And Social Justice. And in President Kennedy’s immortal words, “God’s work on earth must truly be our own.” So, was it providential to receive an email last night offering to develop a real estate app and run into the same programmer this morning, on the Feast of St. Joseph — the Patron Saint of Social Justice — while reading our guest editorial from 1998?
Years before the occupy movement put income inequality onto the national agenda, the National Catholic Reporter wrote that “Housing was creating wealth, but leaving other behind.” A decade ago, when housing values appeared to be doubling while homeowners slept, we created a friendly-fundraising competition and invited buyers, sellers, and everyone in the real estate industry to share profits and savings from online real estate transations with AIDS orphans (view slides) and asked St. Joseph to bless our S.O.S.
But the collapse of the real estate bubble undermined those good intentions. Now, one in three households are “trapped by negative equity” and some have wisely “repositioned” St. Joseph as an intercessor for those facing financial problems in general and foreclosure in particular.
As Patron Saint of social justice and protector of the Universal Church, we’d like to nominate St. Joseph for patron saint of “Consumer Protection” as well. Although we object to burying St. Joseph statues upside down, as consumer advocates over the past two decades, The Real Estate Cafe has deliberately looked at the real estate industry upside down and backwards:
- Trying to get buyers to lowest possible price instead of the highest price for sellers; and
- Trying to maximize consumer savings instead of our own fees (see article in Wall Street Journal).
From that perspective, we wrote a “Real Estate Minifesto” two years ago and are eager to work with software and app developers, like the one who contacted us last night, to co-create that money-saving vision.
Which idea starters could turn the real estate industry upside-down?
For starters, if sellers could find buyers as easily as buyers currently find listings, their ability to communicate directly could deliver billions of dollars of consumer savings — perhaps as much as $20 to $30 billion annually according to industry critics. Imagine what could done if a portion of thosesavings were donated to non-profit organizations or invested in social justice entrepreneurs doing God’s work?
Or contributed / invested in a crowdfunding mechanism to development and implement our reVRM Minifesto? Want to TweetUp to discuss that or join a real estate group to study Doc Searls new book on The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge? Let us know!
What’s this got to do with social justice?
According to one award-winning educator / journalist:
“The typical mortgaged homeowner has less the 13% equity in the property. So what happens if they attempt to sell using the traditional percentage commission structure? After commission and closing costs, they might be lucky to net 2% on the sale. (see video)
New tools and business models can help home buyers and sellers interact more efficiently and enable better decisions with lower transaction costs. Won’t working together towards that goal honor St. Joseph more than planting plastic statues upside down? If you’ve already purchased one, ask about our “St. Joseph Statue Buyback Program.”