Whether they’re out to hobnob, gather intelligence, bear witness to “the next big thing” or sell stuff, industry professionals come to the Inman Connect New York real estate conference for various reasons and walk away with different insights.
A quick tour of the premises at the conference, which is being hosted at the New York Marriott Marquis and has drawn thousand of attendees, underscored this point.
As some agent team members chewed over business advice from panel speakers, a couple industry execs discussed new pronouncements from Compass CEO Robert Reffkin — all while vendors eagerly pitched their products to anyone who’d listen.
Huddled with two colleagues in the circular hallway that funnels guests towards the hotel’s grand ballroom, Stephanie Goodwin, a real estate agent with Village, a Nashville-based brokerage, said she’s been struck by how different business practices work for different agents.
One speaker said agent teams should be small and scrappy, whereas another said bigger was better, she said.
Her conclusion? “I think you have to do what resonates most with you.”
For Marabeth Poole, standing nearby, the best piece of advice she’s heard at Connect so far has been to stay silent after prospective clients ask for a commission discount — a technique that speakers said can get stingy sellers to back off.
“It shows, ‘Wow, you’re confident,” Poole said.
Downstairs, Sven Anderson, who heads up a team of six at Keller Williams Realty Boston Northwest, also found some team-building tips from panelists to be helpful.
His favorite? Stay lean until you’re reeling in enough listings to scale up.
But Anderson still hasn’t found what he’s looking for: the Next Big Thing.
“We’re here for that,” he said. “And we’re going to find it.”
A stone’s throw away, two big names in the industry stood chatting casually.
What was the most interesting thing at Connect that Russ Cofano, a former executive at eXp Realty and realtor.com, and Simon Chen, the CEO of ERA, had heard about so far?
Both vets agreed that comments from Robert Reffkin, the CEO of venture capital-funded brokerage Compass, took the cake.
Chief among those was Reffkin’s announcement that Compass planned to make another big acquisition, but only in a market that the brokerage had already expanded to and at a lower multiple of the future acquisition’s profit than those which have applied in previous Compass acquisitions.
Compass presumably wants to maintain its sky-high valuation. So that means, if the brokerage is trying to buy other firms for less but achieve a market cap in an initial public offering of perhaps well over $4 billion, the company is basically following the strategy of, according to Cofano: “We’ll buy (brokerages) wholesale and sell (Compass shares in an IPO) retail.”
Cofano and Chen both marveled at the advantages that Compass has over its competition.
Due the billions of venture capital funding that Compass has to spend, “They’re playing by a different set of rules,” Chen said. Rather than turn a profit in the near term, Compass’ challenge is to go public.
“It’s like I’m a basketball player and a football player comes in and tackles me,” Chen said about running a company that competes with Compass.
Chen also noted that Compass benefits from being able to build a brokerage from scratch.
Only a couple yards away, two women dressed in unicorn onesies dangled in the crowd like fishing lures. They were there to attract passersby into asking about Insta Unicorn, an Instagram marketing service for real estate agents.
“I think we’re probably the most interesting,” said one of the “sales unicorns” when asked about the most interesting thing she’d heard at Connect.
As far outfits, they indisputably were.
Heini Isoaho, product manager at Insta Unicorn, offered another observation: Real estate agents, she said, “are surprisingly nice.”