The scale of the commissions extracted by the real-estate industry in America is jaw-dropping. Fees run at 5-6% of the value of a property, three times the average level in other developed countries (see article). In total they amounted to $75bn last year, or 0.4% of gdp. Other marketplaces—for shares, groceries, advertising and romance—have been transformed by technology. But in property the old ways persist. America still has 2m realtors.
Other innovations are nibbling away at the many other tasks that estate agents do. Redfin and Opendoor use remote electronic locks, which can let buyers into a home by themselves. Your correspondent let herself into a lovely two-bedroom flat in Santa Monica using Redfin’s app. Had she wanted to buy it, she could have done so without consulting an agent, by filling out an offer form on the app.