The annual Inman Innovator Awards honor the creative companies, organizations and individuals pushing the boundaries of the real estate industry and achieving new feats.
This year in particular has seen change within the industry happening at a break-neck pace, with new technologies, companies and concepts all appearing almost daily. That made the selection process this year harder than ever, but the Inman staff nevertheless persevered and has selected runners-up and top honorees. Winners were announced at Inman Connect Las Vegas Thursday, and you can view the full list here and watch video of the awards as they’re being announced here.
Innovators of the Year
Winner: Zillow co-founders Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink
Zillow co-founders Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink came back to the online portal’s executive suite this year to transform how real estate is bought and sold. They courageously pivoted their business model and are currently working to build the infrastructure that they believe will lead to a more certain, faster and easier home sale.
Real estate technology
Winner: Redfin Direct
Redfin Direct is the company’s internet-driven buyer’s agent plan that allows consumers to make direct offers on Redfin-listed homes. What’s more, buyers can make those offers through the company’s website. Redfin set off a firestorm when it announced the product in May, though company CEO Glenn Kelman recently told Inman he doesn’t expect Redfin Direct to ever entirely replace buyer’s agents.
First Runner Up: zavvie Offer Optimizer
Offer Optimizer is a tool that allows homeowners to compare instant offers from industry-leading iBuyers like Offerpad, Opendoor, Zillow Offers and Redfin Now. The tool launched nationwide in March, and also compares a standard iBuyer offer with the price a seller might get on the open market.
Second Runner Up: Forewarn
Forewarn is an agent safety app that provides immediate background checks for showing prospects.
Homeward’s mission is to make the entire moving process more convenient by helping clients buy the home they want before selling the one they already have. To do that, Homeward uses its own cash to secure the buyer’s next home. Keller Williams mega agent Tim Heyl founded the company, which just this week announced it had secured $25 million in funding.
First Runner Up: Notarize
Notarize is a digital notary startup that has facilitated more than $1 billion in online real estate transactions, marking a major milestone for a company that wants to completely digitize a process that has long been mired in reams of physical paperwork. The firm has also had a rapid-fire string of product announcements this year that included the launch of “hybrid” and video conferencing closing services.
Second Runner Up: Endpoint
Endpoint Closing aims to make the home closing process simple, fast, transparent, reliable and accurate while keeping agents, buyers and sellers in the loop. The firm uses web, iOS and Android apps to facilitate communication between various different parties.
Brokerage or Team
Winner: Brix Real Estate
When Minnesota-based BRIX launched its Simple Offer program last fall, the brokerage pioneered a novel, and pragmatic, response to the growth of iBuying companies. The program gives sellers an all-cash offer within 47 hours through a portal on its own website that links directly to Opendoor.
First Runner Up: Side
Side is a real estate brokerage that transforms agents into businesses. They partner with top producing agents to create, grow and power their businesses without the cost, time or risk. Side believes that the future of real estate is local, boutique and agent-owned.
Second Runner Up: Redfin
Winner: The Real Estate Sessions with Bill Risser
Bill Risser, vice president of digital strategy for Fidelity National Title in Tampa, Florida, interviews industry leaders about how they got their start, what drives them, positive changes they see in the business and what mistakes are regularly made by real estate professionals.
First Runner Up: The Real Word with Byron Lazine and Nicole White
Connecticut agents Byron Lazine and Nicole White offer their thoughts on the week’s news and industry-related topics every Friday in a video column.
Second Runner Up: The Massive Agent Podcast with Dustin Brohm
The Massive Agent Podcast is a real estate marketing podcast for agents and loan officers. The goal is to help them take their real estate business to the next level with lead generation and marketing ideas that help sell more homes.
MLS, Association or Industry Organization
Winner: Baldwin County Association of Realtors
The Baldwin County Association of Realtors in Alabama set a precedent last fall when it became the first organization of its kind to offer group health, dental and vision insurance plans that treat its 2,300 members — who are largely independent contractors — as employees of the association.
First Runner Up: MLS Aligned
Arizona Regional MLS, Metro MLS in Wisconsin, MLSListings in Silicon Valley, RMLS in Oregon and UtahRealEstate.com — which have nearly 95,000 agent and broker subscribers combined — have teamed up to create the MLS Aligned API. The API is an application programming interface that allows vendors such as third-party listing portals to receive listing data in real time and all at once from member MLSs.
Second Runner Up: Real Estate Standards Organization
RESO has expanded its membership to encompass approximately 850 real estate organizations while retiring the old Real Estate Transaction Standard (RETS) in favor of the more nimble Web API. It also recently ratified updates to the Web API standard that allow agents and brokers to input and update listings outside of the MLS and feed them to the MLS from another system — a feature brokers have long asked for.
Winner: Zillow iBuyer ads
Zillow began airing its first-ever iBuyer TV ads, which lean heavily into the company’s widespread name recognition and play up the program’s ease of use. The ads began airing in Atlanta and Denver in March.
First Runner Up: Team Diva
Team Diva’s scrolling webpage gives tips and information to all different kinds of buyers looking to purchase a home in Seattle.
Second Runner Up: REX oped
Jack Ryan, CEO and co-founder of REX, a Los Angeles-based startup, and Jonathan Friedland, a brand and public policy manager for the company, penned a March 3 opinion piece for The Wall Street Journal titled, “When You Buy or Sell a Home, Realty Bites.” The piece compares high fees in the United States to those in other countries, where fees are lower.
Nate Ellis Award
In memory of our good friend Nate Ellis.
Winner: Sam DeBord
Sam DeBord is CEO of the Real Estate Standards Organization and a tireless change agent who navigates smartly between the old and new worlds of real estate. Embracing the role of the agent and the brokerage, he has pushed the industry forward with his credible voice, his relentless advocacy and his unmatched smarts about the real estate business.