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Take a moment and try something. Fire up your Web browser and bring up Google. I am sure we can all agree that Google is like a window into the universe—if something exists, like pink polka-dotted frogs, it will show up when we search for it there. So what happens when we search for “real estate?”

Not surprisingly, our industry shows up in force. A half-dozen national real estate firms: RE/MAX, Coldwell Banker, Keller Williams, Century 21, Prudential, ERA, Zip, BH&G and ERA. Also, a half-dozen national real estate websites: REALTOR.com®, Zillow, Trulia, RealEstate.com, etc. Everyone you would expect, since they have spent enormous energy, brain power and dollars to make sure their SEO is in tip-top shape.

Now, watch what happens when you add one simple term to your search. Change it to “real estate investment.”

POOF!

Everyone disappeared!

What does this mean, given all that emphasis on SEO? Can you say “blind spot?”

In this context, consider the following facts:

• According to the NAR Profile of Second Home and Investment Buyers, investors make up an average of more than 20% of our market every year.

• According to a survey released recently by Move, Inc., investors are three times more likely to buy in the next two years than home buyers.

• According to the U.S. Census, 34% of all households in America are renters, and that is growing at a rate of 1,000,000 new rental households a year.

• And finally, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, more than half of all rental units in America are 1-4 family dwellings.

Put it all together and what does this tell you? That we are not the real estate industry. We are the home-ownership industry. There will be a million properties that will change hands this year alone. Billions in commissions. Billions in lender fees, insurance premiums and legal fees, and no industry to service it.

Of all the marketing, technology, training, systems, policies and legal initiatives you have put forth in your company, what percentage have been directed at homeownership, and what percentage were directed at investors? Is it 99/1 or 100/0?

A new industry is emerging. Leaders in our midst are stepping forward to create it. It is the most technical side of our business, and by embracing it, I believe we are going to make a quantum leap forward in our ability to deal with American Housing as an asset. Maybe we will even solve the housing crisis.

In the end, if you are only in the homeownership business, you aren’t in the whole real estate business.

Greg Rand is CEO of OwnAmerica.com and former managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty. For more information, please visit www.ownamerica.com.

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