The traditional way of selling homes has been picked apart for years now, and the players of the future are emerging. It’s shaping up to be a competition between full-service brokerages vs. Redfin vs. ibuyers.
This article describes the power play, and features Compass as Case Study #1:
Compass has traded capital for rapid growth, raising a reported $1.2 billion and a valuation of $4.4 billion. With these resources at its disposal and not shy about losing money for the moment, Compass has been catalyzing growth by offering significant sign-on bonuses, investing deeply in technology, and doubling down on M&A.
Many observers have a hard time understanding how any brokerage can invest so aggressively, often complaining that “it’s not sustainable” – “it makes no sense” – “it’s not a profitable way to do business”.
It does make sense, however, if you consider the superpowers that a company gains by reaching the tipping point first and thus becoming a single, dominant company that can 1) grow by making the market and 2) differentiate and dominate through data.
For Compass, San Francisco is ground zero for this strategy, where the firm has about 36% of the market. Compass has expanded its local footprint quickly through acquisition, the latest being the March acquisition of Alain Pinel with its1,300 agents and $12.2 billion in 2017 sales volume—the third such acquisition in 8 months. According to Compass, the company is not only the biggest brokerage in the Bay Area, “it is now the largest residential brokerage in the country by sales volume, growing from $15 billion to more than $35 billion between January 2018 and January 2019.”
Compass has realized that market share makes their brokering power bigger. With more listings and more buyers, they can bolster your exclusive “coming soon,” “off-market,” and “in-house” transactions that the competition can’t match, creating a “FOMO” (“fear of missing out”) effect in both customers and agents.
If you’re a consumer or an agent looking at the screen below from compass.com, which shows Compass’ exclusive off-market and coming soon listings, how could you not work with Compass?
These tactics fuel the incentives for buyers to work with Compass because Compass has the exclusive listings. And that means sellers have to work with Compass because they have all the active buyers working with their brokerage. And finally, agents will have to work with Compass because that’s where the action is. Boosting agent recruitment then brings in more listings and buyers, fueling that superpower growth loop.
If you want access to the market, you now have to go to the company who has the greatest ability to make the market, and that, in San Francisco, is clearly Compass.
Compass is working off this specific strategy:
- Hire the top listing agents in each market area.
- Create a search portal that rivals Zillow and Redfin.
- Offer Compass Concierge to get homes in top condition prior to selling.
- Offer exclusive listings on compass.com for days/weeks in advance of MLS input.
- Use strategy to attract buyers & sellers, and recruit more listing agents.
The not-so-obvious critical step is the creation of a national search portal that intends to be the dominant real estate website in America. The current version has a ways to go before deserving that attention, but after another year or two of development it could be worthy.
Notorious Rob explores Andrew’s article further here: