Scott Petronis, the newly appointed chief product and technology officer at $3,500 flat listing-fee brokerage Redefy thinks that today’s real estate consumer is getting overlooked in the real estate industry. Finding a company with a greater focus on the consumer is a big reason that Petronis says he joined Redefy, following his departure from rival residential brokerage eXp Realty, where he previously worked as chief technology officer.
“There’s been a lot of companies trying to figure out what’s the next iteration on franchises, and how do we double down and focus more on agents and others that are, how do we make the next generation brokerage?” Petronis told Inman in an exclusive interview. “If we don’t as an industry get our heads back in the game, that it’s all about the consumer, I feel like this industry is going to be in for a rude awakening very quickly.”
Petronis’ exit from eXp Realty — he was with the company for almost two years exactly, having joined in April 2017 after leading initiatives at the Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) — this week raised questions about why a top exec would leave a company that’s seemingly growing at a breakneck pace.
The move was especially curious since Petronis left his role as eXp’s chief tech officer after the company hit a billion-dollar market cap on its first day of trading on the NASDAQ, and then purchased VirBELA, the technology vendor that makes online virtual training and educational worlds for various organizations in private enterprise and government, including eXp’s much-hyped 3D virtual, game-like “eXp World” (which a competitor derided as similar to “Donkey Kong” technology) in reference to an old Nintendo video game.
EXp did not comment on Petronis’s departure when asked repeatedly by Inman. In an exclusive interview with Inman, he declined to comment on eXp Realty and his past with the company, saying he would only comment on looking ahead to what’s next with Redefy.
“I certainly like to kinda leave the past in the past and I don’t want to get into a whole bunch of detail about what happened or what’s going on there,” Petronis said.
But it was Redefy’s focus on the consumer that, “really got his blood flowing,” and the impetus for that change.
Redefy is a flat-fee brokerage headquartered in Colorado and serving the markets of that state as well as Phoenix, Arizona; Tampa, Florida; Hampton Roads (Virginia and North Carolina); Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin & San Antonio, Texas; and Atlanta, Georgia (Intown); where consumers can list and sell their home for a flat rate of $3,500 (or 1 percent on homes priced at over $1 million) — versus the industry standard of paying a listing agent around three percent.
The company, which launched in 2014 initially under the name “Elite Home,” says it acts as a full-service brokerage, providing the same service that a traditional agent charging that three percent commission can provide.
Petronis said the key to providing that service is finding and fixing inefficiencies in the process. He admitted that sometimes discount brokerages are synonymous with a discounted service, and that is true in some cases.
But by streamlining processes, agents can focus more on acting as advisors to their consumers.
“People can spend people energy on the right things, hand-holding and face-to-face [interactions],” Petronis said. “As we know, there are loads of inefficiencies in the process.”
Redefy takes it a step further and offers to help clients find the best way to sell their home, depending on life and market factors. That means in some cases, referring the consumer to an iBuyer (online, all-cash homebuying program such as Opendoor, Offerpad or Zillow Offers), or even a competing full commission brokerage.
“What we want to be able to do is evaluate, what does that consumer need, what’s in their best interest,” Petronis said. “It may not be us.”
That could also mean helping guide a seller on how to sell the home themselves, with sort of a la carte service, where an advisor will walk the consumer through certain parts of the process so they can do it themselves.
Petronis thinks this array of options is even more important as more and more digitally-native millennial consumers enter the residential real estate market.
“There’s an expectation of instant gratification – ‘hey I want to be able to do it myself, but I want guardrails,’” Petronis said. “‘I want to be able to deliver my own experience, but I don’t want the added expense of what the current industry is all about.’”
In his new role, Petronis will be focused on improving the consumer-facing experience, dig deeper into analytical insights for consumers and further work to streamline the transaction process.
“While Redefy has done a ton to reduce friction, there’s still plenty more to go,” Petronis said.
Discount brokerage models have become more common in recent years, but they’ve entered the market with varying degrees of success.
Redfin has established itself as one of the top brokerages in the country, bringing its 1 percent listing fee to many markets, but other discount brokerages like Purplebricks have experienced trouble and turmoil.
Still, Petronis believes more of the industry will eventually be moving in this direction and he wanted to be one of the early leaders in the field.
“I wanted to be a part of making significant changes happen in the industry,” Petronis said.