Innovate or disintegrate

Perspective: Exciting times ahead for real estate

It’s hard to believe that I am sitting here thinking of the opening sentence to my farewell column for Inman News. I’ve been a part of the news team here for the last six years and it has become an integral part of who I am.

In the summer of 2002, on my very first day in the newsroom, the hot story was about something called VOWs, or virtual office Web sites. National Association of Realtors officers were discussing implementing an MLS policy for dealing with this new method of sharing property listings online.

VOWs were treated much like a problem rather than a solution. Like many people at the time, I didn’t understand why there was so much fuss about getting property listings online.

It seems fitting that in my last weeks on the job, this issue would come full circle in the form of a proposed settlement with the Justice Department. An ugly legal battle and rapidly changing market have quickly shifted the pulpit.

Many have said this move doesn’t change much in the overall fabric of online real estate. The innovators weren’t waiting for this to be resolved. They were out architecting new marketplaces, new business models and new ways of communicating value.

To me, the latest DOJ news serves as the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. More battles will be fought, but it reminds us that in closing a door there is a chance to create real change.

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as editor of Inman News, it’s that companies that do not innovate die — or worse, become irrelevant, which is much like being buried alive.

I hope that those in the real estate industry see the changing market as their opportunity to innovate. The Internet, open source, social media, the subprime disaster and housing downturn have changed consumers forever. Real estate needs to adapt to these changes.

Those who do not innovate will become irrelevant to these changing needs.

Innovation can mean different things to different people. As a young real estate consumer myself, I am impressed by the little details and online services that have made my hunt easier and more conducive to my lifestyle. Sometimes you don’t need to blow up a bridge to fix a nasty pothole. But let’s face it, other times you definitely need to tear that old clunker down.

It’s been a wild ride serving Inman News readers, talking with industry luminaries and Internet whiz kids over the years. I’ve met some of the most interesting, opinionated and intellectual people here.

Keep innovating. Keep reading Inman News. And keep pushing the conversation to create change where you see inefficiencies, misaligned values and stale politics. If not you, then who?

Thanks for all the great years of teaching me the business of real estate, reading my reports and perspectives, and for participating in the leading conversations of this industry.

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