PERSONAL: Is College Necessary, or Even Desirable?

This post has nothing to do with real estate. Go ahead and skip over if you’re one of my readers who only want the real estate stuff.

For as long as I can remember, my parents drummed into my head the idea that college was not only important, but the most important milestone of my (until then) young life. Even starting in elementary school, the deep assumption was that I would work hard, study, do my homework, and prepare for college. The question wasn’t college or not, but which college.

I was fortunate, and hard working and studious and very much a nerd in every way, so I got into my first choice. I still consider Yale University to be the finest undergraduate educational institution on the face of the planet. And I can say for certain that my life would have turned out very, very differently had it not been for that experience and that milestone and that… what to call it… cache of the ultra-elite diploma.

So naturally, when I had children, like most educated and professional Gen-X parents, my (ex-) wife and I opened a college savings account. We have raised my two boys with the firm understanding, the taken-for-granted assumption, that they would not only go to college but probably get one or more advanced degrees. Like our parents before us, our assumption was never college-or-not but which college.

In recent months and perhaps even years, I’ve started to question that long-held belief. In the 21st century, is college necessary, or even desirable? I’m not so sure anymore.

You have to understand. Coming from an Asian-American immigrant Ivy Leaguer with a degree from NYU Law… where every single person in my immediate family (and my ex’s immediate family) has advanced degrees… that’s kinda like the Pope questioning the validity of eucharist. Let me explain.

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What If Real Estate Brokers Worked Like Car Dealerships?


My friend Eric Stegemann, whom many of you already know as a frikkin’ brilliant dude who runs Tribus, posted something on Facebook today and in our banter, got my thinking going.

Here’s his post:

And obviously, you can see my comments too.

I thought the similarities between car dealers and how they feel about automotive third party websites (like TrueCar) and real estate brokerages and how they feel about real estate third party websites (like Zillow) were superficial at best, because of vast differences in the business model of car dealerships and real estate brokerages.

But that got me wondering… what would it look like if real estate brokerages actually functioned like a car dealership did?

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Brief Post: Why Young People Don’t Become Real Estate Agents

Over on Facebook, my friend Nick Solis is on a roll about the aging REALTOR population.

There are some good points being made over there mostly from younger REALTOR types. But I don’t think the issue is all that complicated. So before I go board this plane, I thought I’d jot a few thoughts down on why young people don’t become real estate agents.

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Reading the Union Position on Monell v. Boston Pads

One of the law firms who filed the union-side amicus brief

One of the law firms who filed the union-side amicus brief

As my readers know, the recent Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) handed down its ruling in Monell v. Boston Pads. I wrote about that case and cautioned against irrational exuberance from the results, because the results were not exactly a huge victory for the real estate industry’s position.

Thing is, Bararsani v. Coldwell Banker, the ginormous California case that everyone has been watching has yet to be decided, and one rightly wonders what the impact (if any) of Monell v. Boston Pads might be to that case. There is no controlling authority, since SJC is the state supreme court, not the Federal one, but there may be persuasive authority to the judge in Bararsani. I touched on that in my previous post.

Now one of the more interesting subplots of the Bararsani case — and all real estate independent contractor cases — is the involvement of the labor unions. One piece of scuttlebutt I heard from the folks at CAR (California Assoc. of REALTORS) is that CAR approached the legislature to make it clear that real estate agents were not to be considered as employees… and the legislature refused, because the unions didn’t want that. (What that says about REALTOR political power is a subject for another post, another day.)

So… I thought it might be interesting to try to understand what the argument of the labor unions are. Thankfully, the unions — by way of an amicus brief — made its arguments clear to the court in Monell. I understand this is probably of zero interest to those readers who aren’t law junkies or aren’t involved in strategic planning for the Bararsani litigation, but… what the hell. I think it’s interesting.

Notorious ROB — where I read law briefs so you don’t have to. :)

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NextMLS: RPR Upstream/AMP and the Value of the MLS

I love James Dwiggins, CEO of Nexthome. He’s a really sharp guy who knows the business inside and out, backwards and forwards. And I think his perspective is somewhat representative of the more enlightened brokers who truly get technology, its uses, and its limitations. So when he posts this on Facebook earlier today, I thought it a perfect jumping-off point to reiterate something I just don’t see talked about very much.

RPR Upstream/Amp Diagram

RPR Upstream/Amp

James then commented on the photo:


There’s a lot to unpack here, but bottom line is that this view of the MLS will surely lead to the destruction of the MLS one way or another. Strategic planning committees and leadership of MLSs around the country really ought to start examining the core identity/value issue presented here. Let’s dive in.

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