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Anywhere is sitting pretty following a decision last year to settle out of court ahead of the explosive Sitzer | Burnett trial, CEO Ryan Schneider said Wednesday during a gripping panel with Brad Inman at Connect New York. The deal, he explained, lets the company to protect its agents and brokers — while stopping short of covering anyone who joins Anywhere today.
“We wanted to make sure our agents and franchisees got protected,” Schneider added, noting he thought the move would give Anywhere a competitive advantage over other real estate companies.
Anywhere was among the franchisor-defendants in Sitzer | Burnett. However, before the case went to trial in October, Anywhere settled, agreeing to pay $83.5 million and make various policy changes. The settlement meant that Anywhere did not participate in the Sitzer trial.
Anywhere also settled the Moehrl and Nosalek commissions suits, and the settlements are expected to become final later this year. In addition to Anywhere, RE/MAX settled the cases as well, though defendants including the National Association of Realtors and other franchisors have not settled. The settlements consequently make Anywhere and RE/MAX unique among large brokerages right now.
During his session Wednesday, Schneider celebrated that unique position. When moderator Brad Inman praised the move as a “bold decision,” Schneider explained that settlements ultimately came out of a desire to have more time and money to devote to Anywhere franchisees and their agents.
“Once you have a clear vision about what’s the right thing, then you have to get there,” Schneider said. “Do I want to spend my time and money on litigation, or do I want to spend it on agents and franchisees?
Schneider also weighed in on the market Wednesday, telling the packed ballroom that he is “feeling optimistic.”
“There’s some green shoots out there,” Schneider said. “Rates are coming down, consumer sentiment is improving.”
The CEO added that opportunity in today’s market will largely come down to “attitude and grit.”
Inman went on to suggest that in order for rate cuts and the 10-year Treasury to come down in the coming year, the industry would need a a solid trade organization backing it. However, the National Association of Realtors has faced a rocky year with repeated leadership upheaval, scandal and of course the legal defeat in Sitzer | Burnett.
But Schneider pushed back, saying industry change need not come by way of a “leadership vacuum.” Instead, it can be brought on by individual leaders within the industry.
“Opportunities to be influential in [Washington] D.C. are not about trade associations, they’re about leadership,” Schneider said.
“Everybody in this room is a leader … If they’re not speaking to Congress or state representatives, they’re missing an opportunity…” he added.
The comments came just moments after Mauricio Umansky, founder of The Agency, announced plans to build a trade organization that would rival NAR.
Also during his time on stage Wednesday, Schneider said that industry leaders should focus on vision and attitude in the face of shifting consumer sentiment, new AI models, ongoing litigation and fluctuating interest rates.
Leaders need to have forward-looking vision for their companies so they’re not caught with their “head buried in the sand” when the next challenge arrives, and they need to keep a positive attitude to lead everyone in the company through challenges.
“The final thing I tell the team is, we don’t control the housing market, the Fed, the macroeconomics, all that stuff,” Schneider said. “We control our attitude.”
Schneider said his own goal as a leader is to be honest, supportive and to have clear vision.
Thinking more about the next year in the industry, Schneider said he thought increased consolidation through mergers and acquisitions would be a necessary, but that more companies now would face the challenge of “litigation overhang,” which might prevent some brokerages from being acquired.
“I can’t buy anybody who has litigation overhang,” Schneider said.
However, a complication in the merger and acquisition space is that, according to Schneider, is that many brokerages are seeking the price that their company was worth in 2021, which is likely inflated from what its value is in 2024.
“Companies aren’t worth that today, obviously,” he said.
“I still think that I spend as much time competitively worried about the portals as anybody who has a brokerage out there,” Schneider said, adding that he thinks about it as much as he thinks about Anywhere’s brokerage competitors.
“Our industry let these companies get crazy,” he said. “The IP of listings drives the valuation, and the way the industry feeds these folks drives me crazy.”
Ultimately, Schneider said he thought more portals in the market, which creates more competition and more options for agents, was a good thing. However, he did point out that Florance’s “Your listing, your lead” model had its flaws, particularly when a listing agent doesn’t return a consumer’s phone call.
“But on the flip side, handing a lead to an agent who doesn’t know the property has its own set of weaknesses,” Schneider added.
Inman said Schneider’s excitement was palpable — and he was all for it.
“You’re getting all fired up,” Inman said. “You’re getting all the energy that the everyday Realtor has, and I love it. It’s the new Ryan.”