“We’ve obviously proven that you can build a cloud-based brokerage,” says eXp World Holdings founder and CEO Glenn Sanford, in an interview with RealTrends. And, during the market shift, Sanford says, “There are going to be a lot of brokerages that [will] truly get rid of their single biggest cost to running a real estate brokerage, which is bricks and mortar.”
Sanford and several of his leadership team sat down with RealTrends at their Shareholder Summit, which is happening this week in Orlando, Florida. The theme, ‘eXp is built for this,’ expands on the idea that eXp’s virtual model and debt-free enterprise is built to thrive in any market.
“If you’ve got a significant amount of debt or a significant number of fixed expenses, you’re going to struggle in the downturn,” says Sanford. “But a modern enterprise doesn’t have either of those. They’re not carrying a whole bunch of debt. If they are, the reason why the debt exists is because they probably picked up a whole bunch of fixed expenses, and so they need the debt just to pay for that,” he says.
Education and training
Sanford says that’s key to thriving in any market. For agents, the key is education. Especially since, “50% of agents today got into the business after 2010,” according to Dave Conord, president of U.S growth for eXp Realty. “They’ve never known anything but an improving market. They haven’t had to develop some of the skill sets, like handling price reductions and working with buyers who, because of rising interest rates, don’t qualify for a mortgage anymore.”
“We have a platform that will allow agents to thrive through this [shift] — to get the mindset right and to look at this as an opportunity rather than something to be afraid of.”
Plans for growth moving forward
While brokerage such as Compass and Redfin are laying off employees and closing offices, Jason Gesing, CEO of eXp Realty says that eXp is not on that same path. A virtual brokerage obviously means no offices to close. However, he notes that, while the company is always looking for ways to be more efficient and cut costs, they are not planning any layoffs or major cost-cutting initiatives due to market conditions. “At this point, no. I mean we’re always looking at our costs and where we can be more efficient. We’ve been doing that for 12 years. So I mean, there are cost savings that are coming as a result of technologies. But, at the moment, we feel really good about where we are,” says Geising.
Gesing notes that the company is continuing to expand, with an eye toward commercial real estate and an opportunity to build on relocation and REO business. There’s also a focus on lead sources, as evidenced by the firms recent acquisition of Zoocasa.
But, says Conord, the company’s growth strategy is changing. “We’re able to hone in a bit more now. I mean, now that we’ve reached a scale, and we have a pace. For a while, it was just, ‘Keep holding on.’ It was to make sure that we’re serving our agents. We still drive growth through the net promoter score, where we’re looking at the agent satisfaction.”
Conord notes that, “For us growth is the two sides of the coin. It’s attraction — we want to provide things that are attractive to agents in the marketplace — but we also want to make sure that we’re serving our agents at a high level and that we’re making good on the promises to help them grow their business and build a great life.”
He and Gesing note that it’s the retention side that gives eXp net gain growth. “There are some other companies that are attracting a lot of agents, but they’re not holding onto them very well. So it’s an opportunity to do both. I think we iterate on the attraction model throughout. But it’s led by our agents. We don’t have anyone on staff paid to recruit. It’s 100% organic with agent word of mouth, which is why agent satisfaction is so important,” says Conord.
Global expansion opportunities
Michael Valdes, president of eXp Global, notes that global expansion is also a huge opportunity for them. “We have a lot of the organic growth that comes from having 82,000 ambassadors around the world. It would be silly for us not to use that source. But, we actually do look at the market overall [in the countries we enter.] We have some large fixed costs for any territory in which we enter.”
He notes that since eXp is not a franchise, “we come in and do everything. We build the infrastructure, corporation, finance, banking, etc. Everything is built from scratch and there are some fixed costs attached to that. So we want to make sure that we have the greatest ROI possibility in the shortest time. Our goal is getting to about 18 months — neutral to cash flow positive. So we run financial analysis of any country that we’re looking into.”
He notes that they will have 500 agents in South Africa in the next two weeks, which “will put us in the top 15 of all agencies in South Africa. Once we pass 600 agents, we’ll be in the top 10.” In Mexico, the company will be announcing that 1,000 agents have joined eXp in about 18 months. “We’ve attracted a lot of teams in Mexico,” says Valdes.
Addressing the critics
When one mentions eXp, competitors immediately say something like, ‘Well, someone has to sell real estate. They can’t just recruit.’ To that, Gesing says, “It’s a popular narrative. And if you look at the individual quarterly filings, you’ll see that our rate of revenue growth exceeds our rate of agent count growth. I think there are certain talking points that have stuck for periods of time. We used to have the one where people would say we were unsustainable. Then, we started to turn gap profitability and issue dividends. So, I guess that one went out the window.”
Overall, the leaders say they are poised for growth despite a slower housing market. In fact, Sanford said that the firm is on track to be the biggest firm by agent count by 2025. “Our platform allows us to build, and if needed in the future, dismantle multiple lanes. It’s what allowed us to add commercial and grow so quickly,” says Gesing. “We’ve really built a culture that was driven by technology adoption, the metaverse, and agents being open to things that might improve their businesses. That’s a cultural piece, and it’s not easily replicated.”