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Jason Gesing of eXp Realty, York Baur of Moxiworks and Sara Bonert of Zillow gathered on the Inman Connect stage in Las Vegas to work through their issues with industry consolidation in the technology sector.
The panel was moderated by Greg Robertson, who is quite close to the subject. Robertson built Cloud CMA under W+R Studios which became part of Lone Wolf Technologies that swallowed five companies in 2021 alone.
Baur is CEO of MoxiWorks, a company actively working to fully integrate its latest acquisition, email marketer ActivePipe.
“Consolidation is a natural maturation of this industry, across MLS, brokerages, agents and proptech,” Baur said. Without a career background in real estate, Baur brings an outsider, perhaps less dire take on consolidation.
“What’s unique about real estate is that it’s been a relative late adopter of technology, we’re seeing the same consolidation wave that we would’ve seen in other verticals much earlier,” he said.
Still, Baur advised the audience to be wise about the risk of jumping into business with a proptech that might soon end up under another company.
“You really have to dig in and make sure the companies are going to survive that consolidation,” he said.
Robertson didn’t take long to queue up what was likely the single reason he agreed to moderate: Zillow’s acquisition of Showingtime. It’s an example of how everyone-MLS, brokers and agents—can all be affected at the same time by consolidation.
Sara Bonert, vice president of broker services, was ready.
“Not to sound like a broken record, but we’ve always looked at the consumer,” she said. “How can we help them through the entire process of finding a place to live. Because consolidating tech makes it easier for the consumer, it’s more transparent.”
It can be inferred that Bonert’s referring to the idea that consumers and agents have too many products to juggle in order to get a deal to culmination. Stacking technology gets expensive and creates adoption challenges, thus creating data gaps to cross in order to close.
“We can make it more efficient for agents to get the house sold, get the consumer in there,” she said.
Gesing, eXp’s CEO, forecasts more consolidation.
“In the brokerage community in particular, but I don’t think it’s ripened yet,” he said. “To the extent there’s diminished, I think brokerage owners will find themselves with a fixed cost problem, so I can see a lot of consolidation there.”
Robertson prodded Gesing on eXp’s ongoing acquisition of teams, asking if that was always part of the plan.
“From my observation a lot of teams are already working together, collaborating in mastermind groups,” Gesing said. “The difference here is that they were able to get into markets with eXp that they wouldn’t have been able to without a lot of upfront risk.”
Gesing also said that no — there was no forward plan to acquire teams.
If teams are the future, a form of consolidation from within a brokerage, then more tools and technology will be needed to support them.
“I would start by saying that I see a convergence of the broker and team concept,” Baur said. “We used to regard them as a separate thing, almost at odds with brokers. There are teams that realize it’s a little harder than they thought to run a mini-brokerage, and brokers have embraced that better and provided a lot of leadership, a lot of training. We can see the convergence happening.”
Robertson introduced the topic of consolidation causing customers to become investors and in some instances, partnering with competitors.
“I would encourage and hope that more brokers and MLSs be very clear about where those lines are drawn,” Baur said.