Editor's introduction: Kool-Aid stands may be the only industry more fragmented than real estate. At one time, it was garage sales, but E-Bay changed that. The fragmented real estate industry seems to be consolidating. But is it really? And is it good for the consumer? This four-part series looks at the trend of consolidation, who wins, who loses, and who is driving it. (See Part 2: Brand names move into technology space; Part 3: Smaller lenders see opportunity in mergers; and Part 4: Brokerages combine while market explodes.) The argument for fragmentation is that it serves an industry that provides a uniquely local service and that competition creates appropriate local pricing and more localized and customized services. The case against it is service standards suffer, regulatory oversigh...
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