These Chickens Will Come Home to Roost Soon

If you’ve been reading Notorious ROB for a while, then you know that I’ve been sounding the alarm for a few years now on the plight of Millennials. You also know that the plight of the Millennials are directly tied to housing, to real estate.

Well, here’s a key segment from a popular podcast/YouTube channel called Breaking Points:

Lest you feel comfortable just dismissing Breaking Points, let me point out that this newish channel has 782K subscribers and it is growing. Their audio podcast is a hit, and is the #7 podcast for US Politics.

I’m not the biggest fan of Breaking Points or of Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti. I find them a bit too shallow in many respects and ignorant in others, but even so, I can’t help but deny the appeal of their very much populist messaging. The overall theme of Breaking Points is anti-establishment. They hate big government, big corporate, big money, big media… anything establishment or elite versus the “working class” or “middle class”. And given their relative youth, their appeal to the younger generations is enormous.

Which is why this segment from a recent podcast is…  worth watching in full, and worth thinking about deeply if you are in the real estate industry.

I have said for years that REALTORS need to decide whether they are handmaidens of the wealthy, or trying to help families achieve the American Dream. I do not think it is possible to be both pro-homeowner and pro-homebuyer. You cannot argue to keep home prices as high as possible, while arguing to make homes affordable for young families. You kind of have to pick a side.

To date, REALTORS across the board have chosen to side with homeowners, with Boomers. Most of the leadership of REALTOR organizations are Boomers. Now, REALTOR Associations have made enormous investments into YPN (Young Professionals Network) to bring on younger leaders, but those younger leaders sound just like the Boomer leaders they are replacing in every important respect.

This generational gap between Boomers and Millennials can very easily transition into generational warfare, and because housing and homeownership are THE key point of difference, and one that drives the economic gap between Boomers and Millennials… that war will happen in housing. As Saagar says, “Some sort of corrective has to happen.”

Without intelligent intervention sooner rather than later, without smart ideas sooner rather than later, that “corrective” is going to be idiotic. For example, a big ole property tax to fund Millennial needs (e.g., college student loan forgiveness?) or a wealth tax designed to hit Boomers or maybe ending Social Security completely or taxing the shit out of retirement accounts to force Boomers to sell their homes… or some similarly horrible policy idea will be coming. Boomers will want to pretend they are not the elites; blame the banks, the billionaires, the institutional investors, and so on, not retirees on fixed income!

Listen to what these two populists, one on the Right and one on the Left, are saying in this video. They’re not going to be amenable to that excuse. Compared to Millennials, which these two and their followers are, the Boomers are the elites. And Boomers have benefited enormously from the rise in home prices, which is what NAR has engineered over the decades.

I’ll keep pointing this out, I suppose, because I am genuinely concerned for the industry, for REALTORS, whether they are Boomers or not, and because I care about the country as a whole. These chickens are coming home to roost, and sooner than we think. We have got to figure out a better way, lest the “some sort of corrective” is something none of us want to see.


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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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