Brokers, Don't Fear the Fish, Fear the Friend

So Redfin was on 60 Minutes last night – What’s your take?

Mine? Hardly hard-hitting journalism. A PR puff piece if I ever saw one. Redfin just got handed a trophy before the race is even finished.

That said, I’m a big Redfin fan and I think the 60 Minutes story is just what they needed to kick off their next round of investment – here’s hoping they find it, the industry won’t be half as fun without them.

For me, the Redfin brouhaha overshadowed a much more interesting announcement though. The news that Facebook is going to offer free Classifieds. Now you can sell your junk on to your network of buddies. (More from Drew Meyers – who even tests it out).

The big brokers shouldn’t worry about Redfin – what they should be worried about is Facebook.

No, I don’t literally mean the site best known as a way for college kids to organize the next kegger and ‘Friend’ each other – I do mean social networks and their growing popularity and use in many aspects of business however.

The MLS was the original social network. It designed to allow brokers to share listings with each other. What social networking software like Facebook or Ning accomplish is takes that power to disseminate information and hand it directly to the individuals, to the agents themselves.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a fully functional social network designed exclusively for agents to share listings with each other by year’s end.

With infrastructure like that coupled with the ability to create their own networks, an agent’s dependence on having access to the MLS through their broker becomes less and less relevant.

Agents could develop their own networks to be as exclusive or inclusive as they want. They could be hyper local or broadly based. One can imagine many scenarios where these networks could be very effective ways to market properties, especially on the high end; for Beverly Hills luxury homes or New York Brownstoners, homes in the Hamptons or land in Montana, for example.

So who’s in the position to develop this kind of site? Well, certainly Zillow – I have an inkling that their Agent Profiles are just the first step in this direction… they already claim to have 30,000 agents active on their site already, and all they have to do is give them the means to connect with each other. ActiveRain already does this, so does the Point2NLS but both sites are kind of clumsy in their implementation of truly social features. Move.com would be wise to ‘move’ in this direction but would probably struggle with agent buy-in, at least initially.

A stumbling block may be the lack of desire for agents to work together, but I think the spirit of “coopertition” can thrive here. Marketing properties to consumers is just the first step (see Marketing Real Estate on Facebook), marketing listings to each other could be the next.