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Flat-fee brokerage Homie makes remarkable pivot amid upheaval

Publish Date: April 22, 2024

Written by Jim Dalrymple II

- Originally published at Inman News - Jim Dalrymple II

The Utah-based disruptor “moved our real estate agents from W2 to 1099” while other “non-Homie” agents were laid off last week due to “role redundancy,” a Homie spokesperson confirmed to Inman.

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Amid a tumultuous housing market, flat-fee brokerage Homie has laid off workers, converted its salaried agents to contractors, and is now apparently operating without a chief executive.

In a series of emails Friday and Monday, Homie spokesperson Sarah Edelman characterized what is happening at the company as a strategic “shift.” However, the changes appear to be a significant divergence from where the company stood a few years ago when it was in the process of hiring 1,000 agents and had a workforce of hundreds.

Regarding agents, Edelman said the company has “moved our real estate agents from W2 to 1099, a common shift within the real estate industry.” She also said the company has 18 such agents, as well as a “handful” of W2 employees. Four “non-Homie” agents were laid off last week due to “role redundancy.”

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The news comes on the heels of a report last week from the Salt Lake Tribune that claimed the company was calling it “quits.” Edelman blasted the Tribune article, saying in an initial email to Inman that it was inaccurate. Asked for additional information, she followed up by saying that “there are too many inaccuracies to address” but the “main issue is their misleading headline that we don’t have employees anymore, which is false.”

The Tribune, which had based its story on remarks from an unnamed employee, later changed its headline. The Tribune piece also said Homie will continue to do referrals.

Inman asked about the current size of Homie’s employee workforce, but the company did not provide further details. Presumably, a “handful” of W2 employees is a smaller workforce than the hundreds of people who worked at Homie in 2022. The company also did not provide details about the timeline of workforce reductions.

CEO Mike Peregrina has also left the company. Though Peregrina’s LinkedIn profile lists Homie as his current employer, Edelman said in response to a question about Peregrina that he actually left in November. Inman asked about Peregrina after emailing him directly and receiving an apparently automated response saying he no longer works at the company.

“We deeply thank Mike for his invaluable contributions as he played a pivotal role in founding the company and navigating its early years,” Edelman said in an email.

Inman asked if the company is currently searching for a new CEO, but Homie did not provide a response to that question.

Inman also reached out directly to Greg Hriso, who according to his LinkedIn page is currently serving as Homie’s head of real estate. That email bounced back, generating a message stating it could not be delivered.

Inman asked Homie generally about executive departures, including Hriso’s, but the company did not provide additional information.

Instead of a CEO, Edelman said Homie is “currently managed by its board of directors, co-founder Johnny Hanna, and the vice presidents of each division.” Hanna is a former CEO who resigned in 2022 amid the company’s second round of layoffs that year.

Though questions remain about what is happening internally at Homie, the company’s apparently diminished form highlights the difficult times the proptech space faces. Homie was founded in 2015 and over the years raised millions across several different funding rounds.

Homie grew on the back of its promise to list homes for a relatively low flat fee, rather than via percent-base commissions a la traditional brokerages. It was a model that was effectively optimized for a time when rates were low and demand seemingly bottomless.

On its home turf in the Salt Lake suburbs, Homie billboards were also a regular fixture, often making jokes or pop culture references to drivers along Interstate 15.

However, Homie appears to have suffered as the boom times of the pandemic years waned; in 2022, the company embarked on multiple rounds of layoffs.

Homie is far from alone in facing recent struggles. Thanks to rampant inflation and rising mortgage rates, real estate companies laid off thousands of employees in 2022 and, more recently, investors have become significantly less enthusiastic about proptech startups.

Flat-fee brokerages have also lost significant mind share compared to a few years ago, when they were hailed as major disruptors. Today, the companies regularly making headlines tend to be more traditional brokerages like Compass or franchisors such as RE/MAX. And most talked-about potential disruptors aren’t tech startups, but rather lawsuits and government regulators.

For its part, though, Homie says its days of disruption aren’t over. In one of her emails to Inman, Edelman said “Homie remains open and committed to its mission to empower consumers by maximizing cost savings.”

“The company continues to operate,” Edelman added, “with an unwavering dedication to providing disruptive solutions in the real estate space.”

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