Finding logic in an illogical industry

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Recently, I had a long chat with a new friend of mine, Patrick Healy (phacient.com). Both of us share viewpoints on various topics, including the real estate industry. In the middle of our conversation, he said something to me that followed me around for a few days; something I’d like to elaborate on…and something on which I’d love to hear others’ perspective.  He said, “…the problem is, you are being logical in an illogical industry.” Now, I’ll to skip over the illogicality of the entire real estate business model; where professional services come at no upfront cost, with no limit of quantity consumed.

Let’s focus strictly on technology.

Can someone please help me explain the logic behind the segmented technologies in the industry, and furthermore, why real estate professionals are okay with it? I see so much innovation trying to occur, but it reminds me of trying to teach my grandpa how to use his new Samsung Galaxy…or helping my mother use her new tablet app to conduct home appraisals. It’s the segmentation and unwillingness to get outside of a comfort zone; that is holding the industry back from its true potential. Some may even argue it will be the demise of the ‘real estate agent’ altogether.

How do we fix it? In my humble opinion, it’s two words; Open Graph.

For those who aren’t familiar with these two words; here’s a definition, as spelled out by Facebook:

Open Graph helps people tell stories about their lives with the apps they use. It provides developers with the opportunity to deeply integrate their app into the core Facebook experience, which enables distribution and growth.

If you substitute the word ‘real estate’ for ‘their lives’ and ‘Facebook’ in their definition, you start to get the picture of what I’m talking about. However, there is a critical piece missing in the real estate industry; the “CORE”, or the logic, if you will. What if Facebook had different distribution in every state…or even in the same state for that matter. It would be a nightmare right?

With so many different MLS vendors, and IDX solutions, and data restrictions, and legacy systems, and ulterior motives…it’s nearly impossible to enable distribution and growth in an efficient way.So, how do we achieve this ‘CORE’? To me, these three pieces are critical:

DITCH THE OLD-SCHOOL NOTION OF A ‘MLS’

Yes, we do need a repository for real estate data; but the parameters around which we need it, and how it needs to function, have completely changed. It’s nearly impossible to innovate around 900 repositories.

One will do just fine.

UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF THE CONSUMER

There is one thing that give consumers power in any industry; INFORMATION. It also happens to be the one thing that makes a real estate agent’s service most valuable. The quicker agents understand this, the more valuable (and viable) their service will become. Now, looking at the first two pieces above, imagine a consumer facing, real estate information portal wherein real estate agents & brokers control the content, and abundance of it (notice I said “a”, meaning one). Consumers get the information they want, in the interest of searching for, or selling a home, while the agents provide the “professional information” that consumers need to activate a home purchase or sale. Furthermore, imagine the innovation that could occur in this environment. With one language and one API, a multitude of valuable & creative applications could flourish, and scale. From proprietary broker applications, to branded agent pages & blogs, to third party process management vendors; a seamless experience could finally exist within one framework. No more worrying about IDX integrations. No more fighting with MLS vendors who claim “ownership” of data that real estate agents pay to give them. No more confusion. No more BS. No more illogicality.

Sounds easy right? Let’s just build it and make it happen! Not so fast.

This is where the final, and most important piece comes into play.

REVERSE MENTORSHIP AT A HIGH LEVEL

The stage is being set for what generations of the (near) future will come to expect in every consumer industry. Strictly by circumstance, there is a disconnect between these generations, and the ones currently making most of the high level, industry decisions; especially in real estate. It will take acts of humility, and a shift away from the established lines of bureaucracy to bring real estate up with the times.

I have a clear vision (and genuine passion) for the future of the industry. I’ve spoken with many others who share this same vision and passion. Yet, the industry remains complacent while the rest of the world continues on. However, I don’t think it wants to be complacent. I truly believe it has no choice. There is simply no framework to innovate from. I’m confident there are thousands of people out there who could help take the industry to new places, if they simply had the chance.

That said, I challenge all of the decision makers in our industry to come together with us and worktowards a ‘CORE’. Let’s let innovation (and logic) flourish!

And in the words of Jerry Maguire – Who’s coming with me?!