The Ten logo over an image of people looking at a house

Meet The Ten who defined 2023 

Real Estate News has selected the top newsmakers in a year shaped by trials — of all kinds — and resilience in the face of epic challenges and opportunities.

Updated January 2, 2024
7 minutes

For the real estate industry, 2023 has been all about trials. And not just the courtroom kind.

Yes, jurors in Missouri passed judgment on the way agents get paid, to the tune of nearly $1.8 billion (so far). But all year long, those same agents have persevered despite a chilly housing market and pointed questions about the value of their work.

Those are trials too.

And through it all, a handful of people and themes have emerged as the defining forces in a historic year. They are The Ten.

This is our inaugural edition of The Ten, the year's top newsmakers as determined by the Real Estate News leadership team, including our founder, Stefan Swanepoel. The list of contenders was long, and there were many influential people, events and issues that did not make the final cut.

Here, we will share the stories of The Ten, with a sense of history and an eye toward the future. Real estate is resilient, and real estate professionals are relentless in the face of the most daunting challenges and ambitious opportunities.

And we will start by presenting the group — unranked — and inviting you to weigh in on our choices. Let the debates begin!

Commissions on Trial

Long-brewing lawsuits over the compensation model finally hit a courtroom this year, and some of the industry's biggest names — Gary Keller, Gino Blefari — took the stand to help make the industry's case: Commissions have always been negotiable, there is no conspiracy, and the current system benefits consumers.

But the jury, apparently moved by the Shakespearean arguments of Michael Ketchmark, needed less than half a day to render its blockbuster verdict. Cue the copycat cases, with the first filed by Ketchmark himself. And remember: This is a long road. There will be appeals.

>> Read the story.

Hoby Hanna, Howard Hanna Real Estate CEO

Just weeks after moving into the top spot at the nation's largest independent brokerage this summer, Hoby Hanna made a bold move to limit competitors' access to Hanna listings. Though the change only affected the Cleveland area, it set off a national discussion about listings access, and people in the industry began digging into the alphabet soup of IDX and VOW and debating impacts on consumers — a conversation that continues with the added stakes of lawsuits and government scrutiny.

>> Read the story.

Shakeup at NAR

The real estate industry's biggest advocate, the National Association of Realtors, has continued to lead the charge in court while navigating unprecedented — and highly publicized — internal strife. NAR President Kenny Parcell stepped down after a New York Times investigation detailed allegations of sexual harassment and a "culture of fear." NAR CEO Bob Goldberg, who had previously announced plans to retire at the end of 2024, moved up his timeline and stepped down in November.

Meanwhile, the association faced public challenges from Redfin, which broke from the association in October, and from the NAR Accountability Project, which continues to advocate for reform and structural change. 

>> Read the story.

Andy Florance, CoStar founder and CEO

Andy Florance built CoStar into a commercial real estate giant. Now he's turning his attention to residential and has Zillow in his sights. His goal is nothing less than taking the top spot from the first and largest home search portal. 

Florance told Real Estate News in May that "you can actually show up with a wad of cash and buy your way up the line, but you have to do it thoughtfully and you have to do it efficiently." He predicted then that would be second to Zillow in a year. By some measures, it got there in less than six months.

>> Read the story.

Interest rates

After nearing 8% in October, mortgage rates have mercifully continued a holiday season drop. However, the housing market remains chilly, with those who secured 3% and even 2% rates holding on to their homes and their good fortune.

This year has defied expectation, with the Federal Reserve using interest rates, which substantially impact the housing market, as a lever to shift the entire economy — to an unhealthy degree, some argue. The smart money is to bet on 2024 continuing that trend. However, buyers and sellers alike seem to be resetting their expectations, which one optimistic expert predicts could lead to a "surge" of home sales.

>> Read the story.

Tracy Kasper, NAR president

In a typical year, the NAR president steps into their year-long term in November. It's a celebration, capping a long climb up the leadership ladder. But this has not been a typical year. Tracy Kasper moved into the role of president in August after the resignation of her predecessor and began the difficult work of leading an organization in crisis.

Kasper took the stage in front of thousands of Realtors at the NAR NXT conference last month, earning their applause with the unyielding assurance that she has shown for months in video messages and smaller-scale conversations about everything from lawsuits to organizational design. "We are having the tough conversations," Kasper said. "We have an opportunity to change our culture."

>> Read the story.

The Buyer's Agent

This year, buyer's agents have been busy writing offers, mining their databases and getting their mojo back in a brutal market. That's nothing new.  

And they're doing it against a backdrop of courtroom debates about how they should be paid and public debates about their value. What motivates buyer's agents? Yes, they need to make a living. But over and over again, we hear that what really drives them is the opportunity to help people find their place to call home.

>> Read the story.

Ryan Schneider, Anywhere CEO

Ryan Schneider made a big bet in September, settling the commissions lawsuits and sparing Anywhere the distraction and escalating cost of ongoing legal struggles over commissions. It's a move that also paid off for him personally. Schneider is receiving a $5 million bonus for his work as CEO in 2023, delivering cost savings of $200 million while reducing debt by nearly $300 million in the third quarter. He also has built a diverse leadership team that includes Sue Yannaccone, CEO and president of Anywhere Brands, who was recognized this year as the most powerful woman in real estate.

>> Read the story.


Cybersecurity breakdowns this year brought real estate transactions to a standstill and gave the industry a chance to show its resiliency, pulling together to find solutions and powering through with old-school tools like paper and phones.

MLS system provider Rapattoni went down in August, freezing out 10,000 subscribers across the nation for two weeks. The outage highlighted opportunities for improvement, as well the challenges of making changes to familiar systems. And then the nation's largest title company, Fidelity National Financial, suffered a security breach in November that stalled closings over the Thanksgiving holiday and into December. That was quickly followed by another attack, this time at First American Financial, which impacted transactions in the week leading up to Christmas.

>> Read the story.

Art Carter and Brian Donnellan, MLS CEOs on a mission

As leaders of two of the nation's most influential MLSs, Art Carter of California Regional MLS and Brian Donnellan of Bright MLS frequently find themselves in the middle of ground-breaking collaborative initiatives. Nestfully, for example, is a consumer-facing home search portal and a source of free leads launched in March by Bright and CRMLS. REdistribute, launched soon after, monetizes MLS data and shares profits with participants.

They have also stepped out on their own in important ways. Carter opened up CRMLS to California agents shut out of other MLSs by a hack in August. That same month, Bright started allowing users to make $0 buyer broker compensation offers, calling it a "small change" from the $0.01 previously permitted. While a penny is literally small change, the move, and NAR's public acceptance of it, opens the door for more MLSs to follow.

>> Read the story.

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