Dave Liniger’s entrepreneurial career sent a shock wave of change throughout the real estate industry, but it began as a near failure, making for one of the most triumphant comeback stories in the history of late 20th-century business. Liniger grew up in Marion, Indiana, and attended the University of Indiana before dropping out of college. Liniger’s introduction to the real estate business occurred while he was in the Air Force. At age 19, he bought a house in Tucson, Arizona, remodeled it, and sold it for a $4,000 profit. Encouraged by his success, Liniger threw himself into his new line of work, using his salary from the military as down payments for properties and remodeling them for a profit. By the time he was 24, Liniger owned 20 single-family homes.
After securing his real estate license, Liniger joined a brokerage firm in Phoenix. He flourished as a sales representative, becoming the firm’s top sales agent. Next, he moved to another Phoenix brokerage firm, a move critical to the future success of RE/MAX. Although Liniger spent only three months at his second Phoenix brokerage firm, it was there that he learned of the 100 percent commission concept. At a conventional brokerage firm, sales agents split their commission on sales with the brokerage’s owner.
After his three-month stint in Phoenix, Liniger moved to Denver, Colorado, arriving in October 1971. The sales skills he demonstrated in Phoenix rose to the fore in Denver, where Liniger excelled as a real estate agent and quickly established himself as a multimillion-dollar salesman. Liniger’s spurred his desire to start his own company, one based on the concept of 100 percent commission model. Part-time agents, or those who recorded fewer sales, could not afford to pay for their own overhead expenses. The 100 percent commission system favored those at the top of their profession, the superstars of real estate sales. To make his entrepreneurial venture work, Liniger needed real estate agents modeled after himself, a legion of top-rated sales representatives who would inject the vigor his fledgling company would need to succeed.
Liniger needed money to start his business, a company he named RE/MAX–an acronym for “real estate maximums.” To obtain the financing, Liniger relied on his sales skills, acting as a pitchman for the lucrative potential of a nationwide real estate business predicated on the 100 percent commission model. Liniger convinced five Denver developers to invest $300,000 in his venture. Once he had their word that the money would be available, Liniger contacted a local personnel office to help him find his first employee. By his own admission, he lacked marketing experience and the ability to turn his venture into a nationwide business without help. The personnel office sent him dozens of candidates and Liniger rejected each one. The 28th applicant was his future wife Gail, who was hired as RE/MAX’s executive secretary. The pair, opened an office in Denver, set out in 1973 to make RE/MAX a reality.