There’s always something to howl about

Where Were You When The Real Estate Industry Morphed?

Life is good — I’ll be going to the Master’s next week. It’s been a few years since I’ve gone. A friend has some family connection with passes and if one of his business clients back out, he gets me in. Business is picking up also. I just got a contract on one of my “flips” before I even finished and put it on the market, so now I’ll change hats and be a buyer for a while looking for another one.

Leads are coming in on a regular basis, a mixture of strong leads, not so strong and weak. They are all possibilities. I’ve even had time to browse the web and see all the distinctions without much difference being made. As topics run thin we tend to make finer and finer distinctions to prove….what? Superiority? Most likely. Hell, I always think I’m superior. Well, not really, I just like to think I am a lot of the time. In my better moments I realize I’m perpetually on a learning curve. Just as soon as I’m ready to crown myself as “Expert” I hear something from left field that sends me back to the drawing board, to tweak, re-think, adjust.

Perhaps that’s the highest value of this great learning environment called the internet, we’re contantly evolving and becoming better, never crowned for long as “Expert”. However, the more we learn the closer we get to being knowledgable enough to know what we don’t know and how to find the missing pieces.

One thing that fires my imagination and pulls me into the good and the bad of the internet is the growing “conversation”. From Maine to Florida and from Georgia to Oregon, to Canada and overseas, people typing away, posting and responding, creating conversations that for certain specific interests like real estate become Great Conversations with various ideas and concepts being woven throughout. There’s no central authority managing the conversation, there’s no hierarchy of experts, only diverse voices growing, hopefully, not into a Tower of Babel but in different directions of movement and progress until the best ideas and concepts begin forming a great change for the better.

It’s a such a great opening up and so much more comprehensive than when agents had their board approved continuing ed with different experts droning on about traditional, staid subjects that had little impact on competence and excellence and innovation. We can now be in tune with the heartbeat of the real estate industry around the world, connected to all the ideas and concepts popping up all over. And we can be a part of the change with our little voices being given a microphone and an audience — “Hey, me down here in Mississippi, I have an idea.” — “Great idea Mississippi, I’m from Idaho, and I think…” — on and on goes the Great Conversation.

The self-proclaimed experts who weren’t voted in by the internet voices grumble and call it rabble as they are pushed further and further into the wasteland until their voices are a distance squeaking sound. Some of them see what’s happening and join in, the rest think of ways to create a counter-revolution to control it. It’s out of control — it has been for years, only now more and more people are recognizing it and enjoying the freedom. However, freedom is frightening to many in the beginning and radical changes are resisted because they’re uncomfortable — “But what if I can’t make it in this free real estate market? Isn’t it better to have protection, to group together and let central control protect us from chaos?”

Freedom requires flexibility, quick change, constant adjustment, nimble minds, strong spirits — it’s not for those looking for safety and protection. I might be wrong, the mood might turn and the whole industry migh hunker down in a defensive mode to fight the barbarians of change at the gates, but it seems unlikely. What seems likely is that this movement of change and freedom created by the internet will roll over the whole industry and nothing will be quite the same. There will still be a need for service but how it’s delivered, charged for and paid for will be changed. Too much is happening too quickly for things to remain the same. The scary part of all this for me is not the freedom and the change, but the lobbying efforts that will no doubt take place for government intervention.

When things change too quickly and too many in entrenched power are affected there is a cry for regulation. I believe one of the defining issues of our industry in the coming years will be how far freedom can be pushed on the internet before government tries to control it — the isuue being will they and should they and which side the majority in our industry will fall on, freedom or control? Will new ways of marketing, selling and buying real estate be created by internet companies that dismantle our industry as we know it, for good, and will agents and companies adapt easily and willingly to the changes or will they fight it?

I’ve purposefully avoided any concrete predictions of what the changes might be. We already see some of them, and we’ve talked about the possibilities of others like compensation, representation, super teams, companies adopting buiness 2.0 models, rating systems, licensure, discount brokerages, cafeteria services, do-it-your-selfers, RE site innovations.

The big question is how we will react when it really breaks loose.

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    5 Comments so far

    1. Wayne Long April 1st, 2008 9:21 am

      You are right! We are in a state of flux but like you I am not sure where it is headed. I don’t know what the new models will be but I want to be in a position to adapt when they come. Come on – take a shot at what you think the dominant brokerage structure will be. :)

    2. Sean Purcell April 1st, 2008 10:03 am

      Great post Mike (as usual).

      When I was in college most of our studies had this pattern: one large lecture per week delivered by the grand thinker himself, followed by 2-3 classes with fellow students facilitated by the professor or a grad student.

      The lecture was a one way process and usually quite informative. From it I was introduced to new ideas and concepts. But the classes are what I remember. The free exchange of ideas was by far the more educational opportunity. I came away from those years understanding that real learning, a change in the way one thinks or in the process of thinking itself (as opposed to rote memorization) comes from these types of democratic exchanges.

      God Bless the Internet.

    3. Mike Farmer April 1st, 2008 11:51 am

      Thanks Wayne and Sean.

      “Come on – take a shot at what you think the dominant brokerage structure will be.”

      Well, Sean and I were going to co-ordinate to draw up the blueprint. I’m still game. If Sean will participate, since he has some great ideas, I’ll start it off on Bonzai.

    4. John Kalinowski April 2nd, 2008 6:48 am


      Where do you see the “typical” large brokerage companies fitting in as things change? I’m part of one now, and I always find it peculiar how the big brokerages pretend to have one set of standards for service, marketing, professionalism, etc. The truth is that each office is actually a conglomeration of hundreds of individual “companies”, since each agent tends to have their own marketing and advertising program, and many different levels of service and professionalism.

      Do you think these big companies will survive in their present form as representation and commissions change, or will the morph into something else? What do you feel is the potential for the smaller, creative brokers, such as Bloodhound and Mike Farmer Realty?

      By the way, what is “Bonzai”? Is that some new cool Real Estate 2.0 site, or am I just an idiot?



    5. Mike Farmer April 3rd, 2008 3:50 pm

      hey, John, I just saw your response. I believe big brokerages will need to adapt to biz 2.0 just like small companies. The cynical side of me says that if the industry gets worse, big companies will get bigger and partner with RE sites to fulfill their “online” efforts and small companies will disappear and business will go on as usual.

      Bonzai is my industry RE blog (click on the link above) where I write about this stuff — my latest is about what I see as possibilities and what I think needs to happen. Mostly just looking at options to what we have.

      Truthfully, I have no idea what WILL happen.