In a shifting real estate market, the guidance and expertise that Inman imparts are never more valuable. Whether at our events, or with our daily news coverage and how-to journalism, we’re here to help you build your business, adopt the right tools — and make money. Join us in person in Las Vegas at Connect, and utilize your Select subscription for all the information you need to make the right decisions. When the waters get choppy, trust Inman to help you navigate.
In her first six months in the industry, former Visa and Capital One executive Melissa McSherry has navigated one of real estate’s biggest — and most surprising — rebrands with Realogy shedding its former self for a new look and ubiquitous new name, Anywhere.
Although the rebrand came with some initial confusion, McSherry, who is in charge of the franchisor’s product, technology, enterprise marketing and customer experience initiatives, said the company is more sure of itself now than its ever been as they deliver on CEO Ryan Schneider’s dream of an all-digital transaction experience.
“We believe in the path that we’re on,” she said. “Simplifying the transaction for both the consumer and agent is key to navigating the complexities and uncertainty of the current moment by enabling consumers to keep the joy and lose the stress of life transitions.”
Ahead of her first-ever Inman Connect Las Vegas appearance, here’s what McSherry has to say about the role of technology, automation and simplifying the homebuying and selling process:
Inman: Before joining Anywhere, you had a long career in the finance industry with companies like Visa and Capital One. What inspired you to come to the real estate industry? How has that transition been, especially in the midst of a rebrand?
First of all, I think the transition has been great. This is such a relationship-driven industry, and there are so many people who are attentive to and great at making and managing relationships — people have just been overwhelmingly open, welcoming and kind as I’ve come up to speed.
Ryan Schneider really laid out when we were talking about my joining the company, and then again at Investor Day, a very compelling vision for the impacts that Anywhere can have on the consumer experience of buying and selling real estate. I’m incredibly excited to be part of that and I think the rebrand is central to that.
We’re certainly communicating that we are interested in supporting buyers and sellers through technology that enables them to complete transactions anywhere. We don’t have to be tied down to some of our historical habits around how certain activities get done.
And we’re also communicating that through a remote-first format for our employees since many jobs — not all of them — can be done anywhere. So, I feel like the rebrand is reflective of and attempting to communicate some of the things that are really fundamental to our strategy in terms of where we want to go with the company, the impact that we want to have on the lives of our buyers, sellers, agents and brokers, and, and also the opportunity that we see for employees.
How do you see yourself helping execute Ryan’s vision for Anywhere? And what specifically does a better homebuying and homeselling experience mean for you in the scope of your role as COO?
My role covers product technology, enterprise marketing, and client success, and that means that we really design, build, rollout, train and offer support for the technology lead products that Anywhere offers either directly to our agents, affiliated brokers, or consumers.
Ryan and I are both passionate about the opportunity to drive a better homebuying and selling experience, and for me, that’s really one where the consumer can focus on the important things that are going on in their lives, that is driving them to make a move in the first place.
Most people don’t just wake up one day and say, ‘I want to move.’ Usually, there’s something else going on like a new baby, a new job, or a new life stage like retirement. So a better [experience] is enabling consumers to keep the joy and lose the stress of those life transitions.
I want them to be able to focus their attention on [those life transitions] rather than the 178 different steps that need to go right for the transaction to close on time, because we are able to make the transaction simpler, easier and more straightforward.
And I’m able to tackle that by being really thoughtful about the order in which we do things and in the way that we package our products that just take risk and uncertainty off the table. So ‘better’ really boils down to keep the joy and lose the stress.
That’s a great segue into my next question, which revolves around the immense stress that the public is navigating from booming housing costs, rising mortgage rates, inflation and other political and societal issues. How is Anywhere rising to the challenge of helping buyers and sellers navigate this moment?
I think it’s a great question. First, we should keep in mind that despite all of the economic headwinds that you pointed to, people should sort of take heart that unemployment is low and there are opportunities for advancement — that’s one economic indicator that’s very important and in a very positive place.
The second thing is we continue to have a huge amount of runway on building homes before we actually fully satisfy the market. And I think homebuilding is structurally the way to address housing price issues. At the end of the day, if we don’t address the fundamental imbalance, we’re going to continue to have price issues that contribute to affordability issues, which I don’t think anybody wants to see.
So that’s how I think about it — from a structural and industry standpoint how do we monitor and support activities that are in line with trying to support additional homebuilding for the sake of addressing some of those supply-demand imbalances.
Then as we think more tactically, our role in helping agents and consumers navigate the market, one of the first and foremost things that we can do is automate as much as we can in the transaction.
Automation means agents and consumers can work with the most up-to-date information and focus their energy on making great decisions rather than deal with a lot of tactical and administrative distractions that take up a lot of time and energy but don’t necessarily help you navigate a complicated situation any better.
That’s one of the many reasons we believe in the path that we’re on — simplifying the transaction for both the consumer and agent is key to navigating the complexities and uncertainty of the current moment.
So what are the opportunities you see to supercharge Anywhere’s tech stack to further streamline the transaction experience?
A couple of examples come to mind. One, we just recently launched an internal tool that when our agents are working on a transaction, we obviously want to make it quite easy for them to connect with our title companies.
So we have something called One-Click Title, where it’s very easy for the agent to fairly early in the process get our title companies working. When an agent does that, we automatically take a bunch of the documentation that the brokerage has associated with that deal, and send it in the background, to the title company.
That means that now the title company doesn’t need to chase the agent to get that information because they already have it, and that, again, enables people to focus more on the problem-solving part. So we’re working on delivering that same experience over and over and over again and a bunch of different parts of the transaction, and when you add all that up, it should lead to a space where again people are able to focus on the things that only people can do. And technology can do the rest.
Awesome. I’d like to double back to a previous question I asked about market volatility. You’ve explained how Anywhere is helping consumers navigate volatility through technology, but how is the company helping affiliated agents, brokers and employees brace for what’s ahead? Of course, none of us have a crystal ball, but the uptick in layoffs signals that companies are bracing for tougher times ahead.
We obviously continue to monitor the housing market and the macro environment, but we’re very fortunate that we are a strong, healthy enterprise. We’re powered by great brands with a fantastic network of trusted agents that continue to help consumers buy and sell homes. And we have unique advantages — we’re profitable, we have cash flow positive operations and we have a strong balance sheet. And we have had, for some time, expense discipline, which means that we have a track record of being able to continue to invest in our business and our talent even during challenging times.
So, we don’t have any employee actions planned and we’re going to continue to make smart decisions. We’ve been through challenging times and we’ve been through the good times, so we have an idea of how to manage market cycles in a way that doesn’t disrupt our collective future.
So, what are the opportunities you see not only for Anywhere, but the industry as a whole to keep investing in the future? In my years at Inman and interviewing people who survived the Great Recession, that time bred a lot of innovation that ultimately led to a more resilient industry. How can people seize that same opportunity now?
I want to acknowledge while we do see some softening in the market right now, we also see like really good long-term structural trends like work-from-home flexibility, millennials and Gen Z starting to enter their prime homebuying years, and the fact that demand is still quite strong relative to supply.
So we believe that the proactive actions we’ve taken in terms of simplification, improving efficiencies, and having a more collaborative operational mindset will help us continue to make investments in products and technology. And these things are going to help us face any potential market challenges.
As you know, this is a cyclical business so they’re going to be winners and losers during a market shift. I do think people that you’re talking to that have been around for a long time are right — when someone’s in a downturn it becomes more clear what is actually working in a sustainable way versus what was kind of happened to be working because the whole market was going up.
That clarity on what’s actually working in a sustainable way then lets participants who are responsive to that, and are paying attention, focus on those things make the world a better place. Also when we’re challenged and things are going exactly the way we’d like them to, that leads to invention. I think it creates a challenge for all of us to say, ‘How might we do this differently? Can we find a better way? How can we challenge the status quo?’
Lastly, what are you most looking forward to with Anywhere’s trajectory, now that the initial stage of the rebrand is done?
The thing I remain most excited about for Anywhere is the ability to fundamentally improve the lives of buyers, sellers, agents, and brokers, and the ability to use technology even more broadly and even more effectively than it’s been used in the past. I’m excited by the opportunity to take out the stress and take out the risk for all of the participants in the transaction, and there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to do that with Anywhere.