Tamir Poleg and his company the Real Brokerage have been busy.
A year ago, the company began selling shares on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In December, the firm — which is the holding company of virtual brokerage Real — revealed it had raised $20 million in new funding. Then in June of this year, the company debuted on the Nasdaq.
Last week, to celebrate the company’s debut on the American stock exchange, Poleg — who is the company’s co-founder and CEO — rang the Nasdaq’s closing bell. It was an important milestone for Poleg and the company, which has seen share prices triple from a debut of $0.40 to about $1.90 as of Monday.
Days later, Poleg spoke with Inman about what he envisions for the future. The takeaway from this conversation was that he anticipates major growth for Real’s agent count, and that he wants to continue building a company that foregrounds collaboration and kindness. And regarding the market, he believes home price aren’t going to fall any time soon.
What follows is a version of the conversation with Poleg that has been edited for length and clarity.
Inman: So it’s been a crazy time for you, debuting on the Nasdaq and ringing the bell. Tell me about it.
Tamir Poleg: About two and a half weeks ago Nasdaq reached out to us and told us that there’s a spot available for ringing the bell at the close of the market, which is something we weren’t expecting. NASDAQ is so fully booked this year with all the new IPOs, so it was really difficult to find a slot. But they found it. So we reached out to our agents nationwide and just told them, “Hey, we’re going to ring the bell on July 20th and you’re invited.”
As you know, it’s high season and everyone is really really busy. So at the beginning we were just expecting that 30 or 40 agents from around New York And New Jersey would show up. But we ended up with about 210 RSVPs and about 250 agents actually showed up.
It was probably a combination of the fact that during COVID people were really longing to interact with each other and this kind of was an opportunity for everyone to come and meet. But at the same time the love was genuine. I was actually thinking about it today. Why did agents feel so appreciative? And I think the reason was they really felt like they’re partners. At the end of the day, they own equity in the company and the reason why we went public is because we wanted them to own equity in the company and create a financial opportunity for them.
It was a really magical week. At the same time, we’re just getting started.
You said you’re just getting started. Talk to me about that. What do you mean specifically and what milestones do you see on the horizon?
Just to give you an example, we’re now at close to 2,500 agents. But in June alone, we added 300 and something agents. And the productivity of those agents that we’re now bringing on board is probably five times higher than the agents that were joining us prior to Real being a publicly traded company.
So the combination of on-boarding a larger number of agents every month, and a higher productivity of agents, has a huge impact on revenue.
The people we recently brought on — so some highly influential agents and teams, and some teams that are in the pipeline — I know that those names will be attracting other names. It’s sort of a snowball and it gets bigger and bigger. I wouldn’t be surprised if we were speaking in less than a year and we’ll be at 8,000 agents or so. And maybe a year later, 20,000 agents.
We’re also not in all 50 states. We’re just in 31 and there’s tremendous room to grow. And one day internationally as well, even though that’s not on the horizon for now, except for maybe in Canada.
It just seems as if everybody understands the non brick-and-mortar model right now. Agents are starting to understand the importance and opportunity of owning equity in the brokerage they have helped build. I think that the market is ripe. And it’s just a matter of getting our name out there. I would still assume that probably 80 or more percent of agents in America have never heard about Real. So, just imagine what would happen if everybody heard of us.
So this is why we feel that we’re just getting started. We’re being approached constantly by high producing agents and teams and brokerages that want to join us.
Do you have a goal when it comes to agent count? Do you want to have a certain number of agents by a certain date?
I think what we’re really focused on is the understanding that there’s a historic opportunity right now in our market in improving the experience for homebuyers and sellers using technology while leaving the agent in the center of the transaction.
So for us, that’s the goal. That’s a non-numeric goal. And obviously, if we figure it out the right way, then naturally we’ll attract more and more agents. Our goal is not growing agent count. If it happens naturally, it’s because we’re doing the right thing.
We’re trying to say, “hey we understand that consumers feel a certain pain right now.” And the process of buying and selling a home is not perfect for them. So let’s try to understand what’s really painful for them and how we can solve that.
You mentioned that a lot of agents haven’t heard of you. Presumably a lot of consumers haven’t as well. How are you going to spread the word?
We’ve been enjoying operating under the radar until now. And I’m not sure we want to create a lot of noise. I think we want to focus on putting our heads down and getting to work.
I was chatting with a mega-agent at one of the other brokerages and she described us in a way that I really liked. She called us the “silent lion” in the corner of the room. I like that description because Real is not trying to make waves and noise, we’re trying to attract people who share the same DNA as us, who are passionate about real estate, who want to work hard and be kind. People who want to collaborate and want to contribute to others without thinking that’s taking away from their own success.
The way we are attracting others is through word of mouth. So just our agents going out and attracting others. In the past we were attracting agents through digital advertising, but right now we spend probably $6,000 a month on digital advertising. Which is very very low.
Talk to me about your take on the market itself. This has been a weird time in real estate. Some agents are doing well, other agents are not. Inventory is low. What’s your take? Are we going to get back to sometime more normal soon?
That’s the trillion dollar question I’m often being asked.
I think that what we’ve experienced in the past few months is the perfect storm. Low interest rates, and an improving job market. COVID made people much more appreciative of their homes. People were reluctant about inviting strangers into their homes. There was a decade of under-building, with a few million homes missing from the market because they were not building enough. And there were the high prices of building materials.
It’s not sustainable and it would be foolish to think that the economy is not cyclical. Because the economy is cyclical. I’ve was a grown up in the tech world in 2000. And I was in the real estate industry in 2008.
I think what’s happening now is different. This is not a bubble. The government has been printing a lot of money, so money has unfortunately less value. I think that what we might be witnessing is a historical reprising of real assets because of this huge supply of money.
I think that what will likely happen, and we’re already starting to see, is that inventory levels will go up. And we’re seeing that in different markets since the end of April. And at some point interest rates might go up as well.
So things will start leveling off and the market will become a little bit less crazy. But I don’t see prices going down any time soon. I don’t think there’s a reason for them to go down. I think that the market at some point will kind of balance itself at a certain point, which obviously will be higher than it was a year ago. But it will not continue to appreciate the same way it has in the past six months.