Battle for the Soul of Real Estate
In moments of quiet reflection that occasionally arise between bouts of multiple-offer madness, I often find myself thinking about the battle for the soul of real estate that’s taking place. One very few people are even conscious of or care about.
Perhaps, it’s the same battle that’s occurring in so many other aspects of our daily lives. The one reflected in deepening divisions and the steady unraveling of a culture that’s frayed at the edges, struggling to hold its center and seemingly afflicted by a strange malady that diminishes truth, values and the desire for human relationship.
What am I talking about? It’s complicated, but I’ll start with a simple analogy: Think of the last time you logged onto a new platform, ordered online or downloaded an app on your phone. All those algorithms are ostensibly designed to make life faster, easier, cheaper and/or more convenient.
While access to the digital tools is also ostensibly free, there’s usually a trade-off that entails clicking a box to indicate you’ve read and agreed to the long list of underlying terms and conditions mentioned in the fine print.
What are those terms and conditions? No one ever reads the first paragraph, let alone the whole thing. They’re incredibly vague and there’s nothing simple, easy or convenient about them. Most are CYA (Cover Your Ass) clauses crafted by the finest attorneys in the world.
Now, let’s try adding real estate to this rapidly expanding internet of things and try to visualize it as just another platform or product or app designed to make life simpler. People buying or selling their largest assets and the centering places of their lives faster, easier and more conveniently through a series of clicks accompanied by a long list of terms and conditions nobody reads.
Here’s the current state of real estate:
Buyers usually follow the market by logging onto search engines that automatically update their inboxes with new listings. They often pick their Realtors online through digital portals that instantly connect them to on-call agents ready to show properties. Appointments are made through an app after a virtual walk through that often lasts longer than the real thing. A thousand pages of reports and disclosures are routed to them through platforms like Disclosure I.0 Zillow Zestimates conjures opinions on market value. Offers are generated in Zip Forms and signed through Docusign. A remote transaction coordinator handles the paperwork and escrow documents are signed via mobile notary. After all the funds (on average more than a $1million) get wired into an escrow account, the transaction is over.
Faster. Smoother. Easier. Are we missing anything? Next week: More about terms and conditions as the battle continues.