Rich Barton is the most powerful and influential person in real estate, according to the seventh annual Swanepoel Power 200 (SP200), published by real estate management consulting and research firm T3 Sixty. Barton beat out top executives at the nation’s biggest brokerages and holding companies, including Realogy, RE/MAX, Keller Williams and HomeServices of America, whose chairman Ron Peltier finished atop the list last year.
“We publish the SP200 each year to help industry participants gain a better understanding of the scope and extent of the many significant companies and leaders that shape their industry,” T3 Sixty Chairman and CEO Stefan Swanepoel, said in a statement.
“It is fascinating to track how different leaders and roles shift every year,” Swanepoel added. “The insights of developments on the highest levels of the industry at any given time provide invaluable strategic insight of who you should be working with, learning from and who to watch out for.”
T3 Sixty starts the process with more than 3,000 executives and reviews them using both qualitative and quantitative data, including, “recent developments at their company, their tenure, their role in their organization and its production, and vigorous thought and debate about their power and influence in the industry.”
“This is not a popularity contest, nor is it our friends or client list, nor is it a sponsored list, nor is it a newsmakers list,” Swanepoel told Inman. “The SP200 ranking is based on eight criteria namely: the office they hold, the decision-making power associated with the office, the financial resources at their disposal, their organization’s industry significance and geographical reach, public announcements about imminent changes, their tenure and their personal influence outside their company.”
“We spend over 400 hours digesting and analyzing the data collected,” Swanepoel added.
As was the case last year, men make up most of the list, however, things are slowly shifting closer towards a gender balance. This year, 23 percent of the list is made up of women, whereas women only represented 19 percent of the list last year. That number comes in an industry where the National Association of Realtors estimates 67 percent of NAR members are women, according to the annual NAR Member Survey.
The SP200 is the first of five lists that T3 Sixty publishes annually; the others are rankings of multiple listing services and associations, the industry’s top tech vendors, the nation’s largest franchisors and holding companies, and the nation’s top 1,000 brokerages. Those lists together make up the Real Estate Almanac, which Swanepoel says will become the industry’s authority.
Here are the top 10 most powerful and influential people in real estate, according to the ranking.
1. Rich Barton, CEO and co-founder, Zillow Group
Rich Barton’s meteoric return this year marked the start of what Zillow Group has been calling Real Estate 2.0. The company has made a decided shift, from its Premier Agent advertising program being the top revenue driver, to its direct-to-consumer homebuying and selling platform Zillow Offers being the focus.
“Barton ascends to the top of the 2020 list based on his full-force return to lead the company he co-founded in 2005 as CEO in 2019,” Swanepoel said. “He has brought a bold new vision and direction to Zillow focused on reengineering the real estate transaction around the iBuying business model with the company’s new homebuying and selling Homes division, which the company projects can produce $20 billion in annual revenue.”
2. Gary Keller, CEO and co-founder, Keller Williams
Gary Keller is another executive who stepped away from the company he co-founded, only to make a return to much fanfare. In January 2019, he returned to the role of CEO, which in turn promoted Josh Team to president and led to the ousting of John Davis. Keller retained the number two spot in the ranking, from last year.
In 2019, much of the focus for Keller Williams was on the development of technology. The company rolled out its proprietary technology platform and customer relationship management tool Command – which led to Keller at one point declaring victory in the race – as well as a market place for agent tools and a deeper investment in its artificial intelligence.
3. Ron Peltier, executive chairman, HomeServices of America
While Barton and Keller returned to CEO roles in 2019, Peltier moved the opposite way, stepping down from his CEO position into an executive chairman role with Gino Blefari stepping into the CEO role. With the move, Peltier dropped from the first spot on last year’s ranking to third place.
It was a quieter year on the acquisition front for HomeServices of America – no major moves like the Ebby Halliday acquisition in 2018 or Long & Foster, the year before – but the annual Swanepoel Mega 1000 did see HomeServices of America pass NRT for most transaction sides in a year, for the year 2018.
4. Ryan Schneider president and CEO of Realogy Holdings
Realogy started 2019 by announcing it would begin franchising Corcoran and Climb, two of its own-side brands, and just one year later, it’s shuttering the Climb brand and folding it into NRT. The organizational structure also underwent a massive reshuffle this year, consolidating the leadership of the franchise and own-side businesses of Coldwell Banker and Sotheby’s International Realty, as well as the launch of a new expansion brands portfolio and product and innovation teams.
The company also announced a major lead generation partnership with tech giant Amazon, the sale of the relocation arm of Cartus and a number of new products. All of those announcements came with the backdrop of the company’s stock hitting historic lows, then rebounding to close the year, and ultimately, Ryan Schneider, stayed at number four on the list.
5. Glenn Kelman, president and CEO, Redfin
Redfin spent much of the year becoming more and more profitable, while also increasing the footprint of its 1 percent listing fee services, mortgage and iBuyer platforms. The company’s stock price responded in kind, climbing up roughly 30 percent to close the year after finishing 2018 near historic lows. Despite that movement, Kelman once again retained the fifth spot on the list.
Perhaps the most game-changing announcement from the company came when it announced it would begin piloting a program in certain markets where buyers could make offers on Redfin-listed homes without the representation of a buyers’ agent. Not everybody was thrilled with the announcement, however, as it led to the end of a referral partnership between Redfin and RE/MAX.
Rounding out the top 20 are:
6. Adam Contos (President and CEO), RE/MAX
7. Bob Goldberg (CEO), National Association of Realtors
8. Robert Reffkin and Ori Allon (Co-Founders, CEO and Executive Chairman), Compass
9. Howard Hanna and Helen Hanna Casey (Chairman and CEO), Hanna Holdings
10. Phil Soper (President and CEO), Bridgemarq Real Estate Services
11. John Peyton (President and CEO), Realogy Franchise Services
12. Gino Blefari (CEO), HomeServices of America
13. M. Ryan Gorman (President and CEO), Coldwell Banker
14. Eric Wu (Co-Founder and CEO), Opendoor
15. Glenn Sanford (Founder and CEO), eXp World Holdings
16. OB Jacobi and Geoff and Jill Wood (Managing Partners), Windermere
17. Howard Lorber (Executive Chairman), Douglas Elliman
18. Kuba Jewgieniew (Founder and CEO), Realty One Group
19. Matt Widdows (Founder and Chairman), HomeSmart
20. Sherry Chris (President and CEO), Realogy Expansion Brands
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