Bob Hale is sticking his neck out – who's got his back?

Bob Hale is friendly in that expansive, Texas sort of way that’s immediately disarming. But make no mistake, this is a savvy guy. And a courageous one.

See, while most of us were trying to figure out how to burp out a value proposition in 140 characters, Hale, the CEO of a major Realtor Association, was working on something that may actually improve the real estate industry.

In a couple weeks, the Houston Association of Realtors will launch a Web application that allows consumers to see which Realtors within their chosen search area are transacting business – and which are not.

Here are the highlights:

  • The app is based on MLS data and will be available from the association’s highly-trafficked Website
  • Every Realtor in the market is included, there is no opt-out
  • The app is map-based, so consumers can see who has sold what, where, over different time periods
  • The app may be made available to MLS organizations nationwide

Let that sink in…

A Realtor association is helping consumers make decisions with clarity, on their own, objectively and with no compromise.

An industry leader is taking an obvious but politically perilous stance: that what is good for consumers is, in time, good for real estate professionals.

Human beings that need to get professional help to buy or sell a home will be able start their decision process on a foundation of good data, not within a flurry of sales scripts wielded like nunchucks in the confines of their living room.

If you care about this industry, pay attention to what Bob Hale and his team are doing. And support it.

Outside agitators, inside movers

This has been done before, most notably by Neighborcity, a startup brokerage that uses MLS data to display agent sales activity on its site. And there’s a whole category given to agent review sites on the 1000WATT index.

The direct inspiration for the HAR app came from the “Connect Create” contest at Inman’s Real Estate Connect event last year, at which a team from Diverse Solutions, a real estate tech company, built an app called “Agent Scouting Report” that allowed agent search based on productivity. That app was never released into the wild (more disclosures: I was president of Inman News until 2004 and Inman is a client of 1000WATT Consulting).

But these were outsiders. And outsiders, invaluable as they are in pushing change, do not have the implements of disruption close at hand. They need to raise millions to build traffic that can be used to pry into the industry (Zillow) or mount a crusade of controversy and appeal directly to consumers (Redfin).

An institution like HAR however, and a leader such as Hale… well, that’s a different and more uncommon thing. A move like this from within the industry can clear a path for others to take risks and challenge their constituencies.

This may already be happening. The HAR application was recognized by the NAR’s “Game Changer” program, which encourages and rewards innovative ideas from real estate associations. As a result, once the app launches, Hale thinks it’s possible the NAR may get behind it at a national level.

That too is worth supporting.


Hale says his board of directors – comprised of real estate brokers – has been very supportive of this effort. As have the many productive, full-time agents who have previewed the app. As you might expect, it gets a little dicey when you start to talk about newbies, part-timers, or those who just don’t win much business.

This is a politically charged move. And we need more of those in this industry – from people who have political capital and positions of institutional authority to risk. I can write until my house falls down about creating a better real estate industry, but it’s going to take more Bob Hales to get there.

So go, Bob, go! We’ve got your back! Anyone else?