Sunday, April 15, 2007

Free the Market! Free the Market!

I read Bloodhound Blog frequently. Mostly inside real estate for those connected to the profession, it's still fascinating reading for anyone interested in what may lie ahead in the buying and selling of homes.

It has many excellent contributors, but is run by Greg Swann, principal broker of Bloodhound Realty in Phoenix. Greg's a terrific writer, writes, I believe, a weekly column for the Arizona Republic, and knows the business thoroughly. But what keeps me coming back is his passion for the free market, which is almost always defined as what's best for you, the customer. That means he's more interested in making agents better agents as opposed to better salespeople, and that he occasionally has to go against the protectionist orthodoxy that can invade our industry and your rights as consumers of our services.

Thus yesterday this was posted. Briefly, from the Arizona Republic:

An Arizona regulatory board has ordered Zillow.com to stop offering its online estimates of home values.

The Arizona Board of Appraisal has issued two cease and desist letters to the popular real estate Web site, claiming Zillow needs an appraiser license to offer its "zestimates" in Arizona.

"It is the board's feeling that (Zillow) is providing an appraisal," said Deborah Pearson, Board of Appraisal executive director.

Granted it's Arizona, not Oregon; granted it's obtuse on so many levels it approaches parody; and granted it has almost no chance of getting anywhere: it's as if the American Library Association issued a cease and desist to Google.

But it's symptomatic of how industries in general, and ours in particular, react to innovation that's perceived as competition: Gather the lobby, circle the wagons, and regulate that competition out of existence. Greg says it well:

This is Rotarian Socialism in action. The so-called regulatory body serves at the beck and call of the putatively-regulated industry. They have no hope of doing anything but making themselves look ridiculous in public, but they have to answer to their allegedly regulated masters no matter what.

Zillow does what it does very, very well. It's decidedly not entirely accurate, but it admits that up front.

What it does do is make me better at my job. Almost every client – both buyers and sellers – with whom I've worked knows the site, and has used it. I have to be better at justifying any comp I do.

One last thing: Bloodhound believes – as do I – that good agents are worth every penny they charge, and then some. The business is changing, and rather than shrink from competition and new ideas, we can thrive on them.

We have to.

1 comment:

HcoRealEstate said...
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