As I’ve written previously, the topic no one ever wants to touch in this industry is commissions.
Yet I hear pitch after pitch from entrepreneurs on this topic.
Changing consumer behavior is insanely difficult.
I honestly have zero idea how long it will take (we’re talking years, not months in any case), but do think the industry will eventually shift the commission structure / options — though only in markets such as New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Boston where home prices (and the resulting commissions) are insanely high. My gut is the commission model isn’t inefficient in most markets throughout the country. It just happens media & tech in the country are largely based in areas like LA, San Francisco, and New York where high home prices exist. Thus, the topic gets more airtime and entrepreneur attention than it would if the center of media and tech was in the middle of the country where home prices are more reasonable.
In travel, there is zero doubt the Couchsurfing travel experience of staying with locals (which we are aiming to facilitate more of by enabling it inside existing communities) is the best way to experience the world. At the end of the day, knowing that doesn’t matter — most people have no idea Couchsurfing even exists, and many that do have serious privacy/trust issues preventing it from happening at broader scale. Eventually, I firmly believe there will be a much, much, much larger percentage of people who travel that same way Couchsurfers do via existing communities (and via other communities people don’t know exist yet). That said, actually putting the right product out that alleviates the trust/privacy concerns, grows virally, contains strong host incentives, works across all devices…at the exact right time when consumers are starting to get comfortable with the concept — well, that’s an insanely difficult proposition, and timing is definitely a massive component to success.
Knowing a market will shift eventually doesn’t matter in terms of business success unless you can be catalyst for the shift and end up with a defensible moat on the other side. Yes, lots of entrepreneurs believe agents are overpaid. But how exactly do you change the real estate consumer mindset and action given the social contracts, trust, incentives, market dynamics, competition, etc that exist in the real physical world?
I haven’t heard a “how” I believe can work yet. Someone, please prove me wrong. I’ll be anxiously waiting to see if, and when, anyone cracks the commissions nut open — just as I’m anxiously attempting to be the one that cracks the community travel nut open.
[Photo via http://www.bakersfielddressage.com/]