My neighborhood is pretty hip. We've got a community E-mail group, Web site, and Weblog. Lost a dog? News alerts can be sent out instantly. Need a carpenter? Post your request on the site or send E-mail, and recommendations will come your way. Want to know the list price of the house for sale down the street? Or what your new neighbors paid for their house? No need to look any further than your in-box. We've got a guy in the neighborhood who gets all of the data and makes it available to everyone. I guess you could call it our community form of cutting out the middleman.
It's something that came to mind the other day when I read an article about the Justice Department threatening to file a suit to block a proposed move by the National Association of Realtors to prevent upstart brokerage firms from making home listings available on public Web sites. Allowing consumers to search home listings on their own before selecting an agent or deciding to sell a home without an agent is something the NAR apparently believes is a bad idea.
But maybe it's time for the real-estate industry to rethink its business model. Perhaps it should take a look at the airline and hotel industries and how the Internet has changed their business models. Or look at Ameritrade and E-Trade and the impact they've had on stock trading. And what about the car business? The Internet lets consumers do all of their own searching and comparison pricing, essentially turning some dealers into fulfillment sources. Or how about the music industry? Can you imagine not being able to purchase songs online? Plenty of industries have fought new business models brought about by the Internet. But how many have won? The NAR should pay close attention to that statistic.
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