The optimist and the victim

NAR’s new CEO, Bob Goldberg, addressed the industry for the first time through a video in which he used a term that should be expunged from real estate’s lexicon:


This word connotes confusion, disorder and turmoil. Earthquakes, market crashes and divorces come to mind. As this word has made it into the business lexicon, it has come to have a similar destructive resonance.

Used in real estate to label anything new and different, “disruption” overstates and exaggerates reality. It distorts what’s taking place and shapes the industry’s perceptions in a way that triggers actions and emotions that waste time, money and energy.   

There’s no question that change is in the real estate air. But everything we’ve witnessed thus far has been obvious and expected. The only chaos or turmoil associated with any of it has been self-induced and born out of a belief shared by some that the real estate customer and the transaction are property of the incumbent industry – that outsiders don’t belong here.

Most participants in real estate don’t actually believe that. These agents and brokers pay little attention to industry chatter, fear and paranoia. They focus on selling real estate and building their businesses.

What these people have experienced is far closer to the truth – that the emergence of new and sometimes controversial ideas has gifted this industry with a broader awareness of what is possible.

The web. Portals. Venture-backed brokerages. Each of these so-called disruptive forces has provided the industry an abundance of new opportunity. They have illuminated new possibilities for growth or efficiency for anyone open enough to view these things for what they are: catalysts for change.

It’s all in a word

Last week at the Indie Broker Summit at Inman Connect San Francisco, a group of brokers gathered to talk business. Few of them seemed to feel “disrupted”. Pacific Union CEO Mark McLaughlin, Hawaii Life CEO Matt Beall, Red Oak Realty CEO Vanessa Bergmark and PMZ CEO Mike Zagaris (among many others) have grown, conquered and thrived by embracing the catalysts rather than fearing disruptors.

Conversations around opportunity and innovation led the day.

Words shape our perceptions, attitudes and actions. We often fail to contemplate their implications and think about how they set the tone for how we think, feel and act.  

Here in real estate, the word disruption has been consistently assigned to the uninvited who trespass upon some sacred ground.

Think about how many times you’ve heard phrases like “the day we gave away our listings” or “the moment we allowed our agents to form teams”. These sentiments, which reference the things real estate had to do to adapt and advance, scream of surrender, blunder and regret. They depict an industry that was invaded and pillaged.

The use of the word disruption casts one as a victim who has been outplayed, outwitted, outmatched at their own game.

This mindset must change. Especially since it’s all completely false.

The moment

Unstrap the boxing gloves and face reality.

Over the last 20 years, nothing labeled disruptive has put a single brokerage out of business.

Despite the fear, the bulk of home sales are still conducted by agents and their brokerages.

Long-standing brokerages continue to command market share. They’ve evolved and transformed in more ways than you might realize. Many are merging and expanding into new markets.

New indie brokerages have emerged, creating jobs, serving consumers and assigning a vibrant new sheen to the industry.

Step away from the echo chamber. Detach yourself from the discomfort of self loathing, weakness and vulnerability that lies beneath the surface of disruptive dialogue. The undertow has taken too many, including our leaders, to a bad place.

The real estate industry is amazing, powerful and filled with well-intentioned people seeking to improve. If this weren’t true, this industry would have been restructured in ways that only those who worked in travel, printed news or the record industry can fully comprehend.
The moment we stop operating defensively is the moment we can proceed with confidence, intelligence and purpose.

That’s how we endure.

This belief must begin at the top – at NAR, the “voice of real estate”.