NEW YORK — The "cottage economy" — a movement of individual entrepreneurs creating products and technologies — is a very real and growing phenomenon, Inman News owner and publisher Brad Inman said during an opening address at the Real Estate Connect conference today.

After playing a famous clip from the 1976 film "Network," in which a news anchor shouts, "I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore," Inman noted the public’s present-day disgust over the state of economic and political affairs, manifested in the tea party and Occupy Wall Street movements, as examples.

He said people are mad at overpaid executives, mad at Congress, and "mad at big institutions, generally."

People are "sick of national brands that dupe us; sick of commoditization; sick of mass production," he said, which has led to the growth of entrepreneurialism — something that harkens back to the roots of the nation.

"Small is beautiful again, which is exciting," he said. Some have referred to this trend as "indie economics," or the "single-batch economic recovery," among other names, he noted.

He cited the example of online marketplace Etsy, which offers handmade items, among other wares, and that trend is being played out in many industries, from authors to musicians.


Brad Inman

Small, compact, specialized businesses are taking hold, he said, and people can go directly to the Internet to get their customers these days.

"We can be agile, we don’t need office space, we don’t need overhead, we don’t need all of those bureaucrats in the middle," he said. "It’s about craftsmanship and it’s about technology."

Real estate professionals are well positioned to tap this trend, and to provide quality service. "It is atomized, it is bottoms-up, focused on individual service," he said, adding that brokers and franchisors are challenged in this new environment.

"I think brokers and franchises need to radically change their business model. They need to help agents build their brand. They need to pick a strategy around services they provide to these agents," Inman said.

He also said he believes the economics are no longer there to support the overhead of massive brokerage offices. "The cost of that overhead cannot be capitalized anymore. You have to think local, you have to think quality, you have to be efficient."

Becoming paperless should be a no-brainer for real estate professionals and companies, he said, and "opening up social channels for feedback is absolutely critical to making good decisions for your customer. Your strategy is your service. High-quality local service done right is better than sloppy service."

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