I completely agree with the article. I read the one posted last week and sort of chuckled (asking where the start ups are) because it's not the technology that's the problem, it's the industry and the market itself... Why?
As the author states, brokers live and die by their commission (my father happens to be one as well), and trying to get them to adopt a new technology can be harder than pulling teeth... And in a lot of ways it's completely fair! Not many tools actually do anything that improve ROI, if anything they're time and money pits.
Furthermore, Realtors don't often trust people who aren't because they don't "get" the problems they're facing. Our CEO is a broker of 27 years, and I will say, without his insight into the industry we would be missing a big portion of the problems they face. Engineering isn't the hard part, problem recognition is...
Real Estate is really for people already in the industry who are aware of what problem's its facing. Its extremely hard to get any footing with no experience. Plus, why bother now that Househappy is out and about anyway ;-) (sorry, can't help but shamelessly plug one last time-- we're also hiring!)
So if your target market is the brokers, the trick is providing value to them. That means more commissions, or more profit per commission. There might be a market for painkillers and making it less stressful, but that will be a much smaller market than getting a piece of that commission cash flow.
And for pricing, either you charge a LOT for service, or you get paid per commission as a percentage, which puts you in the land of state-by-state regulatory and is hard.
To me, this feels a lot more like the enterprise software market than the consumer app markets that seem to attract so many startups. I keep seeing people talk about a B2C approach, and I just don't see how you make a lot of money at that.
The paid per commission model has been tried by very few companies. It would expose a company to a significant amount of market risk (housing drops like 2008 and your SAAS play is now dead), but could make sense. The issue there is tracking closed deals. There are so many complications during the close that are out of the hands of the software.
This is why I think it is going to take a company with both human agents and software developers to make any real change. It has to be disrupted from the inside out, making experience all the more important.