There’s always something to howl about

Transparency And The Wizard Of Oz

OZ’S VOICE: Do not arouse the wrath of the Great and Powerful Oz! I said — come back tomorrow!

I bought my first house in 1984 when I was 22 years old. It was in Speedway, IN. I do not remember much about the detail of the transaction, but I do remember sifting through the classifieds of the newspaper, trying to get a feel for what I might be able to afford. I remember feeling lost. I didn’t know anyone in the real estate industry or where to begin, so I began calling around for someone to assist me. I had no clue what to look for. If someone had said, “come back tomorrow,” if I wanted the information, I would have had to come back tomorrow. How else was I going to get what I wanted?

When I look back, I’m amazed at how little control we as consumers had over what we were shown. I don’t remember giving it a second thought at the time. The real estate agent was like the Great and Powerful Oz. I was just happy to have a sitting.

DOROTHY: If you were really great and powerful, you’d keep your promises!

OZ’S VOICE: Do you presume to criticize the Great Oz?

[Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal the Wizard at the controls. The Wizard is unaware]

OZ’S VOICE: You ungrateful creatures! Think yourselves lucky that I’m giving you audience tomorrow, instead of twenty years from now!

[He turns, looks and sees that the curtain is gone -- reacts and turns back to the controls]

OZ’S VOICE: Oh — oh oh! The Great Oz has spoken! Oh — Oh…

[The Wizard pulls back the curtain]

I get it. The Wizard had a great gig. Who’d want to give up being the Great and Powerful Oz? I know why he’d want to pull back the curtain. I know why he’d try to pretend no one saw him. Wouldn’t you do the same thing?

And I can understand why real estate agents were reluctant to move boldly to the Internet, to give up the information. I mean, for goodness sakes, they were in control. They had a seat in the throne room all to themselves. I can understand the fear.

OZ’S VOICE: … Oh …. Oh ….

DOROTHY: Who are you?

[The Wizard peers out from curtain, then ducks back out of sight and his voice booms out again]

OZ’S VOICE: Oh – I – Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. Go – before I lose my temper! The Great and Powerful Oz has spoken.

Enter the Internet… and the flood of information… and the consumer behind the curtain.

[Dorothy pulls back the curtain to reveal the Wizard at the controls]

DOROTHY: Who are you?

OZ’S VOICE: Well, I — I — I am the Great and Powerful — Wizard of Oz.

DOROTHY: You are?

WIZARD: Uhhhh — yes…

DOROTHY: I don’t believe you!

WIZARD: No, I’m afraid it’s true. There’s no other Wizard except me.

SCARECROW: You humbug!

LION: Yeah!

WIZARD: Yes-s-s — that…that’s exactly so. I’m a humbug!

DOROTHY: Oh …. you’re a very bad man!

WIZARD: Oh, no, my dear — I’m — I’m a very good man. I’m just a very bad Wizard.

SCARECROW: You’d better be good enough to send Dorothy back to Kansas!

And so that is where we find ourselves today. The Great and Powerful Real Estate Wizards have all been exposed. The veil has been pierced. The curtain pulled back. And the natural first reaction is anger. We say, “Oh, you’re very bad!” Why? Because we still want what we went looking for in the first place.

And the Scarecrow is right, you’d better be good enough! Because you have no curtain to hide behind now.

I’m sure you remember how the story ends. The Honest and Humble Wizard uses his wisdom and experience to do what the Great and Powerful Wizard could never have done. He embraced the forced transparency. He gave them his experience and he helped lead them to EXACTLY what they were searching for. And he did it in a way that empowered them at the same time.

But our story has more than one Wizard. And more than one ending.

In our story, each exposed Wizard gets to decide how they’re going to react to the curtain being pulled back. Therefore, I’d like to make a suggestion to all of you Wizards out there. You would do well to react like the Wizard of Oz. Show us your true self. Don’t pretend the curtain is still there. Lay it all on the line. Let us see you and know you. Tell us the truth. Use your wisdom, knowledge and experience to help us find what we’re searching for.

If you do, you’ll earn our respect and admiration. You’ll also earn our business. If you don’t. We’ll find a Wizard who will, or be forced to find another way back to Kansas.

Related posts:
  • Are Our Customers EnTitle-ed To Better Fees?
  • Being a Trust-Player
  • We’re off to beat the Wizard…


    24 Comments so far

    1. Ed Rybczynski January 30th, 2007 7:48 am

      Bravo! Very well said. The message is honest and timely.

    2. The Lovely Wife January 30th, 2007 7:59 am

      I agree. Well said.

      Hey, did you know we, Broker Bryant, and I have never been behind that curtain? SVW.


    3. NVmike January 30th, 2007 10:09 am

      Jeff, good post.

      It reminds me of the Freakonomics chapter entitled: “What do real estate agents and the KKK have in common?” (Title from memory.)

      Contrary to what the title would seem to imply, the theme of the chapter is not racial or prejudicial, but centers around power based on control of information and how each group has exploited that power.

    4. ardell dellaloggia January 30th, 2007 10:27 am

      So Dorothy says there’s no place like HOME and the wizard says, you’ve had the power all along, just click your heals together in those ruby slippers.

      The internet is like opening the door to the biggest shoe store in town. One of those pairs of shoes will take you home, but if you don’t know it’s the ruby red onces, it could be a frustrating journey.

      Reminds me of an agent who recently said she was showing houses for months to a couple. Her broker felt sorry for her one day and handed her a listing and said, “Here, show them THIS one.” They bought it.

      Some like the journey through Munchkin-land and the struggle with witches and monkeymen…some just want you to cut to the chase, hand them the ruby slippers so that all they have to do is click their heels and get the home.

      But most of all, everyone wants to know what the fair price for those ruby slippers is, and they don’t want to hear “whatever they are willing to pay” as the answer.

    5. Jeff Turner January 30th, 2007 10:40 am

      Ed, thanks. I had fun writing it.

      TLW [SVW]… I get that impression!

      Mike, you’ve got my attention. I just went and found an excerpt of Chapter 2 of Freakonomics:

      Chapter 2: How Is the Ku Klux Klan Like a Group of Real-Estate Agents?

      “Going undercover in the Ku Klux Klan . . . Why experts of every kind are in the perfect position to exploit you . . . The antidote to information abuse: the Internet.”

      I am off to buy the book and read some of the author’s blog right now. I can’t even comment intelligently until I do, but I can say this – I’m glad you got my point. This too was about “power based on control of information.”

      What I hope real estate agents take away from this is the sense that there is a higher form of power that comes from being someone who empowers by sharing information transparently, as opposed to someone who hides behind the perception of power.

      Thanks for pointing me to this.

    6. Jeff Turner January 30th, 2007 10:49 am

      ARDELL!!! Our comments crossed paths. I was hoping someone would carry this analogy through to the ruby slippers.

      “Some like the journey through Munchkin-land and the struggle with witches and monkeymen… some just want you to cut to the chase, hand them the ruby slippers so that all they have to do is click their heels and get the home.”

      I think you’ve played this analogy very well. All I can say is “amen.”

      So, who is Glenda, the “good” witch, in OUR version of the story? And how good was she really? I mean, she could have told Dorothy to click her heals the moment the ruby slippers appeared on her feet. But she didn’t. Instead, she lead Dorothy on a wild goose chase.

    7. Brian Brady January 30th, 2007 5:55 pm

      You’ll LOVE Freakonomics. It will take you 4 hours to read but you won’t be able to put it down for 4-5 days after that.

    8. Jeff Turner January 30th, 2007 6:04 pm

      Brian, I’ve already ordered it. I’ve read a bunch of reviews and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    9. teresa boardman January 30th, 2007 6:23 pm

      I know this sounds lame but I love your post. Unfortunatly a lot of people get way into the home buying or home selling process before they can get a look at what is behind the curtian. They don’t look closely at first because they are simply trying to get what they want. That is why even the worst real estate agents always have business.

    10. Jeff Turner January 30th, 2007 9:00 pm

      Teresa, I’ll take your lame comments any day. Interesting point you make. The stats prove they don’t look closely as well, if you believe stats. NAR says that over 70% of people who start the home buying process on the Internet without an agent choose the very first agent they come into contact with. That explains a lot. It also raises a lot of questions.

    11. Monika January 30th, 2007 9:12 pm

      I understand what you’re saying but I can’t agree with you on this. At least not from where I’m coming from.
      I was a new real estate agent in 1985 and I don’t ever remember feeling like the agents you describe…nor do I recognize any of my peers in that scenario. I always thought New Hampshire was this little country bumpkin state but from what I’ve been reading about REALTORS fearing technology and the internet…about transparency and the fear of irrelevance. I realize just how far ahead we are compared to the rest of the country. And that really amazes me! Oz like agents…LOL I only wish…well not really but the fantasy is nice. Did we have the MLS book…you betcha…and it was our bible. There was no internet back then, at least that I was aware of. Our state has had a state wide MLS service since 1996 and it is open to anyone. I believe we were the first in the nation to have a state wide MLS.
      I remember working with buyers back then and giving them copies of the all listings available…they chose, not me what they wanted to see. I simply never felt empowered over them (consumers)…I needed them…I enjoyed helping them. Still do.

    12. Jeff Turner January 30th, 2007 9:55 pm

      I wish I had read this before I commented on AR. You point of view is obviously welcome and appreciated.

      As I said there, like all analogies there are potential flaws. I’m sure this one has a few. This analogy is really about the consumer perception and how “the wizards” should behave as a result of the change.

      I’ve never lived in New Hampshire, so I can’t speak for how the consumer there felt or feels. I’m obviously generalizing to the population of the U.S. And I’d be willing to bet that what you are describing is the exception. If it weren’t, none of these discussions would be taking place.

      But I’m still betting people in your town were thrilled in 1996 to have full access to the information that they once relied totally on you to share, and surprised by how empowering it was.

      In my analogy, the most important thing behind that curtain was information.

    13. ardell dellaloggia January 30th, 2007 10:30 pm

      Turner, don’t be so quick to apologize!

      Monika says: “I remember working with buyers back then and giving them copies of the all listings available…”

      You say: “if I wanted the information, I would have had to come back tomorrow. How else was I going to get what I wanted?”

      Looks like a match to me. We had a big book that said something like “If a consumer gets their hands on this book, the Realtor responsible for having given it to the consumer will be shot at sunrise, on the first available Tuesday”.

    14. ardell dellaloggia January 30th, 2007 10:45 pm

      Turner Asks:

      “So, who is Glenda, the “good” witch, in OUR version of the story? And how good was she really? I mean, she could have told Dorothy to click her heals the moment the ruby slippers appeared on her feet. But she didn’t. Instead, she lead Dorothy on a wild goose chase.”

      ARDELL Responds:

      Well, that’s a whole nuther story, Turner. More like Hansel and Gretel :)

      When I said “Some like the journey through Munchkin-land and the struggle with witches and monkeymen… some just want you to cut to the chase, hand them the ruby slippers so that all they have to do is click their heels and get the home.”
      I was talking about the CONSUMER, not the AGENT.

      You flipped it around and made it the agent who created or caused it to be a long journey vs. a cut to the chase scenario. Not so, unless the agent is incompetent, which does happen of course.

      But, even the best of us must all too often take “the long road home”. We can’t always get people to see what the need to see in the time they need to see it. Often they are left looking back at the ones that got away, and paying higher prices in the end as a result. There’s no away around that for some people.

      I have to get writing my “year that was” soon, so I’ll end with this. One buyer bought the “wrong” place by making an offer an hour after I met him, and another missed the right place by getting to the right offer price three months too late. You can’t always prevent people from being their own worst enemy.

      Sometimes it takes a few monkeymen in their path for the light bulb to go on. The agent can try flipping that switch 50 times sometimes before that light bulb goes on. Kind of like “You can bring a horse to water, but he may not realize that it IS water until about the tenth time you take him over there.” :)

    15. Jeff Turner January 30th, 2007 11:51 pm

      ARDELL!!! Im an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs (Yes, Greg, I do read your posts) One of the characteristics of the INFJ personality is “promoting harmony and cooperation.” :)

      Here was what I said to Monika on AR:

      “You may not have been hiding behind a curtain, but the information you held certainly was. Much of the perceived value of a REALTORS? services through the years was developed, in part, by the scarcity of information available to the general public. When that information became public, public sentiment changed, just like Dorothy’s feelings about the Wizard.

      And certainly the people in East Hampstead, NH would probably say you were never behind a curtain. But again, I think you will agree the information was. But let’s say we are in 1984 and I’m in California wanting to move to East Hampstead, NH. How do I find out about real estate in East Hampstead, NH? I’m at your mercy. YOU would probably not take advantage of me. YOU specifically may be fully transparent, but I have to make a massive leap of faith. And I’m totally dependent on you. Totally.”

    16. Jeff Turner January 30th, 2007 11:55 pm


      “Some like the journey through Munchkin-land and the struggle with witches and monkeymen… some just want you to cut to the chase, hand them the ruby slippers so that all they have to do is click their heels and get the home.”

      You are correct. I was looking at it from the agent point of view. And I agree with your comment above.

    17. Monika January 31st, 2007 7:37 am

      If I were the only keeper of the information maybe I could see how empowered I could be. Reality for me here is that the consumer is empowered…they do choose who to work with and what to buy. My small town now has a population of about 8,000 and has about 6 real estate agencies. There were at least 5 that I can remember back then and a lot less people. So in your scenario…yes we had the book and yes we were not supposed to give it to anyone like ARDELL said but we did…many times as I’m sure ARDELL did as well. We would routinely make copies of everything available for the consumer. Buyers who sat with me looked through the entire MLS book…I never selected what they could look at.
      If you came to my town in 1985…you would have the ability to see the real estate for sale signs, ads and flyers. You would have gone into an office or called on a sign. Most likely you would have met an agent who wanted to do business with you and that agent would know that if they did not provide service and show you their value…you would have just found yourself another agent on the next street corner.

      We didn’t have Buyer Agency until 1990… back then we were ALL sub-agents. So we only had one way to get buyer loyalty…we couldn’t hide behind a contract to enforce false loyalty…we had to be the best we could be and give quality service that the buyer needed…even if they didn’t know they needed it…or else they simply went elsewhere.

      We didn’t have Agency disclosure requirements until 1990…so you would have been told if asked how the agent gets paid…that the seller pays them…that the seller hired a listing agent and that agency pays a co-operating fee. You would have been given a Sellers disclosure of property condition…which is required in my state and has been as long as I can remember.

      Could you have gotten a crappy agent that might have felt empowered and used that power?….Sure anything is possible. We had some crappy agents back then just like today…it’s a crap shot and we still even today have no way to enforce minimum standards of competency. I’m sure glad times have changed Jeff. I just don’t think the OZ scenario was the attitude found everywhere. Sorry for writing a book on your post Jeff :)

    18. Ann Cummings January 31st, 2007 12:11 pm


      I just read your post twice, and all the responses, both here and on AR. And I have to say I’ve never practiced real estate behind a curtain, and nor have any buyers or sellers I’ve worked with been treated as though they’re behind some “curtain”. It’s very hard to take generalizations and have them apply everywhere and to everyone. I’ve been selling real estate since 1981, here in the Portsmouth NH & southern Maine areas. Like Monika said above, I had only ONE way to show that I should be the agent to work with, and that was through my level of service. Telling them what they could or couldn’t do or see was not how I practiced.

      We had an MLS book that had some rule that forbade us to give away our MLS books, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t sit down with buyers and go through it, page by page, so they could see what was available. And it didn’t mean we couldn’t copy the pages that had listings on them that they had some potential interest in. My service levels reflect how I’d want to be treated and how I’d want any of my family members to be treated, were any of us the buyer or seller. That’s always how I’ve worked and how I always will work.

      I realize your post was generalizing but as we all know it’s very hard to make a blanket statement that will fit everyone. Sure, there are lousy agents everywhere, just as there are lousy people in any profession and business. But not all of us can or should be painted with such a broad brush.

    19. Jeff Turner January 31st, 2007 1:09 pm

      Ann and Monika, I think we may be seeing two different sides of the equation. You’ve both made it personal to you and are looking at it from your personal and local perspective. I don’t think you’re looking at it from the consumer’s perspective. It’s not about how you treated people. The wizard was ultimately a good person, and wanted them to have what they came looking for. For the consumer, this is about the process.

      The realtor I used in Indianapolis those many years ago was a good person… she was honest, open, did a great job. No complaints. That’s not the point.

      It may be hard for you to feel this, since you’ve always had full access to the information, but from my perspective, I could not get behind the curtain. No possible way. From the consumer perspective, YOU, the real estate agent, were still in control of the information, even if you freely, honestly, kindly, openly and willingly shared it with me, as if I were your family, once I asked you for it. We were forced to ask for your permission. We had to have a sitting.

      That is not true today. I don’t have to ask for your permission to look around, see homes listed for sale in your area. So, transparency today means something dramatically different than it did 20 years ago. The way WE, the consumer, feel has changed. YOU may feel you are just as open as you were 20 years ago and that you never hid behind a curtain, but that doesn’t change the fact that the curtain was there and that I still needed to approach you to get behind it. I don’t today.

      I can look at homes in your area right this second and you’ll never know I’m doing it. And I don’t want you to know. That was not true in 1984. 23 years ago, some real estate agent would have had to be involved for me to get any real information at all. I forced to contact you just for information. I’m not forced today. So, my decision to contact you is not based on information about the house, it’s based on information about you, what you know, who you are, factors that are not home related. It’s based on “something else.” That something else is where transparency today lies.

    20. ardell dellaloggia January 31st, 2007 3:28 pm

      I’m stealing your link here for a sec. I feel like “Michael” and someone just yelled the word “Battle” over at RCG. Thanks.

      Sorry for interrupting. Great last comment there, Turner.

    21. Mariana Wagner January 31st, 2007 3:56 pm

      Jeff, I have often compared the Wizard of Oz to Real Estate. To be fair to all that have posted a comment, I must say that I notice little of the Oz-Effect with the RE agents on AR. I notice all kinds of it in the “real” world. ANd it goes beyond the “curtain” of information… the flying monkeys play a vital role in real estate. We have all had a turn dealing with a flying monkey disguised as an agent, right?
      Anyway, the internet IS changing our business and I am not interested in the OLD business model- the one that has built and maintained the crummy RE reputation that the public holds onto so tightly. I want a change.

    22. Monika January 31st, 2007 5:02 pm

      The internet has changed real estate…apparently in some areas faster than others.

      I never had that “seat in the throne room all to myself” mentality and I never felt any fear of change. So did I personalize the remarks you made…yes I did because I worked during that era and remember it well.

      I love the changes our industry has undergone and those that are coming our way will be exciting. Change is a good thing.

      I’d much rather be selling real estate today than back in the old days and because I lived it I can appreciate the changes we’ve undertaken. That “something else” That you call transparency….nothing wrong with that at all. I welcome it.

      Like Ann stated about generalizing it’s very hard to make a blanket statement that will fit everyone….not all the old timers were like OZ. Did you need us for the MLS info…yes absolutely that is the way it was. Mind you I said was, change happened and it was a good thing.
      Jay, Ann and I actually were very involved in starting that change here in NH…we sat on many committees struggling to make it all happen. Opening up MLS…well before came about. Transparency…I bring more to the table than just listing information always have.
      Your talking to a few of us who championed the change your seeing today…it took a while to catch on but we fought for it way back when.
      Can you understand why I take offense at be lumped in an Wizard of OZ scenario.

    23. Jeff Turner January 31st, 2007 6:51 pm

      Monika, of course I can understand! I’m glad you’re engaging in the conversation despite that. :)

      I do think, however, that is is harder for someone who hasn’t been a consumer in the real estate world for a while to fully understand the feelings that consumers have, just as it’s very hard for me to understand yours. But, that is the beauty of being in this environment. We get to at least try to understand. The conversation is way more important than the destination. We can both wind up in different places and still benefit. I love it. I get the impression you do as well!

    24. Monika January 31st, 2007 7:07 pm

      You got that right. I love a good debate. We can talk the issues and respect each others opinions. Very nice feeling Jeff. Great conversation:)