Our real estate universe is rather small. We tend to focus on homes for sale in Lafayette CA, as well as the broader regional market, but we live in the San Francisco Bay Area — one of the most robust technology centers in the word. I try to stay on top of the technology and the issues that face the broader real estate industry, as well as be an expert on our local markets.
Some would suggest that I just focus on local real estate — marketing and representing clients in their purchase of homes for sale in Lafayette CA, but technology gives all of us more power than we’ve ever had before. You just need to know how to use that technology. Some in our industry choose to ignore technology and hope that it magically goes away, others embrace it and seek to utilize it to better represent their clients.
In fact, this issue seems to be at the heart of the controversy and discussions about Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia, and dare I say, how the NAR (National Association of Realtors) has failed to adequately represent its members. The NAR‘s President, Steve Brown, sent out an email to all members yesterday that showed an appalling lack of accountability for not being responsive to progressive agents and consumers who demanded more and better data about homes for sale in Lafayette CA, as well as the rest of the nation. If there wasn’t a vacuum of unsatisfied consumer demand, the once dominant, “official” NAR consumer site, Realtor.com, would not have rolled over and been trampled by Zillow. The quality of data on Zillow and its “Zestimates” are far from perfect, but they astutely saw an opening to make the consumer search experience richer. The NAR could have pushed for Realtor.com to quickly respond with similar capabilities and even enhance them, but didn’t.
Mr. Brown stated, “Now comes the hard part – we must be brutally honest – you must change and quickly. Your value proposition is not data – it’s YOU!” Somehow, he’s still missing the point.
The Zillow-Trulia deal won’t change anything regarding homes for sale in Lafayette CA or the rest of the nation in the immediate future. In the net analysis, they are a media company disseminating data about our industry. In a few years, a better media solution may come along and displace Zillow. Maybe Google has something cooking in their labs that will change the marketplace, or perhaps some innovative start-up in San Francisco is working on an exciting way to deliver consumer information better than its being done today. Don’t count Amazon out… maybe Jeff Bezos will decide that he can provide a better electronic marketplace than Zillow or the NAR.
The point is that technology and time will change how we do business today. It is better to embrace change, than it is to fight it. In the meantime, my value add is to understand the market better than Zillow and to help clients make the best of the available array of often complex choices in their purchase or sale of a home. Fortunately, there are still lots of things that humans can do better than computers!