In 1996, Inman News called on the industry to create a more transparent real estate transaction. Specifically, we encouraged real estate leaders to fully leverage the Internet by putting the entire multiple listing service on the Web, open up other data sources, digitize the transaction, and add visual images like pictures and virtual tours to listings.

We spent more than a decade pounding on this message and reporting on the reaction, the progress, the controversy, the legal actions, the innovation, the fear and the hope. The job is not done, but substantial progress has been made. When it comes to placing home listings on the Web, the last couple of years look a lot like the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Editor’s note: The U.S. housing market and the real estate industry are in critical condition and they need a roadmap to recovery. But first we must figure out where we should and must go. To help the industry understand that future, Inman News is embarking on a major editorial project to examine how the real estate industry should and will look in coming years. We are seeking more than your input — we’re looking for you to actively participate in mapping out the future of the real estate industry. Read on to find out how you can participate.

In 1996, Inman News called on the industry to create a more transparent real estate transaction. Specifically, we encouraged real estate leaders to fully leverage the Internet by putting the entire multiple listing service on the Web, open up other data sources, digitize the transaction, and add visual images like pictures and virtual tours to listings.

We spent more than a decade pounding on this message and reporting on the reaction, the progress, the controversy, the legal actions, the innovation, the fear and the hope. The job is not done, but substantial progress has been made. When it comes to placing home listings on the Web, the last couple of years look a lot like the fall of the Berlin Wall.

During this same period, the rapidly declining housing market has undergone the worst downturn in our lifetime. Nothing could be more important than covering these market trends, and they will continue to be our focus.

Nevertheless, Inman News is once again putting a stake in the ground about the future of real estate. We are undertaking this major editorial project to peer above the smoke and fire of the housing market battlefront and imagine what the industry and the market will look like into the future.

It is our belief and mantra that transparency is essential for creating a more vigorous, healthy and functioning market and a fundamentally better consumer real estate experience. We believe this will prove essential in rebuilding consumer trust with the industry and achieving a sustainable housing market recovery.

It also means a dramatic facelift for the industry. But the question is: What does it look like? We intend to find out.

Inman News will engage in a vigorous investigation of what the future holds for Realtors, mortgage lenders, the mortgage-backed securities industry, title companies, technology firms and the home-buying and home-selling public.

We will explore where the industry is going, how it will be organized, how it will be regulated and how it will become more transparent, so that both consumers and investors can trust in it and so that the industry has clear operating rules.

Some of our "Roadmap" coverage will focus on forecasts, insight and predictions about where the industry is headed. And while the future may be more unknown than known, there is a clear path being laid as we speak. New regulations are already being hammered out, new funding sources established, and new business practices tried. There are already glimmers of a newly organized real estate environment in which virtual wins over brick and mortar, clarity beats confusion, and responsibility and sensible underwriting trump greed.

The Inman News team — including staff writers, columnists and contributions from you — will focus relentlessly on this future in the months and years to come. We intend to offer you a peek into the future with ideas on what the industry will and should look like, and what you need to do to operate in this new environment.

We intend to concentrate on five major areas of coverage in this project:

Regulation: A new regulatory framework must be put in place around mortgage-back securities, their ratings and their packaging; around how loans are underwritten, explained and approved; around how mortgage brokers and Realtors are governed and are paid; and around the relationships between different parties such as title companies, builders, agents and lenders.

Technology: New innovations will lead the housing market out of its current mess. The Web brings transparency to the process through the publication of listings, the addition of related information, and through new applications. Core to this new future are better real estate analytics. The market desperately needs better information on the pricing and the sales trends in micro, regional and national markets.

Markets: The future of the housing market depends on stability, such as working off the excess inventory and boosting pent-up demand for borrowers who cannot get loans. How, when and where will the recovery take place? And what will lead us out of the current market doom?

Marketing: Real estate marketing is changing quickly and more so because of the down housing market. Advertisers are looking for more cost-effective marketing vehicles and online advertising will overwhelm the past dependency on print ads. Properties are taking longer to sell and there is a wide range of online destinations for consumers. Add to that the rise of social media and social networks that have opened up new advertising vehicles. The dependency on print ads is unquestionably over. But what the new form of online marketing looks like is evolving day by day. And the questions remain: What is working now? What will work in the future?

Business practices: Imagine brokers without offices, agents without brokers, and all real estate data accessible and available to all. New business models will emerge, new revenue streams will be uncovered and new partnerships will be tested. Also, relationships between brokers and agents, consumers, vendors and salespeople will change radically. Massive consolidation will dramatically change who leads the industry and who has market share. How and why?

These are just some of the questions that we are considering.

But we need your feedback and help. There are a variety of ways to participate:

1. Inman News is conducting two surveys: The Roadmap to Recovery survey focuses on broad changes that participants expect to see in the industry, and the second survey, Future of Real Estate Commissions, focuses on current trends and future expectations for real estate commission income. Surveys participants will enter a drawing for a $200 Amazon.com gift card.

Click here to participate in the Roadmap to Recovery survey.

And click here to participate in the Future of Real Estate Commissions survey.

2. Visit this Web page or download this PDF file, answer the 10 questions and send your responses back to future@inman.com by Dec. 31, 2008. Make sure you include your name, title, company and e-mail. We will be publishing these questions and answers over the next few months.

3. We are also calling for essays that focus the future of real estate. Write no more than 400 words on how to reinvent the real estate industry and revive the housing market. Pick a category — brokers, agents, technology, title or lending — or discuss the entire industry. Our editorial team will review the essays, publish many of them, and hand out a $500 check to the author of the best essay.

4. We are looking for video submissions that answer this question: If you were God, a king or the President, what would you do to fix the housing market? Start the video with "I would …" and keep them brief (less than two minutes). The winning video will get two free passes to Real Estate Connect (valid for new registrations only) — there is a Dec. 31, 2008, deadline for video submissions.

5. Participate in our FREE Town Hall Webinar on Dec. 10.

6. Participate in the following online Group discussions at the Inman.com Community section: Agent of the Future, Brokerage of the Future, The Future of the MLS, the Future of Real Estate Lending.

7. Join us at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York City from Jan. 7-9 — the Roadmap to Recovery project will be a central theme.

Watch Inman News for more news and information related to the Roadmap to Recovery project.

***

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