Open Listings: THE Hot Topic

This morning I got a marathon voicemail message from an independent broker who is incredibly displeased with my recent post Look Who’s Whining About Open Listings, in which I chide those who are opposed to REBNY’s plans to put comprehensive listings online. (As background, I suggest that the opposition comes largely from small firms who tend to offer a lower level of service. I suggest they are scared, and calculate access to listings is a big part of the reason customers walk in their door. If the listings are freely available, those small firms will have to compete with big firms purely on marketing muscle and quality of service.)

Here’s a synopsis of the message I got:

As an Independent Broker with 16 years of experience, I and many of the small firms that I have spoken to feel that your article is “incredulously irresponsible, inaccurate, uneducated, and totally, totally, totally distasteful. Not only is it not the correct petition, but it is full of untruths. In fact, the majority of REBNY independent brokers are far superior to the agents of larger firms and as you know, all REBNY members must, by rule, make their listings available to all other REBNY firms within 72 hours.” This broker goes on to say that she has refused business with two agents in the past eight months from a very large firm because they were “inept and unethical.” She was forced to close the transactions with those agents’ managers. She also wants me to know that “dozens of agents whom she has spoken too, many more seasoned than me, at larger firms are NOT, that’s NOT in favor of the open listings portal.” Furthermore, she thought that I should know that she has been elected to serve on a special task force for REBNY and that she could provide me with “truths about deceptive press releases.” She continues to say that I have made “broad and false accusations” and that it is I who looks like I’m “ignorant and whining.” According to her, I have “lost respect of many of my colleagues” and I should be “more responsible with true facts.”

First of all, it’s a shame that we are cast as opponents here, because I feel like TrueGotham is on the side of any and all real estate professionals who have a lot of professionalism, integrity, and expertise, and it sounds like this caller is one of the good guys and gals.

And secondly, who does’t hate to be called a liar? I am trying my hardest to tell nothing but the truth as I see it. I can only speak from my personal experience.

Certainly I should have been more careful in how I wrote that first post. I have attempted to remedy that in the comments, and I will again here: Of course I never meant to imply all agents at big firms are ethical, nor that all agents at small firms are unethical. I believe nothing of the sort. If you read TrueGotham regularly, you will know that I don’t believe that to be the case. I have even spilled the beans on unethical behavior in the office where I’m sitting right now.

Let’s look at the big picture for a second: open listings are good for our people who buy and sell real estate, plain and simple. I have never heard anyone make a compelling argument otherwise. That is why I think open listings are both inevitable, and a positive development for our industry. In a world where listings are open, real estate customers will feel happier and less exploited, and for those of us who are providing real services beyond access to listings, there will still be plenty of work. (Who buys anything–a company, a yacht, you name it–for six, seven, or eight figures, without a consultant, advisor, or intermediary?)

In the long run, I believe the only people who are hurt by open listings are those agents and brokers who offer their clients little of note beyond access to listings. Unfortunately, those agents and brokers I described represent a pretty hefty chunk of the industry (which explains the NAR’s opposition), and some people will be looking for jobs. It’s no surprise to me that plenty of real estate professionals–yes, especially those who aren’t working with the various marketing advantages of a big firm, who get bulk discounts to advertise everywhere–would feel threatened by open listings.

I am convinced that the image of real estate professionals–which is, in part, the image people have of me and my colleageues–has been damaged for some time by the reality that for a lot of people a real estate license has been a way to make money without having to do a lot of work. That’s not how I have ever approached my job, and I’m resentful that it sometimes appears that way, by association. All those real estate professionals, from firms large or small, who see themselves as hardworking professionals with expertise, I encourage you to join me on the side of open listings, and I think we’ll all be better for it.

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