The real estate industry is not too unlike an organization living in a state of collective schizophrenia. Figuratively speaking, we are hearing voices that are not real.
Our hallucinations are mostly self-induced; the voices we hear are actually our own mumblings and business babblings disguised as forces we do not control.
I’m now convinced the real estate industry is delusional but not in the classic clinical sense of schizophrenia. Rather, we are deluded by the notion that what we are experiencing is beyond our control.
Since we don’t have an alternative point of reference for our dilapidated and dysfunctional (not to mention unprofitable) business models, we willingly succumb to the voices that keep telling us all will be well and in time the market will return to normalcy (whatever that is).
We have come to actually believe there is a quick cure for our collective malady. We have long ago stopped taking the medications of self-reliance that can eliminate the voices and have instead turned to a political pill that only fuels the illness and delays the inevitable.
The Great Delusional Grip
Franchisors continue to pimp and prescribe increasing their delusional grip on Broker-Owners, convincing them, mistakenly, that their brands are necessary as a market value proposition and to their survival.
To control the delusions and squelch the voices we pretend our economic survival can be optimized by merely changing the colors of the pills we ingest. We hallucinate about technology solutions that magically produce profitability through Internet lead generation. The voices continue.
For a long time we have believed the pseudo voices and their message as they tell us to hold on, wait and believe that change is coming in the form of a market rebound that will resurrect the old models and their former but temporary profitability. In reality we are trading our collective ability to transform our industry for a hope in the return of things past, of things long dead and gone. Have we surrendered our business sanity to the collective stupor of a beautiful mind syndrome?
It wasn’t long ago that I also experienced the paranoia that comes from thinking others can and ought to control the business outcomes of my company and that there were forces out to get me if I didn’t comply with the verbal orders of quiet, shadowy personalities hiding under stairways and standing in dark corners, speaking to me and intimidating me as a Broker-Owner.
Dumping Market Meds into the Drinking Water
As we prepare to enter 2011, our illness is becoming more pronounced. Others see the progressive changes but we do not. We do not know whether to take the generic market meds being dispensed by the National Association of Realtors or to reject them while hoping for an alternative magic that can somehow stop the insanity.
NAR is dumping its generic market meds into the drinking water in a giant shift from its fundamental and historic premise that home ownership ought to be based upon the self-reliance of individuals to a new socialist real estate state where wealth is shifted from tax payers to fund the down payments for otherwise under-qualified first time home buyers. It’s the same old repackaged sub-prime pill I will no longer swallow.
Schizophrenia is my metaphor for disordered thinking that is not aligned with sound economic reality in the midst of a market platform that has shifted under the feet of Broker-Owners.
On one hand, we know we are living in a time of great delusion and we desperately want to stop the voices.
On the other hand, we continue to pander to the hallucinations because we want a simple solution to a complex industry illness. We know the voices are not real but we cannot quiet them. We drink the purple water and we pop the multi-colored but phony economic pills that will temporarily muffle the sounds but never permanently stop them.
We are becoming more and more desperate because we are on the edge and are finding it more and more difficult to distinguish reality from fiction. The market meds do not help because they create an additional layer of fog that further weakens our discipline and stifles our resolve to take charge of our individual and collective illness.
Stopping the Voices
There is coming a time when we will have to make a deliberate choice between believing what the voices are telling us and the reality that we are operating our industry from a position of economic dependency that will eventually render us incapable of recovery.
Like many Americans who are waiting for the government to produce solutions, many in our industry are waiting upon the bureaucratic solutions of NAR to deliver a cure that will stop the voices. We have yet to recognize that NAR is but one of the many voices that create the madness that engulfs us.
Some of us are now realizing we have fallen prey to a placebo that can never deliver true economic healing. A few of us are now realizing we have fallen prey to a placebo that can never deliver true economic healing and that in the end we must once again, deliver our own cure.
In the post “Unlocking Franchise Economics,” Part 1, we opened the door to asking relevant questions that will help owners analyze the economics of real estate franchising.
In this series of posts REALonomics has one primary objective it would like to accomplish on behalf of owners and that is as follows:
…to help owners unlock the door to franchise economics so that gain an understanding of the substantive value propositions that exist and how a franchise name and associated promises can be quantifed in real dollars that are converted to a profit equation that is greater than it would be if the brokerage firm operated without the franchise.
Franchising is an Add-On Toolkit, with Limitations
At its most fundamental economic level a real estate franchise is a brokerage toolkit. Yes, there are all sorts of issues such as marketing, relocation, referrals, training, conventions, etc. But for now, we are setting those aside. A real estate franchise is an economic toolkit, at least it should be. Franchisors spend a great deal of time butter-balling brands, numbers of offices, growth, name recognition, relocation, referrals, etc., and that is how most franchise sales people will present their proposition to an owner. It’s the owner’s responsibility to translate the presentation into real economic reality and performance and to insist that the franchisor do the same.
As a toolkit, there are some things a franchise can do, there are many things it cannot do and there are more things it does not want to do for a brokerage firm because to do them will harm the franchisor’s bottom line. Let me be clear on this last point. At some point in the franchise relationship, an owner may find the franchisor a competitor for market territory, referrals, relocation and even local business.
In a previous post (Nori’s Leaky World) we spoke about the real estate industry being built, in part, on a control model.
Throughout our history we have deployed control-based business models. Like the real game of Monopoly® our industry has created its own market game board governed by a set of rules we wrote and occasionally edited to extend our control.
During previous eras an owner’s business model was based largely on mechanisms designed to control information, markets, brands and for a long time we even tried to control the real estate agents who were part of companies.
It is equally important important to note and to admit that the real estate industry has historically attempted to control the consumer with respect to our business models utilizing our clever control over access to property information as the primary mechanism for doing so.
Control and Dominance
Large segments of the real estate industry and its core service providers still engage in Realonopoly, a game about market control and dominance. In the game of Realonopoly we carve out spots within defined markets…we then seek to control our position, until, as we have all experienced in the game of Monopoly®, we can no longer pay the rent; a position in which too many owners find themselves today.
Within real estate, mortgage and title companies, creating one’s board is the first initial step; everything flows from there. Position on the board can mean power and power typically equates to a kind of control measured by muscle flexing. Control has historically been everything in the real estate industry.
The ultimate control was consumer control.
Losing control creates a depression and a void…a crack where others can slip in. Yet, it is the contention of REALonomics that each era in the historical timeline of the real estate industry unravels when control is challenged and the challenge typically stems from a change in informational technology…the means by which people gain access to real property data.
Collaboration and Community Forcing Change
Business models typically change when the old models are confronted by new technologies and people empowered by concepts of innovation. Most of the change in business modeling is induced by innovation driven primarily by advances in technology. These advances in real estate technology create a “democratizing” of information, which then empowers others to innovate and challenge the control status of the prevailing models.
This is precisely what has taken place in the real estate industry. REALonomics has presented this as the Democratization of Real Estate, a time where the industry loses its grip on the game of Realonopoly and finally is forced to abandon its position in favor of a new board game. Think of this concept as three distinct eras as follows and notice how transitions occur when new technology is introduced…then, notice how control is relinquished as information is decentralized and ultimately democratized.
Examine the following illustration, extracted from our archives. It demonstrates the evolution of the real estate industry’s business models.
Control works well in business model climates where informational access and free exchange are blunted, where collaboration is limited to the controllers and where the rules only change when the controllers are finally confronted by free thinking people who are initially labeled as rebellious fringe lunatics.
We have now entered an economic era with a new personality being formed by collaboration and communities, rather than control and corporate bureaucracies. Each consumer who is empowered with Internet access is empowered to shape our business models and help us write the rules that will govern The New Real Estate Economy.
There is a new board game emerging that will redefine how we will play the real estate game tomorrow, next month, next year and for quite some time in the future. It’s now a game without many rules, one of collaboration and community, of open, free-flowing dialogue where one person is just as powerful as a group. How do our current models stack up to his new reality.
The question we ask is “Does anyone still want to play the old game, Realonopoly, a game in which we predict there will be no winners?”