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No Gray Rooms In The Real Estate Industrial Complex

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. [1]

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 Patrick.net, 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 [4], 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 [5] weekly column on Curbed, the best real estate and neighborhood web log out there [6], IMHO. The commentary placed in my column always includes a few people who have the need to hard sell me as a:

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) realestateindustrialcomplex.com

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.