Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Taxicabs, Then Uber. Real Estate Brokerages Then ???

Long-time real estate journalist Brad Inman published this piece about a coming disruption in the real estate industry, comparing it to such upheavals as Uber has caused for the taxicab biz, and other examples. It's in line with some thoughts I've had for years (except he does it better), some of which I wrote about for LinkedIn, which you can read here if you're interested. I've been following Inman News off and on for decades, and Brad continues to be on his game.

In my article, I wrote that demographics and technology are likely forcing a change in real estate buying and selling as we know it. Brad took a slightly different--and probably better--tack by discussing the changes between brokerage and consumer brought about by the internet, such as Zillow and Trulia, and comparing the situation to the upheavals technology caused in other industries.

A few years ago, I fooled around for about 20 minutes with the idea of setting up a website that would serve as a real estate exchange, where people could post their homes for sale, for free. Revenue would have come from various real estate professionals advertising services on the site. A programmer friend looked into it and me know how much work it would take--a lot--and friends and colleagues in the real estate trade didn't seem to think much of the idea. Sadly, I went home and locked myself in the closet.

Now, I'm wondering if that's what Zillow et al aren't up to. Redfin's part way there, since they're already licensed. But what if Zillow and Trulia started pitching to sellers to list for free on their sites? These websites already make their money by getting brokers and others to advertise. Free listings would only up the advertising game.

Upheaval is coming, but like the Big One on the West Coast, we just don't know when.