"Exclusives" and partial headshots of 14 real estate leaders
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

In their own words: Quotable moments from a memorable year 

Many of the industry’s most influential leaders spoke with Real Estate News in 2023, and we’ve collected insights from some of these exclusive conversations.

December 30, 2023
7 minutes

2023 will be remembered as a dramatic year filled with unexpected twists and some wicked curveballs. Through it all, real estate's top leaders were out front, advocating for their causes and rooting for the health of the industry as a whole. 

Join us as we look back at some of the exclusive conversations we had with these high-impact players and insights they shared along the way.

Pam Liebman, President and CEO, Corcoran Group

Liebman is a New York City real estate legend and the force behind the evolution of Corcoran from a boutique agency to a growing national firm. The secret to her success, and Corcoran's, is keeping things in perspective.

"People are forgetting what's important, and they're very busy looking over their shoulder to see what the other guy is doing. And they should really be focusing on themselves and their clients."

Errol Samuelson, Chief Industry Development Officer, Zillow Group

Despite a big push from some competitors, Zillow remained the dominant real estate site in 2023. Samuelson wanted to remind and reassure agents that the tech giant was also there as a resource. 

"One thing that some agents don't understand is they feel like, 'Well, I've got to advertise with Zillow or I can't work with them.' That's not true. We're perfectly happy if you never spend an ad dollar with us your entire career, but we can help you in these other areas."

Tom Hurdelbrink, Former CEO, Northwest MLS

After 15 years leading Northwest Multiple Listing Service, Hurdelbrink announced he would retire at the end of the year — but first, he offered up some important advice ahead of the Sitzer/Burnett commissions trial.

"The industry can take responsibility and act now to influence its own direction, or it can wait for either the courts or regulators to impose rules and processes on it. Some MLSs are taking their own steps forward — and that seems like the smarter thing to do."

Damian Eales, CEO, Move Inc. and Realtor.com

Eales, who took over as CEO of Move, Inc. and Realtor.com in June, had his work cut out for him. The company had seen traffic sliding and faced a major offensive from competitors — but Eales pushed back on their tactics.

"We want to be number one on that headline metric, but we won't do it at any cost, and I think our customers know that poor-quality audience and stunts lead to low-quality leads."

Bob Goldberg, Former CEO, NAR

It seemed like a whole different world when we interviewed Goldberg as part of our Swanepoel Power 200 coverage (he came in at No. 13) back in February. That leadership team he mentions? It ended up at the center of a storm, and Goldberg ended up retiring early.

"We are guided by the direction and foresight of our volunteer leadership team, made up of Realtors who operate in the market and who understand the challenges people in this field face every day."

Dionna Hall, CEO, Broward, Palm Beach & St. Lucie Realtors and BeachesMLS

MLS collaboration is on the rise, and BeachesMLS, under Hall's leadership, has been ahead of the curve. In 2023 alone, Hall helped spearhead a data-sharing partnership and signed on as a founding member of REdistribute.

"MLSs are more forward-thinking than ever; they are actively seeking collaboration with like-minded MLSs and vendors. … One needs to continually re-evaluate the landscape, strategic goals and look at things with a fresh set of eyes [to] make timely decisions and capitalize on opportunities that might not have been visible before."

Michael Golden, Co-CEO (along with Thad Wong), At World Properties

Working as co-CEOs requires plenty of trust, and Golden and Wong were on the same page when talking about riding out a real estate slowdown and avoiding knee-jerk reactions.

"You have to be very thoughtful, especially in a business like ours when you are making cost cuts, because it drastically affects your agent base. If you disenfranchise your agents and they leave, then you are just going to have to cut more things."

Michael Valdes, Chief Growth Officer, eXp Realty

eXp is known for its revenue share model that encourages recruiting. It has been a success story in terms of growth — but recent allegations of sexual misconduct have uncovered a potential dark side. Still, Valdes believes that when agents "do the right thing," it works.

"I just did a talk about the idea that 'recruiting' was a word I wanted to take out of our vernacular. It's actually all about 'attraction,' because when you recruit, it becomes transactional. … The nuance of that is you attract people by doing the right thing, and people want to emulate what your actions are."

Laura Ellis, Chief Strategy Officer and President of Residential Sales, Baird & Warner

As the strategy leader for the largest independent brokerage in Illinois, Ellis is always looking ahead. With commissions lawsuits looming, her firm was proactive in training agents to show their value in preparation for changes to compensation practices.

"Some consumers have not felt that they got any value from their agent. And so I really believe that long term, what's going on in the industry is good for the serious, competent real estate professional."

Spencer Rascoff, Former CEO, Zillow; serial entrepreneur

While out of the real estate portal game, Rascoff remained busy this year, launching a new AI-powered assistant that he pitched as a possible lead-gen tool for agents. And though he's no longer a player, he has still been keeping a close eye on the portal race. 

"With respect to the current portal situation, it is a super interesting time. You've got CoStar coming in guns blazing, you've got a resurgent Realtor.com with a new CEO who has a lot to prove and is not content as a number two — and surely not content to become number three should CoStar achieve their ambitions."

Jeremy Crawford, President and CEO, FMLS

Crawford, who leads one of the largest MLSs in the country, believes that size is an asset for MLS organizations, and he advocates for further consolidation and cooperation.

"The longer-term underlying challenge our members face is way too many MLSs. Simply put, there is absolutely no need for 550 or more Multiple Listing Services. … And then there's the related issue of MLS cooperation. There are still MLSs who don't want to unite and are fighting an unnecessary turf war."

Gary Acosta, Co-Founder and CEO, NAHREP

More than two decades ago, Acosta helped create the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals with a clear focus: to encourage and support Latino homebuyers. And as that demographic continues to grow, he believes representation is more important than ever.  

"Having a real estate professional who comes from the community and understands cultural nuances and maybe can speak the language is critical. … So my sense is that we have to double the number of Latinos in the real estate industry over the next 10 years to meet the demand."

Emily Chenevert, CEO, Austin Board of Realtors

In a world where many folks outside the industry think "soccer" when they hear MLS, Emily Chenevert called out an important goal for real estate leaders.

"We have an obligation to, I think, support consumers' understanding of how important these marketplaces are [so they know MLS] doesn't only mean Major League Soccer as it does for many people in Austin."

Nick Bailey, CEO, RE/MAX

A tough real estate market means becoming more efficient and focused, so what was Nick Bailey challenging industry leaders to do during the T3 Leadership Summit? Delete all the messages in their inbox.

"When you don't have recurring meetings and you dump your inbox, it gives you time to do the important things. It's a game-changer."

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