106 years ago something remarkable happened. A young real estate agent, named Colbert Coldwell, started a company that would stand the test of time for more than a century. Two World Wars, the Great Depression and countless economic challenges, including recent years, couldn’t stop what Coldwell started.
Why? In a word, trust.
It’s a term that’s frequently thrown about in the corporate world today, more often than not as an advertising slogan originating from a board room or agency rather than truly earned by reputation. But trust is legitimate when speaking of Coldwell Banker, and it’s absolutely instrumental to the longevity of the brand I know and love. Colbert Coldwell, in the midst of the chaos following the infamous San Francisco earthquake and fire in which dishonest real estate practices became the norm, envisioned an opportunity to build a company that would stand apart on a solid philosophy of putting the public’s interests first.
I love this quote from V.P. Brun (yes, that’s his name) which recounts the environment at the time of our founding:
“In those days, most real estate men had not heard the word “ethics”. If a good buy came in they bought it themselves and then peddled it off to a customer at a profit…Unscrupulous operators would tie up the property of an uninformed owner under a net contract then sell it at a tremendous profit to a buyer who had already agreed to pay twice or three times the contract price…That’s how things were then. But Colbert Coldwell had a unique idea. It soon became known on the street that Tucker, Lynch & Coldwell bought no real estate for their own account. They gave the buyer the benefit of all the profit and took only a commission”
– V. P. Brun
My Years with Coldwell, Banker & Company
The young Coldwell would elect long-term success based on principled business practices rather than short-term profits. So he put down in writing the exact services a customer could expect from his people and both parties would sign it like a contract. He also instituted a rule that lasted for decades that no agent working for Coldwell Banker Real Estate could own any other property beyond his or her primary residence. It was an open declaration that his firm would be held above all others.
The commitment he wrote with his customers still exists in an updated form today that we call the Coldwell Banker Seller Services Guarantee, and it’s the principles behind that guarantee that have been instilled in this company for over a century. Coldwell knew that trust was paramount in what was, and still is, a purchase that can change people’s lives.
As I travel around and meet thousands of Coldwell Banker agents ever year, I’m still amazed at the passion they have for their customers and the incredible stories they have of helping people find the home of their dreams. You’ll say I’m biased, which may be true, when I talk about Coldwell Banker agents being the best in the business, but you have to admit there’s something special about a real estate company that has managed to be so successful over 106 years while continuing to always keep the customer first in the transaction. And in a world in which every daily paper brings another reminder of yet another company losing sight of the importance of business ethics, Coldwell Banker professionals should take great pride in knowing it is the very thread that holds us together.
It all goes back to trust. It’s part of our brand’s DNA. Over these many years virtually millions of people have trusted Coldwell Banker agents with the most important investment they will every make…owning a home.
106 years is a long time, but I have a feeling we’re just getting started.