Are Brokerage Houses becoming obsolete?

I first got my real estate license at the age of 16 over 27 years ago.  Without risk of exaggeration I've closed well over 4000 deals and worked for companies big and small, onsite sales, commercial and residential.  I currently own my own company with branches covering 6 different MLS's in two states. And still I'm only 44. This unique situation has allowed me gain experience and perspective that is broad but also humbling.  ( I don't see you can be in this business for 27 days without being humbled )
I've been harboring the belief for quite some time that the most vulnerable player in today's real estate game is the large brokerage house.  I believe that brokerage houses have an ever diminishing role and the only end I see is obsolescence and ultimately extinction.  In my opinion the large brokerage house has little to offer that the agent can't create or obtain for free or very little.  When I first started in business the start-up cost for an agent to go out on their own would have almost guaranteed their failure.  Today, you could completely run a real estate company on your iPhone or Android.  That's just a fact.  Marketing, communications, accounting, management and more.  When I started fax machines were not in play.  The office, the bricks and mortar office, was the central hub of all activity, communication and information.  Today, I haven't met a client in the office in years.  My agents don't even come by to pick up their checks anymore because we wire them directly into their accounts within seconds after closing.
When the downturn hit I laid off the receptionist.  I swear not one of my agents even noticed.  My copier has gone weeks at a time without paper.  The only people who call the office phone are trying to sell me something.  Training?, you can get all you need right here on Zillow.
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March 12 2013 - US
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Answers (6)

Brick & Mortar, iPhone, Android, Fax, paper, paperless, and Starbucks all work. As persons in a service-oriented industry, our goal is to make all avenues work in whatever way makes the client comfortable.

Some clients still refuse to use their cell phone for anything but emergency; other's refuse to even go to sleep without it firmly grasped in their fingertips. Some of us have 5,000+ contacts from Social Media; others believe Social Media is a place to kill time.

It is "how" a person/business uses its brick & mortar office, "how" comfortable a client feels at Starbucks, and if eFax is relevant for those that don't even have email. If we make good use of what we utilize, it all works in a very cohesive manner.

We are all social beings; this is number one. As real estate professionals, we become flexible to whatever other social beings are comfortable with in order to provide the best possible service.
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April 25 2013

In my area EXP Realty has began.  Which is a cloud based real estate company.  No office, virtual meetings, Being a younger teckie agent I get it and know it will end up that way in my career, but sometimes it is nice to meet client at the office.

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April 25 2013
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In Rural areas that I haven't visited before, I still like stopping in a local Realtor's office and asking for a map of what they presently have listed.

Even with electronic maps updated frequently, print maps are still nice.  And now it is so much easier to print up to date maps on an as-needed basis.  And local business usually pay for the maps with their advertisements on the map anyway.

It is how the maps are personalized that makes a difference.
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March 15 2013
The way we do business has significantly changed.  Rarely do you ever get a walk in anymore.  Phones don't ring the way they used to - why go in the office.

I do believe the opulent expansive brick and mortar office is a thing of the past.  Consumers spend their time on the internet - not visiting real estate offices. Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks has become todays conference room.

Technology has advanced and gotten so affordable every agent can have a home office and transact business without being dependent on an office.
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March 15 2013
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Saying companies like Coldwell Banker are just going to "disappear" is like saying McDonald's and Burger King are going to disappear.

It is not realistic.  Sure, they have to adapt to a changing marketplace along with everyone else, as they always have...  But name recognition and national advertising still amount to something.
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March 14 2013
Technology (especially mobile tech) has definitely changed the game (for better, and sometimes worse). My office only sees the occasional client walk through the door, since a majority of tasks are handled online/email. Most people walking through the door are, in fact, selling something.

It's quite fascinating to see how the landscape has changed even in the last 5-10 years thanks to exponential tech growth.

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March 14 2013
 
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