HK to get biggest franchised realtor

CENTURY 21 will soon become a household name in Hong Kong.

The Century 21 Real Estate Corp was formed in California in 1971 by Art Bartlett and Marsh Fisher, and it has quickly grown to become the world's largest estate agency franchise in the world.

By the mid-1970s it was expanding internationally, and now it is coming to Hong Kong with the formal launch of the first 30 estate agency branches under its Century 21 banner tomorrow.

Only fast food chain McDonald's has more franchise outlets worldwide, according to one magazine survey.

Century 21, a wholly owned subsidiary of Metropolitan Life Insurance Co of the US, offers existing or new estate agencies the chance to become part of a prestigious international network overnight.

For a one-off five year fee of $100,000 per branch and negotiable monthly commission fee of two to six per cent of revenue, estate agents can enter the Century 21 fold, hoist its sign above the door, share in joint advertising and staff get to wear the company's golden uniform.

Companies recruited to the chain must also adopt the Century 21's code of practice to assure customers worldwide of a high standard and consistency of service. They risk being booted out if they breach the rules.

The Century 21 service includes business planning, office management, staff recruitment and training.

Hong Kong branches, while remaining independently owned, are expected to interact by telephone to relay market and customer information.

At a later date, Century 21 would like them all to be inter-linked by computer, sharing a combined directory of available properties for lease or sale.

However, before this can happen, Century 21 needs to get around the problem of exclusivity of property listings in Hong Kong, which it has not encountered in other countries around the world.

Elsewhere, Century 21's office-to-office referral network intertwines over 80,000 sales associates in more than 6,000 offices worldwide.

Among the mini Hong Kong chains which have joined up with Century are Metro-City Property Agency, Homepurchase Realty Agency, Earn First Property Agency and Happy Ease Estate Agency.

Companies recruited will retain their old names, but carry the distinctive Century name and logo in front.

Luke Ng, formerly with the World Trade Centre Group and now a Century 21 regional director, said his original target was to have 50 branches in operation in the first year.

With 30 already signed up and others in the process of negotiation, he expected his target to be reached within just a few months.