In the evolutionary chain of technology, I am somewhere between the Greg Swanns and Dustin Luthers of this world and, well, the Flintstones. Let’s just call me the missing link.
My generation wasn’t born into a world where computers, much less websites and blogs and mash-ups and code, existed. With each new technological advancement, we boomers learned to adapt or face extinction. The majority of us have learned just enough to be dangerous; given enough interest and perceived benefit, we have watched those around us and learned to apply the tools as they were introduced into our society. As for our parents and grandparents, meet the Flintstones. For many (most) of this segment, information technology was introduced too late in their era. My grandmother loves her computer to play Solitaire, but you will never find her converting a PDF to a JPEG or hanging out in a chat room. For all practical purposes, she is a dinosaur. Then there are our children. They have never know a world without personal computers, digital cameras, scanning and faxing. They will not remember a time without YouTube or MySpace except when these things are replaced with more advanced applications.
So, here comes the Redfin segue. Steve and I have been having some lengthy discussions lately about the Redfin model and its potential for broad success. Sure, we are a little short in the recreational-life category, but it has been a topic of discussion because I was recently invited to meet with Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman to “chat”. This being the eve of that meeting, it seemed apropos to reflect on the topic.
From my vantage point, this is the $64 question: How will Redfin succeed where so many others have failed? Or, rather, who is their audience? HelpUSell, Zip Realty and other discount business models have had a limited audience at best; they are not, nor do I believe they will ever be, setting the world on fire and achieving significant market share. Of course, Redfin is approaching the issue from a standing-on-their-head perspective. While they pay lip service to the listing side of the equation, their real target is the coop fee and the buyer. I’m no Warren Buffet, but I think it safe to say that they can not survive by capturing only the limited market of card-carrying do-it-yourselfers. As Steve points out, there are simply too few of these to fill the seats and the box receipts would be insufficient to continue producing the show. Therefore, I suspect that they have a long-term vision of success involving preying on the young.
The young, the Jetsons, are more than comfortable with all things web-based and are more than willing to spend hours upon empowered hours at the keyboard. It is too late for the Flintstones, of course. They will continue to shun disintermediation. Which leaves us with the biggest segment of the home buying pool – The missing link.
Where the internet revolution is concerned, I can hold my own, but like most of my peers, I have to balance competing demands. Taking the average home buyer, they could spend their time looking under every Zillow and Realtor.com and Trulia and Oodle rock to find their dream home, and they could learn enough about the dynamics and mechanics and legalities of the process to ensure at least a modicum of protection, and they could associate with a Redfin to facilitate the consummation of their purchase to “save money”. Why won’t they? They have those “job-things”. They have families. They have many obligations, many interests, and limited time. Jeff Turner said it best. He is certainly knowledgeable and capable enough to do it himself, but he doesn’t want to be disintermediated. For me, I could certainly re-roof my home given enough time to research and implement the project; I’m a smart girl. I simply choose not to. I find it a much wiser, much more mature approach to pay someone to do what they do so that I can focus on doing what I do.
Which leaves us with the Jetsons. If I am correct in my assessment that this is indeed the audience to which Redfin wishes to perform, I think they may find some initial applause, but there will be no encore. Our children, teenagers, twenty-somethings are going to one day find themselves with those “job-things” and with families and with social interests… and with limited time.
Why did Glenn schedule a meeting with me? Redfin is coming to San Diego. Why did he think it was important that he tell me personally (immediately prior to his scheduled meeting with the San Diego Union Tribune)? Free marketing, of course. I have dutifully obliged. Now I am looking forward to hearing just how he plans on shaking the very Bedrock of our industry.Related posts: