Latest high-tech promise: "Buy a home in 1 hour."
I don't suppose too many of you remember the wild-eyed claims that graced the covers of magazines like Popular Science back in the day, way way back. If they'd turned out to be true, you and I would be commuting to work in cars that resemble jet-propelled helicopters, then returning home to be pampered by an army of personal robots, that is, when we weren't taking week-end jaunts to Jupiter.
I do suppose that at least a few of you remember the wild-eyed claims made by Internet gurus back in the late '90s about what the new medium would do to the real estate industry—turn it upside down or gut it or wipe it off the face of the Earth—and when—like yesterday. And anyone who scoffed at this apocalypse was a dinosaur doddering toward the dustbin of history.
It's undeniable that the Internet did change real estate, mostly, it seems to me, in the realm of marketing and communication. Now, for example, agents can reach out to and alienate an entire new generation of prospects through social networking sites. But to the unending frustration of would-be first movers everywhere (whose understanding of real estate seems so superficial that you wonder if any of them have ever bought a house), the nuts and bolts of the business remain largely unchanged.
And to a certain extent, I share their frustration. So much of the unrecognized and uncompensated grunt work agents do today is the same grunt work we did in 1998 and, for all I know, 1958. The Internet, despite its promises, did zip to change that, and only the real estate economists who wonder darkly why the "new efficiencies" haven't reduced agent commissions to less than zero still profess to take those promises seriously. Despite all the smoke and heroic poses, despite all the blogs and listing Web sites, despite all the bling and sideshows, the Internet has found the real estate industry itself one tough nut to crack.
So it was with a twinge of nostalgia that I read the latest "this changes everything" newsflash, complete with requisite dire prediction that agents who don't get with the new high-tech program "are going to fall by the wayside" (there to join all the "this changes everything" real estate ventures that have fallen by the wayside). Yes, "technology is going to drive change" boldly predicts Pat Lashinsky, president and CEO of ZipRealty, in remarks to the National Association of Real Estate Editors quoted in the June 8 Orange County Register. And who better to proclaim this than Zip, whose raison d'etre is that technology has rendered full-commission bricks-and-mortar brokerages obsolete.
Here's Pat's scenario for real estate's future, a future the Jetsons could buy into:
But as we've often seen, visionaries don't let themselves get bogged down in details. Progress leads, and reality (usually played by Sancho Panza) follows grudgingly. And Pat promises that "this will be just one example of technological innovation [your cue to genuflect] coming to real estate [my cue to shuffle over to the nearest dustbin]". And since Zip is on the margin of the real estate industry, Pat can condemn the industry as "slow to embrace change". (Which may be first-mover code for "contrary to the evidence, we're not the answer to a question few are asking, we're the future.") But "customers are going to demand advances" like one-hour homebuying anyway. (Which may be first-mover code for "we're committed to giving customers what they want, even if they don't want it.")
Yes, "customers" (usually referred to in the real estate industry as "clients") are going to clamor for one-hour home shopping, just like they're clamoring for one-hour divorces and one-hour quadruple-bypass surgeries, because these days no one has time to dilly-dally, and because it's real progress. Or at least it's a way to titillate a roomful of real estate editors desperate for novelty, thoroughly bored with and baffled by and generally hostile to mainstream real estate, and wrangle a free plug in their newspapers.
copyright © John Fyten 2010 Site Map Home