As time marches forward amidst one of the longest recessions in modern time, we are being forced to participate in one of the greatest balancing acts in real estate history.
Indeed we are engaged in our own industry Cirque du Soleil, a kind of three-ringed act that pushes us to the limits of our economic envelope.
How long can we strike the pose? What series of events will begin the process of reversing the downturn and return some degree of stabilization to the economy. Our collective muscles quiver under the stress of our rigid contortions.
Not too long ago we mistakenly thought, although few will now admit to their acquiescence, that TARP, auto industry bailouts, AIG cash infusions, cash for clunkers, first time home buyer credits, bank loans and the like would magically restore the economy.
Even the National Association of Realtors (NAR), our beloved national union and lobby force, with enthusiastic recklessness, endorsed just about every form of redistribution of wealth forced down our throats by President Barack Obama’s misguided group of tax and spend advocates.
Yes, ours is an industry not too unlike a three ringed circus. There are jugglers, tight rope walkers, clowns, acrobats, lion trainers and bare-back horse riders, all entertaining us while we sit in the grand stands eating our Cracker Jack and cotton candy.
Escape is actually a business principle or, at least a skill based upon a set of economic fundamentals. The ability of an organization to slip out of economic handcuffs in the nick-of-time is not too far removed from the notion of agility; the latter having to do with fluidity of operation.
Escapism (I don’t even know if that is a word but if it isn’t it should be) ought to be a subset of study for those seeking a degree in Economics. Escapism should be a part of the syllabus with collateral reading required. It should be taught as a business discipline and be a demonstrated skill prior to graduation.
The real estate industry knows a lot about the subject of escapism without knowing much about sound economic business models. After all, the economy has always pulled Broker/Owners out of the tight corners of economic calamity into which they have been painted. Ours is a long history riddled with escapes from one economic threat to another.
Today’s shackles may be worse than the past as we find ourselves fettered with the chains and locks of slivered and temporal profitability, almost non-existent R&D, a disjointed, minimally trained, bloated and uncontrollable labor force, no product, service or brand differentiation and finally, last but not least, a less than stellar reputation with consumers, our primary source of survival.
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.
On Tuesday, December 02, 2009, Inman News carried a new piece by Matt Carter, entitled “NAR Backing Realcomp Appeal.” REALonomics believes the article is another demonstration of NAR’s attempt as the tail of the industry, to wag us, the dog. Here is our response to NAR’s reported actions.
NAR should be seen here in its true light, a purveyor of control, monopolization and the promotion of the punishment of creative models that do not meet the local real estate dominance model put in force and sustained by its vast network of local Associations.
Although we are not supporters of discount brokerage as a viable business model, we feel the need to speak out on this issue and the freedom of Broker-Owners to create business models without the fear of retaliation and punishment by NAR and local Associations.
We are forced to ask the question, “Is anyone paying attention to how our dues, financial assets and human capital are being used by NAR?” Furthermore, are we paying attention to how NAR and local Associations are dealing with Broker-Owners who are not lining up in lock-step with centralized policy?
This Post Syndicated from e-Partner
Ours is an industry with legacy. The brokerage business has seen many booms and endured many busts.
Many have come and most have gone.
Road kill has always been a part of the mix; the strong eat the weak and the weak find refuge in other endeavors.
The real estate industry has always been a town occupied by heralded gun slingers whose reputations have become the stuff of legends. Sometimes these are brands, other times they are movements, fads or personalities that come and go with the wind.
We have always been a tad reckless; that’s why we are a business model willing to predicate its economic viability on the unpredictable and unenforceable productivity of independent contractors. Let’s admit it, the business cultures we have created have typically been less than IBMish.
Nonetheless, we have moved from era-to-era, cycle-to-cycle and shifted from mode-to-mode, surviving the financial droughts of summer and living through the long, frigid economic nights of our many winters. We are an industry that could legitimately lay claim to squeezing blood from turnips.
We have historically endured and outlasted our most caustic critics who have mocked us at every turn and likened us to dishonest snake-oil salesmen.
Yes, we’ve been brought back from the dead a number of times. We are a cat with nine lives and most of them have been used up.
Are we now reaching the termination point? Are we, Tenus Terminatio Cuspis?