It’s tradition. OK, whatever.
I’m talking turkey, of course. I will go out on a limb and bet that most of us are going to be eating turkey this week. I will also be so bold as to suggest most of us aren’t really fans of the big bird.
Face it. Turkey isn’t all that great. It’s a dry, rather bland meat. And it doesn’t matter how you baste it, soak it, broil it, or deep-fry the darn thing, it’s still a turkey. Which is precisely why God invented green bean casserole — so we don’t all starve to death on Thanksgiving.
Why do we continue to eat the stuff, then? If memory serves me, the tradition of eating turkey in November is a big shout-out to that first Thanksgiving. You know, the one where all the pilgrims and the friendly Native Americans (who would only later find out they had no title insurance) drove their Belvederes to Plymouth Rock to grab a bite to eat. As it turned out, filet mignon and free-range lasagna were not readily available; alas, turkey was.
It’s that simple. Plus, it turns out that turkeys were pretty easy to catch, as were pumpkins and Betty Crocker frozen pie crusts, apparently. Having perpetrated this culinary atrocity for generations, we’ve somehow lost the willingness or even the desire to evolve.
But, at risk of belaboring the issue, not too many people really love turkey. Oh, sure, you may say you "like" it. If you’re honest, though, a good In-N-Out burger (or for you foodies, a big helping of polenta-encrusted knuckle of shipping box pate infused with truffle essence) will trump the turkey every day of the week. Yet we continue to flock like birds of a feather to this antiquated meal delivery system, a throwback to the days where the rules and the resources were different.
Someone, someday, is going to figure this out. It’s going to take someone bold, someone innovative, someone not shackled by the chains of convention or encumbered by political pressure — someone with vision and venture capital.
It won’t be our member associations or our MLSs.
Someone, someday, is going to figure out that clinging to tradition makes sense only when the traditions make sense. In fact, they already have. And the turncoats go by curious names like Zillow and Trulia, carpetbaggers for sure, but brilliant and well-capitalized opportunists who recognized that the hunters’ muskets of yore have been replaced with search boxes. If you will allow me to mix my history lessons much like I mix my metaphors, today we are met on a great battlefield of that war.
Last week, Edina Realty announced that it will be pulling the plug on listing feeds to third-party aggregators. What’s the beef? According to Edina, this move is as much about protecting the client from the liabilities of data inaccuracies as it is about recapturing the flag.
While I disagree in part with the justification, I understand the motivation. This is not really about bad data being a liability to clients; it is about the liability to agents and brokers as they watch their own traffic diminish, having given away their data in the name of exposure — exposure for the clients they represent and themselves — only to find that they must now pay the ransom to bring the hostages home.
But, that’s not really the point. The point is that we have reached the autumn of our discontent, yet the table was long ago set. Absent some heroic and highly coordinated measures, that bird is cooked.
Recently, Zillow acquired IDX provider Diverse Solutions. Zillow already owns Postlets, a listing distribution platform. At a minimum, this positions Zillow to be a one-stop shop for the agents whose advertising dollars it courts. In the long term, it could present an opportunity to supplant our current MLS system.
Sure, use of the data in Zillow’s newly acquired IDX arsenal comes with strings attached; it is limited by the individual license agreements. But, it wasn’t so long ago that the consumer couldn’t search for homes online at all. It wasn’t so long ago that there wasn’t an Internet. Things change, and they will. When they do, folks like Zillow will be well positioned to lead the coup.
Things change, but our industry does not. At least, not swiftly, decisively or cohesively enough to ever be a player in any game but catch-up.
My own MLS, Sandicor, recently unveiled its own consumer-facing website. It’s a good idea, albeit a decade too late, but it’s a very poor execution. This is the best we could do?
According to Sandicor, "This website is designed to turn the consumer’s focus back to Brokers and Agents and away from third party sites such as Zillow and Trulia."
Now I can’t be sure, but from my view from the kids’ table, I would say the only site this one is going to compete with is mine — and every other local brokerage site (their own members’ sites) with an IDX solution. And it’s not because Sandicor’s site is better than most brokerage sites; it is not. It is because Sandicor outranks me on the food chain and will, therefore, outrank me in customer reach.
If you really want to remain relevant, and if you really want to preserve your broker and agent members’ places at the center of the real estate discussion, besting me should not be your goal. You need to be better than those who have used your data to create something more appetizing. When you show up this late to a party, you need to make a splash.
There is a lot of "so what" complacency in the agent community. "So what if my listings get broader exposure? That’s good for my clients." Well, maybe so. I certainly understand that argument (and, admittedly, I still feed my listings to the world like nobody’s business). But could there be a larger endgame involving disintermediation? And if that happens, will the client argument still be relevant?
At least Edina is breaking tradition. But it will either take a broker mutiny of epic proportions to reverse the current trend or our many, disjointed local associations and MLSs to get their collective acts together committed to regaining control of the conversation.
The Zillows of the world are consolidating — they are consolidating our listings and the various tools required to bring them to market — while we, a rag-tag militia of brokers and associations, are fragmenting under the weight of a political turf war seemingly intent on defending stale tradition.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
While our industry remains mired in tradition, cloaked in a paradigm that long ago flew the coop, I fear that the table has been reset and the menu reinvented by others who will in turn rewrite our own history.
Maybe I am being an alarmist. But then, the Native Americans didn’t see it coming either when they shared that first harvest. I just hope somebody is paying attention.