Friday Flash: Grab bag

I don’t have to look at the airline snack menu anymore, I just order. That makes me feel good.

I have favorite flight attendants. 

Advil and Visine are my drugs of choice. 

The airline mile is stronger than the U.S. dollar in my mental marketplace. 

It has been a pressurized summer. 

Consequently, I haven’t written here in over a month.

But a few things have caught my eye. And I’ve had a semi-formed thought now and then. 

So let’s get to it…

Compass nabbed Coldwell Banker’s top agent

I’m sure he’s gonna be totally with the program when Compass finally sets the hook on whatever strategy they’ve been fishing for. 

Seriously, how does a company now valued at $6.4 billion execute on anything other than brokerage as usual with a stable full of high-maintenance, independent contractor stallions?

I don’t think it’s possible. 

What is possible is buying real estate companies in high-price-point metros on the plateau of a boom market in order to cobble together financials just solid enough to spin an IPO-worthy story. 

Maybe people were listening to all the industry chatter about how Realogy was such a bargain at five bucks a share. The stock is up over 20% since August 1.

W&R Studios launched a product for agents called Homebeat that automatically sends CMA-like reports to clients post-close. A simple idea executed well. No blockchain required. 

When times get weird, love the clients you’ve got. 

RE/MAX launched its long-anticipated Booj platform. I am a RE/MAX fan (professional, productive agents!), and Booj is a solid shop, but what can I say? I just don’t think tech is truly strategic for franchisors and brokers. (Yeah, I know, that includes Compass.) It’s more like a set piece in the theater of investor relations and recruiting. 

While many big brands are describing their futures in the language of technology, the most interesting and important things happening in real estate right now are only tangentially related to tech. 

IBuying? Yeah, doing it at scale depends on data, but at its core it is a revolution in customer experience and a massive operational and service delivery endeavor. 

Redfin Direct, the edgy and surprisingly viable move by Redfin to sell more of its own listings? It’s basically a web form.

Ideas, strategic vision, bending your business model to the breaking point. That’s the stuff. 

Related fuzzy musing: I don’t think iBuying is a “threat” to skilled brokers and agents, but I also don’t think it is, at least right now, the brass ring consumer-focused folks have been reaching for for so long. 

It almost feels like iBuying is a final, frustrated, capital-fueled override: “We can’t create a better real estate experience from the local, small-business-based roots of real estate so, screw it, let’s just buy the houses!”

How do we blend the certainty of iBuying with the humanity of a good agent?

There will be an iBuying 2.0. 

Look, I don’t know if NRT is gonna thrive or crater in the future, but I very much appreciate Ryan Gorman. A dry sense of humor is refreshing amid all the executive self-seriousness. His interview at Inman Las Vegas is a case in point.

We have a housing crisis right now. But it’s nothing compared to what we’re going to face over the next 50 years as wildfires, droughts, floods and a post-post-industrial economy rock our world. We’re going to need more housing, in new places, fast. People will move more. A growing number of us will become peripatetic, 21st century Joads. 

Housing will need to be substantially reconsidered. You can see the seeds of this already. 

Check out…

Node: Modular, sustainable homes that go up fast. 

The Parasitic House Project: $11,000 homes that sit atop existing buildings.

Rent the Backyard: Works with Node to place small homes in existing homes’ yards.

If you want a good read in this vein, I recommend “Nomadland,” a study of the growing tribe of “houseless” Americans.

Have a great weekend. 

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