Anywhere CEO ‘wouldn’t trade positions’ with any leader mired in lawsuits
Ryan Schneider spoke to Real Estate News about his company’s decision to settle in the commissions cases and his thoughts on NAR and the year ahead.
- Scheider said settling in the Sitzer/Burnett lawsuit “means I can put that leadership time and those dollars to making our company better.”
- He’s most optimistic about the luxury market in 2024 as it’s not as sensitive to mortgage rate volatility.
- In response to the issues facing NAR and the industry, Schneider said “we all need to do more to be leaders.“
As the CEO of Anywhere Real Estate, Ryan Schneider has one of the most visible jobs in the industry. But with great power comes great responsibility, and Schneider said he is "very, very proud" of how Anywhere leaders stood out on this year's Swanepoel Power 200 list — which ranked him as the No. 1 most influential figure in the industry.
One of the factors that pushed Schneider to the top of the list this year was his bold decision to settle in the commissions cases, ahead of the Sitzer/Burnett trial. Anywhere was also one of the few large brokerages to turn a profit in its last earnings report.
Schneider spoke to Real Estate News about the motivations behind the settlement, his thoughts on competing business models, and which segments of residential real estate he's most excited about for this year. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Anywhere was the first major brokerage to settle in the class-action commissions lawsuits. What were the conversations like internally when that decision was made?
We're really happy with our litigation settlement and our preliminary approval, because we want to lead the industry forward. Look, I don't think we did anything wrong, but not spending our dollars and our leadership time on litigation means I can put that leadership time and those dollars to making our company better, making our agents better or making our franchisees better.
As part of our settlement, keep in mind, we also took care of our franchisees and agents and shielded them from this problem, and you can see with the 20 or so copycat lawsuits out there that people are naming franchisees and even some agent teams all the time. We're excited about that, because some other people have written about how this may be a competitive advantage for us, and I don't disagree.
Are you surprised that more companies haven't settled yet?
I don't know what's going on inside other companies, but what I do know is that there are some companies that face billions of dollars of damages, and I wouldn't trade positions with any of them. We feel good about where we are, and again, because we've got our settlement done and we've gotten preliminary approval, I get to focus my time and my energy and my dollars on the market and agents and growth — and I have a suspicion that other people have to spend a lot more time on litigation.
Speaking of competitors, what is your perspective on different business models like downlines and revenue share models?
We haven't reported our full-year earnings yet, but I think the easiest way to look at different business models is just to judge on their outcomes. We all went through the same year, right? We'll see how people did, and we'll see which business models perform better economically than others. I like our results, I like our strategy and I like our position.
Obviously, we want to do even more and the progress we made in 2023 will help us there. At the end of the day, you've got to deliver for your shareholders. So let's look at the results everybody delivered, including ourselves.
What segments in real estate are you most optimistic about in 2024?
Luxury is at the top of the list. We have the market-leading position in luxury. We sell more million dollar homes than anyone else. We remain excited about that leadership position and the great brands we have, including Sotheby's International Realty, Coldwell Banker and Corcoran, as three of the brands that sell a lot of our luxury properties.
But we also remain excited because luxury tends to be a little more immune to some of the negatives that are hurting the housing market. A lot of less luxury purchases require a mortgage, so mortgage rates don't matter as much there. And the stock market's done really well, even if the whole economy has not done as well. The stock market is where most of the luxury wealth is held.
What are your thoughts on the situation at NAR?
They have a lot of challenges, and they obviously need to get their house in order and improve their governance.
But let me also tell you: As an industry, we all need to do more to be leaders and we can't just rely on NAR. For example, there are three companies in real estate that have full-time government relations in Washington, DC: Anywhere, CoStar and Zillow. None of the other brokerages do. But at Anywhere, we're down there fighting for ourselves and we're fighting for this industry and we all need to be doing more of that. Our agents need to be doing more in their local communities with their local, state and national representatives.
This seems to be a pivotal time for the industry. From your perspective as CEO, what's your role, and the role of other Anywhere leaders, in helping to foster change?
The world is going to change, whether it's driven by AI, whether it's driven by a better customer experience in real estate, whether it's driven by litigation, or whether it's driven by public policy. And we want to be leaders of that change. I think we're building some credibility with our actions, and hopefully that makes us a more attractive place for people who want to work with us as employees, for agents who want to be part of our brands, and for franchisees.
Remember, we didn't just settle this litigation and take care of ourselves, we settled it and took care of our agents and franchisees.