Curing an industry sickness

Inman recently ran a piece by RealScout CEO Andrew Flachner that put forth a thesis familiar to all of us by now:

Zillow threatens brokers with obsolescence.

Flachner writes:

“While the industry worries about inaccurate listing information on and which brokerage is syndicating or pulling listings from the site on any given day, Zillow is methodically outflanking real estate brokers on a much larger scale. Move by move, the Internet giant is making brokerage brands obsolete by over-delivering on the value they provide to agents.”  

His contention about brokers isn’t right.

A darkened vision

Historically, the broker never supplied technology. Floor time was their version of lead-gen. They didn’t publish newspapers; they bought advertising in them.

But over the last 10 years, brokers have spent gazillions trying to do things they often suck at while investing too little in what they can do well. Those banging the drums of Zillow-induced doom have perpetuated this skewed state of affairs.

Maybe I’m crazy, but in my mind strong brokers still have a wide-open opportunity to do things Zillow could never do. They can create an undeniable culture, supply hand-to-hand support, create real community connections and build a brand that holds the promise of homeownership more meaningfully than any media company ever could.

Brokers buy into the hallucination that they are being disintermediated and that their value prop is dying. They are consistently sold this lie and they spin their wheels and waste their money living it.

This preoccupation with Zillow is a cancer on the real estate industry. Either no one sees it or they are too vested in perpetuating it.

Zillow is not keeping the broker brutha down. That is a self-imposed rap that disempowers everyone. Brokers are better and stronger than this. They need to be told that.

I’m not suggesting that brokers should love Zillow. I’m simply suggesting they deny it the outsized place it occupies in their field of strategic vision.

The future has to be about getting back to what a brokerage is – a place where agents come to work and feel like they are part of something special.

What I’m talking about

Two weeks ago, the four founding partners of Los Angeles brokerage Partners Trust – a 1000WATT client – brought several hundred agents gathered in an LA theatre to a standing ovation.

They never spoke about traffic. They never mentioned leads. There was no talk of real estate demons and the impending portal doom they were going to conquer against all odds.

On that day, these partners represented the modern day brokerage. They spoke about their dreams. Their successes. The pride they held for each and every associate in the room – the people who by their combined efforts had manifested their vision for what a great brokerage could be.

They unveiled the next phase of a marvelous brand story.

On that day, everyone in attendance felt something special, something positive, something grand that arguably can’t be described in words.

This is what a brokerage is. This is what a brokerage does. I see it every day in our work. And I’m going to see more of it.

Zillow won’t end it.

That’s my belief.