For me, the professional highlight of each summer is attending Inman Connect. This year was no exception. While I was there, I was able to fulfill some of my mentoring duties for NAR’s REach® Accelerator Program. The program helps startups tailor their products to meet the needs of the real estate industry. It puts tech startup leaders and real estate leaders in the same room, and gets them to talk to each other. Think: speed dating for business.
The meeting was a reminder that organized real estate and the tech industry have a serious disconnect. Most real estate executives don’t understand technology as well as they should, but guess what? Most tech CEOs understand even less about real estate.
Even companies like Trulia and Zillow have limited staff that understand the real estate industry. VP’s like Chris Crocker and Alon Cheever are exceptions in companies full of software engineers, user experience geeks and marketing professionals. Most of the decisions these companies make are to delight consumers. They often have no idea they will create angst in the industry. Of course, companies like Trulia and Zillow are now big enough that they don’t have to care what the industry thinks. The industry has always mistrusted them, and naturally, that has lead them to feel the same way in return.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
With a resurgence in the housing economy, innovation is on the rise. Start-ups are popping up everywhere. In addition to NAR, Inman News and Realogy have both created programs to help foster these companies. There’s a consensus building in the industry to get it right this time. Instead of worrying about how technology will destroy the status quo, the industry needs to show these companies how to provide value. Instead of trying to block them out, they need to find ways to invite them into the fold. If anything, keep your friends close, and the latest tech startups in real estate even closer.
Communication is mutually beneficial. As tech companies are struggling to learn more about real estate, the real estate industry has the opportunity to better understand technology.
NAR has opened the lines of communication between organized real estate and technology. My hope is that others will continue to follow suit. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Many real estate executives could start by simply reading Drew Meyers’ series of interviews, “Meet the Real Estate Tech Entrepreneur,” or committing themselves to walk the tradeshow floor at their state or national convention. Tomorrow’s Pete Flint, or Spencer Rascoff could be working a booth, and hoping to be a friend, instead of an adversary.