Yes, that’s about where I’d place us seventeen years into this online real estate thing.
The industry has yet to be truly disrupted.
You may be incredulous. But consider that the real estate brokerage model is fundamentally the same as it was in 1995, commissions haven’t moved much, and there are in fact more Realtors today than there were back in the mid-nineties.
Innovation, certainly. Disruption… not yet.
But what about seventeen years – or even five years – from today?
It is possible the basic structure of the real estate business will remain constant. But I wouldn’t count on it.
Online real estate’s first seventeen years marked the demise of the wall between consumers and information. That was enough to upend travel and stock brokerage (among many other businesses), but not real estate.
In the coming years, we will witness the collapse of the wall between consumers and each other.
That holds much more disruptive potential.
This is not just about Facebook. It is, believe it or not, bigger than that. People are sleeping in others’ homes instead of hotels, communicating without carriers and even picking up hitchhikers online with astonishing confidence.
How thick is the wall between a buyer and a seller, really?
Of course, finding a place to spend the night isn’t the same as finding a place to spend a life.
But is it different enough?
The demon of disintermediation is a hoary beast. And perhaps he’s through.
But, again, I don’t count on that. Our broker clients don’t either. They’re pulling stones from the wall now and laying down a road into the future.