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Matt_van_WinkleIn the following interview, Matt van Winkle, founder and CEO of, and an attorney and real estate broker with, RE/MAX On the Lake and RE/MAX Northwest in Washington, discusses his career path, his firm’s culture and marketing strategies, and more.

Number of Offices: 6
Number of Agents: 250
Region Served: Greater Seattle Area

Please describe your career path and how you came to start your firm.
Matt van Winkle:
I finished law school in 2008 and opened a hybrid law practice and real estate brokerage in 2009. I found I enjoyed brokerage work far more than traditional legal work, so in 2010, I opened an independent brokerage and focused on helping buyers and sellers navigate the complicated declining market. As I started doing a lot of transactions, I developed systems and technology to manage the process. Agents on the other end of my deals would ask questions about how I managed the clients and the process, as well as marketing strategies, so I decided to open a brokerage to train other agents in regard to my processes. I started shopping for a brand to align with and I chose RE/MAX because it was a well-known but a vastly underrepresented brand in our market. I opened my first office with one agent in 2011, another in 2012, and a third in 2014. We grew to about 100 agents, and in January 2016, I acquired RE/MAX Northwest with three offices and 150 more agents.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in the market right now, and how are you preparing your agents to succeed?
The biggest change is the severe lack of inventory, especially inventory under $1 million in the Seattle area. We’re training our agents to compete in multiple-offer situations and how to win when they’re one of 25 offers. We spend a significant amount of time working together to develop strategies to stay ahead of the market.

How would you describe your firm’s culture?
Our firm is open and collaborative. There are no secrets; everyone shares what works and what doesn’t. We don’t take new agents; we take agents with experience who are ready to turn their business into a true business. We teach them how to run their sales operation as a business, evaluating their P&L and ROI on every activity, and then how to systemize and scale their operation to grow. On average, our agents grow 45 percent each year they’re with our firm as they continue to optimize their operations and processes.

What’s your approach to branding and marketing?
We focus on targeted marketing that works for our individual agents’ needs, style, and budget. Most of our business is referral-based, so we teach agents how to nurture referrals. We also focus on targeted farming, social media advertising, strategic partnerships and internet advertising to help our agents increase their production.

What are you doing differently to set your firm apart from the competition?
Our business classes are unlike anything else in the market. We offer over 45 courses a year and only a handful are sales skills-related. Our focus is to develop well-rounded brokers who are true small business owners. We focus on their bottom line, not their gross sales volume. We have proprietary software to manage the transaction and client experience, and utilize tools from outside the real estate industry.

What are your plans for growth and your overall outlook on the market?
We intend to continue growing our offices this year. Our hiring process is slow and diligent, so I expect we’ll only bring on about 30 agents across the company in 2017. We do intend to expand our office base in the near future.

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Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at

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