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Published on October 28, 2022

Benchmark: Occupancy costs

Occupancy costs at Century 21 offices have risen sharply in the first 9 months of 2022

After peaking in 2019, occupancy costs (per office) fell sharply until this year. But now, in just the first nine months of 2022, almost all of the occupancy expense reduction of the last 2 years has been erased - and in the largest offices, occupancy expense is above 2019 levels.*

For FY 2022, the biggest percentage change in occupancy costs is in the smallest offices.  Using a 5 year base line, for offices between 1 - 10 agents, the 2021 median overhead was almost 30% below 2018 levels.  But the 2022 occupancy expense for the first 3 quarters is more than 20% above 2018 levels



The change in median occupancy costs is not consistent across offices of different sizes. There is a very different  trend in occupancy costs for offices with between 40 to 60 agents. While the occupancy costs did not drop as sharply thru 2020 and 2021, costs for offices of this size are still 6% below 2018 levels ( median rent $8,554 in 2022 vs. $9,123 in 2018).  This contrasts sharply with all offices with less than 20 agents - which, our study found, are all paying 20% more than they were paying in 2018.



At the other extreme, offices with between 80-100 agents are paying sharply higher occupancy overhead - compared to 2018 levels. After decreasing by 24% in 2020.  Costs have risen consistently since then and are now showing the highest percentage of cost increase of any size of office

80 - 100 agts

monthly occupancy

variance to 2018



base line















When asked about this benchmark research, Mike Killmer, Broker/Owner of CENTURY 21 North Homes Realty commented that “...kind of benchmark data is needed to be able to survive or thrive in a shifting market.”  Mr Killmer went on to say “now and in the future (we need) to make sure we are keeping our eyes on profitability and where we can adjust if we are out of the norms!

On the other hand, benchmarking data alone does not answer all the important questions associated with cost management. Many successful brokerages are expanding thru acquisition. This creates the issue of “inherited costs” which often need to be renegotiated.  Jim D’Amico, President of CENTURY 21 North East wrote that since his costs “have risen but mostly through acquisition. I would be interested to see (trendlines that show) what it looks like on same store rents.”

Most industry watchers were expecting to see occupancy costs per agent continue to drop as offices become more virtual. Thus far, that expectation has not panned out.  Based on 2022 numbers so far, even if more and more agents are working remotely, it does not appear that Brokers have found a way to translate that shift toward virtual offices into expense savings. Since occupancy costs often are baked into leases, it may take time for us to see the impact on costs due to virtualization. But there hasn’t been any delay in occupancy costs moving up now that the pandemic is generally agreed to be over.  

Calculating occupancy costs per agent per month is deceiving, since Actual overhead is only “covered” by producing agents
In our study, for all size offices, we found occupancy costs per “producing” agent is generally 2X the cost per "active" agent

In every sized office within Century 21, the costs per agent are approximately one half the costs per productive agent.

Across all sized offices, with completely different total occupancy overhead per month, there is a consistent pattern in Century 21 offices in our stydy:  Total occupancy cost per agent per month was deceiving metric. Since Actual overhead is only “covered” by producing agents. For offices of all sizes,  in this study, we found overhead by per producing agents is generally twice the overhead per active Agent

If you look at this chart of occupancy costs for 2022, you can see the cost per Active agent for different sized offices - vs - the cost per Productive agent.  There is some wide variation in offices of 11 - 20 agents, but the ratios are otherwise quite consistent at each size of office:

office size

per agent

vs producing

per Productive agent



























This analysis suggests that in Century 21 offices of different sizes, the percentage of non-producing agents on a month to month basis is largely similar.  When brokers look to improve this profitability metric, de-hiring non-producing agents will not really help.  With fewer non-productive agents, the cost per Active agent will get closer to the cost per productive agent. But it will not impact the cost per productive agent in any way.

Oviously, recruiting “new” agents and developing them into productive, successful agents is critical for growth, but may increase occupancy overhead in the short-term.  As you can see in the table below, you can see that median occupancy cost increases as agent count increases.  When asked about how recruiting relates to overhead, Shelley Theise, owner of Shelley Theise Consulting said “the data is clear- recruiting does NOT solve all problems and in fact,  may cause more pressure on profitability. (Brokers need to) Be careful what you wish for."

At a certain size, Century 21 offices can know with relatively certainty what their occupancy overhead per agent will be.

Based on the first 3 Qtrs of 2022, it appears Century 21 offices that have more than 30 have a predictable cost per agent - regardless of how much they spend in total occupancy costs.  If we examine the median occupancy costs per agent for 2022 for offices of different sizes, we see, as you would expect, that larger offices spend much more monthly in Occupancy

office size

median monthly occupancy














Past a certain agent count, the actual cost per Active agent and the actual cost per Productive agent is very consistent .  This is surprising due to the fact that medium sized offices have had smaller increases (or even decreases) in total overhead over the last 5 years. While larger offices have had sharp increases in occupancy overhead.  Nevertheless, for 2022 cost per Active agent is around $200 per agent per month, and cost per Productive agent is around $375 per agent per month


As brokerages move into the next cycle, it remains to be seen if they can translate the virtualization of real estate agent’s work into significant occupancy cost reductions.



Based on over 500 Century 21 offices from across the US, the internal team that developed the Broker Owner Benchmark tool for AccountTECH is beginning to release FY 2022 and longitudinal data that is uncovering trends and benchmarks that are critical to any Real Estate company that wants to profitably navigate the changing landscape. For existing AccountTECH clients, if you want a copy of the complete underlying research data for this article, please contact your Support representative.

Methodology includes only active offices with Agents and it includes pro-rated corporate overhead based on income for companies that do not allocate corporate overhead across offices.

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