There’s an interesting mantra at NextHome: “Humans Over Houses.” And it’s not just a catchy phrase. Rather, it speaks to the core of the company’s culture. As Vice President of Sales Charis Moreno says, “The emotional toll on buyers alone is not something that technology can help navigate with empathy. However, another human can, and our members do this like no one else every single day.” In this exclusive interview, Moreno shares how NextHome’s core belief system has helped propel the franchise to record-setting growth and achievements in the past year…and more importantly, how it’s helped real people achieve real dreams.
Paige Tepping: Give us an update on the past year. Where is NextHome today?
Charis Moreno: The past 18 months have been full of uncertainty and unprecedented events, yet NextHome continues to expand at a record-setting pace—2020 was our second-best year for growth, with 98 new offices joining our franchise. We project ending 2021 with 575 offices and over 5,200 members nationwide.
Recent events have created a need for community and connection among brokers, teams and agents. The idea of franchising is more appealing than ever, especially for independents. The importance of a well-known brand, a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and the right tools has propelled our growth as well as collaboration among our members. “NextHomies” look out for each other. They share their wins and the lessons they have learned along the way.
This culture of camaraderie and support didn’t happen overnight. Since its inception in 2014, NextHome’s focus has been on growing with the right people. It’s why being named the No. 1 franchise based on owner satisfaction earlier this year is our most meaningful recognition to date.
Franchise Business Review ranked over 300 of the country’s top franchise brands across all industries, and it was the anonymous feedback of our owners that placed us at the top of the list.
It’s an achievement we don’t take lightly, and one we aim to preserve in 2022.
PT: It’s clear that the pandemic didn’t stop your growth. What other threats is NextHome monitoring?
CM: The real estate industry has always faced threats and forever will—and the quicker we embrace that, the better prepared we will be to deflect, overcome and even defeat them. We recognize the cyclical nature of our industry, from the seasonal ups and downs to macro housing-market shifts. Anyone who is not prepared to bob and weave will certainly struggle.
Our entire NextHome leadership team continually stays up to date on the challenges we all face as an industry: low inventory, downward pressure on commissions, portals making moves and various real estate tech providers consolidating or promising to forever change the way we buy and sell real estate. While others might see these as threats, we see opportunities to be better prepared and stay true to our vision. It’s important to understand the current environment, but at the end of the day, we focus on what we can control—and we firmly believe that nothing can replace the absolute need for a real human to guide other real humans through their real estate transactional needs.
Especially when faced with some of the challenges of today’s housing market, the emotional toll on buyers alone is not something that technology can help navigate with empathy. However, another human can, and our members do this like no one else every single day. At NextHome, we have a mindset, a movement, a mantra we refer to as “Humans Over Houses”—a belief that if we take care of the humans, then the selling of the houses will take care of itself.
We believe this so wholeheartedly that earlier this year, we invested in unearthing the stories of the people who buy and sell real estate, sharing them on HumansOverHouses.com. People like the Neeson family who became foster parents and quickly outgrew their home. Years later, the family experienced loss and it was time to heal and make memories in a new, smaller home. The same NextHomie helped them with both transitions. Or people like Donna Bahena Bustos who made two big promises when she was only eight years old—that she will one day go to college and that she will buy a home for her mother. Her parents helped her keep the first promise. Then during the pandemic, with five people and a dog living in a three-bedroom apartment, Donna made her second promise a reality.
These are just two of the stories that so many of our NextHomies help navigate every day. This is the biggest and most emotional transaction most people make in their lives, and there is a real need for a real human to help guide them with patience and understanding. Technology can’t do that.
PT: ‘Humans Over Houses’ is an interesting concept. How has it shaped your culture?
CM: I’ve said it before and I’ll take this opportunity to say it again: We are very comfortable saying “no.” Being selective is how we ensure that we’re continuing to grow with the right people—real estate professionals who are living and breathing the “Humans Over Houses” mindset, even if that’s not what they are calling it…yet.
Part of our secret sauce is our culture. We’re vigilant to protect it by doing our best to only let in people who are a great fit for what we do. That is when it works the best—when we can find someone who is looking for a solution that looks exactly like ours. You want help with real estate technology, a world-class brand and a forward-looking, vibrant environment focused on helping people. We can deliver.
Our organization is overflowing with incredible owners, brokers and agents. It’s a truly diverse network with 61% of our offices having women in an ownership role and 34% of our offices having minorities in an ownership role. Add to this an average per-agent production of 6.2 units annually, plus an over 70% adoption rate of our products and tools, and you can easily see that our members bring their A-game every day. We are simply here to give them the tools and flexibility they need to run their business effectively and efficiently. Our goal is to free up more time for them to do what they do best: connect with more buyers and sellers, helping the humans in their communities.
Many of our members take this commitment to heart—starting 501(c)(3)
organizations to help feed their neighbors in need, hosting fundraisers for local foster homes and animal shelters, and so much more. Our clients are more than “leads” or “consumers”—and we are so much more than REALTORS®.
PT: You talk about giving your members all the tools they need. What specifically sets NextHome apart?
CM: There are companies out there that have no discerning strategy behind the tech tools they are buying, or don’t know what to do with them once they have them. For us, each tool we build or invest in must add value, compete and integrate. It’s not about collecting tech just so we can say we have it—we ensure the tools complement the agent’s business more than they disrupt it.
Our single sign-on platform is ever-evolving. We continue to tweak and add, then tweak some more year-round with the help of our in-house engineers and developers. They make sure everything our members click on performs as expected 24/7. The marketing and tech tools in our platform work together seamlessly, so there is no need to log into 18 different places and remember numerous passwords. Or my personal pet peeve, retyping the same information over and over. We save our NextHomies screen-time so they can focus on face-time with their clients.
It’s a robust system, and our Member Services team deserves a shout-out here because they know our products and services inside and out. They support our members with any and all questions. For example, if one of our brokers or agents has a question on DocuSign Rooms or HomeSpotter’s Spacio—which are fully integrated and included inside our system—they don’t call DocuSign or HomeSpotter. They call the NextHome Member Services team. We take pride in our toolkit and it makes sense to have members of the corporate team support it. Our NextHomies have to remember a single phone number or email address for assistance—again, allowing them to get back to their business faster.
Their business can take on pretty much any shape and any size they wish. This is what sets NextHome apart—the flexibility we offer. With one-year and five-year franchise agreements, and zero requirements on office size or agent count, our model supports large brick-and-mortar offices, smaller virtual offices and everything in between.
The technology, the marketing, the training and the agility built into our model all come together to support our franchise owners so they can grow at the right time and at the right pace for them.