CEO’s Message: Everything New Is New Again in Real Estate

Jim Harrison: MLSListings Inc CEO and President

Jim Harrison
President and CEO, MLSListings

Somewhere in a virtual analogy between online dating and fixer upper, we find the new worlds of real estate transactions. It’s time to pay attention!

There are emerging business models to keep an eye on. They represent the extremes of the industry today; ibuyers, isellers, and then, non-commissioned, highly-compensated agents. The real estate world is turning over. Or… is it just repeating the past with better toys and tools?

Tech-infused and Pinterest-esque

Compass Real Estate has attracted big buzz and bigger bucks. Compass is growing. Seasoned agents say they’ve seen this before — a monied-up brokerage offering high-end dreams for eager agents with signing bonuses and technology that elevates support. So far, agents, clients and Wall Street are willing to play. Valuations of Compass are in the nose-bleeding billions. Let’s see if the veterans are right. Some predict this model will be difficult to sustain. Others say this is the new brokerage.

The “I” War is Heating Up

iBuyer recently welcomed Zillow to the direct-to-consumer party, tweeting that they invented the category years ago.

Open Door called Zillow’s new program the “sincerest form of flattery.” So, what is this polite battle about?

It’s all about the new level of consumer empowerment and the promise of hassle-free, listing-free selling. These new models, which include Zillow’s latest version of Instant Offers, basically buy the sellers house and sell it. Zillow reports the agent will remain at the center of the transaction, but again, this is a business model to observe.

What Does It All Mean?

I have been in service to the real estate industry for more than 30 years and while I often see shadows of the past at the heart of innovative ideas, I accept that technology has forever changed the industry. Whether consumers go online to find their perfect agent or deal, or they use technology more than humans in the transaction, it all means we’re different now. A grand working crystal ball would have to tell us where it would all lead, but at this point, the money seems to follow the innovation. It may seem like a modern version of old ideas, but it holds a new place in our industry. I think I’ll bet on evolving technology to win the day.


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