Twenty years after consumer advocates gathered in Boston to seed a “Consumer Revolution in Real Estate,” Ralph Nader’s prophetic words sting:
“…we’ve all seen intervals in industries when there are reform movements and then, about ten, twenty years later, it’s like, where did it go? Where in the world did it go?”
Unfortunately, Nader was right. Too little has changed in real estate. Here’s a sample: Manipulative bidding wars still play on fears and drive up prices reinflating the real estate bubble — didn’t we learn anything from the last bubble? Commissions are rising despite surveys that show consumers say agents are overpaid. Counterfeit buyer agents paper over their conflicts of interest (if they bother to comply with the law). So, we need enlightened consumers, both homebuyers and sellers, to use social media to reenergized the conversation about real estate reforms. You can help by: (1) sharing this blog post, (2) identifying problems via comments below, (2) participating in conversations on RECALL / Real Estate Consumer Alliance, a new Google+ Community, and / or (3) meeting offline at Saturday, April 6 at @RootsCampMA unconference in Boston.
In coming weeks, we’ll deconstruct Nader’s speech, compare current problems to those twenty years ago, ask guests to give their retrospectives about what went wrong (“Smart Failing“), and discuss strategies to pursue long overdue reforms. We’ll close for now, with a preview of Nader’s words which are as timely / timeless as ever:
“I just want to end on this note: those of you who are building the buyer broker movement, now they’re thinking of state agencies, state associations that have been federated, national groups. Next time you meet, try to draw the pathway into the future in terms of a consumer organizational base, along the lines that I’ve suggested and others have suggested, because in the final analysis the success of an economy is not just getting the consumer a better deal. The success of an economy is in getting consumers to live in a more just society, and that is a bigger challenge than just getting the consumer a better deal. When Henry Ford announced that he was going to pay his workers $5 a day, all the other auto companies said, “Henry you’re crazy, you’re going to go bankrupt because you can’t afford to pay your workers $5 a day, “ and Henry Ford responded: ”I don’t want to pay my workers $5 a day just because I think they need it, I want to pay my workers $5 a day so they can afford to buy my cars.” See, he had a little bigger vision didn’t he, and anything that you can do as buyer brokers to facilitate the networking of neighborhoods, the collaboration of communities, and there are a lot of other ideas that can be discussed at some other time that can facilitate that, will put you on the front lines of rebuilding a democratic society–of developing the kind of mutual neighborliness and self-help and grass root democracy that will spell whether we’re going to go forwards or backwards in the next 50 years, and I think that the more of a horizon you have of that nature, the more successful you’ll be in your practical objectives, and the more likely you will attract the finest young people in the country into your movement. And that is really the ultimate success of the quality of any movement, is whether it can attract the idealism as well as the practical interests of the coming generation. Power is too centralized in our society, there’s too much money and too much power in too few hands. Buyers brokers, even limitedly defined, aims to decentralize that power, aims to shift that power from the haves to the have nots, but that shift itself can be the precursor for a neighborhood and community revolution that begins binding people together, banding people together, for a better life, economically, socially, politically, and for the environment that their children grow up in. Thank you.”