Friday Flash: Worlds apart

10 minutes after takeoff.

Laptop open.

I like to write on planes. The white noise calms me down, just like the blow dryer did for my daughter when she was a fussy infant. And I’m surrounded by people. We bemoan the sardine-like nature of commercial flight, but I find there’s something intimate about it too. It gets me going.

I’m revved up because I’ve just spent the day with some wonderful real estate people in the middle of America. The type of people who have been in the business, and loved it, for a long time. People who have built communities. Sold the same house three times in 50 years. Rode out 17% mortgage rates. Lived through the crash on short sales and grit.

People who are great at real estate.

So much constancy. So much good. So much that abides.

I’m trying to square my time with these people with what I’m looking forward to next week at Inman Connect in San Francisco, where the unprecedented newness swirling around our industry will be on full display. It will be energizing.

Another group of people, trying to do it differently. Faster. Easier. Cheaper.

These things feel worlds apart to me right now, flying out over the plains. Will they ever collide head-on? Will iBuyers take off beyond their Phoenix/Las Vegas/Orlando sandbox? Will Redfin, now spread wide, finally take a deep hold in the market? Has PurpleBricks finally figured out how to present flat-fee brokerage to consumers in a way that’s actually appealing?

I don’t know. But it feels like we’re going to find out soon.

We were talking, in this meeting I had today, about the relative importance of consumer and agent marketing. My point of view is that nearly all brokerage marketing (unless you’re a Redfin or a PurpleBricks, with salaried agents) should be thought of, first, as agent marketing. Even the stuff that appears to be aimed at consumers is really agent marketing in disguise. Heck, even Compass’ shock and awe brand campaign is really more about getting inside the real estate community’s head than it is about building a national consumer brand.

We debated this a bit and then a man at the table who has forgotten more about this business than I’ll ever know weighed in: “If you recruited 100% of the agents, you’d have 100% of the market.”

That about nails it.

The “message from the CEO” in airline magazines is usually about as exciting as dry toast, but Southwest CEO Gary Kelly’s entry this month caught my eye.

He retells the well-known story about how Southwest keeps true to its low fare roots – flying only one type of plane, quicker gate turns, etc. – but then explains how the company’s refusal to display its inventory of seats on third-party travel sites saves customers money. No ad fees and sales commissions results in cheaper tickets. It makes sense.

Then this:

“Believe it or not, there is an effort by global distribution systems and online travel agencies to have the government force all airlines to share proprietary booking and pricing data so they can profit from selling our seats.”

Ho, ho! We know a little about this, now, don’t we?

Yes and no.

The situation seems similar to our push and pull over real estate data, but Southwest’s argument here is actually quite different, and much stronger, than the arguments made in the real estate industry against syndication over the years.

First, Southwest is able to make a logical case that keeping its fares only on Southwest.com saves consumers money. Real estate can’t do that, or at least won’t do that. I can’t name a real estate company that has told consumers that it will pass on the savings gained from not sending listings to portals.

Second, Southwest owns what it sells; real estate doesn’t. Southwest is responsible to itself for selling tickets. Real estate is responsible to a homeowner. There’s no looming “broader interest” in distributing inventory and data widely, as many would argue there is real estate.

My point: real estate’s argument for holding onto its data needs more work.

We hosted our second Turn On event a couple weeks ago in our hometown of Portland, OR. This is a thing we do for clients and friends of 1000watt. We don’t charge for it. It’s just a way to deepen relationships with people we appreciate and experience an array of speakers and stories that inspire.

Some special moments:

Glenn Kelman talking candidly about getting into the iBuyer game.

A woman’s tale of building a business that brought the house to tears.

Errol Samuelson sharing his personal journey to real estate leadership.

A Hollywood director showing how to tell a great story.

Tom Ferry going head-to-head with a world champion poker player (and winning).

See more photos here. Thanks to our friends at Planomatic (and especially AJ) for the great camera work!

Have a great weekend. Hope to see many of you at Inman next week.

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