If you look at the demise of Encyclopedia Britannica, you see a clear roadmap of how history will repeat itself to cause the demise of the REALTOR®. Up until 1994, the Britannica sales associates sold about 120,000 hard copies. Salespeople consumed the most amounts of profits from the transaction. The salespeople at Encyclopedia Britannica protected their data. The three or four thousand pages of the books were protected by copyright.
Then came the Internet, and more importantly, Wikipedia. The Britannica sales person was disrupted by a price point of free. The cost of data was disrupted by user-generated content.
Adapt the pattern to real estate.
Like Britannica, salespeople or REALTORS® consume the most amount of profits from the transaction. REALTOR® salespeople are protected by data copyright and forms copyrights today. The MLS protects REALTORS®. The National Association of REALTORS® protects REALTORS®.
Disruption is coming. Today, 1 in 4 buyers find the home they ultimately purchase using the Internet. Like Wikipedia, the cost of consumers to access listings on the Internet is free. Even posting a listing on FSBO (user-generated content) is free. Heck, in less than an hour I can publish more information about my home than any REALTOR® would ever be able to produce. I can do it for free. This is exactly like Britannica – free and user-generated content.
REALTORS® have one advantage remaining today. Processing the transaction. State and local transaction and disclosure forms are only available to REALTORS® or Licensed Sales Associates who subscribe. This is the final leg of protection.
Will the last REALTOR® turn off the lights?
If you are a REALTOR®, or a real estate brokerage, or a real estate brand, or an Association of REALTORS®, or an MLS – and you do not think that you are on a path to self-destruction, you are delusional. Your reckless behavior with data management not only exposes the privacy of the consumer you have vowed to protect, it undermines your future existence as a service provider. Your actions are planting the seeds for the evolution of FSBO transactions.
To preserve your future, you need to do one simple thing. Copyright your data and only share it with others through a restrictive data license – or, do not share your data. Only a small handful of practitioners have chosen not to share their data. I revere their courage, but I also revere the many firms that have pursued restrictive data license agreements. This is not any condemnation of online marketing or portal syndication. Rather, it is a plea to do it safely. Point2, Listhub, and the legion of MLSs are trying to help you. But you must help yourself by making good choices. DO NOT PUBLISH YOUR DATA ANYWHERE WITHOUT A RESTRICTIVE DATA LICENSE AGREEMENT.
Every publisher of any significance already accepts these terms, but only when compelled. Compel them my friends. Perhaps it will only suspend the inevitable. But at least you will breathe a little longer.
History Note: There is an ongoing debate about the oldest real estate firm in America between NP Dodge and Baird and Warner. They were both founded in the same month in 1855. They will turn 160 next year! I have profound confidence that they will make that birthday. I prey they make it to 200. On the Britannica website they refer to themselves as a 246 year old start up. I can also tell you that NP Dodge and Baird and Warner view their history with the pride in knowing that they have been able to manage change successfully.