Blogging, social media, search and Real Estate 2.0 was discussed in earnest, and the day wrapped up with Mr. Swann and Glenn Kelman debating whether or not VC-backed real estate firms are going to eliminate the Mom-and-Pop real estate brokerage.
I don’t think they actually resolved this question, but Kelman’s musings on his business plan and the profile he presented of his current and future customer was interesting. (You can view the video here.)
Kelman said that he doesn’t expect to get all the real estate buyers out there, but a certain kind of buyer would be attracted to his business model. Typically those buyers would be techies, perhaps even described as nerds. He even told of a story about one of his employees wondering aloud why their clients were all so weird!
He recounts the story of the purchase of his first home. He said he was annoyed because the sales agent wanted to be his “friend” when all he wanted was to be shown houses that fit his criteria. He was especially annoyed when the agent wanted to take him to dinner. Kelman would have been just as happy to stay home and get the money instead. He guesses that there are other anti-social buyers out there that don’t want a personal relationship and would prefer to communicate via email and text message and avoid actual human contact as much as possible. For this person, Redfin was created.
Under discussion for several years now has been the observation that a great many people employed in the IT industry share some of the same traits as those described as having autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Many seem to lack basic social and motor skills, seem unable to decode body language and sense the feelings of others, avoid eye contact, and frequently launch into monologues about narrowly defined – and often highly technical – interests. They often want to avoid interaction with other humans and prefer numbers and logic to emotion and human interactions.
(Video from Wired)
Aside from some usual suspects from history (Isaac Newton, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein) and fictional pop culture (Mr. Spock, Mr. Bean, Sherlock Holmes), the name that most often comes up when discussing Asperger’s is that of the Master Geek himself, Bill Gates. (I doubt, however, that a true Asperger’s individual could ever endure the social requirements of Gates’ public life.)
After listening to Kelman discuss how Redfin was created and who it was created for, there appears to be a definite link between their creators, their customers and the range of the autism/Asperger’s Syndrome.
What I’ve noticed with my business and the type of client I do best with, are those who buy for emotional reasons. They rarely ask about statistics or the market, they just seem interested in how the house makes them “feel” and in envisioning their future home full of love, family and happy moments and memories. This seems to be completely opposite with a Redfin-style of buyer. Redfin’s individual city blogs have been converted from chatty commentary about homes and neighborhoods to columns full of dry statistics, mathematical formulas, bar graphs, charts and numbers, compiled by nerds for nerds.
I thank God for nerds, as we’d probably still be living in caves without them. We certainly wouldn’t have modern engineering, automobiles, airplanes, skyscrapers or computers. But obviously, society needs those who “think” and those who “feel” to function fully and thinking about that dichotomy in this way makes me understand their business model much better.
Asperger’s and IT: Dark secret or open secret? from Computer World
Revenge of the Nerds from the Autistic Society
Napoleon Dynamite: Asperger’s Disorder or Geek NOS? from Academic Psychiatry