Web 2.0's knockin' but can't come in

Web 2.0’s seeming failure to birth bankable revenue streams or sustainable business models in real estate reflects glaringly off its windshield. Many are bracing for a crash.

The conventional cash register isn’t ringing, but convention is overrated these days.

A segue

I think we can all agree that building a relationship is the truest segue to creating a client. But when real estate emerged online over a decade ago it made a conscious decision to forgo that time honored method of building business. Instead, it lunged at the consumer. Baited. Switched. You know the rap.

Web 2.0 emerged in our space, in a significant way, in 2005. Which was just about the time real estate finally grokked the merits of Web 1.0 — which by then, ironically, were no longer merits.

Web 2.0 offered our industry something so vital, so apparent, so true to its nature: A new way to have a conversation with the customer, the prospect, the neighbors. It offered real estate the chance to get belly-to-belly with them where, increasingly, they hung out – online. Monitor to Monitor. Blog to Blog.  Comment to comment.

Blogs were but one vehicle for making this happen. There were others. Web 2.0 offered real estate a chance to move beyond the multi-colored yarn of rhetoric spun from marketing departments and executive suites.

Web 2.0 offered real estate a chance to step through the window and view its soul. And it gave consumers a way to nibble at its service on their terms in a simple manner.

Web 2.0 was about better searching. More homes across MLS divides. Solds. All swimming in a robust glob of data gravy. With maps. And street views.

Web 2.0 gave consumers a chance to ask questions about property and places online. And it offered real estate a chance to provide the answers. It offered consumers a chance to rate those answers. And independent contractors. And companies. Just like can any other independent contractor or business on the host of rating sites across the web.

Web 2.0 gave real estate pros new ways to write about what they really know – their neighborhoods. Their markets. Individual homes. Parks, schools, roads, weather.

Web 2.0 gave us video, arguably the single most important vehicle for dispensing local information.

Web 2.0 has saved real estate brokers and agents fortunes by converting and replacing 1.0 technologies, practices and sensibilities.

Web 2.0 has given some agents and small firms search engine mojo that lets them compete with bigger players by leveraging their knowledge, ingenuity and creativity rather than their wallet.

It’s been only three years since real estate has put its toe in the Web 2.0 water. It’s way to early to call it over. Or label it as a failure. Or give up on it.

But what does tug at the Web 2.0 failure lever in our space is the “my agents would not like this” or the “you can’t do this in real estate” responses heard in conference rooms from Seattle to Sarasota. Agent feedback. User comments on homes. Letting sellers comment on listing blogs – ideas to engage the consumer.

Ideas that are smothered in their crib too often.


And too often, good ideas get slapped onto old ones, failed ones, resulting in chopped up and confusing offerings that are neither here or there.

Free and on your own terms

There are currently 19,000 real estate groups on Yahoo! alone. Tens of millions of people visit real estate sites every month. I submit that given the recent market devastation and all the concerns that plague consumers today, the merits of Web 2.0 and its revenue potential is literally standing at real estate’s welcome mat.

It’s ringing. Knocking. Throwing pebbles at its window.

But, for the most part, aside from a few isolated cases, real estate still isn’t answering.