What If The Market Had Not Collapsed in 2007?

Just a quick thought/question, since I’m working on a big paper at the moment when the thought occurred to me. Think about this.

Trulia launched in September of 2005.

Zillow opened its doors in February of 2006.

The Housing Collapse began sometime in 2006, and really hit the fan in 2007. Look at the chart below.

What I’m wondering is… when the Bubble burst, brokerages and real estate companies just got hammered. The MLS got hammered too, since many lost 20-30% (or more) of subscribers as numerous people simply left the industry. I recall that there were some really interesting technology development projects we had been planning in 2007/2008 that simply got tabled as the market turned to crap. I remember suggesting to my boss at Realogy sometime in 2005 that we should think about opening up a Realogy Labs (back then, it would have been Cendant Labs) type of technology incubator in Silicon Valley to attract talent, and I recall she didn’t outright laugh at the idea. But then, the Crash happened, and there was no budget for anything other than staying afloat.

The only folks left with any money to invest into serious technology and consumer marketing were those guys who had deep-pocket investors behind them: Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, etc. etc.

A lot of folks in real estate today gnash their teeth and wail that the industry “gave away the farm” to the portals back in the day. I’m wondering if that’s really true. I’m wondering if the industry had any choice in the dark years of 2007-2011. And I’m wondering about what might have been.

If the real estate market had not tanked right when the new technology of Web 2.0, social media and consumer engagement were coming on the market… could brokers/MLS/real estate industry have been the ones to develop the consumer portals, the mobile apps, etc. instead of Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Realtor.com, etc.? Or would the VC-funded tech startups still have done what they did, simply because they’re more focused and have better technology talent?

I know this is entirely counterfactual, so think of it as alternative history entertainment. What do you think?


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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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