In a year when business has been anything but usual, NextHome leaned into its “humans over houses” philosophy to rally its members and help them stay the course and serve their communities. With a deep tech stack and a newly launched luxury division, NextHome is steadily advancing on its impressive growth trajectory, despite the challenges 2020 has presented. Here, Vice President of Sales, Charis Moreno, explains what’s behind the drive that keeps NextHome moving forward.
Paige Tepping: What has been NextHome’s focus this year?
Charis Moreno: NextHome remains hyper-focused on the client, the connections we make and the emotions we spark at every engagement with our brand. When you listen to the human beings in the transaction, the ability to be nimble in your marketing, offering and overall strategy comes naturally.
This year has been anything but “business as usual” as many of us expected earlier in 2020. When the pandemic hit, a lot of organizations and leaders retreated, hunkered down and cut staff—not because they wanted to, but because they are human, and it was a natural response. The NextHome leadership team took the opposite approach. Our CEO, CSO and VP spent weeks calling every owner in our company to check in and listen to what they needed. We hosted nearly 60 webinars in the first two months of the pandemic, connecting with our members and encouraging them to be the voice in their communities. With our annual in-person conference cancelled, we organized a six-week virtual event like no other, with incredible speakers and content that offered actionable items that our members could put into practice immediately. Our mindset of putting “Humans Over Houses” took on an entirely new meaning with “NextHomies” across the country rolling up their sleeves, organizing food drives, sewing thousands of face masks, providing clothing for those in need, and more. When you put people first, you create a genuine connection far beyond the transaction, and it transcends the value we bring daily in our communities as real estate professionals.
PT: How have you been able to provide such value and keep humans at the center of it all?
CM: We dug deep and found ways to ensure that our members could build an even stronger value proposition in an increasingly virtual world.
Earlier this year, our leadership team secured deeper partnerships with companies like Matterport, BoxBrownie, Be.Live and Studeo in an effort to give our agents and brokers a modern way to tell the story of the home. Owning a home is a feeling, and in real estate, we rely heavily on visual content that evokes all the emotions associated with an event of such magnitude. We recognize that every home and every community is unique. Through our integration with Studeo, our members can now make the story of each distinct property come alive through more than photos and text. Videos and 3D tours come together with the sounds of crackling fires, sizzling food or kids laughing and jumping in the pool to engage potential buyers on a much deeper level. These digital storybooks humanize the experience of buying your next home in a way no other product has ever done. To be the first real estate franchise to launch and include this product on a mass scale for all of our members and their clients is just another example of how NextHome continues to innovate and elevate in a time when our industry needs it most.
PT: Sounds like you invest heavily in your tech stack. Is that what drives your growth, surpassing 500 offices and 4,000 members in just six years?
CM: Our growth stems from two key elements. The first, simply put, is the people. Better put, the right people. That additional word marks the difference between growing a good company and growing a great company. The most empowering word in our language is the word “no,” and we use this word often when we discuss franchising opportunities with prospective brokers and agents. As a mother of two teenage daughters, the word “no” comes naturally to me. We’re not looking to bring in everyone, and we think most people respect that. Oftentimes, when you ask a franchisor or an owner to tell you about their company and business, the response goes to their place in the market, the size of their offices, their agent count, etc. Answers like these make us pause, because when we translate our company into numbers, it immediately removes the human aspect and injects arrogance and chest pounding—which then carries into your brand, your message and your culture. While metrics are important in some conversations, we don’t find them important when it comes to the overall success of NextHome. At the end of the day, you can have the best marketing, technology, and integrated systems and tools, but if you don’t have the right people, the rest doesn’t even matter.
The second driving force behind our success is flexibility. NextHome’s model enables owners and brokers to be nimble. Since the inception of NextHome, we have recognized that more productive agents spend less time in the office. Thus, offering the option of less square footage, or even a virtual or shared space, translates to lower overhead for our owners. The modern brokerage is not an abnormally large office with a sea of empty desks and closed office doors—that’s the opposite of a community-driven, people-first business. When the pandemic hit and created a virtual world for everyone almost overnight, NextHome owners were already ahead of the game. We already had the tools, systems and support in place to allow them, their agents and their clients to transition to this virtual world seamlessly. This has given us the confidence to lead strongly, and not only just survive, but thrive, in this season. NextHome has added more new franchisees during the pandemic compared to the same period last year.
PT: You recently launched a luxury brand. What made you pursue this tier of the market, and why launch it now?
CM: Our desire to reinvent, or rediscover, what it means to be a luxury real estate brand comes from the same place where we created NextHome. We saw a need for higher standards, a new benchmark for how luxury real estate is represented, marketed and sold. The Casan Collection is specially designed for properties in the top 10 percent of the market…any market.
We surveyed the industry, researching how others serve this top tier. It’s far too common for brands to create a luxury division by slightly altering their company colors, adding a few keywords to their messaging and stopping there. Affluent buyers and sellers crave something unique, an experience that tailors to their distinct needs and expectations. We once again worked with Pentagram, one of the world’s leading design firms, and collaborated on an all-new brand identity that would meet the standards of elite buyers and sellers.
In order to gain access to the collection, Casan agents are certified in luxury real estate through the Institute for Luxury Home Marketing. What’s more, each Casan listing observes high marketing standards that are strictly monitored. It’s about gaining the trust of the luxury client by showing them our commitment to excellence. Professional photography and 3D home tours, floor plans, expert staging on vacant homes, digital storybooks, global listing syndication to top-tier media outlets such as duPont REGISTRY, The New York Times, Mansion Global, Robb Report, The Wall Street Journal—all of this and more is guaranteed on every single Casan listing.
As far as the timing of this new luxury brand, I do believe that waiting for the perfect time to do anything will cause hesitation that can cripple you or your company. All of us are spending more time at home right now—the pandemic doesn’t minimize the desire for more comfort, more security, certain experiences and lifestyles. Timing plays a huge part in the success and failure of most anything in life. With Casan, we saw an opportunity and we seized it.
PT: Following the successful launch of the luxury brand, what does the future hold for NextHome?
CM: We recognize the real estate experience is constantly changing—we embrace it and accept it. It’s the only way to raise the bar. We need to lead the change we wish to see, and NextHome does that with every new office we bring on, every owner we entrust with our brand and our culture of accountability.
We don’t strive to be the biggest or to have the highest agent count—our vision is to grow with the right people who will value the production per agent more than the number of agents per square foot. Based on a report by T3 Sixty, NextHome is in the top 10 real estate brands of highest production per agent, and that was achieved in just six short years. This is a huge focus for us and we continue to pour resources into this area, from our 12-week training program called “Day One” to our partnership with the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), where we offer Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR®) and Seller Representative Specialist (SRS) designation courses to our members virtually.
Securing a ranking on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing independently owned companies in the U.S. for the second year in a row has been very humbling, and it speaks volumes about the leadership of our company. We’re most proud of the recognition given to us by Franchise Business Review, naming us the No. 3 top franchise in the country and No. 1 in the real estate category for 2020, as well as a top franchise for women and for minorities.
So, what do these and other achievements have to do with what’s next for NextHome? Everything. We must maintain the level of service that continues to exceed the expectations of our members. We will continue to seek and partner with vendors who share our values and principles. Most importantly, we will continue to listen to those we serve and ignore the noise around us so we can stay true to our mission of “enriching lives by helping people find their next home.”