Thirty two years ago, I, along with partners, opened my first real estate office in Coconut Grove. We invested in all the tech of the day: a telephone system and answering service. Our MLS was best served in newly bound books.
In the first 2 years, we moved rapidly into the new computer age by installing the MLS terminal and the coupler to dial into the newly combined regional MLS. Thermal paper print outs guided a day of showings until the heat caused the ink to evaporate, so you had to keep the MLS book in your car for backup. Contracts were prepared on the hood of your car after an open house. If your beeper went off, you found a pay phone to return the call. If that call was for an accepted offer, you got in the car and went to pick up and personally deliver the offer to your client, no matter the time. Being in the Million Dollar sales club was the pinnacle achievement.
In 1993, I attended the National Association of Realtors meeting where then-President Bill Chee forecasted Realtors would soon lose control over their MLS information because they were ill-prepared for technology changes in the industry. By 2006, listing syndicators like Zillow had gained significant traction by encouraging brokers to “advertise” properties on their sites. Upstart brokerage, Redfin, was building a brokerage with technology and a real focus on the consumer. The first iPhone came out in 2007 and ushered in the mobile age. No books. No paper. No waiting for information. All the data you needed was at your fingertips. All the time.
Today, global real estate is worth an estimated $217 trillion, with residential real estate comprising about 75% of that total. Real estate creates jobs, runs local economies, causes recessions. It is a huge economic sector. Technology has already begun to revolutionize other significant business sectors. Amazon, Uber, Google, Airbnb are all tech companies that redefined their industry.
Real Estate is too big, too important, not to be significantly impacted by tech. Yet little has changed at the brokerage level of this business since I opened up that office 30+ years ago. Compass aspires to change that, to be the Amazon of real estate. IIn five short years, Compass has raised $775 million from venture capitalists who are betting on us to do just that. In December, our Series E raise of $450 million by SoftBank is the latest validation and the largest investment in real estate tech to date. Compass continues to differentiate itself with a clear focus on attracting top agents and building significant technology systems to maximize their business while collecting data to forecast where the industry is going. The future of the real estate business is in knowing who will buy what, how, when and where.
Where we go depends largely on where we’ve been; 2017 marks the second full year for Compass in Florida. In those two years, we have launched 3 Florida markets: Miami Beach, Coconut Grove and Naples. In Miami-Dade county, Compass will close the year at number 8 in dollar volume and number 5 in sales over $1 million. And while this year is coming to an end, our journey is only beginning.