Chums in the Shark Tank

shark-tank__120512010349I don’t know.  I can’t tell if it’s my imagination or not.  Sure feels like the sheer volume of marketing solicitations for web design, search engine optimization, cloud sharing, google ad words, social-media and lead-capture generation is increasing at a scary pace.

The number of pokes, prods, pings and pitches aimed in my direction on any given day is staggering.   It was one thing when companies trying to hand out keys to real estate success shipped their content to my email address and let it camp out in my spam filter.  Hoping some of it might eventually spill over into my in-box and force me to notice before I hit the delete key.

These days those offers arrive non-stop in a flood of calls to my personal data switchboard.  My phone vibrates in a steady state of arousal and constant contact. Listing leads proposition me when I’m in the middle of listing appointments.  Buyer leads offer themselves up when I’m in the middle of showing property to real buyers.  Big data reaches out to touch me whenever I’m trying to focus on the small details of a difficult purchase contract.

Aren’t we Realtors supposed to be the pushy ones?  The used-car salespeople with the Svengali-like powers that enable us to talk unsuspecting buyers into purchasing $700,000 fixer-uppers before they’ve made it halfway through an open house?

Somehow all those new web marketing companies keep coming up with better and better Svengali-like algorithms and I’m not really sure anymore if  I can get along without them.

They have a captive audience. A sitting duck.  I can’t run. I can’t hide. And I can’t escape the onslaught of their eager voices. Because I can’t possibly turn my phone off.  I’m the “I” in the I Phone.  I don’t exist without it. We co-create our realty.

And so…in a stunning reveral of roles, we Realtors have become the favorite new flavor of chum that’s getting fed into the rest of the world’s rabid shark tank.

Every time I see a 480, 503 or 619  area code pop up on my phone, I have a Pavlovian response. No, not salivation…more like rolling eyes, twitching lips and an automatic groan punctuated by a curse.

Google this why don’t you?  Quit bugging me!!

I’m not sure why so many people living in Portland, San Diego and Phoenix are employed as phone solicitors with Realtors as their chosen targets.  I guess those of us who can – do.   And those of us who can’t move to Portland and try to sell more marketing to those who can.

If there really were all those buyer leads that buyer lead companies say they have, we’d be able to resurrect 2005 all over again – on steroids.   There would never be another market slowdown again.  There would just be one long housing bubble exceeded by an even bigger housing information bubble.

Here’s the way I’m starting to think about this:  Remember when the mortgage industry took a wrong turn?  At first fewer and fewer loans were actually portfolio’d by the companies making them.  Afterwhile as soon as the ink of the notary stamp was dry on the deed,  the mortgage was already sold.

Eventually the entire world economy revolved around mortgage debt.  Real people purchased real homes.  From there it got surreal.  Loans were sold. And sold again. And yet again.  Packaged and tranched and bet against in the form of credit default swaps ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Some mortgages were sold so many times, when it came time to foreclose, no one could figure out where the paper was or who owned it.

Middle men selling to other middle men selling to other middle men –  making money at each point of sale.   But the system needed that real loan origination in the first place, as content to kick off the fun.

These days when I list a property and put it on the MLS, the MLS sells it to all kinds of other real estate information sites. Zillows, Trulia and et al package and provide the information to a larger public audience and sell advertising back to us Realtors for the privilege.

Creative people come up with all kinds of crazy ways to sell the sell of the sell to the rest of us.  Everyone can make money without having to actually make anything or do anything other than manipulate data.  Real estate once again leads the way to economic recovery from the recession.  Leave it up to the algorithms – let the monetized free-for-all begin.

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