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All the World’s a Stage, and We’re Entering the Third Act

Those who enjoy a great movie or compelling play understand that classic examples of staged drama all have a very predictable flow. The term used to describe this order is called “act structure.” Act structure accounts for how a plot of a film story is composed. All staged drama, be it distributed via the stage or screen have acts. Critics and screenwriters divide films into acts even though films don’t require being physically broken down like a play.

Act breaks in a film are often very obscure for lay audiences and sometimes only a trained person can detect the ending of one act and the beginning of another in the progression of a movie; although learned people can typically mark it by a ‘plot point’ in the writing process or film appreciation.

The act is the broadest structural unit of enacted stories. The most common paradigm in theatre, and so in films, is that of the three act structure originally proposed, interestingly enough, by Aristotle. Simply put, it means that any story has a beginning, middle and end. Playwrights and screenwriters divide their stories into three major parts viz. set-up, confrontation (sometimes called “conflict” or “complication”) and resolution.These form the basic three acts of any performance—staged or screened.

The thesis of this article is to suggest that the American real estate industry is currently engaged in what historians might call the “ultimate three-act play.” The term “ultimate” is appropriate given the fact that the final act of the play will, to a great extent, determine who will move on to play the lead in the upcoming series about the new American real estate industry and marketplace.

These circumstances in and of themselves might not be considered especially significant in most cases. It is, after all, an adult game being played in an adult forum and adults, according to our parents, distinguish themselves by always understanding the consequences of their actions.

What makes the current real estate industry drama alarming is that of
the more than one million players engaged, only a handful understand how the ultimate outcome will impact the industry, the marketplace and the players.

What makes this drama dangerous is that each one of these “knowing” individuals appears to be engaged in the drama not as a shepherd seeking to protect the flock, but rather as a predator seeking to use the current circumstance to achieve some combination of ordinary greed, power and control. Worse yet, several would have the industry believe that they are there for the benefit of the American REALTOR®.

To be honest, it is difficult even for the most sophisticated within the real estate world to spot these intrusions. This confusion is the product of four factors. The first is that those who would manipulate the industry for their own gain are very articulate and skilled in their presentation of both the situation and their patriotic role, “the spin.” The second is that the very changes and re-engineering that they are promoting are in fact what the industry will need to move forward. The real issue is who will control them and to what end. The third is that the changes currently sweeping the industry are organic in that they are attaching to the basic procedures of the transaction and profound meaning that they are recreating many of the industry’s most enduring beliefs. The fourth is that the vast majority of those who should be correctly interpreting current events and protecting the industry aren’t. Most agents and brokers are sitting in trenches awaiting the return of a marketplace that will never again exist, and most industry leaders are so engaged in their own career, business and professional struggles that they have grown to find their leadership tasks boring and irrelevant. While they can often be found on the scene, they aren’t really there.

These efforts to usurp the potentials and prerogatives of our industry can be found in each of its segments. Organized real estate at all three levels is currently awash in these types of activities. Yet the vast majority of brokers, agents and leaders have no idea that their futures are being exploited often by schemes and designs that are both ill advised and operationally defective on their face. Many of these players not only don’t realize that their organizations are being compromised, but they have no ideas what role they could play in a more reasoned and logical reformation.

Similar activities are occurring at the highest levels of the “business” side of our industry. Despite a historic rise in opportunities, the level of creativity and innovation within the business sector is almost non-existent. At the same time, the initiatives and inventions of those who would replace the current structure and its players moves forward with funding, invasion of the market and the winning over of the consumer.  The current showdown between the large brokers and the franchises over the distribution of listings is a classic example of what happens when a culture reaches a point of demise.

These events are also playing out at the ground level of our industry.  Relationships between agents and brokers are not moving forward on the basis of what has been learned about what must happen, but rather along the track of what has been experienced. Here again, innovation and creativity is being met by suspicion and distrust. Rumors and distrust are causing thousands of agents to roam from one broker to another rather than staying in their current relationship and attempting to jointly create a reformation.

These circumstances mark the second act of our industry’s drama: the confrontation.

There are those who in conversation suggest that current events within the American real estate industry are exactly what should be happening at this point in its history. This is probably the truth from a traditionalist perspective. After all, transparency is a relatively new concept, especially in the face of centuries of sanctioning the actions of a few who hoodwinked the aspirations and stole the potential of many.

It isn’t as if there aren’t those who are calling out the alarm. Every day, dozens of bloggers and other social media activists are sounding the warning. Amazingly enough, they are using a language and a media that, while understandable to a small minority, doesn’t exist for the vast majority of those who lives are about to be negatively impacted. Within this “establishment” group, there remains a belief that those who criticize the “status quo” are troublemakers and terrorists. They wait calmly for someone to invite them to a meeting to discuss the future of the industry, a call that will never come because it has never occurred.

In conclusion, we return to our original thesis.

There are today a number of powers and forces whose actions and initiatives will fundamentally reshape our industry in their own best interests to the detriment of those who currently comprise its strength and, unfortunately its weakness.  Our industry is engaged in a three-act play, two of which have already been played out. We are currently at the onset of act three; the “resolution.” It is incumbent on all of those who will cry foul when their pink slips are ultimately delivered to immediately find the time to learn what is going on, to form an opinion relative to what set of reformations will best meet the needs of all involved and to put their not insignificant influence behind what they believe it the best option.

This is an amazing industry filled with talented people, awesome resources and focused on one of the three most important human objectives. We should not allow ourselves to be dissolved like some ancient backward culture in the face of a far away conqueror. We should not ignore our potential in exchange for a few more years in our present inefficient and unacceptable configuration. There are leaders out there.  There are winning solutions and forums to practice them in. Let’s throw off our blindfolds and write our own third act. Let’s demonstrate for all the world to see that we are part of the solution rather than the definition of the problem.

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