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RE/MAX's $100 million public offering plan

Highlights:

  • Denver-based RE/MAX could raise $100 million in IPO.
  • Long-expected, but still took observers by surprise.
  • Company sees housing favorably, long-term.
Dave Liniger

Dave Liniger

RE/MAX Holdings Inc.,  the real estate juggernaut that popularized the 100 percent commission concept after being founded in Denver four decades ago, today announced it is taking the first step to going public, a move long-anticipated by observers.

RE/MAX, founded by Dave and Gail Liniger in 1973, filed a registration document with the Securities and Exchange Commission saying it would seek to raise as much as $100 million with an initial public offering. It would be traded

The document also provided the first public look at many of the privately held company’s finances.

Financial Snapshot

It posted $78.316 million in total revenues in the first half of the year, 11.6 percent more than the $70.2 million in the first six months of 2012.

Revenues have been growing since 2010. Last year, it had total revenues of $143.7 million, compared with $138.3 million and $140.2 million, in 2011 and 2010, respectively.

The real estate franchise company, the biggest in the world, showed net income of $14.95 million in the first half of this year, compared with $13.835 million during the firs half of 2012. It had $18 million in 2012, compared with $13.94 million in 2011 and a loss of $16.14 million in 2010.

It has total assets of $238 million and long-term debt of $223 million. It has 91,808 agents, compared with 88,487 in the first half of 2012. RE/MAX agents sold $296 billion in real estate last year, $165 billion of it in the U.S.

It plans to use about $27.3 million of the net proceeds of the initial public offering to re-acquire regional RE/MAX franchise rights in the Southwest and Central Atlantic regions of the U.S. through the acquisition of the business assets of HBN, Inc. and Tails, Inc.

Weston Presidio, a private equity firm with offices in San Francisco and Boston, made a $40 million investment in RE/MAX in 2010.

Going public has long been discussed as a possibility for RE/MAX.

Going public long anticipated

Liniger, in an interview with the former Rocky Mountain News in the mid-1980s, said that ultimately RE/MAX could very well go public for estate planning purposes.

Speculation had been increasing that the company might go public after Liniger revealed last year that he suffered a near-death experience. He chronicled that experience in a book, My Next Step, An Extraordinary Journey of Healing and Hope.

“I am absolutely stunned by this news, although I have expected it for over 10 years,” said Jeff Bernard, a former RE/MAX broker, who has long followed the company.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Dave is doing this as a part of estate planning and a succession plan,” Bernard said.

Zillow, the real estate company, has shown huge gains in 2012, rising from as low as $23 to more than $97, although its stock was down sharply this morning on news that it would issue another 2.5 million shares of stock as well as pay $50 million in cash for StreetEasy, a New York City real estate website.

RE/MAX growing internationally.

“In my mind, RE/MAX is a much more valuable property than Zillow,” Bernard said.

“It occurs to me that even though its domestic business model doesn’t seem to be experiencing the broad growth it used it, it is doing every well internationally,”  Bernard  said.

He said in South American countries, for example, RE/MAX is a household name.

“In Brazil, if you are wearing a shirt with RE/MAX on it, you are treated very favorably,” Bernard said. RE/MAX also has been increasing its footprint in China and other Asian countries.

Independent Realtor Gary Bauer said “internally, RE/MAX has talked on and off for years about going public. What a great time to be going public and taking advantage of a still strong market,” even though interest rates have been rising from all-time lows.

“The only thing that surprises me is that they are only raising $100 million,” Bauer said.

The timing, number of shares to be offered and the price range for the offering have not yet been determined.

RE/MAX, in its SEC document, said it expects a favorable, long-term demand for housing.

“We believe that long-term demand for housing in the U.S. is primarily driven by the economic health of the domestic economy, low interest rates, and local factors such as demand relative to supply, and that the residential real estate market in the U.S. will also benefit over the long term from the following fundamental factors:

  • A return to levels of historical norms in home sales.
  • Improved home affordability.
  • Increasing household formations, including as a result of immigration and population growth.
  • Increases  in home values.
  • And a generational housing shifts related to retirement and adult children moving out of parents’ homes.

Morgan Stanley, BofA Merrill Lynch and J.P. Morgan will act as joint book-running managers for the offering. Perella Weinberg Partners is acting as advisor to RE/MAX.

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