SAN FRANCISCO — “Tech Will Conquer Real Estate” was the title of the opening address at a gathering of real estate software developers and technology gurus here Wednesday.
Michael Arrington, editor and owner of TechCrunch, a blog that follows new Web 2.0 developments, ruffled some feathers with his direct analysis of the state of innovation and technology in the real estate industry.
There’s a lot of anger toward the real estate industry from the general population, Arrington said, adding that, “Companies that have tried to change this industry have been systematically torn apart.”
Arrington said that technology has always removed friction from activities and transactions, and pointed out “areas of friction” in real estate, such as the value of brokers and agents, broker fees and fee structure, access to multiple listing service data, and so-called mashups that mesh MLS data with some other application like mapping.
Just showing MLS data to consumers is not the answer to removing friction in this industry, he said. From a consumer perspective, you still have to use a broker and the MLS, and this “unholy alliance” within the industry will have to be broken to remove friction, he said. “Congress and the (Department of Justice) will need to act, and startups will take it from there,” he said.
It’s very cheap to start a company today that could be disruptive to anyone in the room, he told the packed audience.
An audience member commented that it seemed like Arrington was promoting an open MLS system and he questioned who would pay for this open system and who would regulate the integrity of the data. Arrington jokingly replied that it would not be himself.
The first-ever Real Estate Connect Tech, which was part of the Real Estate Connect conference being held here this week, also explored the tech side of mapping applications for real estate, technology standards, and finding the human side of what developers are creating.
Rob Malda, founder of Slashdot, discussed open source issues and the creation of Slashdot during a working lunch. The event also included developer intensives on mapping, search and document management, video integration, transaction management and analytics, and concluded with roundtable discussions among software developers.
Some themes that emerged throughout the day regarding the future of real estate technology were the emergence of more interactive content, mashups that blend two or more applications together, and consumer trust.
User-generated content is making its way into real estate Web sites through blogging and feedback systems, and one audience member asked about the fine line between allowing user feedback and the natural reluctance of companies not wanting negative comments on their sites.
Marty Frame, chief information officer for Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions, said that the issue is similar to the debate over putting property listings online back in 1996. He said that brokers then didn’t want to put listings online, but they had to realize that someone else was going to do it anyway.