Housing sector dominates Inc. 5000

Congratulations to all of the entrepreneurs, founders and executives who have survived the onslaught of phone calls, emails and DMs from first-year private equity associates (yeah… we’re looking at you Summit Partners….). But hey, growth equity firms and potential acquirers blowing up your cell phone is certainly not the worst thing in the world. 

The companies recognized in the 2021 Inc. 5000 list are nothing short of exceptional. They put up unfathomable year-over-year growth metrics in a year like no other. Yes, 2020 gave certain sectors a tail-wind but nonetheless these companies all had to manage through uncertainty while growing at breakneck speeds. We should all applaud the ingenuity and courage it takes to achieve these types of outcomes. 

Housing Sector Representation

The housing sector has been represented in Inc. rankings for many years. In 2016, Brad Sullivan’s Mortgage Financial Services ruled the roost in housing with a rank of 733. Griffin Funding was the fastest housing sector grower in 2017. Total Expert took the crown in 2018

Real estate broker Amherst Madison Treasure Valley was the fastest grower in 2019. And Nationwide Mortgage Bankers posted an insane average three-year growth rate of 16,396% in 2020. 

And while housing sector firms have graced the Inc. 5000 since HousingWire’s earliest days (check out the HW’s 2008 Inc. coverage), this year is different. Low rates, demographics and the great fintech acceleration have all combined forces to give the housing sector an amazing tailwind. Mortgage Bankers Association data reports that total mortgage origination volume in 2019 came in at $2.25 trillion. 2020 total volume for refinances and purchase mortgages totaled $3.83 trillion – 70% year-over-year origination volume growth. 

So yeah, a 70 mph tailwind should make any business operator grateful. And that tailwind, combined with amazing entrepreneurial execution, propelled 178 companies from the residential housing sector onto this year’s list of the fastest growing companies in America. 

But riding the sector wave isn’t enough to get you to the upper echelons of this year’s Inc 5000 list. Housing sector firms averaged a three year average growth rate of 453% in this year’s list. These 180 firms grabbed market share, created new business models and recruited talent without ever looking back. And astronomical outliers like OJO Labs (6767% growth) , Big Block Realty (6271% growth) and Sales Boomerang (3882% growth) set a whole new precedent for ambitious entrepreneurs. 

Many of the companies we interviewed for this coverage cited their team members as a strategic part of their growth. 

William Lyons, president and CEO of Griffin Funding (170% growth), said, “We focus on being talent driven and team first. Human capital is our No. 1 asset next to our loyal client base. Some mortgage companies get stuck in the trap of focusing on growth first and talent second. If you can focus on talent first, then the growth will be more natural and less forced. We also took down some large forward commitments early on at the beginning of the pandemic when everyone else was pulling back and uncertain. That certainty gave the team confidence to perform and it built the momentum we needed to put us on the Inc. 5000 map.”

Lending Heights ( 592% growth) President Jason Cecco said his focus was on “empowering our team members to thrive, which leads to the best customer experience.” 

Aaron Strawn, senior loan officer at Ruoff Mortgage (294% growth) pointed to his company’s leadership. “We just have leadership that truly means and does what they say. Their primary focus is and always will be the customer experience. They are constantly looking for ways to improve that experience and sparing no expense to make the process as seamless as possible.”

The Analysis

HousingWire’s analysis of the 2021 Inc. 5000 winners took a close look at all recognized companies in the single-family housing sector with a focus on mortgage and real estate sales markets. To qualify for Inc.’s ranking program, a business must be privately held and based in the U.S., had to have generated at least $100,000 in annual revenue in 2017, and meet a minimum revenue threshold of $2 million in 2020.

This year housing sector companies appeared in the following categories as presented by Inc.: Business Products & Services, Security, Financial Services, Insurance, IT Management, IT Services, IT Systems Dev, Software and Real Estate. 

HousingWire segmented the recognized companies into four primary categories:

  • Mortgage Lenders & Brokers: 71 companies averaging 433% 3-year growth rate
  • Real Estate Brokerages & Alternative Models: 69 companies averaging 326% 3-year growth rate
  • Technology & Solutions: 28 companies averaging 926% 3-year growth rate
  • Title: 12 companies averaging 199% 3-year growth rate

Within the mortgage category, it’s notable that only one Top 15 HMDA lenderCrossCountry Mortgage – ranked amongst the fastest growing companies in the country. Several of the nations top real estate brokerages as ranked by RealTrends graced Inc.’s list including United Real Estate Group, Realty One Group Affiliates and multiple eXp Realty teams. 

The following table represents the fastest growing companies in the housing sector:

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