Eric Pruitt wants everyone around Palm Beach Garden, Florida, to know he’s back with RE/MAX after a five-year hiatus. So much so that he’s completely wrapped his F350 pickup as a mobile billboard touting his team and affiliation with local franchisee RE/MAX 1st Choice.
“The RE/MAX mindset is like no other in this industry – upbeat and positive,” Pruitt says. “There are cheaper companies out there, but you get what you pay for. The others can’t begin to provide you the same benefits as RE/MAX.”
Pruitt speaks from experience. In 2009, after 21 years with RE/MAX, Pruitt and his team embarked on what he hoped would be a lucrative new affiliation with Keller Williams. He had no choice, he says: The RE/MAX broker he’d been working with for years advised he was two months from closing doors on his franchise, and the housing market was in the throes of the recession.
“You don’t know what you have until you lose it,” Pruitt says. “My first choice would have been to stay with RE/MAX, but there were no offices in my area with space for my team.”
He joined a Keller Williams franchise with the promise of profit sharing and reduced costs at a time when it seemed the entire industry was in need of a refresh and relaunch.
“Everyone was in survival mode, looking for the most affordable way to stay in business,” he says.
Lost in the shuffle
At first, it worked. Costs were manageable, enabling Pruitt to weather the worst of the economic storm. But in ensuing years, as Florida housing slowly made its recovery, he started to recognize some things he’d surrendered when he left RE/MAX. As the ranks of novice Keller Williams agents in his area swelled, Pruitt found it increasingly difficult to differentiate himself and his team from the pack working under the same banner.
When a former client called to have Pruitt list his home, and then cancelled after learning he was no longer affiliated with RE/MAX, Pruitt grew more attuned to the power of brand. He wondered about other listings he wasn’t getting. Last year, when his broker ran an ad for luxury homes but would not include Pruitt’s name and contact info alongside his listings, he began contemplating his return to RE/MAX.
Returning to RE/MAX
By then, Pruitt had heard Bill Wilkinson, another of Florida’s top producers who had left for Keller Williams, was back at RE/MAX and thriving again. They compared notes on their experiences and frustrations.
“One thing he pointed out to me is that, at RE/MAX, you’re surrounded by top producers, and there’s a synergy and mindset that goes with that,” Pruitt says.
Then, there’s the power of the brand. Pruitt notes that RE/MAX is one of the most recognized names in real estate.
“We have 100,000 agents working in nearly 100 countries,” he says. When you tell people that’s the company you’re with, it gives you a lot more credibility.”
Talks with other agents reinforced Pruitt’s perceptions, and he briefly explored purchasing his own RE/MAX franchise. Ultimately, Pruitt decided to concentrate on what he enjoys doing most – working directly with buyers and sellers.
Finding the right fit
His search for the right opportunity eventually led to discussions with Broker/Owner Bill Brady and Broker/Manager Abe Himelstein of RE/MAX 1st Choice. Their approach resonated with Pruitt, and the fact that ample space for Pruitt and his six-member team was available in the same building as their offices cinched the move.
“We’re honored he came back to us,” Himelstein says. “We try to build a family relationship here with the idea that together we can do great things. And nobody does a better job at branding than RE/MAX.”
Pruitt agrees. Since officially transitioning back with his team in February, he reports taking more calls on listings than he had in the previous year. In his first three months, he estimates he had $17 million in pending sales.
“It all just confirms that we made the right move,” Pruitt says. “I can be pretty good on my own, but combined with RE/MAX and all it offers, I can be great.”