2021 Top 49ers Special Section
The ‘50th 49er’
Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group
By Tracy Barbour

laska Business’ annual list of Top 49ers features local companies that generate billions of dollars in revenue, employ thousands of workers, and contribute significantly to the community. Inevitably, some businesses barely miss the ranks, even after making the list in previous years. One such company is Keller Williams (ranked 49 in 2019) which achieved outstanding productivity and growth in 2020 and is a company to watch in the future—and this year is being recognized as the ‘50th 49er’.

“We are honored,” says CEO/Team Leader Joshua Nelson, reacting to receiving this year’s special designation. “We have 392 associates in Alaska, and it’s a testament to the work they have put in and the amazing businesses they have built.”

Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group is the state’s leading residential real estate firm based on agent count, market share, and sales volume. The company has fifteen employees in Alaska and offices in Anchorage, Eagle River, Wasilla, Fairbanks, and Soldotna to serve the needs of home buyers and sellers. Some of its locations are “mega agent” offices that independent contractors with a large team have opted to broker out of their own building—and may even have associates throughout the country. Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group also has independent affiliates in Juneau and Ketchikan to further expand its reach in Alaska. “We’re working on having multiple locations to create a solid statewide infrastructure,” Nelson says.

Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group is part of Keller Williams Realty Inc., an Austin, Texas-based technology and international real estate franchise. Founded in 1983 by Gary Keller and Joe Williams, the company has expanded from a single location in Austin to approximately 950 offices and 180,000 associates worldwide. Each Keller Williams office is independently owned and operated, making it a business entity unto itself.

Incidentally, in Alaska, a real estate salesperson is legally known as a licensee. However, the industry-accepted term for a real estate salesperson is “agent,” although this word carries legal implications. This article uses agent as a general reference.

Strong, Consistent Performance
Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group proudly embodies Keller Williams’ corporate mission: “To build careers worth having, businesses worth owning, lives worth living, experiences worth giving, and legacies worth leaving.” This mission has successfully guided the company since it established its presence in Alaska in 2006.

Since then, the real estate market has ebbed and flowed with the ups and downs of Alaska’s economy. But over the past five years, the company’s real estate associates have produced impressive revenue:

  • $38,841,462 in 2020
  • $33,222,455 in 2019
  • $34,840,420 in 2018
  • $35,007,889 in 2017
  • $34,000,000 in 2016

Nelson attributes this robust performance, in part, to the associates’ training, vigilance, and adaptability. He explains: “One of the things we teach at Keller Williams is always preparing for market shifts and understand that on a downhill side there’s an opportunity to tighten your belt and on an upshift there’s an opportunity to gain market share. We’re coaching the business owners to always be ready and always be looking at their leading indicators.”

So far this year, business is booming for Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group. “From January to July, our business is up 41 percent from last year,” says Operating Principal Barbara Huntley. “We have an increase in volume of 23.81 and 20.4 for units percentage. Part of that is the fact that prices have gone up.”

She adds: “From January to the end of July, we had just over $1 billion in sales volume and gross commissions just under $30 million for year to date. That will put us on pace to smash our $38 million revenue.”

“One of the things we teach at Keller Williams is always preparing for market shifts and understand that on a downhill side there’s an opportunity to tighten your belt and on an upshift there’s an opportunity to gain market share. We’re coaching the business owners to always be ready and always be looking at their leading indicators.”
Joshua Nelson, CEO/Team Leader, Keller Williams
Huntley says the focus of Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group is to help agents build their business and community—which ultimately benefits the company. “It’s about our realtors and the community,” she says. “If we help the realtors have the life they desire and help the community, then Keller Williams gets taken care of.”

Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group is an ardent supporter of worthy causes that enhance the communities it serves. This year, the company participated in its annual day of giving: RED Day, which stands for renew, energize, and donate. On this global day of service—held on the second Thursday of May—Keller Williams agents and associates worldwide take off work to perform various service projects in the community.

Barbara Huntley
Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group
In Juneau, Keller Williams volunteers provided coffee for first responders; in Soldotna, they rebuilt two stand-alone food pantries that allow people to donate and take food discreetly. And in Anchorage, they came together to spruce up the grounds at the Anchorage Pioneer Home. “We swept the parking lot, cleaned the furniture, and did anything to be a help,” Nelson says.

But the volunteers’ most ambitious project was rehabbing the gazebo at the Pioneer Home in Palmer. They completely gutted the gazebo, added new windows, and painted the fireplace to make it more enjoyable for the community. Keller Williams associates raised more than $12,000 to provide the materials to renovate the gazebo, along with contributing their time. Although RED Day is designed to be a one-day event, Keller Williams’ work on the service projects began long before then. “We have a culture committee, and they have put in countless hours into these projects,” Nelson says.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned
This past year, Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group has applied a number of best practices and lessons learned to adapt its operations to a changing real estate market. For example, Alaska has been in the middle of the biggest housing boom since the end of WW2, and due to COVID-19, the real estate market has become much better at being technically based. “Home buyers and sellers have grasped onto virtual home showings and meetings,” Nelson says. “And although there are still some people that have reluctance, we expect to see more and more consumers get comfortable purchasing a home digitally without ever being physically in the home. The industry has also moved in that direction, and the technology that has enabled things to move forward at such a high rate of speed is amazing.”

Nelson says Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group has always coached its agents to deal with serious clients. But the current real estate market has created a unique opportunity for agents to further refine their processes. “We swiftly entered a fast market where agents and buyers had to be much more willing to say yes than before,” he says.

The market also forced real estate agents to become proficient at doing virtual showings. A considerable number of homes were sold last year via FaceTime and Zoom, and now agents are comfortable with using these tools. “That won’t go away; we’re definitely a tech-driven world,” Nelson says.

The company’s agents—and buyers—have had to adjust to a fast-and-furious real estate market. Historically low interest rates, tremendous demand, and an incredibly low inventory all converged to create a seller’s market. Multiple offers, price wars, and fast-moving sales have become the norm. Mid-level priced homes went to being snapped up in days to hours. “We’ve seen people get really creative: buyers paying sellers’ closing costs and waiving inspections,” Nelson says. “We don’t condone that, but we’ve seen them do it.”

Joshua Nelson
Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group
During 2020, Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group adapted in a variety of ways to meet the needs of their clients and the community. The company worked with state and municipality officials to ensure that its business owners could function in the midst of the COVID-19 environment. “It was vitally important that government entities understood that home purchases are just as important as other forms of housing,” Nelson explains. “Residential real estate is an essential business.”

Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group also extended greater flexibility and sensitivity to help clients deal with the challenges of the unprecedented pandemic. “Unfortunately, we’re living in a time where everything can be politicized,” he says. “Our clients’ comfort comes first.”

The company also initiated practices to enhance safety, including providing clients with masks and hand sanitizer. It also implemented social distancing measures by limiting the number of people allowed at open houses because of COVID-19.

Success Factors
As one of the keys to its success, Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group has been an unapologetic defender of both the realtor and consumer in the real estate transaction. A home is the largest investment most people will make, and having a true professional in the sales process makes a significant difference, Nelson says. “We’re living at a time where we have large companies actively buying property to flip it,” he says. “We believe a well-trained individual working in the transaction is the best thing for the consumer. We are professionals at what we do, and we are going to act and move in that manner.”

The company also attributes its success to its practice of having world-renowned business training and helping people build amazing lives. It has focused on teaching realtors to be business- and relationship-based. Being an entrepreneur comes first, but being purposeful comes next, Nelson says.

He explains: “At Keller Williams, we truly want our people to come in and build an amazing life and build a business that has value. We’re not going to be measured by how much money we make at the end of the day. We’re going to be measured by the lives that we change and the leaders that we grow.”

That philosophy has served the company well, translating into a variety of awards over the years. Its team members have earned various accolades for their stellar work performance, from local awards from the Anchorage Board of Realtors to national honors for growth and leadership. “Our leadership team was 3rd place in the nation for growth for the first quarter of this year with KWRI’s Bet on Red campaign,” Nelson says.

Nelson is excited about the success that Keller Williams Realty Alaska Group is experiencing and where the company is heading. “As the industry keeps changing and Keller Williams keeps looking to unapologetically protect the consumers and professionals, we’re looking forward to growth opportunities,” he says.