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Although his vision of a digitized real estate transaction started well before the pandemic, Realogy CEO Ryan Schneider has spent the past two years accelerating his vision of a seamless transaction experience led, of course, by Realogy and its six franchise brands.
“The transaction has to get simplified for the end customer [and] that includes helping the agent make it simpler. That’s where the integration of things like title and mortgage come in,” he said during his June 2021 Connect Now session. “Every model has got to go more digital and no matter what your value proposition is, you’ve got to deliver more of it digitally.”
Nearly a year later, Schneider is even more convinced of his company’s focus on digitizing the transaction experience and wielding technology to help agents and consumers get a leg up in a rapidly evolving real estate landscape. Ahead of his appearance at the 25th Inman Connect New York in April, Schneider sat down with Inman to discuss what’s next for Realogy and the industry’s digital future.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Inman: Last week multiple real estate analytics firms released their latest brokerage rankings results, which stirred up a bit of controversy. I covered T3 Sixty’s list and Stefan Swanepoel made an insightful comment about rankings needing to account for the wide range of business models that can yield success. What do you think about Realogy’s place on these lists and what’s next for business models?
Ryan Schneider: First, we’re really excited by Realogy’s strategic progress over the last number of years, driving above-market growth, improving our balance sheet and leveraging technology. Our future focus is all about integrating the real estate transaction to create a much better and simpler experience for the consumer — it must be more frictionless, it must be more digitized, it must be a more single end-to-end transaction, and we feel uniquely positioned to lead the industry into that future.
We have great technology, industry-leading data, and a national title business and a national mortgage business that are both successful. We have the ability to integrate those together with our great agents and change how people buy and sell houses in a much more seamless way, and we’re doing it both in our traditional business and our new ventures, like RealSure. We’re really excited about where the industry’s going with digitization.
[As far as T3 Sixty], I haven’t seen the report, but I will tell you who’s number one: the customer. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to simplify the transaction experience for the customer. And as I said on Realogy’s last earnings call, our view of our competition in the future is companies like Zillow and others who share that vision of simplifying the transaction — not just whoever happens to be running a brokerage.
So we’re excited about that future, and that the customer is at the center of it, right? After the customer, obviously, our agents and franchisees are critically important. We’re only successful if they’re successful. I don’t really let some of the other noise that you referred to take me out of my mind space.
I’m glad that you brought up the customer being No. 1. As we head into another topsy-turvy spring homebuying season, agents and brokers have been talking about focusing on the basics of excellent service. What is the foundation of excellent service for you?
One of the best things about the Realogy agents at all of our brands is I believe every single one of them has the customer at the top of their list. I’ve never doubted that.
Our job is to keep providing the platform, the technology and the product to help make those agents even more successful with their customers. [Buying and selling] has got to be simpler, it’s got to be digital, it’s got to be more integrated. If you’re not focused on that future, in our industry, I think you’re missing where the world is going.
We’ve embarked on a week-long deep dive into the inventory crisis at Inman, and I’d like to know how technology and data play into helping agents and brokers identify listings for their clients.
The Wall Street Journal wrote a nice piece on our use of data and [artificial intelligence] last year that we were quite proud of, but I’d like to start with the fact that technology alone doesn’t do anything. What we’re really talking about here is how do you use the really hard human work that our agents are doing to both generate inventory and help buyers with the tools that you give them?
Some of the tools we provide our agents include predictive data tools meant to help them in this area, and we help agents target their marketing better, which is key to generating more business. So anyone who says technology alone is going to do it doesn’t know the industry well. But marrying a phenomenal, powerful agent network with some great products and technology that can really help consumers, especially in this hot housing market, can tip the scales.
Another part of this goes back to simplifying the transaction and saving consumers time. We are very excited to push on what I would call the extreme of simplifying the transaction with RealSure. Instead of selling and buying your house, you can use RealSure to do both of those together simultaneously in a way that is much more frictionless, I think, than anything else out there today.
There are a lot of startups working on this, but unlike them, we’re bringing the backing of all of Realogy’s experience, agent, network and data. We’re also bringing the backing of Home Partners of America of Blackstone’s experiences and information, and together, we really like our efforts in that kind of extreme version of simplifying the transaction that we’re excited about.
I know you don’t have a crystal ball, but what do you think is next for Realogy and the industry as a whole as we go further into 2022? What are the challenges and opportunities in a market such as this?
Inventory is very tight, but in 2021 we sold more homes as an industry than we did from 2010 to 2019 in any single year, and I think the same will be true for this year. There are actually more transactions being done [and] they’re selling much faster, and the inventory, hence, is much less. In that environment, it’s really important for customers to lean in and find the best agent that they can.
It’s not actually about what is on the market today, it’s about finding those agents that are part of big networks that can help you figure out what’s going to be on the market, and we’re excited by what we’re doing to help our agents deliver that. It’s not going to always be easy for buyers, but we are fully mobilized to support them.
Lastly, we’re on to the next chapter of our story here at Realogy. We believe the world’s moving toward a more simplified transaction experience and if you pair our capacity for innovation — disruption — with the strong economics that we generate, and many other people don’t, we can lead this change in the industry. I’m very excited about it both in our traditional transactions and all the way to something like our RealSure product.