KW iBuyer ‘probably’ coming in Q2, Gary Keller confirms

Credit: Scott Chernis/Inman

Keller Williams will “probably” launch its own iBuyer program in the second quarter of 2019, Gary Keller confirmed during a presentation of the company’s 2019 technology plans on Friday, January 11. In audio obtained by Inman, Keller said the franchisor will likely launch in Arizona.

IBuyers are companies that offer a direct-to-consumer home buying and selling platform. The companies typically offer sellers an all-cash, quick-close offer and then undertake some light maintenance to prepare the home for a rapid re-sell.

“I don’t want to buy houses to be honest with you – I didn’t want to do any of this,” Keller told attendees. “If I’d have done it, I’d have done it 30 years ago.”

“I feel like I have no choice now,” Keller added. “I can’t allow Opendoor or Zillow to go out and be the only player in the iBuyer space and then begin to dictate terms and build brand around ‘they buy houses.’”

Keller also acknowledged during the same presentation that he spoke with well-funded iBuyer startup Opendoor over the course of a year in an attempt to get Keller Williams agents exclusive access to Opendoor.

Ultimately, the two companies failed to agree on terms of such a deal, but Keller said that, as a result of those talks, Opendoor will now provide leads from sellers that don’t accept Opendoor’s offer and agreed to let agents put signs in the yards of Opendoor homes they are selling.

An Opendoor spokesperson told Inman that the company has trialed different programs with various agents but it’s not across all of Keller Williams.

Keller Williams quietly tested an iBuyer program last year, the company confirmed to Inman in September. At the time, a spokesperson told Inman that the company had closed nearly 100 transactions through the iBuyer.

In referencing Arizona, Keller could be pointing to OfferDepot, a service run by the Keller Williams Kenny Klaus Team franchise in Phoenix, Arizona. OfferDepot is an iBuyer-like program operating since late 2017, in which agents solicit offers from other fast-cash online homebuying startups on behalf of their client (Offerpad, Opendoor and Zillow Offers are all fast-cash homebuyers active in Phoenix).

An Opendoor spokesperson pointed to the company’s co-listing initiative when asked about any discussions with Keller.

“We have talked to KW, as with many other industry players who are excited to leverage Opendoor for the benefit of home owners across the US,” the spokesperson said. “This is part of our effort to engage and collaborate with the best hyperlocal real estate experts across the US. As part of those efforts, we have and will continue to trial different programs to deliver value to home owners and the real estate industry.”

Rival Realogy launched an iBuyer late last year and smaller indie brokerages have also begun utilizing private partners like Opendoor to offer home buying and selling.

Towards the end of the talk, one of the attendees asks Keller if the company would consider licensing its proprietary technology, to which Keller emphatically responds, “no.”

“Compass tried it and their agents immediately told them, ‘You’re stupid,” Keller responded.

The attendee then follows up, asking Keller if he believes the industry should band together with Keller Williams’ tech to fight against disruptors like Zillow and Redfin.

“I only care about you taking them out if you’re with me,” Keller said. “If you’re not with me, I don’t care if they take you out.”

Compass did briefly license out its technology platform through a new initiative called, “Powered by Compass,” to Leading Edge Real Estate, an indie brokerage in Massachusetts. The deal was swiftly rebuked by Compass agents and fell apart.

A Compass spokesperson told Inman that the company no longer has plans to license its technology.

“The only reason we are where we are today is because we listen to agents,” Compass CEO Robert Reffkin said, in response to Keller’s remarks.

Keller’s admissions came during what the company billed as a “technology, recruiting and education session,” at the company’s headquarters in Austin. The session was aimed at Keller Williams associates, “who are vulnerable,” and for recruits.

Throughout the two-hour talk – which was part of a full-day session that also featured newly promoted president Josh Team – Keller also bashed rival eXp Realty, implying that its virtual cloud campus was antiquated video game technology.

Keller Williams declined to add further comment.

Update: Story updated to include comment from Opendoor. 

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