Teresa Boardman is a longtime columnist with over 400 Inman columns to her credit. She writes about her real estate observations and experiences as an independent broker without an office in Minnesota.
I read a lot. One of my favorite genres of fiction is the dystopian novel – they can really make you think. My all-time favorite is Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
If you are unfamiliar with the genre, a dystopian society is the opposite of a utopian society. Dystopia is a dark and horrible place to live, but I find that there is always a group of dystopian people living in a utopia.
Dystopian novels often have themes such as extreme inequalities between rich and poor or between people of different skin colors or genders. Sometimes the population is in a dysfunctional society where people are controlled like in a dictatorship.
At the moment, environmental themes are very popular. There are few dystopian novels that contain electricity, and none of the people in the storylines of the novels I’ve read have enough food and water.
In dystopia, change can happen quickly and there are always those who remember the past. Some cannot survive because they cannot accept the loss of the past. They don’t really see the present or the future. Their hearts are broken and they stop working.
It’s not hard to imagine a dystopian future for the real estate industry. In fact, people do it all the time. And some people argue that we already live in a dystopian world. What would happen if real estate agents were replaced by the Internet or if the Internet disappeared or if the most expensive real estate on the planet became uninhabitable?
Let’s say the year is 2023:
As we walk down the street, we see no signs for sale in front of the houses. There are no giant billboards with pictures of men with outstretched arms. There are a few bus benches here and there, but they all have advertisements for food or insurance.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) building in downtown Chicago is being converted into luxury housing. NAR sold the building in 2021 as it could no longer pay taxes due to extremely low membership. Most local and state associations have been dissolved.
States are doing a bit of creative reshuffling of funds because they no longer have the revenue of the millions real estate professionals pay them every year in licensing fees.
Politicians who relied on a lot of money from the real estate lobby must try to get even more money from big pharma, insurance companies and the medical-industrial complex.
Even real estate companies that became technology companies went out of business because without real estate agents, there was no one to use technology.
A business survived. It bought out all the competition and became the only place online where people could buy and sell real estate. The Internet has replaced most real estate agents. Those who remained had roles more akin to those of a social worker or teacher.
On the other end of this scenario planning sci-fi spectrum is another dystopian theme that I love, and that is the end of the internet and how it would quickly change everything in the real estate industry.
Maybe a virus could come along and make the internet unusable for business or marketing.
We would be thrown back into the dark ages of real estate where information about homes for sale could only be obtained through newspaper advertisements and sale signs.
People were calling us on the phone and asking if we knew of any houses for sale in the area. No one would visit my blog, and there would be no Internet leads.
Real estate news would arrive in homes and offices by postal mail. For me, that would mean I would get it once in a while, and a neighbor who lives a block away with the same street number would get it the rest of the time.
There would be winners and losers in any scenario where the internet becomes useless for the real estate industry – which is why I still have a printer and some paper somewhere.
For an environmental dystopian theme, we could imagine major coastal cities becoming uninhabitable while a brave group of real estate agents work hard to sell real estate at new rock bottom prices to Midwesterners who eventually find themselves under the hood. ‘water.
Regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen, there is a glut of real estate agents, real estate companies, real estate agent associations, proptech companies, and products for marketing real estate. Some will survive, some will not.
The speed of this change is accelerating. Our future probably doesn’t look like any dystopian theme, but there are certainly people in our industry who are stuck in the past, and others who see possible futures that seem dark and unlikely.
For those considering writing a dystopian novel about the real estate industry, there are plenty of materials related to real estate and the real estate industry that can be used to form chilling narratives. The market for works of fiction seems rosy.
Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and Broker/Owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of StPaulRealEstateBlog.com.