There was fear and loathing in Las Vegas this week as leaders of the country’s top real estate brokerages accused each other of stoking fear and rumormongering as they jostle for supremacy.
Compass CEO Robert Reffkin feels for Realogy, the real estate giant that is suing his firm for unfair business practices.
But in an apparent reference to Realogy’s decision to take legal action against Compass, he implied that Realogy is responding to competitive pressure from Compass in a regrettable way.
Reffkin made his comments during a panel discussion at Inman Connect Las Vegas on Thursday. He was chatting with Clelia Peters, president of Warburg Realty, who asked Reffkin if he could comment on the suit. Realogy charges that Compass engages in “unfair business practices and illegal schemes to gain market share at all costs.”
Reffkin said that he has a lot of respect and empathy for Realogy. They’re “all good people,” working for their clients and trying to create the best company they can, he said.
But “there is a subset of brokerage firms whose margins are declining and agents are leaving.” And that, he said, “puts a lot of pressure on people.”
Dishing out a life lesson, Reffkin said there are two ways to respond in this situation: “attack” others and spread “rumors” and “fear.”
“Or you can focus on your business, and you know, build a better company.”
Keller Williams Realty, represented on stage by its President Josh Team, is a great example of a company that is “investing in their business” to compete. He could not, however, speak to “other people’s decisions.”
But does Compass practice what Reffkin preaches? Peters asserted that it has been less than knightly itself.
She said Compass has tried to poach agents at her own brokerage with various tactics. One of those is “rumor spreading.” She accused Compass of portraying Warburg as an acquisition target and Compass as “a more enduring entity.”
“I’ve never heard or seen any of that,” Reffkin responded. “I as a CEO have only said positive things.”
Peters acknowledged that, when it comes to Reffkin, that was true.
In a separate session at Connect on Thursday, Ryan Gorman, CEO of NRT, a brokerage owned by Realogy, didn’t pull any punches when discussing the charges his firm has leveled at Compass. He compared Compass’ business practices to “shoplifting.”