Friday Flash: Seatbelt sign is on

Firings, retirings and second comings in the ranks of real estate leadership.

Money from a murderous, misogynistic petro-state used to give real estate agents short-term loans.

Real estate franchisors, brokers and portals getting into the business of owning homes.

Whip-smart VCs in mauve sportcoats making the case that real estate is about to get rolled.

Industry executives arguing about whose company has the better avatar-based office meeting experience.

Companies that aren’t software companies betting their companies on… building software.

Oh yes indeed, it’s going to be a turbulent year. And that’s without factoring in a market that’s about as sturdy as a newborn foal.

I have no idea where any of this is headed. I have been around this industry for 22 years now, but this only means that my perceptions are clouded by assumptions as often as they are clear.

But I am reasonably confident that these things will happen this year:

Over 1 million Realtors will sell over 5 million homes.

The vast majority of these transactions will be done the “old-fashioned” way: commissions, co-brokerage, MLS.

The result will be tens of billions of dollars in fees for the real estate industry.  

The competition, chaos, fear-mongering, self-diminishing pettiness and endless hand-wringing (no small amount of that last one done here) will intensify, but the outcomes that matter most won’t change much.

Why do I think this?

Well, first off, all the data, money and bravado in the world aren’t going to decouple millions of interpersonal relationships between Realtors and their clients overnight. These are social-emotional bonds that aren’t easily broken with clever advertising and an app.

Second, we Americans have a peculiar relationship with property. Our homes are us, or who we want to be, and we don’t take buying or selling them lightly.

These two things, in combination, have armored the real estate industry. One alone wouldn’t be enough.

Many of us had personal relationships with our stockbrokers, but that hundred shares of Coca-Cola wasn’t an asset that defined us. We now trade online.

We did not have personal relationships with our taxi drivers. They didn’t send us birthday cards, or come to our block parties. When something better came along we abandoned them without compunction, en masse.   

Real estate agents reside in our world – our neighborhoods, our families, our social circles — in a way, and in numbers, that few service providers do.

So change is slow. Much slower than the funding announcements and hype glazed over our “industry” vision make it appear.

The Nodes of Production framework for a slow “distributed disruption” I laid out at the beginning of last year still makes sense to me. Things are indeed shifting in unprecedented ways, but it’s gonna take time.

OK, moving forward…

“Amazon has a really straightforward database — they know what I buy.” Interesting NYT piece on Amazon’s growing ad business. I imagine there are some pretty interesting correlations between Amazon purchase behavior and home selling.

We keep waiting for Amazon to make a play in real estate, but maybe they’ll start where everyone else does: selling ads.

I guess I was wrong about Moxiworks being Upstream’s new tech partner.

I am really enjoying Moxi CEO York Baur’s aggressive posture lately. First he picked a fight with Compass; now he’s wading right into the brokerage family feud over Upstream. I admire the gutsiness.

Apparently, Squad is the new hot app with all the kids. The hook is mobile screen sharing. Shop together, watch together, etc. I’m thinking this feature might be useful in real estate apps —  “collaborative home search” made immediate.

Herb Kelleher, one of my business heroes, passed away. The combination of toughness, humor, humility and plainspokeness he exuded — and the level of trust that earned him — are inspiring.

RIP Herb.

Enjoy the weekend.

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