Don't Hide, Engage Disruption

Image of splatter painting and the typograph Dis-Rup-Tion

“Disruption” is a word that gives many in real estate nausea. Whether it’s from the unending parade of shiny objects trotted across the industry’s news media or the sheer overuse of the term, it’s not a favorite of many real estate professionals.


We’ve talked about disruption of traditional real estate for many years, from internet listings to electronic lockboxes, consumer web portals, and digital brokerages. Shying away from the disruptive edges of real estate might seem like a clear path forward, but we’re entering a stage of innovative investment like we’ve never seen before.

Wall Street wants a piece of the real estate pie. Partnered with technology startups, there’s an incubator around every corner poking at the real estate commission piggy bank and looking for weak points. Whereas just a few years ago these new technology companies would have had to scrap their way through a slow growth process, they can scale in an instant today. Investors move quickly and fund heavily.

So what’s a real estate broker to do in this golden age of technology and investment disruption? First and foremost, engage. That doesn’t mean getting bogged down in the details of every new technology or business model that arises, but be aware and take the time to understand how these new ventures work.

If consumers are attracted to these new ideas, find out why. What about the innovation is making a consumer buy/hire/show interest in this new process? Are there things that we could do in our own businesses that would provide the same kind of innovation for our current customers? Have we kept up on new technology enough to know what products or services might be available to level the field with the technologists?

Some disruption can be good—it creates a better consumer experience and those of us that engage in the process of implementing it will continue to thrive. Those that don’t are susceptible to fading away.

Of course, technology isn’t the only answer, and it’s not always a net positive depending on how it is implemented. You may be of the opinion that a consumer’s experience isn’t improved by unsupervised showings, limited market exposure, or minimal property preparation for sale. These things don’t have to be our enemies, though. They can serve to further our knowledge of the marketplace and help us explain our value proposition to a consumer. Experience, concierge service, dedication to a client’s best interests and maximizing financial returns are easily shown as valuable if we take the time to do so and contrast them against competing offers.

Understand what’s happening with disruptive technologies and businesses, and pick a strategy. Co-opt the best solutions. Ignore the flashy sideshows. Educate your sphere and your clients on the attractive lures that might have some painful hooks on the other end. REALTORS® have always been adaptive, creative, gritty entrepreneurs. Today’s influx of Wall Street cash into real estate will only drive industry change faster. The ability to grow, defend, and improve within that changing environment will be a significant factor in the winners and losers going forward.

Engage and understand industry disruption. Be one of the winners.

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