Anywhere CEO sees opportunities, advantages of scale
Ryan Schneider, leader of one of the largest real estate enterprises, believes the company will benefit from continued investments, even in a downturn.
- Schneider leverages his economics background when thinking about how to scale businesses.
- Despite some heavy losses in Q4, Schneider is confident the company is well positioned to attract talent and come out of the downturn strong.
- He’s bullish on the future of real estate in general, and Anywhere's opportunities in particular.
Editor's note: Each year, the Swanepoel Power 200 recognizes the most powerful and influential leaders in residential real estate. In this series of SP 200 Inside Look interviews, we're diving deeper and learning about these top leaders' aspirations and accomplishments, and the opportunities they see in the year ahead.
As the CEO of one of the largest residential real estate companies in the U.S., Ryan Schneider understands the importance of scale in driving future success.
Schneider, who has a Ph.D in economics from Yale, is keeping that in mind as the business he runs, Anywhere, navigates what is already shaping up to be a volatile year in real estate.
"One of the reasons I was attracted to Anywhere Real Estate and believe our future is bright is we are a scaled business," Schneider said in an interview, noting that the company is an industry leader in several areas of real estate. "If you have scale, it gives you some real advantages. I learned an appreciation for scale from an academic perspective very early on, and it's always been something I've tried to use and apply in business opportunities."
That perspective is what's driving Schneider to continue looking at new investment possibilities even as the market remains uncertain. He also sees this as a time when agents and other talented people will be making the flight to quality companies.
"A challenging market is a good time to demonstrate how you differ from others in the business, and we are looking forward to doing that," Schneider said.
Leading the industry — but still vulnerable to losses
Among real estate enterprise companies, Anywhere dominates the market. The firm brought in more than $636 billion in sales volume in 2022 through a variety of well-known brand names including ERA, Century 21, Sotheby's International Realty, Corcoran, Coldwell Banker and Better Homes & Gardens. That market strength helped earn Schneider the No. 4 spot on this year's Swanepoel Power 200 list.
Being such a large company also means the hits are bigger in a downturn. Anywhere posted a net loss of $453 million in the fourth quarter and is expected to make another $200 million in cost reductions to bring operations in line with the current pace of the industry. Some of those reductions have already happened with the winding down of RealSure, Anywhere's homebuying program.
iBuyers and other homebuying programs have struggled in the past couple of years, with major players like Zillow and Redfin also discontinuing their iBuyer divisions. Schneider said that while the underlying concept is interesting and he has no regrets about trying it, the company is going to focus its resources on other aspects of the real estate industry.
Making transactions simpler
One of those areas of focus is simplifying the real estate transaction for everyone, particularly the consumer.
"The holistic process clearly needs work," Schneider said, noting that there are plenty of opportunities to harness digital products to reduce friction, speed up transactions, and streamline the various steps like financing, insurance and title.
"The consumer is just trying to get from one home to another," he said. "If you make them think they have to do four different transactions… you're making it hard for them. Trying to make it feel like just a single, simpler transaction is in my vision. Not just my vision, but what we're working on in this tough market."
What's next for the real estate market
Schneider is expecting a challenging year that will be strongly influenced by what happens with interest rates and the Federal Reserve's attempts to knock down inflation.
The recent turmoil in the banking industry with the sudden collapse of institutions like Silicon Valley Bank may have a ripple effect, said Schneider.
"I think what's happening in the banking system today will affect real estate by however it affects interest rates," he said. "There's still more to this to go, so the thing we should all be watching is what happens with interest rates."
And such uncertainty could make it hard for real estate to gain much momentum.
"It still looks like a year where we're expecting business volume to be down 15-20% both in the industry and for us as an industry leader," Schneider said. "We're planning conservatively for a challenging year."
Still, he expects the company's investments during this time to pay off.
"I'm positive on housing over the next decade. Partly driven by demographic trends and strong consumer demand, and we're in a position to benefit from that," Schneider said.