NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Real estate success is often cited as one of the ways to build wealth. And it's been said, an investor stands to make more money in real estate than by investing in the stock market. To that end, RE/MAX Holdings (RMAX) - Get Report, which provides residential and commercial real estate services, offers the best of both worlds. And its shares are cheap, given the rate at which it is growing both its revenue and converting earnings into cash flow.
With RE/MAX shares down more than 6% on the year and 13% in only three months on fears of its leadership change, there's an opportunity for investors looking to profit on the expected growth in residential home construction, especially with the company's franchise model holding the top position among its peers in the real estate category, according to Franchise 500.
The optimism stems from a combination of factors, including the projected increased residential home construction, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In its February report, January housing starts increased 14.5% above 2014 levels.
And not only were housing completions 1.3% above December 2014, levels it also toppled January 2014's mark by 9.4%. Add in the 8% growth rate for building permits, RE/MAX is operating in an environment that will benefit from its real estate services.
With roughly 98,000 agents operating in almost 100 countries, Denver-based RE/MAX is one of the largest residential and commercial real estate brokerage service companies in the world. The company went public in October 2013 and operates through two segments -- Real Estate Franchise Services and Brokerage & Other. And despite, the tepid stock performance, both business segments are making money.
In the most recent quarter, the company reported net income of $14.1 million, up 82.6% compared a year earlier. The company continues to grow profits because it benefits from a model that requires not only low overhead but also low interest expenses, which raises the investment profile of the stock.
That third-quarter selling, operating and administrative expenses were 46.5% of revenue, down more than six percentage points from 54.8% in the prior year quarter, serves as an example.
What's more, that operating expenses are declining at a rate of over 5% at the same time the company's agent count (currently at 97,647) is growing at 5.3% suggests the underlying strength of the business remains strong.
The agent growth is important because the company gets roughly 60% of its revenue from its agents, who produce a preset amount of contractual cash flow each month. This means as its agents grow in numbers RE/MAX, which makes a variable commission from each deal, will make more money. And that's one of the things analysts like about RE/MAX ahead of the company's fourth-quarter earnings results Thursday.
Not only does the stock have a consensus buy rating, according to CNN Money, its average analyst price target of $36.50 implies 14% gains from current levels of around $32 per share.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.