I have experienced this myself both as a consumer, as well as being a small business owner. In real estate brokerage, even in the mid-1990s, home buyers could not gain access to all of the listings of homes for sale without working with a real estate agent. We were the gatekeepers of the inventory, and we held those keys through the use of the Multiple Listing Service. Officially, the MLS is a tool for real estate brokers that is used to share information and to make private offers of cooperation and compensation. It’s also the way brokers announce to the world that a home is for sale. Without MLS access, consumers would have to rely on yard signs, newspapers and magazines to get a glimpse of less than one half the inventory.
The internet has impacted real estate brokerage in many ways, but easily the greatest change was seen when the MLS moved from monthly printed paper books to a digital feed that real estate companies could use to promote all listings online. I launched my primary website in 1995, and right away, buyers in my market area could see all homes for sale in our market area.
Are You Losing Control Too?
The MLS rules changed over time to where it was not just Realtors who could promote listed properties; in fact, we saw our feed utilized by newspapers, magazines (moving online) and new digital marketing competitors. By 2000, it was becoming clear that Realtors were no longer the gatekeepers of the information, so we had to redefine our value proposition. While this created chaos and a large turn-over in our industry, it also created an opportunity for those of us who embraced the changes and searched for a modern way to effectively broker the sale of homes. I decided to go back to school, earn my Masters Degree with the goal of rebuilding my operation in a manner that would take advantage of the changes that digital marketing was bringing.
The expansion of the housing market from 2002 through 2005 brought so much activity to my brokerage that I postponed my efforts to grow and thrive through digital marketing. Sure, I now had an enhanced education and well-founded ideas on a new business model, and I knew a lot more about marketing, but the housing market was so good that it did not seem to matter. Sales were abundant and life was good. As they say, all good things must come to an end, and by 2006 it was very apparent that the housing market bubble had burst and things were going to get tougher. And, tougher it was.
By 2007, due to declining sales, I decided to renew my pursuit of a new business model, and this is when I actively became a student of digital marketing. Later, I will address the trials and tribulations I encountered during my digital learning curve.