A month and a half after Compass surprised the real estate industry by snatching up CRM maker Contactually, Robert Reffkin said he doesn’t care if his company builds or buys its technology.

Less than two months after Compass surprised the real estate industry by snatching up CRM maker Contactually, Robert Reffkin said he doesn’t care if his company builds or buys its technology.

Speaking Tuesday afternoon at Inman’s Disconnect event for real estate leaders in Palm Springs, Reffkin said his priority when it comes to technology is to ensure his agents “have the right system.” Moreover, Reffkin said he has “no emotional desire” when it comes to the decision to either acquire or build technology.

Robert Reffkin at Inman Disconnect in Palm Springs Tuesday | Credit: Inman, Melissa Gayle

Several minutes later, Reffkin reiterated that he has no “emotional attachment” to building verses buying technology.

Buying technology and tech companies, obviously, is a standard practice in the real estate industry and reports of mergers and acquisitions are a near-daily occurrence.

But the comments are notable coming from Reffkin because Compass has in the past touted its in-house technology capabilities, which include search, marketing and a variety of other tools. The company has also pioneered a new type of yard sign, and flirted with the idea of licensing its technology to other real estate firms, among other innovations.

Compass has of course made high-profile acquisitions — typically brokerages such as Pacific Union last year and Stribling and Associates this month — but it has also developed a reputation for both its proprietary software and its willingness to build things. It’s a strategy that helped the company raise more than a billion dollars on the promise that it offers something genuinely unique.

This strategy has hit bumps in the recent past, with Compass’ plan to license technology quickly falling apart.

The Contactually acquisition in February, however, showed Compass wasn’t just going to build its own tech stack — a fact that a number of real estate leaders and observers have expressed curiosity about in recent months.

During his Disconnect session Tuesday, Reffkin explained the importance of the acquisition by saying he wanted the Contactually team onboard with Compass.

“The value of that acquisition was not the CRM,” Reffkin said. “The value of that acquisition was the talent.”

That approach hues closely to what Compass did several months earlier when it picked up the technology team behind shopping app Spring, though in that case Reffkin’s firm did not actually buy the company itself. Reffkin did not say Tuesday if he was looking at buying other specific technology companies, though his agnosticism when it comes to building verses buying suggests more acquisitions may eventually be inevitable.

He also downplayed the role of technology overall Tuesday. Instead, “the number one reason people stay at the company is culture,” Reffkin said, followed by things like technology, marketing and support.

“How do you make everything feel like one Compass, how do you make everything feel like one culture?” he said of his priorities. “Technology is the least important thing.”

After this story was published, Reffkin reached out to Inman to clarify that when speaking of technology being the least important thing, he was referring to the priorities of agents across the country at other brokerages, not Compass agents.

Email Jim Dalrymple II

Editor’s note: This story was updated after publication to include additional information from Compass.

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