Homie, the Utah company meant to ‘disrupt’ real estate, sheds its last agents

The company told workers that it’s stripping its brokerage business of employees, but it will still do referrals to outside real estate agents and contractors.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) A billboard for the real estate company Homie, along Interstate 15 in Salt Lake City on Wednesday November 22, 2023. The company is shutting down its real estate office, according to an employee.

Homie — the Salt Lake City-based real estate technology company that promised to cut costs for homebuyers by offering a flat fee to sellers — is stripping its brokerage services and ending employment for its real estate agents.

The move comes after years of turbulence — a difficult housing market, layoffs of hundreds of workers, changing leadership — and a promise from chief operating officer Jeremy Back, who took the job in February, to staff that the company was “more secure than ever,” according to an employee who described hearing the pledge from Back in meetings.

The employee and their colleagues, including all of Homie’s remaining real estate agents, were told Tuesday that the brokerage is being shut down, the person said. The Tribune has agreed to not name the employee, who fears retaliation in the industry, but confirmed they are employed at Homie.

An attorney for Homie said the company is not “shut down,” and some people may be offered work as contractors, but all agents will lose their W2 employment status. Title and lending teams are unaffected.

Real estate agents have until the end of the month to transfer their licenses and wrap up any pending contracts, or transfer them to a to-be-determined new brokerage, the employee said. Staffers also will lose their benefits at the end of the month, they said, while severance is still being negotiated.

“This affects a lot of people,” the employee said — both employees and customers. “People put their trust in Homie.”

Back did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Sarah Edelman, Homie’s vice president of marketing, also did not return The Tribune’s messages.

From disruption to destruction

Homie’s flashy billboards along Interstate 15 mocked the real estate industry status quo: “Agent charging you $30,000 to sell?” one read. “Eat my shorts.”

That was Homie’s stake in the ground, and its promise: no exorbitant commissions or fees. Instead, Homie charged a flat fee — $5,000 for sellers — which, the company claimed, lowered the overall cost for buyers, too. It also paired real estate agents’ relationships with tech automation, such as an app where users could browse listings and schedule showings.

When the housing market was good, it worked. Homie grew rapidly in its first six years, expanding into Nevada, Arizona, Colorado and Idaho. The company announced plans in 2021 to hire 1,000 buyer agents, and said in a news release that it has “extended its employee base by over 76% in just five months.”

It also expanded its business portfolio, branching into Homie Loans, Homie Title, and Homie Insurance.

But some industry experts told The Tribune in November that Homie did not, in fact, disrupt anything.

“[Homie’s] business model is the same as any other real estate brokerage that’s been around for decades,” Mike DelPrete, a real estate tech strategist and scholar-in-residence at the University of Colorado Boulder, said in November, reacting to news of more layoffs. “I’ve looked at and studied and talked to dozens of companies around the world that are doing this exact same thing. And they never get anywhere.”

By 2022, Homie had started trimming its staff, blaming a souring real estate market. Co-founder Johnny Hanna stepped down as CEO in October 2022, replaced by fellow co-founder Mike Peregrina. Peregrina left in November 2023, leaving the company without a CEO. Over several rounds of layoffs, Homie’s team was whittled away.

Edelman told The Tribune in November that it had “secured capital from its existing investors, confirming its ongoing dedication to helping customers save money in this difficult real estate market.”

Tuesday’s news was devastating, the employee told The Tribune, but not entirely surprising. “It’s such a big blow,” the employee said.

This is a developing story. If you have worked for, or with, Homie recently and have something to add, please contact Shannon Sollitt at ssollitt@sltrib.com

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.