Estately, DOJ, and other weirdness

My mind is melting. Time is flowing backwards. My monitor is growing a beard. The tight vibrations of a sitar envelop my office.

No, it’s not my senior year in college — it’s real estate!

I returned from a week of sickness (strep throat, courtesy of my daughter) to find these items in my Reader:

  • The NAR pushes forward with its idea for an online property database, which it now calls the “Library-Archive.”

The fact that the NAR/DOJ settlement was announced on the same day that a site like Estately marks a major expansion is really something. Back in 2002 and 2003, it was just such companies that got some brokers upset — so upset, in fact, that they lost their cool, tried to throw up barricades, and provoked the DOJ’s ire.

Now? No one cares. The DOJ and NAR “settled” a dispute today that had pretty much resolved itself by 2005. And I do not hear brokers complaining about Estately; indeed, many I’ve talked to mention the company as a model for online home search.

All this is good stuff, I think. Estately rocks. And all the battling over VOWs — which was always more about big broker/little broker tension than online “interlopers” — deserves to be formally put behind us. It was a distraction.

But the lesson is this: The online world, the world of innovation, continued onward while the traditional industry fought a battle that was over before it started.

Which is why the persistence of the Gateway/Channel/Library-Archive idea concerns me. The intent — to help practitioners leverage online property data — is noble. There are some really bright people working on this project. But will it will get off the ground before yet another online innovator comes forth with terabytes of data on every APN in the country — for public consumption?

I don’t think it will.

I suspect the launch, when it comes, will have the same mind-bending irony of this week’s news. Those who have been around awhile will shake their heads. Most everyone else will be indifferent.

It would be better if the lesson of the VOW battle taken were taken to heart.

Brian Boero