Friday Flash: Charlie Broker

Brokers are Charlie Brown.

Tech companies are Lucy.

The football?

Control. Efficiency. Profitability. Survival.

It’s been this way for a long, long time.

You can demonize Lucy, because she’s surely a meanie, but Charlie Brown’s gotta own his part in this.

Because he keeps falling for it.

The shares in Homestore in exchange for the listings.

The “free” syndication bait taken from Trulia and Zillow just as the housing market imploded.

More recently, license agreements with startups that were deliberately built to be acquired by a larger industry player.

And now, the lineup for the fateful and perhaps final field-goal attempt. The one that could let Charlie Broker walk off this punishing field once and for all and play his own game, without Lucy.

Or at least that was the idea. The idea being the Broker Public Portal — the BPP.

I am a believer in the BPP. 1000WATT has helped this initiative in the past. It’s a solid strategy advanced by some of the smartest brokers and MLS leaders in the business. It’s righteous.

But then Homesnap, the tech partner in the deal, was bought by CoStar.

Oh. Damn.

Is this OK? Or is CoStar the meanest, most sadistic, version of Lucy ever?

Who knows. I just know how badly my broker friends have been burned in the past. And I worry.

CoStar has said all the right things, coming right out of the gate with a promise to embrace that old-time “your listing, your lead” religion. Andy Florance has made all the Zillow-haters that have come before him look like rank amateurs in his effort to connect the “enemy of your enemy is your friend” dots. But yet… how do you make money with a “portal” if you don’t sell leads or referrals off Broker A’s listings to Broker B? Well, you make your money off broker A. As much of it as you can. This is obvious.

I’ve always seen the BPP as something like a hedge, a fallback, a shelter. If the shit were to hit the fan, brokers and MLSs would have a place to fall back and regroup.

Well, I think we’re close to the moment of above-referenced infelicitous impact.

But is the shelter still a shelter?

That’s the important question. If the answer the brokerage community comes up with is “maybe,” well, I think it may be time for Plan C.

You see some of this plan-forming is going on already. It’s definitely part of what’s driving the “exclusive listing” push. And many big brokers are placing their tech bets more broadly, spreading around their risk like roulette players dropping chips on a dozen different numbers.

But what’s the real broker power move? The one where they grab the football out of Lucy’s hands and run with it toward the end zone themselves?

I’m hearing ideas. Some sound smart. Some sound not so smart.

But I have a feeling Charlie Broker is done playing the same old game.

Enjoy the weekend.