Industry

Friday Flash: Spinning Compass

Author
Brian Boero
No.
1119

NAR and Bright MLS have fired the opening shots in what will prove to be a nasty battle over when, exactly, a listing should be placed in the MLS. 

I have long thought that big brokers would do well to consider pulling out of IDX, but withholding listings from the MLS, while a rational short-term action, is ultimately self-defeating.

We stand to lose a shared truth about the real estate market if the MLS becomes significantly eroded through broker defection. Practitioners and consumers know most of what they know about the real estate market only because the MLS exists.

We take the MLS for granted. We shouldn’t. 

Glenn Kelman accused Compass of copying the Redfin website “pixel for pixel.” 

I get Glenn’s beef, but the fact is that home search UX is done. Matured. Fully baked. The tech underneath will continue to get better (e.g., computer vision), and inputs will continue to change (e.g., voice) but the design patterns and best practices are well established by now. 

If anyone tries to tell you that they have a better take on home search, proceed with skepticism. 

Compass CEO Robert Refkin went on CNBC a couple weeks ago to announce …

Collaborative search and “similar homes.”

These things have been done a hundred times before, but that’s an obvious point and isn’t what interests me here. 

I think it’s interesting that the CEO of a company currently valued at over $6 billion would go on television to talk about two basic website features. 

This “Compass-as-a-technology-company” ruse is tired. But they’re still flogging it. And not even very well. 

The only interesting thing about Compass is their all-out quest to secure “exclusive” inventory they can market and sell themselves. This makes for a more profitable brokerage, but I guess it doesn’t excite investors quite as much as AI and all that. 

So we in the industry have many more eye-rolls ahead of us as Compass spins toward an IPO.

Relatedly, I’ve heard lots of variations on “Compass is going to be just like WeWork” over the past few weeks. 

I don’t think so. 

Sure, the two companies are Softbank cousins and both have engaged in pretentious storytelling to make things that aren’t really that new seem world-changing. But I think Compass’ numbers will look comparatively good. 

They’ve bought a lot of revenue (brokerages are good at revenue), and while the leases and expensive tech talent will likely place them well into the red, they won’t be in it so deep that they can’t talk through this with confident talk about their “flywheel” and things like “operating leverage” and “our tech platform.” 

People hoping for a Compass crash and burn are going to be disappointed. 

Opendoor cut a deal with W+R studios to integrate with Cloud CMA. 

Smart. Agents create 260,000 reports in Cloud CMA every month. Opendoor offers will now be part of many agent/seller conversations. 

Agents choose whether or not to include the Opendoor offer in the report. I hope W+R shares some adoption/conversion numbers. 

Opendoor doesn’t have a household-name brand or a massive online audience, so they‘re doing these distribution deals (they inked one with Redfin a few months ago) to get in front of as many consumers as possible. 

Again, smart, but I think brand and audience will win over time.

Why is the conventional wisdom that iBuyers are going to flame out when the real estate market goes cold?

I don’t get it.

If it becomes harder to sell a house, won’t more people take the easy option? 

Yes, iBuyers will have a harder time selling what they buy, but so will everyone else. But they can unload their holdings to institutional buyers. Plus, by the time we enter buyers’ market territory, many iBuyers will have their ancillary businesses up and running and won’t necessarily lose their shirts if they have to take a hit on the house itself. 

Tell me what I’m missing. 

Enjoy the weekend.

[Disclosure: Bright is a 1000watt client.]