By Marty Douglas

What better way to celebrate Canada Day than by setting your hair on fire over another perceived threat? By the way, setting your hair on fire, while not recommended, is one of the few demonstrations available to Canadians without a permit and, if it goes badly, it’s going to be covered by our fabulous health care system and no doubt, YouTube. Yay Canada!

Here’s the fire starter headline from REM: Will real estate brokers get ‘Ubered’ out of a career? by Robert E. Lee. Not the most original name for a revolutionary but probably not one he could do much about. Mr. Lee suggests the success of Uber (not so much in Montreal but c’est la vie!) is a red flag for our industry, that gatherers of BIG DATA will soon create platforms where buyer and seller will meet to finally accomplish what has been threatened for decades – disintermediation.

At a recent Re/Max meeting of owners and managers, Adam Lerner reminded the group that computers can “see”, “hear” and “write” as well as humans. Adam is the founder of Solvable and assisted the Journey of Discovery team at BCREA to contemplate the future of British Columbia real estate. Not only can computers do things as well as or better than humans – THEY CAN DO IT FASTER! All they need is data. Haven’t heard of it? Well, it’s where you and I may be working tomorrow. Sixty per cent of the world is not connected to the Internet. Forty per cent of online learners are from developing countries. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re doing or what you want to do because you can learn it or have it provided online. How else did I learn napkin folding?

What’s behind Mr. Lee, the fire starter? A franchise called RealtyPoint. What do they promise? To do everything for you – except the messy bit about selling.

Still calling it the “new” economy? Sorry, it’s the “present” economy but some of us have myopia. We haven’t grasped the forest has been clear-cut and we’re working among a rapidly changing opportunity for work. At a recent panel discussion in the Comox Valley – not exactly Silicon Valley – we heard presentations from a local inventor who is creating 3D models of undersea oyster farms. His team consists of an electrical engineer in New Zealand and a manufacturer in Ireland. His assembly and testing is done in Victoria, all for a site on a remote bay on Quadra Island, monitored from his home in Cumberland. Google Map those co-ordinates.

On the same panel was an engineer for a logging equipment manufacturer in Campbell River who does design/build with 3D modelling, imports steel and builds multi-million dollar, computer-operated grapple yarders worth $1.5 million per copy. He sells and maintains them for logging companies in B.C. and also to Oregon and New Zealand. Now he’s having a crack at Chile.

The third person on the panel writes a computer language for video games that is revolutionizing the industry from that hub of high tech – Port Alberni. His challenge is finding a community with housing to accommodate what might be a team of 100. After you house us, we’ll worry about the working space we need.

Their common problem is transportation – not of people but of lumpy objects.

My real estate board introduced new technology to the members in late May. Remember this name or Google it right now – Trenlii. It may be the most progressive step forward in a practical real estate tool since Top Producer.

Here’s what Trenlii will do:

  • Embed charts into your website created to your specifications – personal activity or market in general – updated automatically.
  • Post statistical facts created automatically for Twitter and Facebook networking.
  • Review listing data on competitive listings on a map format that also allows street views.
  • Advise clients in chart form on the price they might expect to obtain based on when they bought their house.
  • Create an interactive map of competitive listings and email it to your client at times you select.
  • In major urban areas, pick any crime by type and see occurrences in any neighbourhood.

The premise of Trenlii is to interpret the data the client doesn’t have from public sources (but would kill for!) and allow the Realtor to initiate different discussions about the marketplace. It makes us credible interpreters of the information the Internet has given the consumer. What experienced Realtors intuitively know, Trenlii provides in a third-party expert presentation.

Trenlii feasts on BIG DATA. Here’s the good news – we have the data.

Here’s the bad news. My favourite forecast is closer to the truth than ever before.

From Warren Bennis, the leadership pioneer who died one year ago, “The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.”

Do the best you can.


  1. I believe this is all worthy of discussion. It might panic some people in the industry, but it should serve as inspiration to some of us that think bigger…how can we ensure our role in a real estate transaction is valuable to the consumer beyond the simple hording of data? I believe many bare-minimum agents will lose their value and will have to find other occupations in the next few years. I’m not pointing fingers either…I’ve been there. But now it’s time to develop my business into something that shows and screams value – again, beyond the hording of data! Let the strong survive :)

  2. Brian,

    As a real estate Advisor and not a simple agent or traditional real estate brokerage, can you explain the reason why you would never allow any of your clients, who own homes, to have their data be used on the Tenlii platform? I would especially like to hear your opinion on how Tenlii negatively impacts sellers getting the highest price when their home would not appear in a beneficial light when viewed on Tenlii.

    Conversely I would like to hear your opinion on how Buyers can take advantage of Sellers when their listing agent allows their MLS data to be placed on Tenlii and form part of the analytics package hosted on their brokerage or brokerage sales staffs websites?


  3. Hi Marty, Thanks for reading my previous article. It has garnered some discussion, which is what I meant to do.

    I have a follow-up article on REM’s submission desk which I hope they will publish. In real estate life goes on. There have been bell-ringers in the streets for many years calling for the end of the profession as we know it.

    Now we understand that the very real threats are coming from all sides. Just as there really isn’t a “private life” anymore (short of unplugging yourself from the internet), there is no safety in continuing to do your job as you did before.

    The usual “thinning of the herd” of real estate salespeople has come from market downturns. Now we are seeing a different challenge ahead: maintaining relevance.

    Consumer’s expectations have changed, indeed, our lives have been transformed. At any time when you have a question you can “google it”. The answer is just a click away. Need to fix a leaky tap? Go watch a YouTube video and fix it like a pro. Need a new logo? Go to and find a designer.

    The common denominator is accessibility. It’s what we demand in our lives. If we expect someone to provide us with a service then it had better be top-notch, or the entirety of the connected world will hear about it.

    Let’s look at auto sales as an example: due to the availability of information the car-shopping sales funnel has been reduced from 6 to 8 trips to several dealerships, a few test drives, plenty of seeking answers to questions, etc., to visiting just a couple of online websites and a final trip to the dealership to purchase the car. And a car is usually the second biggest purchase a person makes.

    When, not if but when, the real estate transaction becomes “parted out” we will see a shift in the relevance of the real estate professional’s job description. “Big data” is the major variable here. Access to that information will open up, if not today then on a tomorrow soon.

    The survivors in this business will be those that have the happy clients that refer them business and have a strong personal brand that they have built a successful business upon. The fast-moving, customer service oriented brokerage will be leading the way because they can nimbly accept the changes ahead and react to the demands of the times.

    Large brokerages will be a part of the “herd thinning” for the very same reason many of them merge or fail: they do not provide the support real estate salespeople require and they look to cut costs as their sales volumes diminish. Their “bottom line” focused attention will see savings in costs by offloading many of the tasks that people now do, which is primarily finding and bringing in clients.

    Those that see and adapt will win the future, those that do not will lose relevance and be pushed aside.

    By the way thanks for mentioning where I work. Realty Point is the solution for real estate top producers to open their own brokerage and be able to keep selling, not get overcome with administrative work. Our model is working very well and we are extremely pleased to have Zia Abbas join us as president of the company and also as the new brokerage owner of “World Class Realty Point”.

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