A New York Stock Exchange-listed cloud-based real estate business launching in New Zealand plans to have to 200 agents working from their homes by the end of this year.
Maria Stephens, eXp Realty's New Zealand managing director, said a head office had been established at 6 Clayton St, Newmarket, leased indefinitely.
But agents wouldn't be in any offices like they are at many other real estate businesses.
Instead, they would be holding open homes at properties and meeting clients but not working from traditional suburban-style agency offices.
"All the commission-only agents will work from their own homes because we have a virtual reality setup. We don't believe in bricks and mortar," she said.
"We'd hope to have 100 to 200 agents working for eXp in New Zealand by the end of this year."
eXp trades on the NYSE as eXp World Holdings, its shares around US$13.30 ($21.26) on Friday.
The Real Estate Authority said that at the end of March, New Zealand had 15,786 licensed individuals or real estate agents who were active.
Stephens said eXp Realty agents would earn 75 per cent of commissions on properties they sell and the head office would get 25 per cent.
That is much more money than a traditional start-up agent payment system of a 50:50 split between agents and agencies, she said. More experienced agents working under that traditional model could earn above half the commission, based on a tiered system, Stephens said.
"Most agents starting with us will be getting a pay rise compared to where they were working before," she said.
Asked how much commission vendors would pay, she said: "We're not a discounter but we want to meet the market."
She refused to disclose commission percentages but said they were negotiable.
"We're a startup. We plan roadshows, webinars and international speakers at events running from June till the end of this year. We'll be raising the flag. We've been ensuring we are registered and comply with the Real Estate Agents Act 2008 and getting all the infrastructure and marketing ready."
Stephens previously worked with Ray White Tauranga until March and was a former branch manager for that agency in Flat Bush and Botany. She lives in Tauranga but plans to shift to Auckland.
The company says: "eXp is one of the world's fastest-growing real estate brokerages. Founded in 2009, we are now in 21 countries with a community of over 80,000+ real estate professionals, all connected through our unique cloud-based platform, eXp World."
Jen Baird, Real Estate Institute chief executive, said the business had announced earlier in the year its intention to arrive. REINZ had received an application for membership and is working through that.
"We are not surprised to see the continued evolution of the real estate profession in New Zealand. There has been considerable property technology activity and significant investment by real estate firms in technology, particularly over the last few years," Baird said.
Nathan Male, Metro Commercial's licensed agent specialising in retail leasing, questioned alternative real estate models without office networks.
"I've seen all manner of low-cost or salary-based real estate models try to establish in New Zealand. None have been able to really challenge the established players, who all deploy time-honoured techniques plus embrace technology. Those attract the best agents and I can't see any of them moving to an untested model here. So by default, it won't get the traction the Americans are hoping for," Male predicted.
Chris Wilkinson, a shopping sector consultant of First Retail Group, said agents in suburban offices filled spaces that may otherwise be hard to lease. But they also deactivated or deadened what could be far more vibrant and engaging frontages, with busy customer bases.
A busy real estate agency with staff buying at local businesses was often a champion for the area, getting involved in groups and community events, he said.
"We need more of that and often see them as the glue that helps make things happen in the community," he said.
A branch real estate agency could greatly enhance a town centre, Wilkinson emphasised.