Howard “Hoby” Hanna has been in real estate for 26 years and runs a company founded by his grandfather. And in his opinion, today’s disrupters aren’t all that disruptive.

“I don’t really see anything really new,” Hanna said Tuesday morning at Inman CEO Connect at Carnegie Hall.

Howard W. “Hoby” Hanna at Inman CEO Connect Tuesday. Credit: Jim Dalrymple II

Hanna, the president of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, pointed to Compass, which has become a massive force in the real estate industry by raising more than a billion dollars in funding. There’s no question that level of fundraising has been one of the things that helped put Compass on the map, but Hanna argued that the company itself is merely following the path of other businesses — some of which operated as far back as the 1990s — that also raised money from Wall Street and venture capitalists.

“Compass isn’t new,” Hanna said, “it’s just new money.”

Howard Hanna — which describes itself as the third-largest real estate company in the U.S. — was founded in 1957 by Howard and Anne Freyvogel Hanna, a husband-and-wife duo. Today, the company has 340 offices spread across eight states, including Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, and Ohio.

During Tuesday’s session at CEO Connect, Hanna said that over the years his company has pioneered a number of practices that were disruptive in their own right. Howard Hanna Real Estate pioneered programs that offered to buy homes back from dissatisfied customers, for example, and that provided profit sharing for agents. The company also invests significant resources in its agents, and has pushed into adjacent industries such as mortgages.

Hanna’s point in mentioning these innovations didn’t appear to be to knock buzzier and tech-oriented companies that get labeled as “disrupters” so much as it was to point out that there is a reason established players like Howard Hanna continue to succeed.

“I think that ourselves and a lot of the brokers that have been in the business for a while are the original disrupters,” Hanna said. “Some companies today have done a really good job of putting a shiny package around it.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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