Uber the Disruptor
Uber is an economic disruptor. A company that changed things so fast – so dramatically – affecting so many people both personally and professionally – that businesses now refer to getting “Uber’d” when they talk about disruptive technologies and change in their industry. The internet did to travel services what Uber has done to the taxi industry. With the entrance of a new application or technology, industry can change on a dime. Real estate agents throughout the country talk of new technologies, and there is no shortage of predictions the next “new” application around the corner will “Uber” real estate. Should we fear this? Embrace this? Ignore this?
What is Uber?
If you know what Uber is, skip to the next paragraph. Uber is a company that developed an App (Application) which allows any Mom or Pop to subscribe to the App, and make themselves available for a fee to transport people in need of a ride using their own automobile. Consumers simply download the App to their phone, put in a credit card, and open the App to schedule a pick up and destination. Any available Mom, Pop, or college student with a car in the area can take the opportunity as a service provider. The process is all handled by smart phone and credit card. No operator. No phone call. Simply schedule the car, a price is quoted, and the car shows up. Uber gets their share and the driver gets their share. Simple. Ingenious. Trans-formative.
Is Real Estate Dysfunctional?
So how does an App like Uber transform the real estate industry? The problem (some may say advantage) with real estate is very simple – it's a dysfunctional industry. Each state has its own license requirements. Each state has its own laws for the practice of agency. Each market, both big and small, has their own quirks, competition, and customs. Commissions are negotiated differently depending on individual market pressures and individual brokerage policies. Data is delivered by multiple software environments, with different quality controls, and different ownership philosophies (and personal agendas). Contract obligations, disclosure laws, title conveyance – all are driven by traditions that have evolved out of the states founding influences. Louisiana has laws with French influences, New Mexico has Spanish influenced laws, and Georgia has laws influenced by England.
So, can real estate be “Uber’d” – I think not. Can small components be “Uber’d” – I think YES. Across the United States and beyond, inventors (programmers) are tinkering in their garages or basements trying to find the next Uber for some small component of the real estate industry. These minor changes will make the industry better for both the consumer and the providers. But will it be trans-formative, industry changing, simple, and cheap like Uber? I say no way. Real estate is too dysfunctional. And I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.