One of my favorite sayings over the last few years has been the use of the phrase:

The Real Estate Industrial Complex [REIC]

The term is being used by bloggers and Big Media as a daily descriptor of the real estate industry, specifically referring to those employed by it. The chairman of the board of the REIC seems to be the National Association of Realtors.

Negative references to the REIC in real estate bogs are specifically targeted toward residential real estate and its brokers and agents. However, anyone who works in the any real estate related field such as appraisers (me), consultants, engineers, contractors, developers, mortgage brokers, etc. are presented as card-carrying members. In other words, it’s a one size fits all label used under the mask of anonymity. Everyone, by definition, is bad. I guess that’s the beauty of blogging.

The derogatory use of the term seemed to evolve around 2004, when blogging really began to go mainstream and the bubble blog genre emerged. I found references to REIC on, one of the leading bubble blogs, in 2004 referencing earlier discussions. So it may be even earlier than that. Patrick seems to credit Ben Jones The Housing Bubble Blog, who is the king of all bubble bloggers. He cranks out an endless supply of posts, which are mainly text copied from online articles with very little interpretation, other than things are bad. He never seems to attack anyone personally, which gives him more credibility than most, but his commenters nearly always do. His traffic volume is amazing – its enough to support him and his family through advertising (so I have read). Although the content is always biased in the opposite direction of the REIC, it provides a valuable perspective that real estate has been sorely lacking after being spoon fed press releases from NAR since time began.

The evolution of this new derogatory angle for the entire real estate community coincided with the real estate market spike in 2004 and 2005 and morphed into heated discussions of a housing bubble.

My own experience with the REIC label has occured during the past year and a half since I began posting my Three Cents Worth weekly column on Curbed, the best real estate and neighborhood web log out there, IMHO. The commentary placed in my column always includes a few people who have the need to hard sell me as a:

  • card carrying member of the REIC
  • cog in the machine
  • shill for the real estate industry
  • paid creator of charts and stats to induce people to buy

The underlying theme is that card-carrying members of the REIC get paid to spin the market info to its favor as part of a vast and complex conspiracy (ever been to a real estate convention?) Last week one of the typical commenters finally inspired me to purchase the domain:

Frankly I was surprised the domain was still available, but as a card-carrying member, I guess I am entitled. A sample email address might be something like cog (at)

Apparently these types of commenters, whom I would guess are mainly disgruntled renters frustrated with the diminishing affordability of housing, need someone to blame, hence the REIC monniker. On one hand its kind of funny because these type of comments are usually way out there – LOL funny – and I can only imagine what they are like in public (kind of a road rage parallel here). On the other hand, it is just as bad as the public relations spin being dished out by NAR, but in the opposite direction. Apparently there’s no time for research – that would take effort – its easier to point and hide. Again, I guess that’s the beauty of blogging.

To recap: You either work for or against the Real Estate Industrial Complex. There is no room for gray because its guilt by association. Plus, the name and the acronym are very, very cool.

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8 Responses to “No Gray Rooms In The Real Estate Industrial Complex”

  1. LOVE the REIC moniker. Congratulations on snagging the URL.

    My sense is that the blogosphere attracts (as posters, at least) only the passionate people – the very strong “pros” and the very strong “cons”. Mix them together, as on Curbed and Brownstoner – where there seem to be so many people whose parents chose the unconventional birth-names “Anon” and the like — and step back!

    Step back two steps if you have the effrontery to provide some data and some analysis. ‘Cuz you never provide enough data (or the right data) and your analysis is always limited (skewed) (dishonest). Especially yours, JM 😉

    Note to self: link to this post on my own blog…

  2. John Harper says:

    Perhaps you should have worn a Gerry Garcia tie on TV to offset that gray flannel political bent. Maybe you could drop Jonathan in favor of something more lib and glib like Johnny M. Maybe you could like say like like every other word like you really want to communicate with like those who can’t like think for themselves – you know?

    I enjoy individuals more than Stepford Wives – keep it coming

  3. Jonathan J. Miller says:

    John, You lost me, but it sounds funny anyway.

  4. WT Economist says:

    Hey, I call them as I see them, and when prices are so high people like me can never hope to live on one of the coasts, I say (and hope) they are too high. If I didn’t think otherwise, I would have bought in 1987 instead of waiting until 1994.

    If prices in bubble markets aren’t going down, the next generation of homeowners is going to be a lot poorer.

  5. Jonathan J. Miller says:

    WT – I think you’ve always made great objective commentary here. However, calling them as you see them and being objective are not always the same thing. Your commentary sounds like more like the end justifies the means scenario. ie I can’t afford living on the coasts so therefore a crash is imminent (or something along those lines).

  6. Me says:

    I read all the bubble blogs and have always thought the idea of the REIC was a little out there. Too many cooks to spoil that “conspiracy” broth, IMO. However, I would liken the behavior of many residential brokers to cultists, with Lereah and the NAR as their leader – not that they worship him or think the NAR is god, but that they blindly accept what the NAR tells them, even though Lereah has been consistently inconsistent, going from “what bubble” to “soft landing” in the space of a year.

  7. Jonathan Dalton says:

    Oh, so THAT is what the secret meeting was all about …

    I’ve always been amazed that we as real estate agents get blamed for market mechanics. We did not cause the market to rise and we are not causing the market to fall.

    But you hit it on the head … when it comes to the bubble bloggers you’re either with them or against them. The fact some in the general public do not want to rent is not a consideration.

  8. John says:

    The courage to yell out in the dark…without the embarrassment or risk of public exposure