How the President and CEO of CENTURY 21® plans to strengthen the brand’s voice
For 20-year industry veteran Nick Bailey, his appointment as president and CEO of Century 21 Real Estate LLC has brought him full circle—back to the place where it all began when he jumped in feet first to the buying and selling side of the real estate business. In this exclusive interview, Bailey shares how his past has set the stage for success as he takes the reins at CENTURY 21.
Paige Tepping: Please provide a brief overview of your background in the industry and how you ended up where you are today as President and CEO of Century 21 Real Estate.
Nick Bailey: My real estate career began 21 years ago this month, at CENTURY 21 no less, but what truly kickstarted my career was my decision to begin investing in real estate at the age of 17. After becoming licensed at 21, I listed and sold for a short time before becoming a broker. From there, I had the opportunity to join RE/MAX world headquarters, where I spent the next 11 years. This led me to my industry relations position at Market Leader, which was acquired by Trulia before being acquired by Zillow—where I’ve been for the past five years. I’ve always been interested in the ownership side of the business, and my experience in working with brokerages and helping companies grow both their business and agent count has come full circle with my recent appointment at C21®. Throughout my tenure at Zillow Group, I’ve been able to focus on the consumer side of the equation while threading together what’s needed for brokerage partnerships and creating a good consumer search experience, providing an interesting lens to look through as we build on the market momentum and global growth of the iconic CENTURY 21 brand.
PT: In what ways will your background help you in your new position?
NB: First and foremost, I believe the agent is the most important component of a real estate transaction. By no means has the real estate process gotten any easier over the years, but rather, it’s gotten more complex. At the same time, my experience working on the consumer side at Zillow Group was instrumental in opening my eyes to the fact that we’re in a consumer movement that’s defined by the need for additional transparency in everything we do. And I don’t just mean real estate. Consumers are craving transparency when it comes to how they purchase retail products online and their experiences within everyday life. The process of buying or selling a home is complicated, and it’s frustrating for both buyers and sellers, but it’s important to remember that their experience is dependent on the process the agent provides. While some agents are good at doing this, which is awesome for the industry, moving forward, I want to take the experience of what consumers are demanding and what agents need to make the consumer happy and have this be our focus. To that end, I don’t believe agents and companies are truly seeing what consumers are demanding in terms of the experience of going through the home-buying or -selling process.
PT: Looking at your technology background specifically, how will this help raise the technology level at CENTURY 21?
NB: We know consumers are relying on technology as a medium to make their lives easier. When we look at where industry-related tools for agents/brokerages are in comparison to the technology we as consumers use in our daily lives, it’s clear to see that the industry hasn’t moved fast enough. We need to increase the velocity and speed at which we innovate. While those of us in the industry talk about how fast the technology landscape is changing, I don’t think it’s moving as quickly as we say it is. When it comes to talking about how much the industry has changed, I believe just as much has stayed the same.
PT: Can you tell us about transitioning from Zillow—a firm many see as a disintermediator to the traditional real estate model—to a brand like CENTURY 21?
NB: My role in this regard is to be able to use my voice within the industry to move through ‘a lot of noise’ when it comes to a company like Zillow Group, with many people wondering what’s behind the curtain. Having worked on this side of the business with Zillow Group, I know there isn’t anything behind the curtain. What I hope to do is bring clarity to the fact that there are other marketing companies out there like Zillow Group who will continue to drive massive audiences of people searching for real estate, which is terrific, but it doesn’t mean they’re going to become an agent/broker—as this is not their business model. I’m going to use my voice to tell everyone looking at these companies to instead focus on what they do really well.
PT: You’re being brought on to help build the brand’s foundation and position the brand in global markets. What’s first on the agenda as you begin to tackle these initiatives?
NB: Global real estate consumers know, love and trust CENTURY 21. I can’t help but think that it’s an awesome foundation to walk into from a leadership perspective. At the same time, I recognize that there’s a consumer side and an industry side to seeing the brand. From the industry side, my first task will be to ensure that the brand is viewed as innovative and fresh. I will also focus on making sure we have a strong voice and that we’re at the forefront of the conversation.
PT: Why is it important for a brand like CENTURY 21 to have a strong global network?
NB: Global investors view the U.S. as the most stable market and the place for the best return in their investments. Having a global network at CENTURY 21 provides a terrific foundation to help foster this international exchange. This is a huge part of our industry, and we have the network in place to leverage it.
PT: What are you most excited about as you step into this new position?
NB: The landscape of real estate is more competitive than ever, at least since I’ve been involved, and in a competitive environment—or a crowded real estate space, if you will—the ability to create clarity, direction and innovation is key. This is one thing I’m most looking forward to.
PT: Looking ahead, what’s on the horizon for the CENTURY 21 brand?
NB: Positioning the brand as relevant, fresh and innovative are the three main things I want to make sure we’re tackling. This is especially true on the technology front, where we need to ensure we have a mobile-first environment. While mobile continues to drive both consumers and agents, I want to be sure we’re taking a fresh approach and wrapping it into innovation.
For more information, please visit www.century21.com.
Paige Tepping is managing editor of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine. Email her your story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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