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Compass CEO Robert Reffkin is on top of the world. With an IPO in his rearview mirror, Reffkin and his c-suite have refocused on growing Compass’ footprint, as evidenced by the slew of new markets along the East Coast and Midwest. He’s also been working on strengthening his public presence with the launch of his first book No One Succeeds Alone and digital learning platform MasterClass’s first real estate course.
During his Inman Connect interview with Inman founder Brad Inman, Reffkin said his accomplishments haven’t dulled the desire to reach higher. “Remember, Compass started out as an idea in a room, and then to see [the IPO] happen was very special,” he said. “But my mindset doesn’t change. I’m the kind of person that has the same sense of urgency and desire to build a better company every single day.”
Reffkin said he’s bullish about Compass’ future, even as some worry about an impending real estate bubble due to skyrocketing home prices, worsening affordability and rock-bottom inventory levels. The reason for his optimism? Buyers’ quest to create the life, work environment and home that best suits them.
“There’s been a permanent shift in the demand curve for homeownership,” he explained. “Everyone wants more space, more indoor space or outdoor space, more private office space, and hybrid work is not going away.”
“Too many people have been able to work from home, be closer to family and friends, and still be productive at work,” he added. “They’re going to want to have that option and that flexibility and that makes the home more valuable.”
As the rest of the world is ready to eschew office space, Reffkin said he’s not ready to kiss brick-and-mortar locations goodbye. Physical office locations, he said, are key to Compass’ entrepreneurial and collaborative spirit, which is one of the top-selling points for new recruits.
“I believe in office space because I believe in culture and community, and office space creates a collaborative environment where agents can share with each other best practices, insights and what’s happening in the market,” he said. “That’s a core part of the offering that a brokerage firm can give to an agent. Our goal is to give agents what they need to realize their entrepreneurial potential.”
In addition to office culture, Reffkin said Compass’ growing tech stack is what places them at the front of the pack. “There’s all this fragmentation and friction in the experience for an agent,” he said in reference to the experience Compass’ competitors offer. “I don’t see a company out there that’s putting the dollars to work to put everything in one place.”
Reffkin highlighted Compass Concierge as the latest piece of its end-to-end puzzle. With Compass Concierge, Compass will front the cost for needed renovation and home improvement services for homesellers, and they’ll be repaid once the home is sold. Although the service is consumer-focused, Reffkin said at the end of the day, it also offers a huge value to agents as well.
“Over the last year, we’ve invested over $400 million in things like Compass Concierge to prove the value of our agents,” he explained. “That [investment] is for agents because it helps them get more listings. Our clients aren’t the buyers and sellers. Our clients are the agents.”
“We want to have the programs and tools that help them grow their business, serve their clients, and get more listings, and also give them a better quality of life,” he added.
In addition to investing in offerings like Concierge, Reffkin said Compass will be focusing on transaction management and collaboration tools for agents, inspectors, title officers and loan officers.
“A big portion of the focus of the business is coordinating this highly complex multi-party transaction between all these different stakeholders,” he said. “We need to help them accelerate this coordination between all these stakeholders to get the transaction done and that means helping to reduce the transaction time.”
The focus on streamlining the transaction process, Reffkin said, gives agents what they want most: time and freedom to not only serve clients but enjoy their lives.
“The number one thing I hear with agents is ‘Things are so busy, I’ve never worked so hard,’” he explained. “People are really focused on trying to find ways to save time and have more time with their family and their loved ones.”
“That’s what technology does best,” he added in reference to saving time. “That’s why everything has to be in one place. Just think about mobile for a moment. This is one of the largest professions that have to work on the go and there is no mobile app that has all the agents’ workflow in one place.”
Reffkin said Compass is working on an app-based transaction management solution right now, with a slated release date of Q2 2022. When Inman asked if there would be a complimentary consumer-facing solution with transaction tracking, Reffkin said “we’re working on it right now.”
Even with a storied career in the financial and real estate industries, Reffkin said he doesn’t hang his laurels on past successes. Instead, he works to keep the hunger and thirst for excellence that came from his younger years when family members told him “he was going to be a nobody.”
“[My mom] raised me as a single parent. She was disowned by her parents for having an interracial relationship. They told her that she was a nobody that I was going to be a nobody because I’m mixed,” he said.
“On IPO day, to look at her and know that all the ups and downs we’ve been through — her bad relationships with men or going through bankruptcy — to see her like that was my favorite moment of all because there’s a validation that the sacrifices that she made were worth it.”