Seeding C2C / P2P real estate unconferences for consumers to connect, save money


P2P People's Movement1

The powerful one-touch punch delivered in national media this week against pocket listing and dual agency / designated agency will send ripple effects through the traditional real estate industry and it’s regulatory environment; but time is short to amplify the discussion and protect real estate consumers, particularly homebuyers, this Spring.

So, rather than wait for local media to pick-up the story or anyone else to educate the public about the need for reform, we’re inviting the public and fellow real estate consumer advocates to take a cue from the tech community and begin experimenting with a variety of consumer-centric real estate “unconference” formats.

What’s an Unconference?

If you’re new to unconferences, the premise is that members of the audience often know more than featured speakers and panelists, so the everyone is invited to be a present, facilitate or request a topic.  It’s a proven alternative event model, with variations online and off, as well as hybrids that contain both.  Thankfully, technology already exists now to make that as easy as turning on your laptop.

This short video can introduce you quickly to the unconference concept:

This second video gives more info about how the peer-to-peer process works, and how topics can be proposed the day of the event as well as beforehand. My hope is that we’ll do both.  (Please ignore geeky educational subject matter of this video and focus on the process described through cartoon sketches and photos):

DIY Consumer Protections

After more than 20 years of trying to trying to reform the industry, 2014 has begun with enough controversy to be transformative. Already, headlines in Inman News have warned about class-action law suits and large brokers and MLS’s withdrawing data from listing portals.  And yesterday, like a gift from Heaven, the Wall Street Journal exposed why Consumer Advocates in American Real Estate ( calls designated agency a fraud. (please share this short URL with your social networks!)

How do we turn that momentum into meaningful consumer protections?  By giving everyone an opportunity to propose or request a topic, the unconference format is one way to discover patterns of how consumers who are being frustrated or harmed as well as building a coalition of real estate consumer advocates who share professional passions and are ready to champion reforms.

Whether held online or off, if real estate unconferences are open to the public, “change agents” can respond directly to consumer needs and build greater awareness of alternative real estate business models.  Add a track for app developers and we can begin building tools not only to bring about long over reforms but co-create the future:  an open, transparent real estate eco-system!

Next Steps

When unconferences are held offline, the first step is use oversized Post-its to propose or request topics on a grid posted on the wall.  Then participants chose which round tables they’d like to join. Rather than having a big event, we’ll start small, with a “pop-up,” table top unconference that you can join online of off.

If you send us an email, you’ll see that we’ve replicated the unconference format on google spreadsheet separated into five content categories, divided into 20 minutes slices, running from 11am to 4pm.  The goal is to host Google Hangouts online, while some of us are meeting offline.  Even if no one participates, it’s an important process to begin testing. As you can see from iPhone interface above, our Bubble Hour used an “unconference format” to engage, inform homebuyers last Fall.

In summary, the process is simple:

0.  Send us an email if you’re interested;

1.  Anyone can a propose or request a topic;

2.  As a group, we can decide which topics we’d like to discuss, and

3.  Then do what we do naturally:  share ideas, identify what’s not working, brainstorm solutions to pain points, and motivate each other to move forwards towards reforms and revenue if you’re a business, or results if you’re a homebuyer or seller.

As the Good book says, “Men sharpen other men;” and the one-two punch this week set the stage to demonstrate another truism:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead

Our goal is to structure the conversation by inviting the public to propose and join a series of roundtable discussions.  Who’d like to participate online, and who’s ready to experiment with offline?  Real Estate Cafe is willing to invest time to host some table top sessions in the Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Arlington area; but invite everyone to propose topics and participate online.  Send us an email, to see an event template for today, January 25, 2014.  Some sample topics have already been proposed, and we’re particularly interested in connecting with others interested in discussing:

  • Best of breed consumer-centric real estate apps and sites;
  • For sale by owner properties (FSBOs) and alternative listing models;
  • “Low inventory” vs expired listings and pocket listings;
  • Bidding wars (and bidding war backlash);
  • Rebates, money-saving business models and commission reform;
  • Fee-for-service consulting models and the future of buyer agency;
  • DIY apps and Proactive Househunting;
  • Exposing dual agency and designated agency as fraud.

Got a topic you’d like to lead, discuss, or request?  Discovered or creating a consumer-centric app or site you’d like to share, or demo — please, please visit our adhoc group / Google community:  RECALL (Real Estate Consumer Alliance).

Contact Real Estate Cafe for access to Tabletop unconference template and our working group.

Posted in Bidding wars, Consumer protection, Defensive Homebuying, DIY Homebuyers, Dual Agency Detective, FSBO: Best Practices, Pocket Listings, Proactive househunting, Real Estate Roundtables, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Unconference

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