Brokerage

The reformers: Derek Eisenberg

Real estate rabble-rousers are pushing industry toward change

Derek Eisenberg is the founder of Hackensack, New Jersey-based Continental Real Estate Group Inc., operator of MultipleListingSystem.com, a state-of-the-art brokerage offering listing services in more than 60 MLSs spanning 16 states and the District of Columbia.

Did you have causes when you were younger? What were they?

In every business I have ever been involved with, I have tried to automate and innovate to improve the customer experience. Most businesses I look at can do it better. When I was a kid, I had a paper route. Customers wanted their newspaper early but my route was large, and I could never carry enough papers to keep moving through the route without going back to replenish. So I built a trailer that attached to my bicycle. The bike had a banana seat so I was sitting over the rear wheel near the trailer and I could easily reach back, grab a paper and toss it on the subscriber’s front walk. It allowed me to keep riding, never stop to replenish papers and get my customers their Sunday paper on time to read with their morning cup of coffee.

If you have one cause for changing the real estate industry, what is it?

I am a big believer that consumers change industries and great entrepreneurs are just better at recognizing what consumers are looking for and delivering it. My cause is to deliver what I hear consumers asking for, which is more broker-assisted online services for the do-it-yourself home seller.

You seem compelled to change the industry, why?

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I am a do-it-yourselfer. I like projects but like most handy people, without the tools of the trade, it’s not easy to keep up with the pros. While in college back in the ’80s, I saw Charles Schwab gaining traction and changing the way people traded securities. I had been in real estate first as a rental agent in the ’80s, then as an appraiser in the ’90s. In the late ’90s with the advent of the dot-com revolution I thought why isn’t someone doing the same thing with real estate that Schwab did with securities? That was what compelled me to try to change the industry.

When the market was down for the better part of six years, we kept coding."

What practices upset you the most?

Licensees that charge 6 percent, throw a listing in the MLS and do absolutely nothing. The ones that work hard and provide great consulting, negotiating and other related-type services are an asset, but the ones that charge full price and don’t work hard for their clients drive me nuts.

Why do they bug you so much?

Apathy for their clients and the cloud they create over our industry. Given what some licensees are charging consumers, it bothers me when those same licensees attempt to put a listing on auto-pilot and do very little.

Where do you think solutions to problems you see come from?

Lots of lines of computer code. Consumers need more tools. Applications that can help a do-it-yourselfer, who is sometimes an amateur, market like a pro without making mistakes. They need tools to do things but also some safeguards so they do a good job and don’t get hurt. When the market was down for the better part of six years, we kept coding. Innovative brokerages that develop software are the solution to the problems I see.

Will the market take care of bad actors? The government? The industry itself?

For the most part, actors providing value will thrive in a free market and those that don’t will fail. However, when trade groups lobby legislatures to impose unnecessary minimum levels of service, falsely veiled in the name of consumer protection when in actuality they are anti-competitive efforts to stop changes in the marketplace, then the government has to step in. The DoJ and FTC need federal legislation and case law to combat the state action doctrine when states create laws that perpetuate antitrust and stifle competition.

Do you ever feel your efforts are for naught?

I don’t get discouraged easily. I have always been an optimist. I see a very robust future.

What motivates you to persevere?

The smile on my customer’s faces when they sell and the kind words they write back.

If you had a magic wand, how would you use it to change the real estate industry?

1) I would mandate fast easy and inexpensive reciprocal licensure in all states.

2) I would standardize and publish online public records in all states, including but not limited to standardizing measurements of finished and unfinished, above- and below-grade square footage.

3) I would help MLSs to understand that third-party aggregators like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com must return leads to the listing broker free of charge or buy the listings from the MLS to offset our MLS dues.

Who in the industry inspires you?

My inspiration is actually a leader in another financial services industry: Charles Schwab. I have similar respect and regard for William A. Porter and Bernard A. Newcomb who founded eTrade and Roger Riney who founded Scottrade.

Inman News is profiling reformers and rabble-rousers who have a bone to pick with the real estate industry and are advocates for change. Want to be part of this series? Drop us a line at press@inman.com and tell us about your cause.