In 1963, a man slight in stature but grand in spirit shared his dream for America. His message was broadcast in black and white, a fantastic irony of the times.

Many recoiled. Ignorance was their common thread.

Ignorance is not evil; it’s an illness that’s curable with proper care.

In January of 2007, inside the Marriott Times Square in New York, I detected a similar illness plaguing our real estate community. It was the context of the conference itself — a watering hole for those thirsty for diverse ideas that shone an equally fantastic light of irony of our times.

In 1963, a man slight in stature but grand in spirit shared his dream for America. His message was broadcast in black and white, a fantastic irony of the times.

Many recoiled. Ignorance was their common thread.

Ignorance is not evil; it’s an illness that’s curable with proper care.

In January of 2007, inside the Marriott Times Square in New York, I detected a similar illness plaguing our real estate community. It was the context of the conference itself — a watering hole for those thirsty for diverse ideas that shone an equally fantastic light of irony of our times. It occurred during the debate between the giant majority, personified by Realtor.com‘s Allan Dalton, and the tiny minority, represented that day by Glenn Kelman of Redfin.

Dalton, a man of spirit, intellect and vision in his own right, began the debate by referring to Realtors as the most benevolent work force in America. Realtors certainly can be that at times, along with other benevolent members of our society including Red Cross volunteers, crime and firefighters, EMS agents, and the young men and women of our armed forces fighting for the rights of others overseas. Granted, most on that list perform benevolent acts free of commission, but benevolence can be measured by many different yardsticks.

Following a few rounds of impassioned bouts between Dalton and Kelman, the floor opened to questions. From that opening came the foul odor of disharmony and ignorance that continues to strip away the integrity of Dalton’s vision. Kelman was attacked, ridiculed, insulted and offended by members of the audience by virtue of just being a little different. It was his creed that was attacked. Traditional versus alternative, better versus worse, qualified versus unqualified, working on Saturday versus not working on Saturday, us against them.

Real Estate Civil War

Real estate’s majority has been battling its minority for years. Our industry is ripe with examples of the minority being treated as outcasts undeserving of a seat in back of the real estate caravan. Stereotypes are afflicted on the minority by those in the majority who are themselves cast in disparaging molds by outsiders. It never dawned on me until that day, watching the crowd attack one of its own for being different, just how vile it all is.

Does an alternative agent not bleed the same red blood as a traditional agent? Do they not pass the same three-week course a traditional agent does? Do they not pay the same dues to the same association and earn the same rights to call themselves a Realtor?

Who among us has the right to point fingers at another and subjugate them to ridicule based on nothing but a slightly different way to charge for services?

Why would this wonderfully benevolent industry ever allow a forum that seeks to prove one member more rightful than another? This doesn’t occur in other, less-benevolent industries. Ever see a $500-an-hour defense attorney not handle cases where the prosecutor was court appointed? Ever attend a hooker conference where $3,000-a-day escorts debate the skill set of a $100 street walker? Does Neiman Marcus give a darn about the discounts found at Macy’s?

Insecurity brought on this illness and ignorance perpetuates it. Sensitivity and benevolence will serve to eradicate it forever.

My Real Estate Dream

There is so much we can learn from each other. Kelman said, “When building our model, I found a way to make a nice profit charging a lower commission.” In other words, he found a way to work smarter not harder. Instead of a standing ovation, he endured slings and arrows.

The ignorant attack what they don’t understand. The enlightened beg for more information.

Marc Davison is vice president of OnBoard, a real estate data provider based in New York. Davison previously served as vice president of VREO, a provider of electronic signature and Web site software for the real estate industry. He can be reached at mdavison@onboardllc.com.

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