Stefan Swanepoel and eXp founder Glenn Sanford on stage at the T3 Leadership Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, on April 23.
Stefan Swanepoel and eXp founder Glenn Sanford on stage at the T3 Leadership Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, on April 23. (Photo: AJ LaTrace)

Glenn Sanford: ‘Our real goals are not domestic’ 

During the T3 Leadership Summit, the eXp founder discussed some of his early challenges, the need for internal disruption, and his international ambitions.

April 25, 2024
4 minutes

Key points:

  • Sanford said in the early days of eXp, it was difficult to find people who were willing to fully embrace his vision.
  • He considers eXp to be a case study — and one that changed the industry, laying the groundwork for other companies.
  • In looking toward global growth, Sanford noted his firm was the fastest-growing brokerage in the UK, South Africa and France.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Since launching nearly 15 years ago, eXp now ranks as one of the nation's biggest brokerages. But CEO and Founder Glenn Sanford said that journey hasn't always been easy. 

This week at the T3 Leadership Summit, Sanford spoke with Stefan Swanepoel, founder of T3 Sixty and Real Estate News, about his experiences as a leader and his ambitions as he looks to accelerate eXp's international expansion.

As an industry veteran whose ideas, such as the downline model and revenue sharing, helped change the brokerage business, Sanford also highlighted how he's seen his model successfully imitated and duplicated — and how he worked through internal and external challenges to his vision. 

'I'd rather be a broke entrepreneur' than go with the crowd

Sanford said that even early on, he and his team knew they had "something special," but it was challenging at first to find the right people — people who were willing to embrace the eXp vision and stick with it. 

"The hardest part was overcoming a lot of the personas around various parts of the industry," Sanford said to the room. "Trying to stay true to that mission was tough to do because when you're small and you bring in people who are protocol experts or whatever, they're the smartest people in the room in their mind and then push back on what the vision is."

Typically, there's less friction once a company proves its model can be successful, Sanford noted. Regardless, he refused to settle and took almost a scientific approach to building the company.  

"I say this in all truthfulness: I'd rather be a broke entrepreneur than do whatever everyone else is doing," he said. "I think the science experiment of seeing what works and what doesn't work — for me, that's what actually provides me personal value."

'You only need one company to change an industry'

Despite the growing pains eXp may have experienced in the early years, Sanford said his team's efforts have not only changed the real estate game forever, they've helped lay the groundwork and provided a case study for others to follow and duplicate.

"You only need one company to change an industry," he said to the crowd. "Now there are four or five significant copycats to our model."

Sanford later jokingly said that R&D stood for "rip-off and duplicate," but also conceded that all top brokerages have to keep improving and changing in order to stay at the top. Sanford predicted that at some point within the next year, a fully integrated, AI-based newcomer could disrupt the brokerage industry — and "that will fundamentally change the game." 

"And if we don't disrupt ourselves internally, and do the work, then we're gonna be where some of the legacy 30- or 40-year-old brands are now, trying to figure out what to do."

An eye toward global dominance

With over 87,000 agents, eXp is in the top tier of brokerage companies. Sanford and Swanepoel both noted the perceived "glass ceiling," where the largest a brokerage can typically get is somewhere around 10-15% of the total market. But Sanford said eXp is now focused more on growing as quickly as possible internationally. 

"Our real goals are not domestic," he said. "We're the fastest-growing brokerage in the UK, fastest-growing in South Africa and fastest in France. We're in the top 10 in all three of those markets, and nobody's seen this type of growth before."

Sanford said the brand has been able to achieve such wide international adoption so quickly because eXp offers a much better experience and business model for agents abroad.

"Here in the U.S. and in Canada, the value prop for real estate agents is actually pretty darn good. And then you get outside of North America where there's no MLS, there's no cooperation on listing — real estate agents are really screwed in those other countries," he said. 

"So we feel like our ambition is to help them actually have a better business model."

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