Paying for the Privilege of Marginalization

The real estate industry is a funny place…

There is an obvious tension between the industry players who win through cooperation and the individual agents who win by differentiation. It kind of reminds me of the Tragedy of the Commons in that the actions that individual agents are taking in their best interest are slowly breaking apart the well oiled machine that is today’s real estate industry.

In particular, I’m thinking of all the agent money that is currently being poured into advertisements for companies that are building tools designed to marginalize the role of real estate agents. Joel Burslem picked up on one example when he mentioned that Topix (jointly owned and run by the newspaper publishers: Gannett, Knight Ridder and Tribune) is getting into the FSBO market. If this is not a clear enough signal of the newspaper’s intent, the fact that the Tribune recently purchased should make it clear that the newspapers are now the competition…

While it may be in best interest of individual real estate agents to put ads in local papers, these ads are funding companies who are clearly attempting to completely disrupt their industry. (Don’t even get me started on the irony that a bunch of real estate professionals in Seattle are giving content to the PI that will likely be plastered in FSBO ads before long!).

But it is not only newspapers where agents are paying for the privilege of creating their own demise. Every time an agent buys an ad on Google, they are helping to fund a tool that is clearly meant to marginalize them.

I’ve been holding my tongue on this issue for quite a while because I’m sure a good argument could be made that I’m too biased in that I’m viewing the topic through my employer’s tinted glasses. Nonetheless, I can’t help but wonder if agents are going to get hip to the fact that they really should be using and/or creating their own media before the commons are destroyed.