By Christopher Seepe

COVID-19 is a catalyst for a sea change in future real estate prospects and careers. Proptech and especially blockchain, smart contracts, smart locks and cryptocurrencies promise secure and trusted “peer-to-peer” transactions, especially with respect to the multi-trillion dollar real estate industry. These companies and their proudly disruptive technological inventiveness, marketing prowess and deep pockets are collectively going to decimate the grossly over-saturated Canadian Realtor community.



COVID-19 is forcing everything to an online presence and organized real estate institutions have done little to prepare their members for the rapid technological and fundamental societal changes, particularly social distancing. Do a quick search on the internet for “technology adoption” and compare how long it took for 25 per cent of the world’s population to embrace 20th-century convenience inventions such as typewriters, light bulbs, telephones, computers and  flight, and then compare to how long it took to adopt 21st-century inventions like optical media, internet, mobile phones, sub-sonic bullet trains and telecom.

Many brokerages of all sizes will fail. Boutique and specialty brokerages may find new opportunities if they can figure out what their role is in this new paradigm. Realtors today, even with their skill in social networking and marketing, will evolve to become local market and property data collection and blockchain “input” specialists, or possibly real estate lawyers will supplant or merge with them.

If so, Realtors will devolve to a greatly reduced and limited local area customer service and support role, probably as agents or more likely employees of worldwide listing service companies. The high commissions will become a thing of the past for most Realtors as the requirement for real estate legal knowledge and capability, and the process of matching buyers and sellers are taken out of the hands of Realtors.

Crowd funding will play an important role in the new order. Developers and sellers will be able to attract 1,000 investors who each have $1,000 or $10,000 to invest, instead of the small community of connected people today who currently try to find a few well-heeled investors.

New forms of housing ownership and renting will overwhelm an already beleaguered legal system, especially the entirely dysfunctional Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB) in Ontario. Realtors have already experienced all their hard work brokering a sale or purchase torpedoed by short-term legislation that prevents tenant evictions, even for those who haven’t paid rent for months. This is just one of dozens of severe backlashes that will further cripple the housing industry, which was already suffering from its own pandemic crisis – shortage of housing.

Most of the current traditional Canadian organized real estate institutions will collapse and regulatory agencies will find that their raison d’etre turned 180 degrees when they weren’t looking. How can any provincial regulator impose their legislative will on a peer-to-peer company based in the U.S.A., U.K. or Germany? These regulators for the most part presented themselves in the past as protectors of consumers … against whom? Predatory Realtors? In peer-to-peer transactions, against who will the regulators be protecting consumers? Other consumers? Billion-dollar listing companies?

Organizations like CREA, provincial associations and real estate boards all have their insatiable hands in every Realtor’s pockets. Some of these organizations are floundering with no viable mission or purpose. Management of some of the very largest real estate boards has demonstrated a profound lack of awareness of the 60-foot tsunami heading their way. Organized real estate and the MLS don’t stand a chance against the trillions of dollars, euros, pounds and yen that global corporations are spending on R&D to bring buyers and sellers together directly without the need for “trusted intermediaries” like Realtors, lenders, traditional lawyers, mortgage agents, insurance agents and even land registry offices. Timeframe? Less than 10 years; possibly as soon as five.

Oh, you think “relationships” are the mainstay of Realtor success, and technology can never replace that? Why do kids sit next to each other and text rather than talk? How would you define that relationship, and will that continue through to adulthood when those same kids are ready to own their own home?

Social distancing will dramatically impact conventional relationships of all kinds. Peer-to-peer connectivity orchestrated by a trusted entity (blockchain, not companies or people) will empower strangers, each with their own agendas, to connect directly and resolve differences without the need of a mediator, traditionally a Realtor. You think not? Are you willing to bet your career on that? You might want to take some time to do a hard reality check. Gatekeepers of the MLS are living on borrowed time.

Rebuke me if you wish. I’d love to hear why you think I’m wrong. Write your comments below and I’ll try to reply but belay the traditional character assassination that some Realtors seem to fall back on when they emotionally disagree but don’t have any meaningful information or perhaps the mental acuity to defend their counter-position.

45 COMMENTS

  1. True that there will be an ever evolving real estate industry. However with real being a tangible item, and a very expensive and risky one at that, every transaction would involve the buyer or seller ( or their representatives ) to push themselves away from their computer or smartphone and hit the asphalt to be physically present, unless their hard money holds little value to them. We all know how a “good deal” can become a wheelbarrow of regrets very, very quickly. So I don’t see the realtor going away anytime soon.

  2. Thank you for your Opinion: “COVID-19 and the fall of organized real estate.” The article is interesting and thought provoking for REALTORS and the industry. But (there is always a but!) in my opinion it trivializes the complex process and money involved in the buying and selling of a very expensive commodity. We can be dealing with $500,000 or millions of dollars, for example, not $100! I understand that the world has changed and Canadians use: UBER, Skip the Dishes, Amazon and other online shops, etc. to purchase small items under $100. We all do that. However for the purchase of a home or investment property, buyers and sellers are very astute and want to proceed with caution, due the amount involved. Its their life savings all wrapped up in one property. So going through the process with a REALTOR is very important, and allows them to safeguard their funds and end up with a property they want.

  3. I little suggestion, when a person posts, maybe a notice should say it was received but waiting to be approved, rather then the poster thinking it never went.

  4. I have been a Realtor for 45 years and over the years, I have seen all the negative comments, (rephrased maybe but the jist is the same) about Realtors. They are going the way of the dodo bird, we charge too much, computers will replace us… but there is a reason Realtors exist and won’t be disappearing anytime soon.. Let’s pretend for a moment, we didn’t exist. Over the years many Realtors have been murdered whether at open houses or meeting strangers. If no Realtors, then the homeowner would have to show his/her own house. it would be the homeowner that died.
    No Realtors… home owners would have to take time off work to provide access to what very well be lookyloos or someone casing the joint to see if it is worthwhile to break in later. Sellers would “assume” everyone looking would be qualified and most would never ask the important questions for fear of insulting the buyer. I know some Realtors don’t ask either but eventually they will learn or leave the business. Most sellers would never ask if the buyer has to sell first?,…, have they been to a bank?, is anyone else involved in the decision?, do they even have a job? I could go on but most agents will get my point. The most important point was the first one. Realtors have died doing their job. Without us, they would be replaced by the homeowner and the sad news would be about the seller, not the Realtor.

  5. a very well-written article, thanks, Christopher! you can tell by the high number of replies, it created quite a stir.. The wise ones will put on their critical thinking hats and take it from there. The not-so-wise will burry their heads in the sand or try to deny the reality of us becoming obsolete if we don’t adapt/change, and in five years from now will think back at this article. In my area of work (Region of Waterloo) I see a handful of really great agents, and a load of the ones that became lazy, entitled and living a lavish life with no direct correlation to great work. I have met agents who DON”T KNOW how to write a proper offer or what’s in it, unable to check history on a property or ANY valuable information for their clients. Yet, they make huge amounts in commissions. I believe the “new world” will put a stop to that. Time for change.

  6. Follow-up to my previous post back to Gerald:

    I don’t believe I answered your actual question—which is a good one—within my earlier response, Gerald.

    I think most Realtors are complacent these days. I think they have always been complacent, because they believe the indoctrination spewed about by their overlords. They actually believe that they are indeed ‘professionals’ right from the get-go upon receiving their licenses. They are self-deluded-so thanks to their overlords’ efforts to make their worker bees keep on truckin’ toward success in a sea of ineptitude masked by slick campaign advertisements extolling the virtues of dealing with a professional, all the while collecting those dues. I think some day, sooner than later, some entity will indeed throw enough money at the wall in an effort to undermine the stranglehold ORE has on its benefactors, and the consumer. BTW: I don’t believe all Realtors are amateurs, incompetent, or crooks. But there are just too many who are, no matter the mix on any given day. That cannot be said of dentists, doctors, lawyers, plumbers, carpenters, teachers, engineers, police, municipal workers, and on and on. ORE stands alone in its defense of the cadre’ of ever-vanishing, here-today-gone-tomorrow, self-deluded professionals. I daresay I would not fit in with today’s group of technocrats trying to be professional, thus long-term advocates, of the public interest, real estate sales-wise. I was old school, working with clients face-to-face ‘all’ of the time. I was not so lazy as to simply fire off emails and texts until a ‘prospect’ bit onto my many lures as cast about willy-nilly, electronically, in all directions. Let’s face it: Real estate sales is a numbers game. Those newbies who grasp quickly after high numbers spin the roulette wheel, hoping for the big hit, or hits. Those who decide to make a long-term job out of their choice of vocation likely tend to the long game by building a trust account of satisfied clients, one at a time, until over enough time a cadre’ of returning clients fills their incoming contact list. A financially broke, thus desperate, newbie, cannot possibly become a true professional unless the god of pot-luck dumps a big undeserved deal on his/her head that requires absolutely no professional input (read knowledge or upstanding character). Methinks far too many rely upon this vision of sugar-plumes and all-’round good luck to get them going in the first place. I sure wouldn’t want my doctor, dentist, lawyer or plumber to be of that ilk. But ORE does want us to accept that reality. Sad.

    To be clear, again: Big money may sooner than later take a chunk out of ORE, methinks. That could be a good thing or a bad thing. That will depend upon the motive(s) of the big-money folks. Will they be altruistic-minded, or money-minded? Likely money-minded, for that is what almost always draws most humans to the wellspring of high finance. Who would risk hard-earned millions to set right what they think is wrong with a system that has been in place since the last ice-age receded, and which simply will not melt away with that still frozen-in-place hunk of formerly shifting liquid? Maybe me, if I win the lottery tonight…as long as I will have enough millions left over for some really great parties before I croak :-)

    Your thoughts, Gerald?

    • Maybe you should tell me how you really feel Brian :-)
      Truthfully, thank you for a good laugh and some interesting comments. I cannot argue against what is pretty much a fact that our profession is in need of a professionalism tune-up. It has always intrigued me (and many others, yourself included) how someone fresh out of “REALTOR” school is given the keys to the kingdom and turned loose on the public. I think it is exacerbated these days by the rise in anti-authority feelings.
      I’m not sure if we agree or disagree on the beaurocracy; for sure we need less of it but I believe human nature is such that there will always be a need for an overseeing body. That said, our overseeing body just got a complete (and badly needed) overhaul; it would seem all bodies are subject to the vagaries of human nature.
      Speaking of which, regarding the other professions you mention, it would appear they have their challenges also. I know of at least one dental surgeon who spends a fair bit of time trying to repair botched jobs from dentists who took a half day seminar on a specialty and voila, are experts set loose to perform these advanced procedures.
      I’ve heard the argument many times about how the ORE beaurocracy is most interested in churning out the licensees in the interests of cash flow; I must say the physical evidence does support that view somewhat, I’m just not sure if it is intentional, and if so, of the “why.”
      What I mean is, is it on purpose or not? Judging by the direction our industry has taken in the last 20 years, it is very likely it is not by chance; most likely someone is pulling the strings and most likely for their own benefit (I can’t recall who said “If you want to know who’s behind something, look to see who benefits” but it is almost foolproof).
      The problem here is that a few different entities would benefit from our demise and I’m not sure which is (or are) pulling the strings.
      Like you, I am fast approaching the age where fishing and golf are more important so it is of less concern to me, but I never did like bullies and just find myself drawn to fight the good fight.

      • Sorry Chris, I should clarify by “bullies” I mean the large, well-funded firms who aggressively compete, sometimes completely without scruples; I certainly did not mean yourself.

      • Hi Gerald:

        I am aware that some of ORE’s governing bodies have recently undergone some tuning-up, but a minor tune-up is often not enough. ORE is tuning-up at a snails’ pace, incrementally changing policies, procedures and rules that will not immediately provide a challenge to their own existences. Whether or not the slow pace is intentional—in order to slow what is needed to improve the quality of their H.R. product—for their own ongoing place at the top of the money pyramid is certainly open for debate. No organization’s members are going to intentionally undermine their own place in the greater scheme of things for the good of others. That is human nature at work. One should expect nothing different of ORE’s captains. They are not overseeing not-for-profit social service agencies. It’s all about the money…in their pockets.

        Yes, there are some bad apples in every venture, but nowhere as many, methinks, as the number that exists in ORE on any given day. The difference is that most Realtors unbecoming to the vocation don’t very often get caught out, because their victims don’t even know that they have been victimized. The dentist gets caught out because his client’s teeth are still hurting or falling out. His victims know they have been treated poorly. The dentist cannot hide his mistakes like downright dirty-rotten self-serving behind-the-scenes crooked Realtors can. The problem with ORE is that the powers-that-be within seem to turn a blind eye to the problem that they surely must know exists within the confines of their business partners. They don’t seem to want to do too much at one time to get rid of the current bad apples or the bad apples-in-waiting. Gotta keep the Good Ship Lollipop afloat. A leaky submarine they don’t want to become.

        BTW: I too hate bullies. I’m not sure if ORE types are bullies in the classic sense, but they do seem to enjoy wielding their power—be it overtly or tacitly—over their tax-payers—for the sake of getting paid themselves—especially over the vulnerable and honest ones who are new to the game without the confidence to challenge their new masters. The seasoned crooks, however, know how to skirt the system via always claiming ignorance of what they actually know about certain properties/sellers, and go on merrily pulling deals together behind the scenes, often with the help of like-minded crooks representing the other side. I think it’s called “White Collar Crime”.

        I keep offering to come out of retirement to clean things up, but no one’s listening. I even have a line on a good used honey wagon:-)

  7. Well, speaking of character assassination…
    You as well have fallen victim to making assumptions based on off-handed waves and perfunctory dismissals, for you know little of how much I have researched blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies, which are totally interrelated, and frankly, houses of cards. And yes I did explain why, maybe go back for a re-read. It never fails how some always point to the “experts from afar” (in this case Europe) because experts from afar are never wrong. I guess the oracle from Omaha is clearly wrong on cryptocurrency and blockchain, even though he is the most astute investor the world has ever known. I recall the young turk fund managers of the tech bubble laughing at him during the bubble. Now they are back selling used cars and he continues to amaze.
    I don’t recall saying nothing would change, could you refresh my memory on that one? I do recall thanking you for the article and how things “could” change if we didn’t get our act together.

    • The research you did on blockchain vs crypto was at low level and poor quality and the oracle of Omaha comments proves it outright, your facts are not comprehensive and lead to erroneous conclusions

  8. Ironically it is the consumers (Residential and Commercial) commission payments that finance the real estate profession and all its ancillary offshoots. Obviously the brokerages and registrants are the. conduits that pass it through the system. There is an Inherent fear of competition that might see having actual costs directly related to a an individual listing happening rather than percentage based commission …..that would likely reduce all financing for the fringe activities and benefits…..MLS operating as not for profits, conferences, sales and marketing motivational gurus, awards functions, etc., Certainly each of the previous observations have a varying degree validity….food for thought in a profession that does not adapt to change very easily from within!

  9. The winds of change are now blowing with almost hurricane force. Just wait for the tornado to hit. No so-called profession can survive public scrutiny based upon actual knowledge when the industry-professed professionals are mostly newbie-amateurs on any given day. Therefore, the upper crust at the apex of this pyramid of amateur-hour commission-chasers and the relatively small number of actual professional income earners (being the CREAcrats, provincial ‘crats and local board ‘crats) have naught to do but try to defend their place in the greater, or lesser, scheme of things. Who can blame them for defending their claimed right to the spoils of the worker bees/worker ants/Orwellian horses out there in the fields? If the spoils are so great for the privilege of being a Realtor, why are the bureaucrats not out there competing with the rest of their income providers? The answer is obvious; they know better than to get involved in the free-for-all of commission chasing with the mob—or they got out of the rat-race if previously involved—most of whom not only don’t get rich, but whom get busted, both financially and emotionally. That here-now, gone-again rainbow is one bastard of a tantalizing hook, isn’t it? Only the thick-skinned with enough cash reserves can survive to fight another battle…until they too give it up. (Those were the conditions under which I entered the business way back when and subsequently did OK therein) All whom are left standing are tough nuts with cash reserves and nerves of steel…along with a few (maybe more?) crooks. Those whom are already successful, and whom can adapt to the coming winds of change will survive. It’s nature—“The Call Of The Wild” (Jack London)—operating at its finest. But will the playing field ultimately be plowed under?

    BTW: I think Chris is on to something.

    • Interesting thoughts Brian. Over the years this profession can sure wear on a person, and I must agree that in our “I know my rights” age, we are indeed finding more of the newbie/amateur category practising. I suppose I should have spent more time thanking Mr. Seepe for the reminder of the huge, well-funded competitors in the fight, but I just don’t see these forces as succeeding in the end.
      Regarding the various levels of beaurocracy we deal with every day, I somewhat agree with you that they are, like so many of us these days, fighting for their existence, possibly at our expense. Where that shakes out, who knows?
      Given that PB has lost money every year of its existence, as have its predecessors, I just can’t see discounters as changing anything over the long term. As consumers we either pay the price or do the work ourselves. There is just too much money on the table to not cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, and the real estate transaction is getting more complex, not less.
      I don’t see blockchain as that big a game-changer outside its use in cryptocurrency. It seems to me just an electronic form of paper trail otherwise, and I certainly trust the masses less than government to control the paper trail on anything.
      The only way I can see us getting tossed aside over the long term is if someone succeeds in throwing enough money at the consumer combined with enough complacency on our part, but how many REALTORS are complacent these day? Lord knows our industry has changed hugely and we are embracing technology more and more. We may lose some more market share but we may also gain some more, really we still are involved in the vast majority of transactions.
      Any thoughts on these ramblings?

      • Hi Gerald:

        There will always be a place for professionals in any vocation requiring a minimum education standard prior to gaining entry to the chosen profession’s education curriculum, said latter curriculum requiring attaining a high-bar passing grade after completing a rigorous pre licensing education curriculum (no second tries) and, requiring an apprenticeship period working with proven professionals of high standing for a period of time stipulated by an overseeing licensing organization—in this case a provincial government agency—with no income-skin in the game. The latter category is the problem with Organized Real Estate. Without a constant flow of failures-in-waiting, practicing their amateur-hour tactics on unwary consumers, ORE bureaucracies would fold like cheap tents in a mild summer breeze. They need a constant supply of failures-in-waiting to sustain their very life blood…money. To hell with the cannon fodder. Wouldn’t want to alternatively charge high fees to the few professionals in the field, would they now? So mediocrity—all too often sub-mediocrity—reigns supreme in the trade-off for bureaucracy-sustaining cash. The cash cow is very real in this business. It is well fed, yet it yields little in the way of producing a quality product across the board.

        The real pros don’t need an unwieldy bureaucracy breathing down their throats all the time, or part of the time, or any of their time…because they are already pros by way of their very natures. They had/have a professional demeanor ‘before’ they entered/enter the profession, respectively. I daresay you might know something about that, as would others whom contribute regularly to this venue. So ‘there’ is the problem with ORE in a nutshell.

        Staring at age eighteen I had to serve a five year apprenticeship, completing thousands of on-site work hours per year and going to trade school periodically before ascending to the next level of practice and pay—five times over—before acquiring my Steamfitter journeyman licence. Even then I was not a part of a wild-west show screaming around the neighbourhood scrounging for business whilst claiming to be the local expert, above the crowd, number one, trusted…yadayadayada. I was hired/kept on for my proficiency on the job, day in and day out, and I was paid well…on an hourly basis…unless I effed up and was let go…which never happened. Compare the foregoing to the short-cut route to becoming a professional Realtor. There is nothing to compare. I have acquired something like six or seven licenses, certifications etc.—not to mention a university degree—over my working lifetime. Guess which one was the easiest to attain…by far? Guess which one put me immediately in front of the public with the object of getting multitudes of them to trust me to guide them through the most expensive financial gambits of their lives? Guess which one allows for multitudes of just-released-from-the-play-pen wannabes—for whom the job is too much—to roam the streets looking for business in direct—so-called equal—competition with the professionals? In this business the best liar often wins the listing, or the unwary heart of the prospect. ‘Prospect’ is the key word for these frauds, because a newbie-wannabe is indeed actually a fraud, claiming to be a professional, when clearly that is not, and, can not be the case. Only a fraud looks upon a potential client as a ‘prospect’. Only a gambler of a gold miner is a prospector. Only an honest wannabe-newbie tells the truth about his/her newness on the job. From there might develop a professional.

        I am out of the game these days; have been since Dec. 2011. Occasionally I chime in here and there herein. You asked for my thoughts, and here they are. Get ORE to install me as Dictator In Quest Of Realtor Professionalism for a ten year stint, and see what happens. You, among the real pros, not to mention the public, might become very happy campers, but many would hate my guts. Tough nuggies to the latter.

        You are controlled by too many bureaucrats with too much skin in their personal income games. That is the problem with ORE; it is organized against the public interest, and they—being both the public and the ‘crats—don’t even realize that. How can they? That would be treasonous to the crats’ cause, and disavowing to the still trusting, but too often naive, public. Unthinkable. Unfixable.

        You caught me in a good mood. I wouldn’t have wanted to write what I really think were I not in such a great frame of mind.

        Cheers!

        Thanks for your question Gerald.

  10. I too think CREA & OREA are toast (actually I think they toasted themselves in 1997-2017 doing nothing while the market roared – 3 Pillars vanquished, no privacy for unregistered Sold Data etc).

    I think the VentureCap and VultureCap funds Mr Seepe mentions WILL continue to try to attack the brokerage-registrant model and someone may find a new way to DO MORE while CHARGING LESS, but until then, it will be just wave upon wave of New-Dynamic-Systems Web-Bot ideas promoted by some sharpie-individual who has enlisted his friends& their friends into a pooled fund that hopes they are in on the ground-floor of the next-great-thing for the Real Estate Consumer or Registrant or Investor or Brokerage.

    These waves of ideas appear from outside the R E business because ‘the sharpie’ is adapting-for-reuse an idea found in another business/industry and applying it to the “huge commission machine” called the R E Business- and I’m sure from outside it looks like a huge pile of money being earned by under-educated, usta-be-something-else-sters and part-time house-husbands (which it’s not – however there IS a huge ‘churn’ of the aforementioned – and this revolving-door of newbies is intentionally maintained).

    In my opinion, there are too many registered practitioners … and this is THE blessing and THE curse.

    Because it’s one of the last bastions of low-capital, perfunctory-entry-education, big-ticket Free Enterprise businesses in North America …. everyone who’s just missed one opportunity in life is tempted to dream the TV dream of facilitating MILLION DOLLAR deals with a few fast-flips and stunning lakefront renovation projects thrown in for variety.

    Knowing this appeal exists …. Organized Real Estate is ready with their hands out for Initiation Fees – Locally, Provincially and Nationally .. you’d think it was a raffle-ticket for those present-at the end of the dance they’re offering with those Initiation fees – heck, it’s a direct deposit into their Not-For-Profit reserve funds – everyone knows 70-80% of entrants fail as full-timers within the first 2 years.

    So the beginners a) struggle and win, or b) struggle and go back to/ stay in their full-time job or c) join a competing Office or Team where they get a second chance to figure-out how the business works and either a), b) or c) again.

    I’ll stop pretty soon, because everybody knows all this. My point for today is All residential registrants NEED the local nultiple nisting nervice PROVIDER – the instant-distribution and forever-database of current and historic inventory that nobody owns or controls, but all registrants belong to and share information through.

    Now given that on-balance most members would say nice things about their local nultiple nisting nervice Provider (it IS a thankless task akin to herding prima donnas), however, if truth be told… sometimes we LOVE them and sometimes we HATE them because on one occasion their policies/programs seems to treat us/ our firm/brokerage model wonderfully and other times it seems to be working precisely against us/them/it.

    I’ve been toying with an idea which I’ll try to flesh out here and since I’m in Toronto and because Section s.94 (don’t forget s.97) of the 1867 BNA says that Property & Civil Law is a provincial Legislative Power (until the ConFederal Parliament gets around to making these things Uniform across the country {outside la Belle Province, of course}) I’ll use the local names in my example.

    IF I must be a member of the Provincial Regulator, the Real Estate Council of Ontario (RECO) for registration, education and ethics-disciplinary purposes;
    and
    IF (as a residential practitioner anyways) I really-must belong to the Noronto Negional Neal Nestate Noard to enjoy the distributed database of local inventory;
    and
    IF I wish that the NNNNN were mandated/incented to treat all its members exactly the same;
    and
    IF I wish the NNNNN were more responsible/accountable TO me as a member;
    and
    IF I wonder why the professional association of profit-making members who advocate free-enterprise and private property-ownership, is a non-profit, owned by no one and controlled by no one (except a tight circle of permanent staff);’

    Then why don’t we think about Privatizing the NNNNN as did the TSE when it became the TSX and distributing shares in the new organization to the existing members (and the public)?

    If we owned it …. would we right the wrongs and fix the maladies?

    If we owned it …

    • I have suggested that we own it for more than 20 years and no one has been sufficiently interested to take the idea seriously – not board staff, not most directors, nor most members at large. The industry remains inward looking and intent on the status quo.

  11. And one additional comment I missed: if anything, Covid has reinforced the need for human interaction. We are all champing at the bit to get out and get more human interaction, not the opposite. It is in our DNA and we will always need the human interaction component of life.

  12. Rumours of our demise are being greatly exaggerated.

    When one ponders an alarmist article such as this, one must first ask several questions. Who is the author? Is he independent or does he have an interest in the outcome? What statistics are being quoted and how are they backed up? Does the article cover both sides of the issue fairly or does it show bias?
    While many good points are raised and there are many things said of interest, let’s first analyze the above questions because when we ask ourselves these questions, the picture changes.
    At the risk of being charged with character assassination, one must still perform the independent source test. The author is himself a “trusted intermediary” via his website, and in particular, one who would benefit from the fall of REALTORS as his “expertise” would be in greater demand. Thus, the article fails the independent source test and requires extra scrutiny. I do not question his ability to serve clientele as per his website nor that he has sufficient knowledge to speak on the topic, I simply point out that the source has an interest in the outcome.
    When one carefully ponders the argument about how quickly new technologies are accepted as opposed to older ones, a different picture emerges. The article attempts to imply that because 21st century technological innovations are adopted faster, they are somehow better and somehow inevitable. This leap of logic is, of course, not quite justifiable. The world is a very different place and everything moves faster, but what is not being mentioned is that 90% (or better) of technological innovations fall by the wayside due to the very same speed of adoption. As in centuries past, some succeed, most fail. As well, the best mousetrap is still the original; some things do not change, and for good reason.
    The argument is then made that block chain technology and crowdfunding will supplant traditional financial methods. While many things change and evolve, some don’t and some devolve. When we take all our emotional attachments to how block chain and crowdfunding is going to empower the people (the world is in the midst of a global anti-authoritarian movement at present (and not entirely without reason)) and look at them with cold, unemotional reason, a different picture emerges. Block chain technology is currently nothing more than dust in the wind. Any person can create a numerical sequence and voila, backed by nothing of value, it becomes “money”. It is sold on emotions, not logic and it is just another wolf in sheep’s clothing designed to fool the unwary. It will end badly.
    Crowdfunding is currently no different, and certainly no better. If the banks won’t lend you money and the secondary lenders won’t loan you money, why do you think that is? The only place left to get money is the unwary. If you act as a crowdfunding investor, don’t expect a good return on your investment; in fact don’t expect the return of your investment.
    I won’t even address the “high” commissions argument, as any full-time REALTOR knows that is just silly.
    I will stop here as I don’t want to appear to be trying to destroy the author or his work, although the remaining arguments are all subject to scrutiny. I simply want to make the point that, as the headline reminds us, this is an “opinion” piece and nothing more.
    That said, the world is changing and this is a good presentation of the forces against the real estate industry. We must be wary of these forces as they are powerful. Are these forces serving the consumer better? Absolutely not, they are nothing more than competitors trying to take a piece of the pie. Full stop. Since there has been, and still is to some degree, a perception that REALTORS are all black hat shysters, what better way to chip off a piece of the pie than to use the old worn-out argument that these people are the saviours of the consumer, saving them money by reducing “high” commissions. We all know how that usually ends.
    But they do have big big dollars as mentioned, and that makes them a force to be reckoned with. If we don’t get our act together and soon, they will overtake us, not because they are better but because you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time.
    Remember, the US threw billions of dollars at Vietnam and lost. They are throwing trillions at the middle east and are going to lose. Big dollars don’t always spell win. Being a valuable and trusted resource to your client does. Let’s adapt as needed, but also let’s stay the same where needed.
    Mr. Seepe, thank you for your opinions and opening yourself up to dissection. Respectfully, I disagree with many of the assertions made, but I do thank you for a well-needed warning to the industry.

    • I’m not sure how I’d benefit from this, Gerald. I’m semi-retired and will neither win nor lose from whatever happens in the next decade. Making assumptions about someone from a quick online research of maybe half an hour, if that, hardly qualifies as an in-depth assessment–but at least you put in some effort to make a conscientious effort to reply. Given the length of your response, this is a subject that appears to be a great interest or perhaps concern to you.
      You’ve mistaken blockchain and used it interchangeably with cryptocurrency. It also requires immensely more talent than then offhanded wave you gave it. Your perfunctory dismissal of technology that you don’t understand doesn’t rauise credence to the remainder of your comments. You give no reason for why blockchain is dust in the wind and of no value. Even an hour of Internet research on it and “proptech” would tell you how much of the tech world is embracing it. the LROs of several European countries have moved their whole real estate inventory to blockchain. Ignore it at your peril or maybe you’re right, in which case you have nothing to be concerned about. Crowdfunding … there are thousands of successful examples just as there are failures, but it’s not a fad. It’s a trend. Again, you seem to be pretty certain that nothing is going to change so good for you that you have that peace of mind. I’m sure the last holdouts of slide rules, typewriters, magnetic tape manufacturers, , even CD-ROM producers all thought the same thing.
      My misconception about high commissions is “silly.” That’s the extent of your rebuttal. If that was true then there’d be no discount brokerages or flat fee brokerages or direct sellers or Zillow and all their competitors. It’s not the amount of the commission that’s the issue. It’s the value for the money being paid. Technology is taking away a lot of the value that realtors once provided.
      You seem to present that the deep-pocketed disruptors are fooling the market because they are great marketers. That’s pretty simplistic thinking. The technologies may not live up to what they are touted to be–most never do–but successful technologies still provide something |better” than what was offered before and what realtors and the MLS offer now and in the foreseeable future will be displaced. Of that, I could right a book on it. Now if everyone was to buy a copy of that book, then you’re right, I could actually benefit.

    • I fully agree with you Gerald. I have been in this industry for 23 years and have been hearing this same old song for the past 20 years. Dooms day people are just out for their opinions to be heard. An excuse to get their articles published. Realtors are an integral part of the process. Heck I have helped Lawyers buy and sell a house and they don’t even know how it really works. They know the legal parts but there is way more to it than that. I have also seen buyers and sellers come together from marketing websites to swear to never us them again. They were truly left in the dark and important items were missed in the contracts and complications happened and the deal either never came to fruition or it ended up in a bad way with no one happy in the process. Buyers and Sellers need Real Estate agents to navigate them through the often difficult process. When Buyers and Sellers have come together and it seems like a breeze is mainly because we Real Estate Agents handled the process in a great efficient manner that made it seem easy. When I hear the for sale by owner fiasco’s it always reinforces my thoughts that Real Estate Agents are truly needed. Experience is key

    • Don’t blame REM. They’re doing their job and you don’t shoot the messenger. The article was written by me alone and represents my opinions. If you or any other commenter here wanted to invest the hours required to write an informed rebuttal, I believe REM would publish that story too.

  13. Here is my rebuttal:

    Just a few weeks ago, Opendoor and Offerpad in the US launched traditional brokerage listing. Both companies will now list homes directly, alongside their core instant offer business. That is a clear sign that customers still crave the agent experience, otherwise why would these so called tech disruptors enter into the traditional realm of the real estate business? They didn’t do it because they wanted to, they did it because they realized they couldn’t grow based solely on their “ibuyer” model because that is such a niche offering.

    It is akin to Amazon now opening up bricks and mortar stores. Tech innovations have a place, and tech offerings can certainly supplement other models and give the clients more choice, but sometimes there is no real substitute for the full service offering and the in-person experience.

    • Two examples in favour of keeping the realtor in the loop but they just opened a few weeks ago so that’s a reflectiopn of some entrepreneurs’ belief in a counter-culture backlash to technology. Maybe so, but their success remains to be proven. What about the mega-giants like Microsoft, Google, Bell, Zillow, etc. who are betting on the alternative? I’m not saying all realtors will disappear. I’m saying the realtor survivors will be a different breed from today with a vastly different skill set that is not reliant principally on “who you know and how well you get along with them”. Relationships will always be important in business but technology, not relationships, will be the driver of most future real estate transactions.

  14. Society is adopting technological changes more rapidly over time. One can paint a picture of real estate without agents, mortgages, lawyers, inspectors. Ergo, “nebulous blob of technology” is going to eradicate the entire industry in less than five years. Very well reasoned.

  15. Perhaps this will happen and perhaps it won’t. I have been hearing of our inevitable demise for close to 40 years and yet we are still around. Why does are industry survive? Not certain but I believe the majority of buyers and sellers do want a middle person. For many the dollar amount of the transaction makes them uncomfortable and having an experienced agent handle the sale is worth a commission.

    • That’s the same belief and market position that the entities in organized real estate also believe and have adopted so hopefully I’m entirely wrong and what you say remains true then as it is today. Notwithstanding others in this blog being suspicious of my motives, I wrote this article because I believe attention desperately needs to be called to what I believe is a fundamental change to the ways things are going to be done. Fove months ago no one would have ever predicted or even contemplated that everyone everywhere will stay home, never shake hands when meeting, and keep at least 6 feet apart when then “have” to go to a public place (eg. grocery store). Never in anyone’s living memory (except maybe WW2 battle area survivors) have ever experienced such dramatic and traumatic social change and THIS change happened over less than 3 months.

      • Thanks for your reply. As an active agent I can confirm that there has been no fundamental change in how we do our business. Sure new ways to advertise and market and more convenient internet based programs but it’s fundamentally the same as 30 years ago. The industry may be disrupted but currently there is nothing I’m seeing that worries me.

  16. Interesting thoughts, some of which may come true. The concept of people starting to invest small amounts into Real Estate Ventures controlled by others, is a grand idea. If what you are saying about the infrastructure crumbling, no more MLS, no Provincial regulations, investors will think twice about putting their money into high risk ventures when there are more stable ways to see financial growth at higher rates(Wealth Simple). Crowd funding has been a novel idea, but the percentage that the companies providing this service are taking, reduce the investment upwards of 10% before any property is already purchased. Technology has progressed the Real Estate industry in the last five years like never before. Kids do sit next to each other and text, the current way of exchanging notes in class – so old school, but when recess starts they are out in the yard playing with balls and playground equipment, Tag – needs two humans to make it work, with amount of head lice still in public schools, kids are still interacting. The last three months, people of all ages have experienced meetings through screens, and the novelty wore off fast. Kids, teenagers, 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and even those 100+ have all been clambering for human interaction. The spike in Covid cases is a direct result. The MLS – does it need an overhaul, 100%, is it being mismanaged by people who grew up with ordering CD’s by Mail and have not come to terms that simple and interactive is the easiest system. Having spoken with many Realtors in the USA who have multiple MLS systems that are not entwined, their biggest complaint is not being able to find listings online. With what you are proposing, with no central MLS, this would be even better for the bigger Real Estate companies, if you needed to know about a listing you would have to go to their website to find information. The smaller brokerages will be quicker to adapt but not have the quantity of listings to draw people to view their product. Great ideas to make Realtors keep thinking and adapting.

  17. Change is long overdue and very much needed. Hard working buyers are unimpressed by the huge commissions and boasting of the rich and famous lifestyles of many Mercedes driving agents. Sellers have taken to Purple Bricks and other discount companies and hungry agents are happy to make deals with “Self Sellers”. When inventory is low and a quick sale pretty much guaranteed why would anyone fork over $30-$50K for a few hours of work and a sold over asking “Badge”. As one client said “ when he pulled into my driveway in his big white Mercedes I knew then I would not list with his Luxury Brand”. MLS is a great tool, has opened its doors to discount options a d perhaps should grow to include For Sale by Owner for a set fee. Most prefer to shop online and houses are no different. When you do the work to find a couple worth visiting why do we need an agent? Sadly the industry has dug it’s own grave through excessive commissions and advertising awards events all over the world. Agents are not life saving physicians and nor should they make more than the highly educated specialist. A few online courses do not make agents worthy of a Million Dollar Listings TV contract. A reset is long overdue and technology will help advance it.

  18. Although I do not necessarily agree with all of the changes the Chris Seepe suggests are inevitable, he does provide a very necessary wake up call to all of us who make a living out of what we affectionately and perhaps with ‘tongue in cheek’ call “organized real estate”. If we as an industry are to survive I believe we need to make some very fundamental changes to how we operate. For real estate practitioners this means having significantly better access to seamless MLS data without artificial limitations and boundaries that currently exist due to structure of Real Estate Boards and Associations. If we do not quickly provide Realtors with the same comprehensive access to data that consumers enjoy through Realtor.ca we run the very serious risk of making ourselves irrelevant. Dual memberships, inter-boarding and the like are archaic anachronisms of the past and must be abandoned in favour of partnerships and enhanced relationships that actually work for the benefit of Realtors and the public rather than the multitude of real estate boards that continue to exist, largely due to inertia and resistance to change. Ask yourself one important question: If we were to structure our industry from scratch in today’s environment, would it look anything like it does now? If your answer is “HELL NO” then we owe it to ourselves to re-create it as we know it ought to be.

    • Great reply, Bob. I agree with everything you said. As I wrote in an earlier reply below, the article was intended as a warning of the way things may become if our industry leadership doesn’t start engaging today’s young technology leaders and pioneers who see what the future will be and figure out how realtors can evolve to be relevant in the next decade.

  19. Well it certainly has me a bit worried. But what should I be doing to adapt to the coming changes? Do I send a resume to an online tech giant?
    I still ask myself if someone would purchase a home to live in without viewing in person first? I can see that with an investment property yes.
    What bothers me is the fact that all the listings and data on the MLS are from Realtors doing the leg work of door knocking and advertising in their local area, only for these online companies to take the information and try and sell leads back to realtors.
    What to do?

    • This is perhaps “the” operative question and one that would take a very long letter or short story to respond to. Unhappily, I just don’t have the bandwidth to do that in this kind of a forum. But this IS the question you should be asking your brokerages, boards and “associations” to answer for you. You pay membership fees to all of these entities. It’s their responsibility and duty to guide you through this technological quagmire. If they deny that responsibility then ask yourself, what are you paying them for? MLS, listing tools, fighting unwinnable anti-competition court cases?

    • PLAN OF ACTION done for you

      1. STOP FEEDING THE BEAST – this will buy some time to do what Christopher said, so why do people feed the beast? To get leads. This is solved by *realizing that leads are everywhere*, there’s 1000s of leads and lead generation is not the problem, never has been and is not now. There are many LOCAL or non-tech-giant-funded options to deliver these leads, DYI with FB or Google or pay someone to do the same. The problem is converting them, that’s always been the problem from 50 years ago to now.

      2. MORE OR LESS DO WHAT CHRIS SAID:

      2a) PUSH BACK AGAINST THE CORPORATE PROBLEM – this refers to more or less any and every corporate real estate brand senior management, who’s only strategy against tech-giant-funded entities is to download the problem onto individual agents instead of taking a single ounce of responsibility. On the ladder or pyramid they expect the individual agent who has the least amount of resources to “innovate” and come up with a magical wand waving solution, without a single piece of guidance or hints or even a remote idea of how. All they offer is complete incompetance and suggest that the bottom of the ladder fix everything when they themselves cannot. Such an attitude deserves immediate firing but that won’t happen, so shoot for change.

      Further to this, DEMAND that corporate real estate brands immediately cease and desist funding the beast (Century 21 anybody?).

      2b) PUSH BACK AGAINST THE ORE PROBLEM – this is mostly what Chris suggested, demand the same as above of organizations you pay dues to, and vote with your dollar if that’s how uncooperative and unreceptive they will be to listening and more importantly, ACTING is short time (not planning, no committees that last 6 months to waste money and study something that, well, some people right here have the answers to)

      2c) PUSH BACK AGAINST THE BROKERAGE PROBLEM – some broker managers are much better than others, some say they have tried to do instigate change and get shut down by ORE at the highest levels, ***these PROACTIVE BROKER OWNERS NEED HELP!!!!!****, so time to get any lazy broker owner on board or vote with your dollar and move on to an environment that is probably going to be much better overall, and may just help save your career long term.

      An organized movement among broker owners is going to be both very tough to get going and get agreement on but even tougher to stop that train once it leaves the station!!

      3) MAKE IT COMMON KNOWLEDGE – with fewer and fewer people lacking the mental acuity to drone on about how something that happened before (real estate didn’t change) is an absolute guarantee that it will never change, maybe something can get done! That is the general extent of the logic presented (yes there is discussion about relationships, but again is the assumption that what happened in the past will guarantee it will happen in the future – complete nonsense when looked at from any other perspective).

      The problem is indeed mental actuity, meaning there are no QUESTIONS asked. Such as, what has changed in the past 5-10 years that might make for a different outcome vs the past 40 years. Well, there’s a FRIGGIN LOT, let’s go with the speed of adoption, the different needs of various demographics and what that trend points to in combination with speed of adoption, the MASSIVE increase of VENTURE CAPITAL, the fundamental changes in how our economy is growing (from more production based to whatever nonsense we have now with money printing driving the show), the availability of technologies to make change happen that couldn’t before (hi speed internet and phones faster than your computer 20 years ago to name an obvious one, other industries shifting (Uber, food delivery, etc) that wasn’t happening 20 years ago and this is only what comes to mind as I type without doing a single bit of research, there is a lot more.

      Also there are no QUESTIONS asked to have a productive conversation such as, “well Chris given X and Y and Z about relationships between people, and how we see X changing but Y and Z stays the same, how do you see any of this actually playing out”? No no no, it’s all about I’m right and you’re wrong and I want to hear my own voice. That kind of nonsense needs to stop if there’s any dream of something productive happening, or we do the old school way where a very tiny group does it all and the masses benefit (more likely).

  20. If Sony records could have had the vision to charge everyone $3.00 a month to access music, they could have sustained the industry change. Instead, they couldn’t quite grasp that they were going to lose the $20 per “album” and tried to hang on, to their great loss. I’m not sure what the next ten years will look like in Real Estate, but there will certainly be dramatic changes. I feel like the industry has it’s head in the sand, fiercely holding onto our value and not re-imagining and adjusting for the changes the future will bring.

    • Type in to an internet search/browser “technology adoption rates” and look at myriad charts. Sony also messed up when they reportedly charged $200,000 license fees to manufacture video tape players based on betamax. Everyone else told Sony to take a hike and built technologically-inferior VHS products. Sony was also the co-inventor of optical media (CD-ROM, DVD, etc.). Despite their frequent missteps, they continue to evolve. Every once in a while they come out with a “walkman” that carrries them through the next decade. That’s hat billions of dollars invested in R&D can do. What Canadian Organized Real Estate entity in Canada can make that claim? What leadership/management has the foresight to see what coming done the pipe? They don’t even have the humility to ask people who do know. They treat technologically companies like pariah. What goes around comes around.

  21. This seems rather an alarmist type article with little backing, I don’t see how this could take place in 5 years. The idea of completely turning things upside down that quickly is a huge challenge with legislation and the pace of tech development in Real Estate. Have you seen the speed of the “giants” moving from the US to Canada?

    • I was permitted 800 words. It would take multiple articles or perhaps even a short book to provide the indicators, trends and data to back up the predictions I’ve made. And these are predictions based on the status quo. If organized real estate can respond in a timely fashion and figure out its leadership role then it may yet turn around. I’ve met or communicated with a few of these leaders and while they are generally accomplished people in their own right, I have no faith in their leadership or vision–or lack thereof. There’s a profound sense of denial in upper management. They think they know it all and they haven’t a clue. I spent 35+ years in I.T. before becoming an real estate investor and broker of record (in that order and priority). Most of my IT career dealt with managing change. I consider myself an authority on change management and you can take or leave that as you see fit (I mean all readers, not just you Daniel). I slowly started re-directing my future away from real estate commissions and “relationship management” perhaps two years ago. COVID just accelerated the process exponentially.

      • Hi Christoper,

        I was laughed at, at the OREA conference, 20 some odd years ago when I suggested that Realtors should develop our own MLS online system. I knew then that there was a lack of vision. Still, I went on to advocate for enhanced meaning for the designation of Realtor. Yes, I said, we have far too many real estate salespeople and I am shocked at how many consistently violate the code of ethics and other regulations… and since “organized real estate” is failing to protect MLS, how about we keep the designation “Realtor” for only the cream of the crop? How about we hold our members to the highest standard, I suggested. How about we transition OREA and CREA into professional organizations with stringent requirements for membership… raise the bar… how’s that for a plan? And incidentally, if that was the case- wouldn’t MLS have been more easily protected as a members only database? Now that would be worth membership fees. You might be right, there may still be time to turn things around… but not until organized real estate stops wasting time trying to impress; while fumbling the ball.

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