James Dwiggins, CEO, NextHome
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

James Dwiggins: Industry innovator, podcast provocateur 

The CEO of NextHome, founder of Rayse and co-host of an "unfiltered" podcast isn’t shy about sharing his thoughts on the agent value prop, tech and NAR.

April 1, 2024
5 minutes

Homes are all about settling in one place. Staying still. Planting roots.

As the co-founder and CEO of the brokerage franchise company NextHome, James Dwiggins knows this well. He has built a life and career around the concept — and reality — of home.

And yet, Dwiggins is constantly moving, working, exploring the next place.

In addition to heading NextHome, Dwiggins has founded Rayse, an app for agents and their clients that maps out the homebuying journey. He has started a podcast called "Real Estate Insiders Unfiltered," and he is a frequent commentator on the state of the real estate business, specifically the turmoil around the National Association of Realtors and agent commissions.

Ask him what fuels him, and the answer comes quickly.

"I like helping people, and I feel like this is an industry that has a 'scarcity' mindset, and I am much more of an abundance person," Dwiggins said recently. "I feel like the industry lacks leadership, and I think people make decisions based on fear."

Dwiggins' real estate background runs three generations deep. His grandfather started his own real estate company in 1967, and his parents were in the industry as well.

His grandfather stressed being "a man of your word" and to "say what you're going to do, and do it."

Dwiggins does that — and is doing more than most, especially since founding Rayse.

"My wife would say I am stretching myself too far and in some ways, she's correct," he said. "My executive team would say the same thing. But I have had a vision of what Rayse should be for a long time."

Proving agent value with data

Ten years ago, Dwiggins said, he started exploring the agent value proposition. It boiled down to this: "The real estate industry undervalues agents and underpays them for what they do."

Rayse, which shows the "distinct path" of an agent's work by logging tasks like phone calls, showings and mileage, aims to change that — and help buyers and sellers better understand what it takes to get a home sold.

"So when the agent sits down and asks for compensation, they can show what they did," Dwiggins said. "It's all logged as time. We can access data that no one has seen yet."

He believes Rayse is "the most important piece of software … that has been developed in residential real estate in a long time."

It's also a great example of how technology has impacted real estate. By making the process transparent, Rayse answers the need to bring the client into the process. It's something they have come to expect, now that they can select a car through apps like Carvana, or meals through Door Dash, and see when things are in production, on their way, or at the door.

"We are trained to have a service and know where it is and when it's happening," Dwiggins said. "Rayse is going that way."

Courting industry execs and controversial opinions

Dwiggins' podcast is another way for him to stay relevant and informed. It started as "a fun outlet" for he and co-host, NextHome CSO Keith Robinson "to pontificate with industry professionals."

But the podcast has "blown up" to include "every industry executive we've ever wanted." 

Dwiggins plans to "pour some gasoline on it" and expand it to include other kinds of guests, like lawyers and people outside the industry. 

His dream guest? Joe Rogan.

"While Joe has very controversial opinions," Dwiggins acknowledged, "he has the most successful podcast. I have learned some of the most interesting things from guests on that show."

Anyone else?

"Elon Musk," he said. "Love him or hate him, he's just so interesting. And the best thing is, I don't care if people want to cancel me. I want it to be the place where ideas can be shared and where you get the truth with no filter."

NAR settlement 'isn't as big a deal as everyone thinks'

Sharing that "unfiltered truth" is something Dwiggins has been doing recently in the wake of NAR's recent landmark settlement in the commissions cases. 

One outcome of the settlement, he said, is that real estate commissions could fall 25% to 50% and upend the current homebuying and selling model, in which sellers pay both their broker and the buyer's broker.

Dwiggins spent two years in community college studying business and criminal law. So when the lawsuits first hit, he started doing research and found "these were serious problems."

"I read all the cases, I read the judges' rulings, and knew that this was going to be a lot for the industry. Instead of retreating to the trenches, we need to be up top talking about it, what all these things mean and how to move forward as an industry."

Now that the smoke is clearing, he said, "My take is that this isn't as big a deal as everyone thinks it is," Dwiggins said. "NAR did a good job on the settlements."

The industry will spend the next 12 months adjusting, and in the future, he said, "good agents are going to excel and bad agents are going to go bye-bye."

Dwiggins lives in Dublin, on Northern California's East Bay, with his wife, KPIX reporter Katie Nielsen, their three-year-old child and a Blue Heeler named Bailey. He cooks dinner most nights — steak frites is a specialty — and loves to mountain bike. His "new adrenalin" is racing cars.

But the lifelong rush of the real estate industry is part of who he is. Who his parents and grandfather were, too. In that sense, it is all a labor of love.

"I feel like I owe this industry that has done so much for me," he said. "I want to give back."

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