Meet & Greet with Windermere Real Estate's Scott Wetzel
~August 17th, 2023
Scott Wetzel, CEO, president, and owner of Spokane-based Windermere Mountain West LLC, has been named chief development officer for the Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate.
Wetzel retains his present role at Windermere Mountain West, which does business as Windermere Services Mountain West. That company oversees the services division for Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, and eastern Oregon. In that role, he provides back-end sales support for agents, including marketing technology, training, and accounting. Wetzel oversees 68 offices, 42 franchise owners, and about 1,000 real estate agents.
In his new corporate role, Wetzel will focus on growing Windermere Real Estate’s 300-plus offices, and its 10-state footprint by forming partnerships with new franchise owners.
Wetzel has led Windermere Mountain West for nearly 20 years with his wife, Tracie, who has been named chief operating officer. The Wetzels became Windermere franchise owners in 2015 when they acquired the Windermere Spokane Valley and Windemere Liberty Lake brokerages. In March of 2021, they acquired Windemere Boise Valley.
Wetzel is 57 years old and was born and raised in Spokane. He grew up on the South Hill and graduated from Whitworth University. He is the CEO and chairman of Spokane-based Medication Review Inc. and is on the board of advisers for LaunchPad Inland Northwest LLC.
The Journal recently sat down with Wetzel to discuss his new role and how brokerages have evolved over time.
Can you tell me about your role within the services division?
The whole focus of the services division is to help real estate agents be as successful and profitable as possible. We don’t hire or fire agents, and we don’t do sales. That success is largely driven by their efforts, but we provide a great support team around them. It’s like a sports analogy; you see an NFL player doing so well in his position, but he’s got an entire team helping him—coaches and trainers and peer players as well.
This entity has been around about 35 years. It used to be Windemere Services Inland Northwest. I expanded it and pushed its footprint to four states and changed the name to Mountain West.
Is a services division typical within real estate?
Just us big ones, like Coldwell Banker and Keller Williams.
How have brokerages evolved over time?
There are two camps, or models, of brokerages. There are the transactional fee-based companies and then there are the all-inclusive, full-service companies. The first model charges for every little thing.
Then there’s those of us that are in the camp of doing full service. It’s like shopping at TJ Maxx, where you can get brand name stuff at a discount. But it’s a different shopping experience. Then there’s shopping at Nordstrom. It’s a different culture. It’s a different feel. We believe the Nordstrom’s kind of approach is better at serving our clients. I think that’s what has changed. You’re getting these two types of providers.
Some could deem us to have a higher price, but we have a lower cost because we do everything for the agent.
Is there a responsibility from corporate to ensure that their Realtors succeed?
Yes. As the franchisor, I at Windemere corporate have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure my franchisees are healthy and successful.
In my new role, I’m going to take what I’ve done at Mountain West region over the years to the next level by applying the same principles of growth, service, and expansion that I did across these four states. There is a huge opportunity for growth in California, Arizona, and Western Washington.
How do you intend to do that?
It’s harder to do real estate sales because the market is contracting a bit. A lot of those fringe independent brokerages are looking for assistance. In the areas where there are independent brokerages that don’t affiliate and associate with a national brand, we are going to introduce Windermere. The analogy I like to use is turning D.Lish’s Hamburgers to McDonald’s restaurants. Everybody knows the golden arches. In this analogy, the independent brokerages would recognize they need a little more horsepower—that back-office support and services—to be successful. Then, all that the owner will have to do is focus on real estate sales and their agents.
Has the market contracted in terms of real estate agents?
Yes, and I think we’re going to see it even more so. In the start of the year, everybody renewed their (real estate) license. We’re not going to see a correction that reflects the market until 2024 when those real estate agents get ready to renew. Some of them will say, ‘Oh I haven’t sold real estate in six months. I have a full-time job now.’ A lot of them have found jobs elsewhere and others are doing other endeavors. Because of that, I believe you’re going to see a decline in 2024. That’s not just in this market, but every market nationwide.
Do you think Windemere also will contract in terms of real estate agents?
No, if anything, we’ll grow because we offer so many complimentary services to the agent. A lot of the competition charges for every little thing.
Earlier you said Western Washington is a target for growth. The market seems so tight there. How is that so?
Oddly enough, because Seattle is such a tech hotbed, it has about the same amount of people coming in as it has people exiting.
The market is tighter, and it’s tougher to sell right now. Interest rates are high. And the flip side of that is we’re never going to see interest rates like they were in the past couple of years. It was Utopian, 2.5% and 3%. I think over the next decade, we’re going to settle into the high 5% and low 6% range, give or take. It used to be that you could swing a bat and hit 10 people that needed to buy or sell real estate. Now you’re going to throw 10 baseballs and hit one.
With interest rates being so good back then, there’s a lot of people who have refinanced, and to a certain extent, they’re looking around and don’t want to move, because the cost of money is way different.
What advice would you give people who got a great rate but now feel stuck in it?
My advice is plain and simple: If you want to make the move, move. Life goes on. You have to realize that in the grand scheme of things, although the prices of homes are higher, it’s nothing like the days when we saw 18%. Granted, the costs of homes were less, but if you actually sit down with a mortgage broker and you run the numbers, it’s a negligible amount. I always go back to: Marry the house, date the rate. And it might not even be dating that long, right? Eventually, rates will go down and you’ll marry the rate. I predict by 2025 we’ll be sitting in a much more stabilized environment.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.