The Sunday NY Times has a headline article on how NYC real estate brokers are starting to share their listings publicly.  This may not seem like a big deal to most of the country, but in NYC, where real estate is a personal blood sport, this is heady change.

In the old days (like last year) the vast majority of real estate brokers promoted their own listings, never sharing with anyone else.   There was no easy way for buyers and sellers to have market transparency.  You’d have to work with multiple brokers, surf many websites, and invest tons of time to get an even partial picture.  The only people who benefited from this system was the handful of brokerages who controlled the flow of information- the market worked just for them.  If you wanted your apartment sold, or you wanted a new place to live, you were beholden to them. 

But control by a few brokerage houses is being challenged by law and technology.  New technologies are taking root that enable the sharing of real estate listings so realtors, sellers and buyers can get a comprehensive picture of available inventory.  This is a good- the easier it is to find properties, the easier it will be to buy and sell properties.  Power will be distributed more evenly.

Further, unlocking the information that drives the industry allows new services will emerge: new agencies can quickly set up shop (competition!) and entirely new services can be built (innovation!).  I don’t know what this world will look like but clues can be found in travel, where information distribution led to the rise of online travel agents like Orbitz, comparison services like Kayak, travel discovery services like Hipmunk and social travel players like Trippit.  Would you rather run down to the Delta office to buy your tickets, or do it from you phone?  I’ll say it again:  unlocking information drives healthy competition and innovation.

It is hard to imagine what a dynamic, innovative real estate industry looks like but that world is fast approaching. I can’t wait.