The winds of change are blowing again, and calls for change are coming from inside and outside the industry.

Have you seen the article this week in Entrepreneur Magazine, “Who will step up and disrupt the real estate industry”?

Bill Wendel

Bill Wendel

Like another article published on Gawker in March, “Could someone disrupt real estate, please?” it’s creating a lot of buzz.

The recent REBarCamp in Boston spawned a Facebook group, Real Estate is Broken. Compare this hard-hitting, insider’s expose of 25 ways real estate is broken to softball questions directed at talking heads during industry conventions, or not addressed at all.

There was a time when consumer advocates and technology innovators intent on changing the real estate industry gathered at Real Estate Connect conferences in New York and San Francisco.

Brad Inman’s post last April, “Real estate disruption may not be what you think it is,” reveals the growing disconnect with the most disruptive business models and a new generation of FSBOs — technology enabled homeowners seeking to save money by selling for-sale-by-owner:

“I have never believed that real estate disruption comes from consumers selling their own houses,” Inman wrote. “Individual real estate agents are here to stay. They provide an invaluable service that most of us need and want.”

Historical context

Efforts to reform the residential real estate industry span more than 30 years, beginning in 1983 when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated the industry and then rose in frequency eight years later when the Consumer Federation of American first called the industry a “cartel.”

In 2006, the FTC and the U.S. Department of Justice held hearings and brought legal action against the industry and individual MLSs to create a more open, competitive real estate marketplace.

Some predicted that the fruit of those reform efforts, market innovation and Web-savvy consumers would yield $30 billion annually in consumer savings.

How do we rekindle that spirit and deliver those savings?

Several times over the past two decades, alternative real estate business models have struggled to organize three different groups: (1) buyer’s agents, (2) fee-for-service real estate consultants, and (3) LEOs: Listing Entry Only services. Is there enough membership/infrastructure left in any of those groups to rekindle the reform movement?

One nonprofit — Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate (CAARE) — is underfunded, but is a credible source that the press, including Inman News, seeks out for the consumer’s perspective.

RECALL (Real Estate Consumer Alliance) is a related but informal group that has mobilized in the past on an ad-hoc basis to address a variety of issues that negatively impact consumers, like designated agency legislation.

Co-creating synergy

If you’d like to reconnect with fellow change agents and follow or participate in disruption related conversations, please visit the link below.

Alternatively, simply follow the hashtag #RE2020 to see if a new coalition/new generation of real estate consumer advocates and geeks can make progress towards an open real estate ecosystem by 2020.


1. SPEED NETWORKING online at noon Eastern, Friday, Oct. 10. Contact for details.

2. BARCAMP BOSTON offline Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11-12. Want to meet offline and continue the collaborative mapping exercise:  (1) Where is real estate broken or (2) vulnerable to disruption, and (3) where are new start-ups already making inroads?

3.  MEET next week, Oct. 16, at in Boston, and explore best ways to build traction for disruption, reform and realignment in residential real estate, too.

4.  SHARE the link to our related blog post, disrupt, reform or realign real estate: “Opportunities to connect dots & build synergy.”

Bill Wendel is a consumer advocate and fee-for-service pioneer. This article is adapted from his blog, The Real Estate Cafe.

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