Editor’s note: The following post by Inman News Publisher Bradley Inman first appeared on the Inman News Blog. To participate in a discussion around this post, click here.

Young innovator Galen Ward, the co-founder of online real estate service Estately, spoke on the “New Kids on the Block” panel at Real Estate Connect. He offered an observation that explained the link between the exploding social networking movement and real estate.

The lights went on.

When I asked the panel to explain the generational change in real estate, Ward said that my generation buys houses and then tells our friends, while his generation collaborates online with their friends when buying a house or renting an apartment. Galen is half my age.

Indeed, my real estate experience is derived from the “keep up with the Jones” era of my parents, in which we buy houses and then brag to our friends. We do that with cars, vacations and the success of our children.

Galen explained how his generation does it differently. They have a MySpace or Facebook account and describe to their friends their plans to find a new apartment or house and begin getting advice from their pals, seeking straightforward help and funny or cynical comments. Then they post pictures of themselves looking for a home and images or video of the houses and the neighborhoods. Their friends begin to offer help, dishing out opinions and counsel on the real estate and the area. Then, they offer tips on the process and get more opinions until the deal is sealed.

Everything is a group effort.

This younger generation, who were taught to collaborate and not fight, listen and engage their friends in all of their daily activities from job searches, house hunting, partying and dates.

Another panelist from this group, Karim Tahawi, founder & CEO, My-Currency, described it as “life streaming,” real-time, all-of-the-time collaboration.

These two young fellows helped me realize the value of social networking. It is a NON-single-expert approach to life’s activities, changing the role of the real estate agent in the process. The Realtor no longer holds all of the information cards nor the exclusive role of coach. In the past, good real estate advice could easily be dismissed when Uncle Harry, who was once in real estate, stepped in with his opinion. But the circle is wider today, more instant and combined with lots of public information and databases.

Can my generation fully participate in this new world? Are we willing to give up our privacy, ask for help and collaborate? It is not our culture; we are an individualistic and prideful generation, measured on our accomplishments, not our vulnerability. Asking for help is not something we do easily, as we measure ourselves on having the answers.

We should change our ways.

Click here to join a discussion on this topic.

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