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 oversight is impossible and prices remain high. Fragmentation has not gone unnoticed. It is an economic condition that attracts investors who think they may have the smarts to consolidate the industry, drive ...
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