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The process of buying a house is stressful in its best moments and absolute hell in its worst. To avoid the most hellish parts, nearly 30% of all home buyers and sellers turn to real estate companies to assist them in the demanding activity.
The real estate industry goes even farther than residential home-buying. There are many kinds of properties that real estate companies can own and invest in to earn them a sizable return.
Types of real estate properties include:
Real estate is also distinguished by whether a company constructs, buys, or sells its property.
It’s a market with a huge potential for earnings, considering that there were 6 million residential homes sold in 2019 in the United States alone. The industry’s lucrative potential has encouraged a lot of real estate companies to break in.
While there’s a lot of competition, the 15 largest real estate companies of 2020 are:
Keller Williams Realty
Brookfield Asset Management
Cushman & Wakefield, Inc.
American Tower Corporation
Simon Property Group, Inc.
Vornado Realty Trust
Annaly Capital Management
The 10 Largest Largest Real Estate Companies in the World: A Closer Look
Keller Williams Realty. Headquarters: Austin, Texas
2019 Annual Revenue: $351.2 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +5.7%
Keller Williams Realty began as one office based in Austin, TX that sold local residential properties. From these humble beginnings blossomed the largest real estate company in the world.
Gary Keller and Joe Williams founded the brokerage in 1983. By the next two years, the company had 72 agents working for them, a number that only increased with time.
When the 1990s rolled around, the real estate company started branching beyond Texas state lines and franchising their business model. This set them up for expansion well into the 2000s, which they encouraged by beginning business in luxury estates.
In more recent years, Keller Williams Realty has put a lot of work into developing their real estate company overseas. They signed a franchise with South Africa in 2012 and established locations in many South American countries as well in 2018.
Their diligence towards expansion has landed them as the largest, and most profitable real estate company in the world.
Brookfield Asset Management. Headquarters: Toronto, Canada
2019 Annual Revenue: $67.826 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +19.47%
There is a long and scattered history behind Brookfield Asset Management. It was founded over 120 years ago in Brazil as the San Paulo Tramway, Light, and Power Company, and it functioned mainly as infrastructure management.
By the 1960s, the company had migrated to Canada and changed its name to Brascan Limited.
In North America, the focus broadened to include areas beyond infrastructure, like real estate, renewable power, and private equity. This prompted a final name change in 2005 to Brookfield Asset Management.
Today, they have become one of the largest holders of real estate in the world, with $208 billion worth of properties currently under their management and 22,000 employees.
CBRE. Headquarters: Los Angeles, California
2019 Annual Revenue: $23.894 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +11.97%
When it comes to buying and selling commercial real estate property, CBRE is the top broker for the job. They assist anyone involved in the process of purchasing, selling, or investing in commercial real estate. Additionally, they function in just about every corner of the world, from the Americas to Asia.
The earliest remnants of CBRE are traced back to the early 1900s, but the company went through a lot of changes in that time, in both names and ownership.
Throughout the 1990s, CBRE had gone public and grew its percentage of the real estate market by acquiring many other brokerages, such as Westmark Realty Advisors and Koll Real Estate Services.
The wide reach of CBRE commercial real estate services made them #128 on the Fortune 500 in 2020.
Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
2019 Annual Revenue: $8.8 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +6%
In 1917, Cushman & Wakefield was established by a pair of brothers-in-law in New York City. The progress of the small real estate company was slow but steady for 40 years until the company blew up in 1969 when they became the project developer for Chicago Sears Tower.
From that point, Cushman & Wakefield, Inc. sought expansion into Europe by acquiring one of their major real estate players, Healey & Baker. This led them to join forces with other international real estate firms in places like Asia, South America, and the Middle East.
The most recent happening among Cushman & Wakefield was taking their company public to the New York Stock Exchange in 2018. Their growth into foreign markets maintained their success for over 100 years.
American Tower Corporation. Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts
2019 Annual Revenue: $7.58 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +1.88%
Unlike many of the other top real estate companies, American Tower Corporation functions in the operations and development of wireless communication, like cell-phone towers.
Formed in 1995 as an extension of American Radio Systems, the American Tower Corporation grew to be one of the biggest real estate investment trusts in the world. Soon after its construction, the company went public on the stock market as their own separate entity after their parent company switched hands to CBS.
After becoming its own company, the American Tower Company set up locations in Mexico and Brazil. They excelled in these areas.
By 2007, the company became a part of the S&P 500 and was working on expanding past just the Americas. Five years after achieving a spot on the S&P, American Tower had established 50,000 communication sites worldwide.
That milestone has more than tripled as of 2020, putting American Tower Corporation as the largest real estate investment trust (REIT) globally.
Simon Property Group, Inc. Headquarters: Indianapolis, Indiana
2019 Annual Revenue: $5.75 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +1.95%
The business endeavors of Simon Property Group fall into the retail category. In addition to being a prominent commercial real estate brokerage firm, the company is also the largest operator of shopping malls in the United States. If you’ve been to a shopping center in America, there’s a good chance that it’s managed by Simon Property Group, Inc.
Simon Property Group, Inc was founded only 28 years ago as a publicly-traded company by brothers Melvin and Herbert Simon. After formation, Simon Property Group quickly acquired a series of malls and retail locations across the United States that became the foundation of their business.
Today, Simon Property Group, Inc. dominates the commercial retail real estate market. The company has a stake in 204 large retail properties giving them the majority holding of shopping center real estate in the United States.
Realogy Holdings. Headquarters: Madison, New Jersey
2019 Annual Revenue: $5.6 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: -3%
Realogy Holdings was the result of a division split in the hospitality company, Cendant. In the fracture, the segments that the business was involved in became independent companies. This included founding Realogy Holdings as the product of their real estate undertakings in 2005.
Realogy Holdings is the owner of many recognizable brands in the real estate world. Some of these include:
Century 21 Real Estate
ERA Real Estate
Sotheby’s International Realty
Better Homes & Gardens Realty
Being the controller of many major brands, both in the United States and internationally, has allowed Realogy to become one of the largest publicly owned real estate and relocation companies today.
Welltower. Headquarters: Toledo, Ohio
2019 Annual Revenue: $5.121 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +8.95%
Most of the real estate business that Welltower participated in involves senior housing and healthcare facilities. The company was so tied to the medical field that it was originally called “Health Care Fund” in 1970 when it was founded.
They transformed to Welltower in 2015 to broaden its professional potential beyond just healthcare facilities.
In 2020, Welltower describes its main priority as providing housing and properties for supplying excellent medical care at a lower cost. They currently own approximately 1,400 healthcare properties in North America and the United Kingdom.
Prologis. Headquarters: San Francisco, California
2019 Annual Revenue: $3.31 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +18.76%
Each real estate company has its sweet spot. For Prologis, that’s large industrial properties. They’re actually the largest industrial real estate company on the planet by owning an estimated 814 million square feet of industrial property across 19 different countries.
The company got its start as an AMB property corporation in 1983 and earned its final title of Prologis in 1999. From the beginning, their investment strategy was to go in big on industrial locations and shopping centers, as opposed to office buildings.
During the 2000s, Prologic spent a lot of time diversifying their locations into places like Japan, Europe, and China. By 2007, they became a Fortune 1000 Company. The most recent development within Prologis has been their full acquisition under Liberty Property Trust in 2020 for $13 Billion.
Boston Properties. Headquarters: Boston, Massachusetts
2019 Annual Revenue: $2.961 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +8.96%
Boston Properties specializes in commercial office buildings. Most of their business takes place in large American cities, like Boston, Los Angeles, and New York City.
Boston Properties is known for a few key developments in its history. Twenty years after being founded in 1970, the company started work on constructing the NASA headquarters. This sent them down a wave of acquiring valuable commercial office properties in major cities across the United States.
As of 2019, Boston Properties owns 196 commercial real estate properties that bring in nearly $3 billion a year.
Equity Residential. Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois
2019 Annual Revenue: $2.701 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +4.76%
As their name suggests, Equity Residential is a real estate company that’s geared towards apartment investments. Similar to Boston Properties, Equity Residential conducts most of its business in major American cities. These include:
New York City
Currently, they’re coming in at the second largest apartment owner in the United States with 309 properties total.
AvalonBay Communities. Headquarters: Hopewell, Virginia
2019 Annual Revenue: $2.325 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: +1.75%
Another real estate company that places the majority of its investments in apartments is AvalonBay Communities. In fact, they’re the third-largest apartment owner in the United States, right behind Equity Residential.
AvalonBay was the product of a 1998 merger between two residential property companies called Avalon Properties Inc. and Bay Apartment Communities. When brought together, they started with 40,506 apartment units in total.
That was the beginning of a long term of expansion and investment. Twenty-three years after its founding, it now owns nearly 80,000 apartment units along the American coasts.
Vornado Realty Trust. Headquarters: New York, New York
2019 Annual Revenue: $1.925 Billion
2019 Growth Rate: -11.05%
Although Vornado Realty Trust was established in Maryland in 1982, the real estate company does its business almost exclusively in New York City. Vornado Realty handles both office and retail buildings in their portfolio.
Some of their most prominent property includes:
The New York Marriott Marquis
666 Fifth Ave
The Crowne Plaza Hotel in Times Square
Vornado began as a discount store chain called “Two Guys” that acquired an electric fan manufacturer and changed their name to reflect the expanded ownership. That was the start of the company going on to acquire 21.4 million square feet in Manhattan office and retail space.
Annaly Capital Management. Headquarters: New York, New York
2019 Annual Revenue: $913 Million
2019 Growth Rate: -59.97%
Annaly Capital Management is a real estate investment trust that deals primarily with mortgages in New York City. They work with mortgage financing for homes and businesses.
The company was founded in 1997 by Wellington Denahan, and Michael Farrell, a long-time employee of investment banks. In its first five years, Annaly grew its customer-base up to 59.8 million shares and $957 million.
While Annaly Capital Management had a dramatic drop in revenue in 2019, they’re still one of the largest real estate companies in the game.
Re/Max. Headquarters: Denver, Colorado
2019 Annual Revenue: $282.3 Million
2019 Growth Rate: +25%
Re/Max, a catchier version used to represent Real Estate Maximums, began in 1973 as an idea for a new way of handling real estate. The plan involved allowing real estate agents to keep the majority of their commissions and instead, pay their brokerage through office expenses.
What started as a concept transformed into 100 franchises by 1977. They followed this accomplishment by expanding their company internationally through the 1980s and 1990s. In the 2000s, their focus shifted to online home listings.
By 2011, Re/Max was in 70 countries in the form of over 6,000 franchises.
Today, Re/Max has almost 85,000 agents in just the United States and Canada, who bring in millions of dollars in revenue every year.
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