Digital Disruption Of Real Estate Versus More Traditional Approaches

Tom Brezsny
- Tom Brezsny

Digital Disruption Of Real Estate Versus More Traditional Approaches

We’re talking about the silent battle that’s raging between the digital disruption of real estate and more traditional approaches to the business rooted in personal service and experience-based representation. To catch up on the conversation go

While the battle isn’t always visible to the naked eye, it is increasingly getting woven into the fabric of everyday real estate, insidiously tucked into the nooks and crannies of every listing, every offer and every closing. And there’s a growing sense of disconnect permeating the whole process because it’s not quite clear whether humans or algorithms are running the show!

It’s one more example of the culture clash happening all around us. The tug of war between old and new, analogue and digital, relational and transactional. And in some ways it really is a battle for the soul of real estate as the appification of everything continues to make significant inroads by offering the clickbait of “simpler, faster, easier” as substitutes for slower, more thoughtful, people-oriented alternatives.

In a world drunk on too much information, one wobbling towards the future at breakneck speed, it is easy to mistake “faster and simpler” for solutions rather than seeing them for what they really are: “more of the hair of the dog” that’s byte-ing us.

As I write this, Zillow and a slew of other web-based portals are busy hawking new I Buyer programs intended to boil home buying down into a few simple keystrokes. There are more than 90 web-based real estate companies in S.F. working hard on new digital platforms designed to “reinvent the way real estate gets done.”

As a realtor, it is particularly fascinating because most of these venture capital-backed efforts to “reinvent real estate” are being led by people who have never been Realtors. And who are also employing cadres of young engineers who have never actually owned a home or sold one. People who don’t have a clue about what it takes to help someone navigate through an extremely complicated and emotional process.

On a macro level, the attempt at the digital disruption of real estate is based on a decidedly false premise that serves a more cynical agenda– namely – siphon off parts of the home buying process with the goal of monetizing them, going public and achieving the big IPO payday. In other words, it’s based on the Zuckerburg mantra of “move fast and break things” even while the world is yearning for a slower pace and a more unified understanding of the big picture.

Next Week: Why real estate is such an attractive target for digital disruptors intent on fixing what isn’t broken. 

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