The future of real estate agency
“Throw out your conceited opinions, for it is impossible for a person to begin to learn what he thinks he already knows” - Epictetus
You don’t have to look very hard these days to find people willing to talk about the future of Residential Real Estate Agency.
The view that the industry no longer serves either the needs of those who work as Real Estate Agents, or the consumers who rely on its services seems to be an ever more accepted paradigm. I’m not suggesting that I agree entirely, rather that a lot of people seem to be saying the same thing, which means we should probably take notice.
Much like other industries that people are attempting to disrupt, it seems that many people have a need to describe themselves as ‘the Uber of this’ or the ‘Amazon of that’. To talk up whatever they happen to be doing as if people fall into two camps, those who can see the truth and those who still think that the world is flat.
With the benefit of hindsight we can of course look at both Uber and Amazon and see the beautiful simplicity of what they’ve done, and continue to do.
When I say simplicity, I’m not suggesting in any way that building these groundbreaking corporations was easy. Far from it. However what they have certainly achieved is to simplify consumers' lives.
I accept that this isn’t without costs. Killing the high street and destroying the livelihoods of qualified people are two criticisms often levelled at these companies. As difficult as that is for many, generally speaking that’s how innovation works. If you sold horses for a living, you probably didn’t spend your time talking about how great Henry Ford was.
Real Estate Agency has yet to have its majorly disruptive moment, and perhaps it never will. Online agents threatened it and whilst they’ve seen a measure of success, it hasn’t been a wholesale disruption. We’re now seeing the rise of the self employed model, and there are some great operators out there who are making a difference to people’s lives in a really meaningful way.
However the only certainty is that the successes and failures of these alternatives will be contextualised by one thing - history. It will take another 10 years for anyone to be able to look back and say yes, that was the defining moment that disrupted an entire industry.
In the meantime I think it makes sense to be open to the ideas of others, accept that there’s enough space for everyone to carve out their own corner of the market, and that different solutions are right for different problems.
I’m going to give the last word to my person of the moment - Seth Godin.
“The challenge for most people who seek to make an impact isn’t winning over the mass market. It’s the micro market. They bend themselves into a pretzel trying to please the anonymous masses before they have fifty or one hundred people who would miss them if they were gone”