Editor’s note: Bob Blount, CEO of RE/MAX Advantage, wrote the following perspective in response to an Inman News article, “Fear still rules real estate industry,” published on Feb. 24, 2006.

For years I’ve watched real estate brokers who feel that listing content is not a public utility be chastised as unprogressive cavemen who just don’t get it. The real issue, however, is who’s making the money, not some sanctimonious concern for the rights of the consumer. The other red herring is the one about “irrational fear,” a card usually played by those who don’t like the present organization of the industry and who want to pave the way for their business model, holding the promise of changing the industry.

Somehow, to the “name callers,” it seems it is OK for new entrants to compete, but it is inappropriate for existing players to compete back.

So, to avoid these labels like “unprogressive” and “fear monger,” please let me emphasize the following:

I — and much of the industry — am not afraid.

I want every consumer to have access to every listing 24/7 if the home seller wants them to have that access. The real issue is on whose site? The red herring cast out by non-brokers (just getting a broker’s license does not mean one is acting as a broker) is the concept that every listing must be on every site, especially theirs.

For these same people, if a law were passed saying that the listing content could be on only one site — theirs — what would their position be then? Banks, Barry Diller, and every man, woman and child should be able to enter brokerage so long as they are all playing on the same regulatory field.

Every site that wants it should have listing content on it (if authorized by the seller) if the site’s owners are in the brokerage business, having the risks, costs and liabilities that come with being in that business.

Think about the logical conclusion — if all of the value of that content is stripped out of taking a listing, what fool is going to take those listings? We should all be dot-coms instead, right? If some new entrant comes into the industry in the morning with something truly advantageous to consumers, my firm will have it (but better) in the market by the afternoon. The industry will adapt. Want to play the dot-com game? Great. We’re ready.

Now, some general thoughts about your article.

It might be news to Cendant and RE/MAX International that they cannot do what Zillow has done should they decide the model has merit, and who says they are not in that business?

Every good CEO in the country in every industry is a bit paranoid. That’s just good business.

While I agree that there should be no illegal barriers to entry by new players, it is not my job nor the industry’s job to support their business model. We have a right to compete too! RE/MAX made it because it had a better model, not because the industry rolled out a red carpet. The industry adapted and learned to compete. Let the new entrants earn their wings like the rest of us.

And by the way, the industry had every right to fear RE/MAX. It gave agents in and outside its system huge raises and more control over their careers. For better or worse, the impact on broker profitability has been profound. The power shift is still reverberating throughout the industry.

In closing, the real issues are: Do the people who take listings have intellectual property rights? If not, who will take the listings and assume the costs and liabilities? Do brokers have a right to monetize their listing content? Who is going to make the money (as opposed to pious spoutings about consumer rights)? Competition is a two-way street. Is calling existing players (who are acting legally) “fear mongers” for competing and anticipating the moves of competitors a productive method to encourage change?

Bob Blount is the CEO of RE/MAX Allegiance in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.


What’s your opinion? Send your Letter to the Editor to opinion@inman.com.

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