Why Being a Realogy Brand May Be More Valuable Than Ever
Editor’s Note: This is the cover story in the July 2020 issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine. Subscribe today.
Never in a million years would Sue Yannaccone have imagined herself as the president and CEO of the Realogy Franchise Group, she jokes. But from an outsider’s perspective, she was destined for it.
With more than 20 years of hands-on industry experience, Yannaccone took the helm as the first female leader of the franchising giant in November 2020.
“Everything I’ve done throughout my career has led to me sitting in this seat,” she says, and Yannaccone has indeed done it all. She brings more than 15 years of franchise experience in both the commercial and residential sectors, followed by several years of senior franchise and owned brokerage leadership positions at Realogy, to the role.
Yannaccone’s background has given her an intimate understanding of the challenges brokers and agents confront, and her commitment to maintaining a direct connection to that frontline reality makes her a unique and powerful leader for five of Realogy’s six brands (Coldwell Banker owned and franchise operations are led by CEO Ryan Gorman, following a brand unification in 2019).
This servant-leadership mindset is the only lens Yannaccone’s ever looked through.
“I like to connect that boots-on-the-ground need with the company in a way that solves a real, tangible challenge,” she explains. “Really listening to what our customers, consumers, broker/owners and agents need to grow their business is very important to me.”
Putting the Value Prop to the Test
Yannaccone’s hands-on approach was never more valuable than during pandemic times. Her focus on constant connection combined with Realogy’s deep bench of tools and resources shone a light on the franchisor’s true value.
“We found that during 2020, the connection our brand leaders had to our entrepreneurs on the ground was invaluable,” Yannaccone explains. “Our brokers and agents had access to thought leadership and expert distillation of what was going on in the macro environment as well as at the hyperlocal level so that they could adapt and evolve and continue to work.”
While many companies scrambled to pivot at the peak of the pandemic, Realogy was well prepared for it, quickly able to leverage its comprehensive technology to deliver virtual learning, showings and open houses, digital transactions and more.
“We’re very fortunate that Realogy had looked at the changing landscape and already planted the seeds,” says Yannaccone. “We were able to accelerate some things we were already looking at so that our agents were ahead of the curve.”
The value of the Realogy franchise wasn’t lost on consumers either, explains Realogy EVP of Worldwide Sales Rich Green. “We clearly saw an increase in our business and an increase in marketshare, and part of that was driven by consumer confidence in our ability to deliver and execute in uncertain times,” he explains. “The consumer sought out trusted brands.”
While Realogy brands certainly enjoyed a pandemic-induced boost, the true measure of the company’s value in the past year and a half is the heightened level of connectivity that’s been created.
“We can certainly talk about the business side of things, and that’s been evident in our results, but the emotional support and the connection that relationships drove across the globe have been amazing—within the industry and among our brands,” Yannaccone explains. “That connection and that community are irreplaceable.”
The Size Advantage
Thanks to Realogy’s sheer size and scale, the level of community and information-sharing among brokers and agents is hard to match. Realogy’s six brands—CENTURY 21, ERA, Coldwell Banker, Sotheby’s International Realty, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate and Corcoran—cover the breadth of the real estate market and bring a distinctive personality, history and expertise to the table.
“Our iconic brands have something for everyone,” explains Green. “But in addition to what each of the brands offers, Realogy’s size and strength allows us to provide other benefits—leads through our Realogy Advantage Network, capital for franchisees to grow through mergers and acquisitions, expertise in terms of expansion and knowledge of competitive solutions. These are things that Realogy brings across each of our brands.”
Thanks to its multi-brand franchise model, Realogy affiliates are also able to capitalize on pandemic-induced consumer migration, adds Green. “The consumer has moved fairly dramatically over the past 12 months, and it’s going to continue,” he explains. “Our size and scope is going to help us take advantage of that opportunity.”
Realogy’s size and scale has also given franchisees an unparalleled technology advantage in the form of an open technology ecosystem, which allows brokers and agents to choose from a plethora of Realogy solutions or seamlessly add their own.
“The open ecosystem not only has breadth of choice for agents and brokers, but it also gives them the ability to use some other solution that they may already love,” explains Realogy EVP of Product and Innovation Simon Chen. “It’s very awkward to say to a broker or agent, ‘hey, I know that you like using all these things you’ve been using, but if you join us, you can’t.’ We shouldn’t be so arrogant to think that just because we’re the biggest, we have all the best ideas. It’s been an epiphany for us and the pace of innovation has increased dramatically.”
Realogy’s most recent partner in its tech ecosystem is MoxiWorks, which was made widely available to the company’s affiliates in record time.
“We were able to roll out MoxiWorks to tens of thousands of agents in less than 45 days because of our open ecosystem,” says Chen. “Once we built the integration between Moxi and us, we could light up that entire suite of tools in one fell swoop. That’s how we were able to achieve that scale so quickly.”
Realogy’s size is a key factor in the success of its open ecosystem, Chen emphasizes. “Any system is subject to what it’s connected to and what it’s source data is, and ours by nature of our scale is better, cleaner and bigger than anyone out there.”
Investing in Broker and Agent Success
Realogy’s impressive scope also gives its affiliates an important advantage in the ongoing quest for better lead generation and conversion.
“The scale of Realogy gives brokers and agents access to programs and products they wouldn’t be able to invest in otherwise,” says Yannaccone. “We’re always looking to evolve our Realogy Leads Group to drive high-quality leads that benefit agents and consumers. We’re always exploring meaningful partnerships, which we’re uniquely positioned to do through the breadth and business acumen of Realogy.”
Among Realogy’s recent partnership programs are Realogy Military Rewards with PCSgrades, which allows active military, veterans and their families to earn cash back on their transactions, its cash-back rewards program for AARP’s 38 million members, partner rewards through Associa managed communities, and a referral program with U.S. Bank.
Realogy’s lead generation strategy is also evolving to help keep agents connected to consumers throughout the entire homeownership lifecycle. The company has invested in relationships with companies like MoveEasy, MooveGuru and Updater to help agents stay in front of clients as their local homeownership expert.
“The approach just makes good sense,” explains Chen. “It’s about keeping the agent engaged with the consumer over the entire homeownership lifecycle to generate higher quality leads from their sphere, which they spent all this time and energy to build out in the first place,” he says. “Anybody can generate leads, but building those relationships is the part that’s difficult.”
Realogy’s RealSure and RealVitalize programs are further strategies for connecting real estate professionals with the needs of today’s consumers. According to Yannaccone, RealSure—which provides a home seller with a guaranteed cash offer while they continue to market their home with an affiliated agent—has now expanded to 21 U.S. markets, and gives the consumer a way to be competitive in the buying and selling space. Meanwhile, RealVitalize partners with Angi so that home sellers can get their property in prime listing condition. Early results show that homes that use the program sell 25% faster than others on the market.
“With listings at an all-time low, products like RealSure and RealVitalize keep us at the center of the conversation so our franchisees and agents can win listings,” says Green. “If you’re controlling the listing inventory, you’re controlling the action.”
For Yannaccone, programs like this speak to her servant-leadership philosophy. “What does everyone in the lifecycle need, and how do we build and execute with that in mind?” she explains. “That’s using our data, that’s using our scale, that’s using our resources in a way that keeps agents close in the transaction.”
Ready for the Future
As the competitive landscape becomes increasingly complicated, Realogy will continue to play to its strengths: size, scale and innovation.
“Everything we do is designed to help the local broker and their agents become more successful,” says Green. “The disruptors in the industry aren’t endorsing entrepreneurs. We’re trying to make entrepreneurs better by helping them manage big decisions around technology and using our expertise to ensure they remain competitive at the local level.”
The strategy is especially salient when confronting the growing contingent of venture-capital backed and tech-centric real estate firms. But as Chen says, you need to look beyond the marketing.
“Money doesn’t necessarily mean substance or results,” he explains. “A lot of folks out there say they’re a technology company, but once you dig under the covers, they’re really just a brokerage.”
That said, Chen also believes the crop of new competitors is good for business. “The money going into the space is helping drive innovation,” he says. “Our ability to take that innovation and translate it into something that is really valuable to our brokers and agents is where we hang our hat.”
As Yannaccone looks to the future, she’ll continue to stay focused on meeting the needs of brokers, agents and consumers as the industry evolves. That means an increased commitment to diversity and inclusion as well. She’s determined to help change the current stats: 74% of white families own their own home, but only 49% of Hispanic families and 44% of Black families do.
“We are committed to overturning the disparity in the homeownership numbers,” says Yannaccone. “For me, it all starts with education and awareness and then meaningful action. Realogy is leading that conversation and having some significant results. It’s incumbent upon Realogy with our strength and our scale to lead in order to change the face of homeownership in our country. Realogy’s Inclusive Ownership program, for example, is an industry-first initiative. We’re investing in the success of diverse franchise owners through incentives that support their growth and productivity.”
And while Realogy keeps evolving for the future, the team will stay focused on the day-to-day needs of its brokers and agents. As Green says, “We get up every day and try to figure out ways that we can help them win more at the local level.”
“The significant value and strength of the Realogy Franchise Group is that real estate’s in our DNA,” adds Yannaccone. “We spend significant time, money and resources on reading the tea leaves to figure out where the industry is going. What does our spectrum of franchisees need? We’re a diverse industry, and we need to be able to service that spectrum. That’s the next level of evolution in building and expanding the Realogy Franchise Group.”