independent association of RE/MAX franchisees, whose stated goal is to work in partnership with RE/MAX, LLC and each other to improve, enhance and grow the brand into the future and protect assets and grow profitability as franchisees.
Our financial results are affected directly by the operating results of franchisees and their agents and loan originators who operate independently from our control. Our financial results and the financial results of our franchisees are affected by the ability of our franchisees to attract and retain agents and loan originators.
Our financial results depend upon the operational and financial success of our franchisees and, for RE/MAX, their agents and for Motto Mortgage, their loan originators. Our franchise systems provide substantial autonomy to these independent franchisees, more so than is common in other franchised industries such as hospitality. With this autonomy goes the fact that we have little control over their day to day operations. If our franchisees’ financial results worsen, our revenue may decline. We terminate franchisees for non-payment, non-reporting and other non-compliance with their franchise agreements and we may terminate franchisees more frequently in the future.
Our most important asset is the people in our network. Our financial results and the financial results of our franchisees depend heavily upon the number of RE/MAX agents and Motto offices in our global networks, and the success of our franchisees depends largely on the ability of franchisees to attract and retain high quality agents and loan originators and run profitable businesses. Yet these independent operators may not adopt initiatives and products designed to help them do so, and therefore may not be effective. The majority of our revenue is derived from recurring fees paid by our franchisees or regional franchise owners based on the number of agents or offices within their respective networks and dues paid by RE/MAX agents. If our franchisees are not able to attract and retain loan originators and agents (or successfully manage teams of agents within their brokerage), none of which is within our direct control, our revenue may decline as our franchisees fail to generate the revenue necessary to pay the fees owed to us.
Most of our RE/MAX franchisees self-report their agent counts and agent commissions which drive the fees due to us, and we have limited tools to validate or verify these reports. This could impact our ability to collect revenue owed to us by our Independent Regions, franchisees, and agents, and could affect our ability to forecast our performance accurately.
Under our franchise agreements, franchisees, including Independent Regions, self-report (a) the number of agents and (b) gross commissions and other statistics from home sale transactions. This data is used to determine our billings for continuing franchise fees, annual dues and broker fees. We have limited methods of validating the data and must rely on reports submitted and our internal protocols for verifying the reasonableness of the data. If franchisees were to underreport or erroneously report such data, even if unintentionally, we may not receive all of the revenues due to us. In addition, to the extent that we were underpaid, we may not have a definitive method for determining such underpayment. If a material number of our franchisees were to underreport or erroneously report their agent counts, agent commissions or fees due to us, it could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance and results of operations. Further, agent count is a key performance indicator (KPI), and incomplete information, or information that is not reported in a timely manner could impair our ability to evaluate and forecast key business drivers and financial performance.
We rely on traffic to our websites, including our flagship websites, remax.com and mottomortgage.com, directed from search engines. If our websites fail to rank prominently in unpaid search results, traffic to our websites could decline and our business could be adversely affected. Any disruption to our websites or lead generation tools could harm our business.
Our success depends in part on our ability to attract home buyers and sellers to our websites, including our flagship websites, remax.com and mottomortgage.com through unpaid Internet search results on search engines. The number of
users we attract from search engines is due in large part to how and where our websites rank in unpaid search results. These rankings can be affected by a number of factors, such as changes in ranking algorithms which are not under our direct control and may change frequently. In addition, our website faces increasing competition for audience from real estate portal websites such as Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com. Our websites have experienced fluctuations in search result rankings in the past, and we anticipate fluctuations in the future. Any reduction in the number of users directed to our websites could adversely impact our business and results of operations.
We are vulnerable to certain additional risks and uncertainties associated with websites, which include our lead referral system, remax.com, global.remax.com, theremaxcollection.com, remaxcommercial.com and mottomortgage.com. These risks include changes in required technology interfaces, website downtime and other technical failures, security breaches and consumer privacy concerns. We may experience service disruptions, outages and other performance problems due to a variety of factors, including reliance on our third-party hosted services, infrastructure changes, human or software errors, capacity constraints due to an overwhelming number of users accessing our platform simultaneously, and denial of service, fraud or attacks. Our failure to address these risks and uncertainties successfully could reduce our Internet presence, generate fewer leads for our agents and damage our brand. Many of the risks relating to our website operations are beyond our control.
We rely on third parties for certain important functions and technology. Any failures by those vendors could disrupt our business operations.
We have outsourced certain key functions to external parties, including some that are critical to financial reporting, our franchise and membership tracking and billing, the Motto loan origination system, and a number of critical websites. We may enter into other key outsourcing relationships in the future. If one or more of these external parties were not able to perform their functions for a period of time, perform them at an acceptable service level, or handle increased volumes, our business operations could be constrained, disrupted, or otherwise negatively affected. Our ability to monitor the activities or performance of vendors may be constrained, which makes it difficult for us to assess and manage the risks associated with these relationships.
Our franchisees and their agents or loan originators could take actions that could harm our reputation and our business.
Our franchisees are independent businesses and as such, the agents and loan originators who work within these brokerages are not our employees and we do not exercise control over their day-to-day operations. Franchisees may not operate their real estate and mortgage brokerage businesses consistent with industry standards or may not attract and retain qualified agents and loan originators. If franchisees and agents and loan originators were to provide diminished quality of service to customers, engage in fraud, misconduct, negligence or otherwise violate the law or applicable codes of ethics, our image and reputation may suffer materially and we may become subject to liability claims based upon such actions. Any such incidents could adversely affect our results of operations.
Brand value can be severely damaged even by isolated incidents, particularly if the incidents receive considerable negative publicity or result in litigation. Some of these incidents may relate to the way we manage our relationship with our franchisees, our growth strategies or the ordinary course of our business or our franchisees’ businesses. Other incidents may arise from events that are or may be beyond our control and may damage our brand, such as actions taken (or not taken) by one or more franchisees or their agents and loan originators relating to health, safety, cybersecurity, welfare or other matters, litigation and claims, failure to maintain high ethical and social standards for all of our operations and activities, failure to comply with local laws and regulations, and illegal activity targeted at us or others. Our brands values could diminish significantly if any such incidents or other matters erode consumer confidence in us, which may result in a decrease in our total agent and loan office count and, ultimately, lower revenues, which in turn would materially and adversely affect our business and results of operations.
The failure of Independent Region owners to successfully develop or expand within their respective regions could adversely impact our revenue and earnings growth opportunities.
We have sold regional master franchises in the U.S. and Canada and have sold and continue to sell regional master franchises in our global locations outside of Canada. While we are pursuing a strategy to reacquire select regional franchise rights, we still rely on independent regional master franchises in Independent Regions. We depend on Independent Regions, which have the exclusive right to grant franchises within a particular region, to successfully develop or expand within their respective regions and to monitor franchisees’ use of our brand. The failure of any of these Independent Region owners to do these things, or the termination of an agreement with a regional master franchisee could delay the development of a particular franchised area, interrupt the operation of our brand in a particular market or markets while we seek alternative methods to develop our franchises in the area, and weaken our brand image. Such an event could result in lower revenue growth opportunities for us, which would adversely impact our growth prospects.
We may be unable to reacquire regional franchise rights in RE/MAX Independent Regions or successfully integrate the regions or other businesses once acquired.
We continue to pursue a growth strategy of reacquiring select RE/MAX independent regional franchises to support our growth. The acquisition of a regional franchise enables us to focus on a consistent delivery of the RE/MAX value proposition, increases our revenue, and provides an opportunity for us to enhance profitability. This growth strategy depends on our ability to find regional franchisees willing to sell the franchise rights in their regions on favorable terms, as well as our ability to finance, complete and integrate these transactions. The number of remaining Independent Regions is limited so we may have difficulty finding suitable regional franchise acquisition opportunities at an acceptable price. Additionally, we are pursuing a growth strategy of acquiring businesses that complement our existing businesses and enhance our value proposition. It is possible we may not achieve the expected returns on a given acquisition; and we may not be able to deliver expected cost and growth synergies.
Integrating acquired businesses involves complex operational and personnel-related challenges and we may encounter unforeseen difficulties and higher than expected integration costs. Delays or difficulties encountered in connection with the integration of any acquired business could lead to prolonged diversion of management’s attention away from other important business activities.
Acquisitions may present other challenges and difficulties, including:
|●||the possible departure of a significant number of key employees;|
|●||regulatory constraints and costs of executing our growth strategy may vary by geography;|
|●||the possible defection of franchisees and agents to other brands or independent real estate companies;|
|●||limits on growth due to exclusive territories granted to current franchisees by former region owners;|
|●||the failure to maintain important business relationships and contracts of the acquired business;|
|●||for our technology acquisitions, our ability to implement appropriate cybersecurity controls while concurrently enhancing their platforms;|
|●||legal or regulatory challenges or litigation post-acquisition, which could result in significant costs;|
|●||potential unknown liabilities associated with acquired businesses.|
We are subject to certain risks related to litigation filed by or against us, and adverse results may harm our business and financial condition.
We cannot predict with certainty the costs of defense, the costs of prosecution, insurance coverage or the ultimate outcome of litigation and other proceedings filed by or against us, including remedies or damage awards, and adverse results in such litigation and other proceedings may harm our business and financial condition.
Such litigation and other proceedings may include, but are not limited to, securities litigation including class actions and shareholder derivative litigation, complaints from or litigation by franchisees, usually related to alleged breaches of contract or wrongful termination under the franchise arrangements, actions relating to intellectual property, commercial arrangements and franchising arrangements.
Our global operations may be subject to additional risks related to litigation, including difficulties in enforcement of contractual obligations governed by foreign law due to differing interpretations of rights and obligations, compliance with multiple and potentially conflicting laws, new and potentially untested laws and judicial systems and reduced protection of
intellectual property. A substantial unsatisfied judgment against us or one of our subsidiaries could result in bankruptcy, which would materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
Our franchise model can be subject to particular litigation risks.
Litigation against a franchisee or its affiliated sales agents by third parties, whether in the ordinary course of business or otherwise, may also include claims against us for liability by virtue of the franchise relationship. Franchisees may fail to obtain insurance naming the Company as an additional insured on such claims. In addition to increasing franchisees’ costs and limiting the funds available to pay us fees and dues and reducing the execution of new franchise arrangements, claims against us (including vicarious liability claims) divert our management resources and could cause adverse publicity, which may materially and adversely affect us and our brand, regardless of whether such allegations are valid or whether we are liable.
In addition to claims over individual or isolated franchisee actions, third parties could attempt to hold us responsible for actions of our franchisees and their agents in the aggregate. Our franchised business model is unlike a traditional, integrated corporation where company-owned outlets provide goods or services to consumers and the corporation has direct responsibility for operations at those outlets. Our franchised business model is also unlike many franchisors in other industries—such as the restaurant and hospitality industries—where franchisors may dictate many operational details of the franchisees’ businesses and the delivery of goods and services to consumers and thereby have some of the liability for those or other aspects of the franchisees’ operations. Because we franchise in professional service fields where licensure is required—real estate and mortgage brokerage—we do not dictate or control the day to day operations or the advice provided by our franchisees or their affiliated sales associates or loan originators. Nonetheless, third parties may try to hold us liable for actions of our franchisees and their agents or loan originators, even when we have no involvement with those actions and they are beyond our control and, we believe, should not result in liability to us. As a franchisor, unlike an integrated corporation, we obtain in fees only a small portion of the revenue of our franchisees, and as a result our capital is very limited in comparison with the size of our entire franchise networks. Therefore, if third parties were successful in asserting liability for practices of our franchise network in its entirety, and in holding us vicariously responsible for that liability, the resulting damages could exceed our available capital, could materially affect our earnings, or even render us insolvent.
We are relatively new to the mortgage brokerage industry and have purchased several businesses outside our core franchising competency. Less mature businesses carry a higher risk of failure.
We are pursuing a growth strategy to offer and sell residential mortgage brokerage franchises in the U.S. under the “Motto Mortgage” brand and trademarks. We continue to develop operating experience in the mortgage brokerage industry. Our strategy hinges on our ability to recruit franchisees and help them recruit loan originators, to develop and maintain strong competencies within the mortgage brokerage market, on favorable conditions in the related regulatory environment and on our success in developing a strong, respected brand. We may fail to understand, interpret, implement and/or train franchisees adequately concerning compliance requirements related to the mortgage brokerage industry or the relationship between us and our franchisees, any of which failures could subject us or our franchisees to adverse actions from regulators. Motto Franchising, LLC, may also have regulatory obligations arising from its relationship with Motto franchisees; we may fail to comply with those obligations, and that failure could also subject us to adverse actions from regulators. The Motto Mortgage brand’s lack of brand recognition may hamper franchise sales efforts. In addition, residential mortgage brokerage is a highly competitive industry and Motto will suffer if we are unable to attract franchisees.
Acquisitions we have made outside our core franchising competency, including booj, First, Gadberry and wemlo present new challenges that, should we fail to understand or address, could result in not achieving the expected financial results of these acquisitions, including for many of them failing to result in improved agent and franchisee acquisition and retention. Those acquisitions that are recent startups carry the additional risk of not having a track record of success.
Our business depends on strong brands, and any failure to maintain, protect and enhance our brands would hurt our ability to grow our business, particularly in new markets where we have limited brand recognition. Infringement, misappropriation or dilution of our intellectual property could harm our business.
RE/MAX is a strong brand that we believe has contributed significantly to the success of our business, and the Motto brand is gaining recognition. Maintaining, protecting and enhancing the RE/MAX brand, as well as our newer brands such as Motto and wemlo is critical to growing our business. If we do not successfully build and maintain strong brands, our business could be materially harmed.
We derive significant benefit from our market share leadership and our ability to make claims regarding the same, including through use of our slogan that “Nobody in the world sells more real estate than RE/MAX” as measured by residential transaction sides. Loss of market leadership, and as a result an inability to tout the same, may hinder public and industry perception of RE/MAX as a leader in the real estate market and hurt agent recruitment and franchise sales as a result.
Inasmuch as our business is in part dependent on strong brands, our business may be subject to risks related to events and circumstances that have a negative impact on our brands. If we are exposed to adverse publicity or events that do damage to our brands image, our business may suffer material adverse effects from the deterioration in our brand image.
We regard our RE/MAX trademark, balloon logo and yard sign design trademarks and our Motto trademarks as valuable assets and important factors in the marketing of our brands. We believe that this and other intellectual property are valuable assets that are critical to our success. Not all of the trademarks or service marks that we currently use have been registered in all of the countries in which we do business, and they may never be registered in all of those countries. There can be no assurance that we will be able to adequately maintain, enforce and protect our trademarks or other intellectual property rights.
We are commonly involved in numerous proceedings, generally on a small scale, to enforce our intellectual property and protect our brands. Unauthorized uses or other infringement of our trademarks or service marks, including uses that are currently unknown to us, could diminish the value of our brands and may adversely affect our business. Effective intellectual property protection may not be available in every market. Failure to adequately protect our intellectual property rights could damage our brands and impair our ability to compete effectively.
In addition, franchisee noncompliance with the terms and conditions of our franchise agreements and our brand standards may reduce the overall goodwill of our brands, whether through diminished consumer perception of our brands, dilution of our intellectual property, the failure to meet the FTC guidelines or applicable state laws, or through the participation in improper or objectionable business practices.
Our global RE/MAX operations, including those in Canada, are subject to risks not generally experienced by our U.S. operations.
The risks involved in our global operations and relationships could result in losses against which we are not insured and therefore affect our profitability. These risks include:
|●||fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, primarily related to changes in the Canadian dollar and Euro to U.S. dollar exchange rates;|
|●||exposure to local economic conditions and local laws and regulations, including those relating to the agents of our franchisees;|
|●||economic and/or credit conditions abroad;|
|●||potential adverse changes in the political stability of foreign countries or in their diplomatic relations with the U.S.;|
|●||restrictions on the withdrawal of foreign investment and earnings;|
|●||government policies against businesses owned by foreigners;|
|●||diminished ability to legally enforce our contractual rights in foreign countries;|
|●||withholding and other taxes on remittances and other payments by subsidiaries; and|
|●||changes in tax laws regarding taxation of foreign profits.|
Attrition of legacy booj customers could have an adverse effect on our financial results.
The booj business we acquired in February 2018 continues to service legacy customers, unrelated to RE/MAX. Many legacy customers have discontinued their relationship with booj, causing revenue to decrease. There is a risk that the remaining legacy customers leave at a faster pace than anticipated resulting in an accelerating decline in revenue.
Risks Related to Our Industry
The real estate market may be negatively impacted by industry changes as the result of certain class action lawsuits.
As disclosed in Note 14, Commitments and Contingencies, we are a defendant in class action complaints referred to as the “Moehrl-related suits” which allege violations of federal antitrust law. The Department of Justice (“DOJ”) also agreed to settle a suit with the National Association of Realtors (“NAR”) in which NAR agreed to adopt certain rule changes, such as increased disclosure of commission offers from sellers’ agents to buyers’ agents, but the direct and indirect effects, if any, of the settlement upon the real estate industry are not yet entirely clear. Moreover, the Moehrl-related suits seek additional changes in real estate industry practices beyond the changes NAR agreed to in the DOJ settlement. Further, these lawsuits have prompted discussion of regulatory changes to rules established by local or state real estate boards or multiple listing services. Although the settlement between NAR and the DOJ does not require changes to agent and broker compensation, the resolution of the Moehrl-related suits and/or other regulatory changes may require changes to our or our brokers’ business models, including changes in agent and broker compensation. This could reduce the fees we receive from our franchisees, which, in turn, could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Our results are tied to the residential real estate market and we may be negatively impacted by downturns in this market.
The residential real estate market tends to be cyclical and typically is affected by changes in general economic conditions which are beyond our control. These conditions include fluctuations in interest rates, inflation, wage and job growth, unemployment, home affordability, down payment requirements, inventory, consumer confidence, demographic changes, local or regional economic conditions and the general condition of the U.S., Canadian and global economies. The residential real estate market also depends upon the strength of financial institutions, which are sensitive to changes in the general macroeconomic and regulatory environment. Lack of available credit or lack of confidence in the financial sector could impact the residential real estate market. The residential real estate market could also be negatively impacted by acts of nature, such as fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, and such events may lead us to waive fees in certain impacted areas. Climate change may negatively affect the residential real estate market. Changes in local, state and federal laws or regulations that affect residential real estate transactions or encourage ownership, and potential future tax law changes could negatively impact the residential real estate market.
Any of the above factors, and other factors discussed in this Annual Report on Form 10-K could cause a decline in the housing or mortgage markets and have a material adverse effect on our business by causing periods of lower growth or a decline in the number of home sales and/or home prices. This could lead to a decrease of the number of agents or franchises in our networks and reduce the fees we receive from our franchisees and agents, which, in turn, could adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.
Competition in the residential real estate franchising business is intense, and we may be unable to grow our business organically, including increasing our agent count, expanding our network of franchises and their agents, and increasing franchise and agent fees, which could adversely affect our brand, our financial performance, and results of operations.
We generally face strong competition in the residential real estate services business from other franchisors and brokerages (i.e. national, regional, independent, boutique, discount and web-based brokerages). We also face competition from web-based companies focused on real estate that have made substantial investments in innovative technology aimed at disrupting the real estate market and making more aspects of the real estate industry digital.
Upon the expiration of a franchise agreement, a franchisee may choose to renew their franchise with us, operate as an independent broker or to franchise with one of our competitors. Competing franchisors may offer franchisees fees that are lower than those we charge, or that are more attractive in particular markets. Further, some of our largest competitors may have greater financial resources and larger budgets than we do to invest in technology and enhance their value proposition to agents, brokers and consumers. To remain competitive in the sale of franchises and to retain our existing franchisees at the time of the renewal of their franchise agreements, we may have to reduce the cost of renewals and/or the recurring monthly fees we charge our franchisees. We may have to offer incentives to encourage franchisees to
recruit new agents and successfully manage teams of agents. In addition, even with these measures, franchisees may choose not to renew their franchise, or may not recruit new agents.
As a result of this competition, we may face many challenges in adding franchises and attracting agents in new and existing markets to expand our network, as well as other challenges such as:
|●||selection and availability of suitable markets;|
|●||finding qualified franchisees in these markets who are interested in opening franchises on terms that are favorable to us;|
|●||increasing our local brand awareness in new markets; and|
|●||attracting and training of qualified local agents.|
A significant adoption by consumers of alternatives to full-service agents or loan originators could have a material adverse effect on our business, prospects and results of operations.
A significant increase in consumer use of technology that eliminates or minimizes the role of the real estate agent or mortgage loan originator could have a materially adverse effect on our business, prospects and results of operations. These options include direct-buyer companies (also called iBuyers) that purchase homes directly from sellers at below-market rates in exchange for speed and convenience, and then resell them shortly thereafter at market prices, and discounters who reduce the role of the agent in order to offer sellers a low commission or a flat fee while giving rebates to buyers. How consumers want to buy or sell houses and finance their purchase will determine if these models reduce or replace the long-standing preference for full-service agents and loan originators.
Our operating results are subject to quarterly fluctuations due to home sales, and results for any quarter may not necessarily be indicative of the results that may be achieved for the full fiscal year.
Historically, we have realized, and expect to continue to realize, lower profitability in the first and fourth quarters due primarily to the impact of lower broker fees and other revenue primarily as a result of lower overall home sale transactions, and higher selling, operating and administrative expenses in the first quarter for expenses incurred in connection with our RE/MAX annual convention. Accordingly, our results of operations may fluctuate on a quarterly basis, which would cause period to period comparisons of our operating results to not be necessarily meaningful and cannot be relied upon as indicators of future annual performance.
Risks Related to Our Legal and Capital Structure
RIHI has substantial influence over us including over decisions that require the approval of stockholders, and its interest in our business may conflict with yours.
RIHI, a company controlled by David Liniger, our current Chairman and Co-Founder, and Gail Liniger, our Vice Chair and Co-Founder, respectively, owns all of our outstanding Class B common stock. Although RIHI no longer controls a majority of the voting power of RE/MAX Holdings’ common stock, RIHI remains a significant stockholder of the Company and through its ownership of the Class B common stock and holds 40.6% of the voting power of the Company’s stock. Mr. Liniger also personally owns Class A common stock with an additional 1.1% of the voting power of the Company’s stock. Therefore, RIHI has the ability to significantly influence all matters submitted to a vote of our stockholders.
In addition, RIHI’s entire economic interest in us is in the form of its direct interest in RMCO through the ownership of RMCO common units, the payments it may receive from us under its tax receivable agreement and the proceeds it may receive upon any redemption of its RMCO common units, including issuance of shares of our Class A common stock, upon any such redemption and any subsequent sale of such Class A common stock. As a result, RIHI’s interests may conflict with the interests of our Class A common stockholders. For example, RIHI may have a different tax position from us which could influence its decisions regarding certain transactions, especially in light of the existence of the tax receivable agreements, including whether and when we should terminate the tax receivable agreements and accelerate our obligations thereunder. In addition, RIHI could have an interest in the structuring of future transactions to take into consideration its tax or other considerations, even in situations where no similar considerations are relevant to us.
Our tax receivable agreements require us to make cash payments based upon future tax benefits to which we may become entitled. The amounts that we may be required to pay could be significant, may be accelerated in certain circumstances and could significantly exceed the actual tax benefits that we ultimately realize.
In connection with our IPO, we entered into tax receivable agreements that are currently held by RIHI and Parallaxes Rain Co-Investment, LLC (“Parallaxes” and together, the “TRA Parties”). The amount of the cash payments that we may be
required to make under the tax receivable agreements could be significant and will depend, in part, upon facts and circumstances that are beyond our control.
The tax receivable agreements provide that if certain mergers, asset sales, other forms of business combination, or other changes of control were to occur, or that if, at any time, we elect an early termination of the tax receivable agreements, then our obligations, or our successor’s obligations, to make payments under the tax receivable agreements would be based on certain assumptions, including an assumption that we would have sufficient taxable income to fully utilize all potential future tax benefits that are subject to the tax receivable agreements.
As a result, (i) we could be required to make cash payments to the TRA Parties that are greater than the specified percentage of the actual benefits we ultimately realize in respect of the tax benefits that are subject to the tax receivable agreements, and (ii) if we elect to terminate the tax receivable agreements early, we would be required to make an immediate cash payment equal to the present value of the anticipated future tax benefits that are the subject of the tax receivable agreements, which payment may be made significantly in advance of the actual realization, if any, of such future tax benefits.
We will also not be reimbursed for any cash payments previously made to the TRA Parties (or their predecessors) pursuant to the tax receivable agreements if any tax benefits initially claimed by us are subsequently challenged by a taxing authority and are ultimately disallowed. Instead, any excess cash payments made by us to either of the TRA Parties will be netted against any future cash payments that we might otherwise be required to make under the terms of the tax receivable agreements. However, we might not determine that we have effectively made an excess cash payment to either of the TRA Parties for a number of years following the initial time of such payment. As a result, it is possible that we could make cash payments under the tax receivable agreements that are substantially greater than our actual cash tax savings.
We have significant debt service obligations and may incur additional indebtedness in the future.
We have significant debt service obligations, including principal, interest and commitment fee payments due quarterly pursuant to RE/MAX, LLC’s Senior Secured Credit Facility. Our currently existing indebtedness, or any additional indebtedness we may incur, could require us to divert funds identified for other purposes for debt service and impair our liquidity position. If we cannot generate sufficient cash flow from operations to service our debt, we may need to refinance our debt, dispose of assets or issue additional equity to obtain necessary funds. We do not know whether we would be able to take such actions on a timely basis, on terms satisfactory to us, or at all. Future indebtedness may impose additional restrictions on us, which could limit our ability to respond to market conditions, to make capital investments or to take advantage of business opportunities. Our level of indebtedness has important consequences to you and your investment in our Class A common stock.
Anti-takeover provisions in our charter documents and Delaware law might discourage or delay acquisition attempts for us that you might consider favorable.
Our certificate of incorporation and bylaws contain provisions that may make the acquisition of our Company more difficult without the approval of our Board of Directors. These provisions:
|●||establish a classified Board of Directors so that not all members of our Board of Directors are elected at one time;|
|●||authorize the issuance of undesignated preferred stock, the terms of which may be established and the shares of which may be issued without stockholder approval, and which may include super voting, special approval, dividend or other rights or preferences superior to the rights of the holders of common stock;|
|●||provide that our Board of Directors is expressly authorized to make, alter or repeal our bylaws;|
|●||delegate the sole power to a majority of our Board of Directors to fix the number of directors;|
|●||provide the power of our Board of Directors to fill any vacancy on our Board of Directors, whether such vacancy occurs as a result of an increase in the number of directors or otherwise;|
|●||eliminate the ability of stockholders to call special meetings of stockholders; and|
|●||establish advance notice requirements for nominations for elections to our Board of Directors or for proposing matters that can be acted upon by stockholders at stockholder meetings.|
Our certificate of incorporation also contains a provision that provides us with protections similar to Section 203 of the Delaware General Corporation Law, and prevents us from engaging in a business combination with a person who acquires at least 15% of our common stock for a period of three years from the date such person acquired such common stock unless board or stockholder approval is obtained prior to the acquisition, except that David and Gail Liniger are
deemed to have been approved by our Board of Directors, and thereby not subject to these restrictions. These anti-takeover provisions and other provisions under Delaware law could discourage, delay or prevent a transaction involving a change in control of our Company, even if doing so would benefit our stockholders. These provisions could also discourage proxy contests and make it more difficult for you and other stockholders to elect directors of your choosing and to cause us to take other corporate actions you desire.
Risks Related to Governmental Regulations
Financing for homebuyers in the U.S. is highly regulated and a lack of residential real estate market financing at favorable rates and on favorable terms could have a material adverse effect on our financial performance and results of operations.
Our business is significantly impacted by the availability of financing at favorable rates or on favorable terms for homebuyers, which may be affected by government regulations and policies.
The Dodd-Frank Act, which was passed to more closely regulate the financial services industry by creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”), an independent federal bureau, which was designed to enforce consumer protection laws, including various laws regulating mortgage finance. The Dodd-Frank Act also established new standards and practices for mortgage lending, including a requirement to determine a prospective borrower’s ability to repay a loan, removing perceived incentives to originate higher cost mortgages, requiring additional disclosures to potential borrowers and restricting the fees that mortgage originators may collect. Rules implementing many of these changes protect creditors from certain liabilities for loans that meet the requirements for “qualified mortgages.” (“QM loans”). The rules placed several restrictions on qualified mortgages, including caps on certain closing costs as well as limits on debt to income (“DTI”) ratios for qualified mortgages.
Certain potential regulatory changes such as the termination by the CFPB of a regulatory exemption known as the “QM patch” for loans backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, the requirement to implement a new uniform residential loan application (“URLA”) which may increase Equal Credit Opportunity Act (“ECOA”) and other operational risks, and more activist supervision and regulation of housing finance at the state level may adversely impact the housing industry, including homebuyers’ ability to finance and purchase homes.
The monetary policy of the U.S. government, and particularly the Federal Reserve Board, which regulates the supply of money and credit in the U.S., significantly affects the availability of financing at favorable rates and on favorable terms, which in turn affects the domestic real estate market. Changes in the Federal Reserve Board’s policies are beyond our control, are difficult to predict, and could restrict the availability of financing on reasonable terms at favorable interest rates for homebuyers, which could have a material adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition.
In addition, a reduction in government support for home financing, including the possible winding down or privatization of GSEs could further reduce the availability of financing for homebuyers in the U.S. residential real estate market. No consensus has emerged in Congress concerning potential reforms relating to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a potential transition to alternative structures for the secondary market, so we cannot predict either the short or long term-effects of such regulation and its impact on homebuyers’ ability to finance and purchase homes.
Lenders may from time to time tighten their underwriting standards or cease to offer subprime and other alternative mortgage products in the marketplace. If mortgage loans are difficult to obtain, the ability and willingness of prospective buyers to finance home purchases or to sell their existing homes could be adversely affected, which would adversely affect our operating results.
While we are continuing to evaluate all aspects of legislation, regulations and policies affecting the domestic real estate market, we cannot predict whether or not such legislation, regulation and policies may increase down payment requirements, increase mortgage costs, or result in increased costs and potential litigation for housing market participants, any of which could have a material adverse effect on our financial condition and results of operations.
Our franchising activities are subject to a variety of state and federal laws and regulations regarding franchises, and any failure to comply with such existing or future laws and regulations could adversely affect our business.
The sale of franchises is regulated by various state laws as well as by the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”). The FTC requires that franchisors make extensive disclosure to prospective franchisees but does not require registration. A number of states require registration and/or disclosure in connection with franchise offers and sales. In addition, several states have “franchise relationship laws” or “business opportunity laws” that limit the ability of franchisors to terminate franchise agreements or to withhold consent to the renewal or transfer of these agreements. We believe that our franchising procedures, as well as any applicable state-specific procedures, comply in all material respects with both the FTC guidelines and all applicable state laws regulating franchising in those states in which we offer new franchise
arrangements. However, noncompliance could reduce anticipated revenue, which in turn may materially and adversely affect our business and operating results.
The real estate business is highly regulated and any failure to comply with such regulations or any changes in such regulations could adversely affect our business.
The businesses of our franchisees are highly regulated and are subject to requirements governing the licensing and conduct of real estate brokerage and brokerage-related businesses in the jurisdictions in which they do business.
Our franchisees must comply with RESPA. RESPA and comparable state statutes, among other things, restrict payments which real estate brokers, agents, mortgage brokers, loan originators and other settlement service providers may receive for the referral of business to other settlement service providers in connection with the closing of real estate transactions. Such laws may to some extent restrict preferred vendor arrangements involving our franchisees. RESPA and similar state laws also require timely disclosure of certain relationships or financial interests that a broker has with providers of real estate settlement services.
There is a risk that we and our franchisees could be adversely affected by current laws, regulations or interpretations or that more restrictive laws, regulations or interpretations will be adopted in the future that could make compliance more difficult or expensive.
We, or our franchisees, are also subject to various other rules and regulations such as:
|●||the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which governs the disclosure and safeguarding of consumer financial information;|
|●||the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”), the California Consumer Privacy Act, and various other laws protecting consumer data;|
|●||the USA PATRIOT Act;|
|●||restrictions on transactions with persons on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list promulgated by the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the Department of the Treasury;|
|●||federal and state “Do Not Call,” “Do Not Fax,” and “Do Not E-Mail” laws;|
|●||the Fair Housing Act;|
|●||laws and regulations, including the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, that impose sanctions on improper payments;|
|●||laws and regulations in jurisdictions outside the U.S. in which we do business;|
|●||state and federal employment laws and regulations, including any changes that would require reclassification of independent contractors to employee status, and wage and hour regulations; and|
|●||consumer fraud statutes.|
Our or our franchisees’ failure to comply with any of the foregoing laws and regulations may result in fines, penalties, injunctions and/or potential criminal violations. Any changes to these laws or regulations or any new laws or regulations may make it more difficult for us to operate our business and may have a material adverse effect on our operations.
Cyberattacks, security breaches and improper access to, disclosure or deletion of our data, personally identifiable information we collect, or business records could harm our business, damage our reputation and cause losses.
Our information technologies and systems and those of our third-party hosted services are vulnerable to breach, damage or interruption from various causes, including: (i) natural disasters, war and acts of terrorism, (ii) power losses, computer systems failure, Internet and telecommunications or data network failures, operator error, losses and corruption of data, and similar events, and (iii) employee error, malfeasance or otherwise. Of particular risk and focus in recent years is the potential penetration of internal or outsourced systems by individuals seeking to disrupt operations or misappropriate information (aka, cyberattacks). Cyberattacks, including the use of phishing and malware, continue to grow in sophistication making it impossible for us to mitigate all of these risks. Any extended interruption of our systems or exposure of sensitive data to third parties could cause significant damage to our business or our brand, for which our business interruption insurance may be insufficient to compensate us for losses that may occur.
In addition, we rely on the collection and use of personally identifiable information from franchisees, agents and consumers to conduct our business and in certain instances such data may include social security numbers, payment
card numbers, or customer financial information. Global privacy legislation (including the GDPR regulations in the European Union), enforcement and policy activity are rapidly expanding and creating a complex compliance environment. Changes in these laws may limit our data access, use, and disclosure, and may require increased expenditures by us or may dictate that we not offer certain types of services. For example, California recently enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act, which became effective on January 1, 2020 and requires covered businesses to, among other things, provide disclosures to California consumers regarding the collection, use and disclosure of such consumers’ personal information and afford such consumers new rights with respect to their personal information, including the right to opt out of certain sales of personal information. We believe that further increased regulation in additional jurisdictions is likely in the area of data privacy. Should we misuse or improperly store the personally identifiable information that we collect, or should we be the victim of a cyberattack that results in improper access to such personally identifiable information, we may be subject to legal claims and regulatory scrutiny. Any legal claims, government action or damage to our reputation due to actions, or the perception that we are taking actions, inconsistent with the terms of our privacy statement, consumer expectations, or privacy-related or data protection laws and regulations, could expose us to liability and adversely impact our business and results of operations.
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused and will likely continue to cause significant disruption to our normal business operations, and the severity and duration of these impacts on future financial performance and results of operations remain uncertain.
The COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the globe and is impacting economic activity worldwide. The pandemic poses significant risks to our business and our employees, franchisees, agents, and loan originators.
The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted our business and that of our franchisees. The pandemic poses the risk of an extended disruption to our business, that of our franchisees and other business partners, and housing and mortgage markets generally, due to the impact of the disease itself, actions intended to limit or slow its spread, and other factors. These include restrictions on travel or transportation, social distancing requirements, limitations on the size of gatherings, policies that ban or severely limit in-person showings of properties, closures of work facilities, schools, public buildings and businesses, cancellation of events, curtailing other activities, quarantines and lock-downs.
Disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a downturn in the residential real estate and mortgage markets and future developments related to COVID-19 may cause further disruptions to the economy and real estate and mortgage markets that may negatively impact our business. Such disruptions may include a downturn in economic conditions generally, declines in consumer confidence and spending, and tightening of credit or instability in the financial markets. These same factors may impair the ability of our franchisees (a) to continue their operations resulting in larger numbers of failures and (b) to pay the fees that are due to us under their franchise agreements. We provided financial support to our franchisees during this time, which resulted in a decline in our revenues in 2020. We are unable to estimate the effectiveness of that support on the ongoing financial health and stability of our franchisees, whether we will determine to offer support in future periods as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, or the ultimate effect of such support on our results of operations and financial condition.
Nearly all of the Company’s employees are currently working remotely and may continue to do so for an undetermined amount of time. This may impair the ability of the Company’s management team to successfully implement the Company’s business plans. We cannot predict when or how we will begin to lift the actions put in place as part of our business continuity plans, including work from home requirements and travel restrictions.
The duration and magnitude of the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic depends on future developments that cannot be predicted at this time. There remains significant uncertainty regarding the continuing impact of COVID-19 on our business and the overall economy as a whole throughout the world, including in the United States and Canada. In particular, there is significant concern regarding the possibility of additional waves of COVID-19 cases that could cause state and local governments to reinstate more restrictive measures, which could impact our business and housing markets. There is also uncertainty regarding how the housing market will respond to any reduction in the health risks relating to COVID-19 in the future for example as a result of viable treatment options or a vaccine including the uncertainty surrounding the speed of rollout and efficacy of any treatments or vaccines.
The Company has experienced significant disruption to its business as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and such disruptions may continue, particularly if ongoing mitigation actions by government authorities remain in place for a significant amount of time. The future impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our liquidity and financial condition is unknown, and its impact may be variable over time as government regulations, market conditions and consumer behavior changes in response to developments with respect to the pandemic. Notwithstanding any mitigation actions, sustained material revenue declines relating to this crisis could impact our financial condition, results of operations, stock price and ability to access the capital markets. Substantial declines in our profitability could trigger the excess cash flow requirements of our Senior Secured Credit Facility (described [above in Item 2)] requiring us to make incremental principal payments that would not otherwise be required.
The pandemic and any severe or long-term economic downturn in the housing market or long-term mitigation efforts by government authorities could heighten other important risks and uncertainties including, without limitation, (i) changes in the real estate market or interest rates and availability of financing for homebuyers, (ii) changes in business and economic activity in general, (iii) the Company’s ability to attract and retain quality franchisees, (iv) the Company’s franchisees’ ability to recruit and retain real estate agents and mortgage loan originators and their ability to continue as a going concern, (v) changes in laws and regulations, (vi) adverse legal interpretations of contractual provisions within our franchise agreements, (vii) the Company’s ability to enhance, market, and protect the RE/MAX and Motto Mortgage brands, (viii) the Company’s ability to implement its technology initiatives, (ix) fluctuations in foreign currency exchange rates, and (x) the Company’s ability to obtain any required additional financing in the future on acceptable terms or at all.
Expectations of the Company relating to environmental, social and governance factors may impose additional costs and expose us to new risks.
There is an increasing focus from certain investors, employees and other stakeholders concerning corporate responsibility, specifically related to environmental, social and governance factors. Some investors may use these factors to guide their investment strategies and, in some cases, may choose not to invest in us if they believe our policies relating to corporate responsibility are inadequate. Third-party providers of corporate responsibility ratings and reports on companies have increased to meet growing investor demand for measurement of corporate responsibility performance. The criteria by which companies’ corporate responsibility practices are assessed may change, which could result in greater expectations of us and cause us to undertake costly initiatives to satisfy such new criteria. If we elect not to or are unable to satisfy such new criteria, investors may conclude that our policies with respect to corporate responsibility are inadequate. We may face reputational damage in the event that our corporate responsibility procedures or standards do not meet the standards set by various constituencies. Furthermore, if our competitors’ corporate responsibility performance is perceived to be greater than ours, potential or current investors may elect to invest with our competitors instead. In addition, in the event that we communicate certain initiatives and goals regarding environmental, social and governance matters, we could fail, or be perceived to fail, in our achievement of such initiatives or goals, or we could be criticized for the scope of such initiatives or goals. If we fail to satisfy the expectations of investors, employees and other stakeholders or our initiatives are not executed as planned, our reputation and financial results could be materially and adversely affected.
ITEM 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS
ITEM 2. PROPERTIES
Our corporate headquarters is located in leased offices in Denver, Colorado. The lease consists of approximately 231,000 square feet and expires in April 2028. We also lease an office building in Denver, Colorado for our booj operations. The lease consists of approximately 20,000 square feet and expires in February 2034.
ITEM 3. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS
As disclosed in Note 14, Commitments and Contingencies, from time to time we are involved in litigation, claims and other proceedings relating to the conduct of our business, and the disclosures set forth in Note 14 relating to certain legal matters is incorporated herein by reference. Such litigation and other proceedings may include, but are not limited to, actions relating to intellectual property, commercial arrangements, franchising arrangements, brokerage disputes, vicarious liability based upon conduct of individuals or entities outside of our control including franchisees and independent agents, and employment law claims. Litigation and other disputes are inherently unpredictable and subject to substantial uncertainties and unfavorable resolutions could occur. Often these cases raise complex factual and legal issues, which are subject to risks and uncertainties and which could require significant time and resources from management. Although we do not believe any currently pending litigation will have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition or operations, there are inherent uncertainties in litigation and other claims and regulatory
proceedings and such pending matters could result in unexpected expenses and liabilities and might materially adversely affect our business, financial condition or operations, including our reputation.
ITEM 4. MINE SAFETY DISCLOSURES
ITEM 5. MARKET FOR REGISTRANT’S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES
Our Class A common stock trades on the New York Stock Exchange (“NYSE”) under the symbol “RMAX”. As of February 22, 2021, we had 51 stockholders of record of our Class A common stock. This number does not include stockholders whose stock is held in nominee or street name by brokers. All shares of Class B common stock are owned by RIHI, Inc. (“RIHI”), and there is no public market for these shares.
For the years ended December 31, 2020 and 2019 we declared a $0.22 and $0.21 per share dividend for each quarter during those calendar years, respectively. We intend to continue to pay a cash dividend on shares of Class A common stock on a quarterly basis. However the timing and amount of those dividends will be subject to approval and declaration by our Board of Directors and will depend on a variety of factors, including the financial results and cash flows of RMCO, LLC and its consolidated subsidiaries (“RMCO”), distributions we receive from RMCO, cash requirements and financial condition, our ability to pay dividends under our senior secured credit facility and any other applicable contracts, and other factors deemed relevant by our Board of Directors. All dividends declared and paid will not be cumulative. See Note 5, Earnings Per Share and Dividends to the consolidated financial statements included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K for further information.
The following graph and table depict the total return to stockholders from December 31, 2015 through December 31, 2020, relative to the performance of the S&P SmallCap 600 Index, S&P 500 Index and S&P Homebuilders Select Industry Index. The graph assumes that $100 was invested at the closing price on December 31, 2015 and that all dividends were reinvested.
The performance graph is not intended to be indicative of future performance. The performance graph shall not be deemed “soliciting material” or to be “filed” with the Securities and Exchange Commission for purposes of Section 18 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (the “Exchange Act”), or otherwise subject to the liabilities under that Section, and shall not be deemed to be incorporated by reference into any of the Company’s filings under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, (the “Securities Act”), or the Exchange Act.
Comparison of Cumulative Five-Year Return
Unregistered Sales of Equity Securities and Use of Proceeds
Purchases of Equity Securities by the Issuer and Affiliated Purchasers
ITEM 6. SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA
The following tables set forth our selected historical consolidated financial results and other data as of the dates and for the periods indicated. The selected consolidated statements of income data for the years ended December 31, 2020, 2019 and 2018, and the consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2020 and 2019 have been derived from our audited consolidated financial statements (“financial statements”) included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. The selected consolidated statements of income data for the years ended December 31, 2017 and 2016 and the selected consolidated balance sheets data as of December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016 have been derived from our audited financial statements not included in this Annual Report on Form 10-K.
As of December 31, 2015, RE/MAX Holdings, Inc. (“Holdings”) owned 58.3% of the common membership units in RMCO, LLC and its consolidated subsidiaries (“RMCO”), and as of December 31, 2020, Holdings owns 59.4% of the common
membership units in RMCO. Holdings’ only business is to act as the sole manager of RMCO and in that capacity, Holdings operates and controls all of the business and affairs of RMCO.
Our selected historical financial data may not be indicative of our future financial condition, future results of operations or future cash flows.
Year Ended December 31,
(in thousands, except per share amounts and agent data)
Continuing franchise fees
Marketing Funds fees
Franchise sales and other revenue
Selling, operating and administrative expenses
Marketing Funds expenses
Depreciation and amortization
Impairment charge - leased assets
Gain on reduction in tax receivable agreement liability
Total operating expenses
Other expenses, net:
Foreign currency transaction (losses) gains
Loss on early extinguishment of debt
Total other expenses, net
Income before provision for income taxes
Provision for income taxes
Less: net income attributable to non-controlling interests
Net income attributable to RE/MAX Holdings, Inc.
Earnings Per Share Data:
Agent count at period end (unaudited)
Cash dividends declared per share of Class A common stock
As of December 31,
Cash and cash equivalents
Restricted cash (1)
Franchise agreements, net
Payable pursuant to tax receivable agreements, including current portion
Debt, including current portion
Total stockholders' equity
|(1)||Restricted cash is attributable to the Marketing Funds, which were acquired January 1, 2019. See Note 6, Acquisitions, to the accompanying consolidated financial statements for more information.|
ITEM 7. MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS
The following discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements (“financial statements”) and accompanying notes thereto included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. This Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations contains forward-looking statements. See “Forward-Looking Statements” and “Item 1A.—Risk Factors” for a discussion of the uncertainties, risks and assumptions associated with these statements. Actual results may differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statements.
The historical results of operations discussed in this Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations are those of RE/MAX Holdings, Inc. (“Holdings”) and its consolidated subsidiaries (collectively, the “Company,” “we,” “our” or “us”).
Industry Conditions and the Impact of COVID-19 on our Company and Results of Operations
The COVID-19 pandemic began impacting the global economy in early 2020, adversely affecting consumer demand, financial markets and employment levels. The residential real estate industry was not immune to the impacts of the pandemic as the amount of homebuying, selling and borrowing activity significantly slowed in the second quarter. After year-over-year transaction declines in April and May that averaged nearly 30% in U.S. Company-Owned Regions, we began to experience a resurgence in demand during the second half of the year, with an average year-over-year transaction growth of approximately 19%. We believe that the residential real estate industry is positioned for future growth and will benefit from an increase in demand from rising household formations, an increase in demand from lifestyle and generational shifts, and pent-up demand from supply shortages accompanied by record-low interest rates.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, during the second quarter we offered our RE/MAX franchisees in Company-Owned Regions in the U.S. and Canada and our Motto Mortgage franchisees temporary financial relief options to support their businesses, which resulted in reductions of Continuing franchise fees and Marketing Funds fees of $7.0 million and $4.9 million in the second quarter, respectively. Many of our Independent Region owners in the U.S. and Canada and globally also extended financial relief programs to their franchisees. All North American relief programs ended in the second quarter, although small amounts continued into the third quarter for our global regions. At this time, we do not plan to offer further financial relief programs.
Also during the second quarter, we implemented a cost mitigation plan that included the elimination of the 2020 corporate bonus plan, the temporary suspension of the 401(k) match, travel and events, and the implementation of a hiring freeze. Given the Company’s strong performance in the second half of the year, the Board of Directors approved a discretionary bonus in the fourth quarter, albeit at a lower level than our initially established bonus targets prior to the pandemic and the actual 2019 attainment level. Cost savings measures enacted in 2020 largely ended as of December 31, 2020 with the notable exception of travel and events related expenses which are expected to be muted, at least initially, in 2021.
We continue to monitor the impact of the pandemic on all aspects of our business. Our priority with regard to COVID-19 has been, and continues to be, the safety, health and well-being of our employees, networks, consumers and others with whom we partner in our business activities to continue our operations in this unprecedented environment.
Financial and Operational Highlights – Year Ended December 31, 2020
(Compared to the year ended December 31, 2019 unless otherwise noted)
|●||Acquired The Gadberry Group, LLC (“Gadberry”), a location intelligence data company and Wemlo, Inc. (“wemlo”), an innovative fintech company that provides third-party mortgage loan processing services through its “Service Cloud” for mortgage brokers, combining third-party loan processing with an all-in-one digital platform.|
|●||Total agent count increased by 5.3% to 137,792 agents.|
|●||U.S. and Canada combined agent count decreased 0.5% to 84,250 agents.|
|●||Total open Motto Mortgage offices increased 27.0% to 141 offices.|
|●||Total Revenue of $266.0 million, a decrease of 5.8% from the prior year.|
|●||Net income attributable to RE/MAX Holdings, Inc. of $11.0 million.|
|●||Adjusted EBITDA of $92.6 million and Adjusted EBITDA margin of 34.8% compared to Adjusted EBITDA of $103.5 million and Adjusted EBITDA margin of 36.7% from the prior period. This decrease driven primarily by temporary COVID-19 related financial support initiatives.|
Execution of our strategy, and continued investment in our business alongside rebounding U.S. housing and mortgage markets helped our business recover quickly from coronavirus-related declines experienced in the second quarter of 2020. Despite the pandemic, we generated healthy organic growth in the latter part of the year and continued our trend of robust free cash flow generation resulting in a year-end cash balance of $101.4 million. Overall, RE/MAX agent count and Motto franchise sales continued to grow. Agent count outside the U.S. and Canada accelerated in the second half of 2020 and grew 16% year-over-year. Motto franchise sales of 71 set an annual record and increased more than 35% from 2019. We also continued to invest for long-term growth and completed the acquisitions of wemlo and Gadberry during the third quarter of 2020. These strategic acquisitions tie directly into our strategy of adding value for the RE/MAX and Motto Mortgage networks while broadening and diversifying our revenue and growth opportunities. These acquisitions benefit our networks, strengthen our technology and data core, and create additional commercial possibilities. We are already investing in wemlo and Gadberry and currently expect these two acquisitions, alongside incremental investments from our 2019 acquisition of First, to adversely impact Adjusted EBITDA in a range of $2.5 million to $3.5 million during 2021 compared to 2020, and become accretive in 2022.
The Financial and Operational Highlights, Results of Operations and Sources and Uses of Cash, for the years ended December 31, 2019 and 2018 and as compared to the year ended December 31, 2018 and 2017, respectively, has been previously disclosed in Item 7 of our 2019 Annual Report on Form 10-K and is incorporated herein by reference.
Selected Operating and Financial Highlights
The following tables summarize several key performance indicators and our results of operations for the last three years.
As of December 31,
Total agent count growth
U.S. and Canada Total
Outside U.S. and Canada
Network-wide agent count
Motto open offices (2)
Year Ended December 31,
RE/MAX franchise sales (1)
Motto franchise sales (2)
|(1)||Includes franchise sales in the U.S., Canada and global regions.|
|(2)||Excludes virtual offices and Branchises.|
Year Ended December 31,
Total selling, operating and administrative expenses
Net income attributable to RE/MAX Holdings, Inc.
Adjusted EBITDA (1)
Adjusted EBITDA margin (1)
|(1)||See “—Non-GAAP Financial Measures” for further discussion of Adjusted EBITDA and Adjusted EBITDA margin and a reconciliation of the differences between Adjusted EBITDA and net income, which is the most comparable U.S. generally accepted accounting principles (“U.S. GAAP”) measure for operating performance. Adjusted EBITDA margin represents Adjusted EBITDA as a percentage of total revenue.|
Results of Operations
Year Ended December 31, 2020 vs. Year Ended December 31, 2019
A summary of the components of our revenue is as follows (in thousands except percentages):
Continuing franchise fees
Marketing Funds fees
Franchise sales and other revenue
Consolidated revenue decreased primarily due to temporary COVID-19 related financial support initiatives the Company provided in the second quarter and, to a lesser extent, agent recruiting initiatives that reduced both Continuing franchise fees and Marketing Funds fees.
Continuing Franchise Fees
Revenue from Continuing franchise fees decreased primarily due to temporary COVID-19 related financial support initiatives and previously announced agent recruiting initiatives which waive Continuing franchise, partially offset by Motto expansion.
Revenue from Broker fees increased primarily due to rising home prices and higher total transactions per agent.
Marketing Funds fees
Revenue from the Marketing Funds fees decreased primarily due to temporary COVID-19 related financial support initiatives and previously announced agent recruiting initiatives which waive Marketing Funds fees.
Franchise Sales and Other Revenue
Franchise sales and other revenue decreased primarily due to continued attrition of booj’s legacy customer base, lower approved supplier revenue and lower event-based revenue, partially offset by incremental revenue from acquisitions. For the full year 2021, we expect the attrition of the booj legacy customer base to negatively impact revenue and profit by approximately $2.0 million as compared to 2020. In addition, in 2021 our first quarter annual agent conference will have limited in-person attendance and the majority of agents will participate virtually. As a result, we expect our revenue to be approximately $1.5 million lower in the first quarter of 2021 as compared to the same prior year period; however, associated cost savings are expected to largely offset the decreased revenue.
A summary of the components of our operating expenses is as follows (in thousands, except percentages):
Selling, operating and administrative expenses