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May 15 18

HAR clarifies position on dues increases and comments on recent MLSListings retracted op-ed

by Greg Robertson

From H.A.R. Chair Kenya Burrell-VanWormer

REALTORS® Are Stronger Together

I didn’t expect to write anything else on the topic of the proposed NAR dues increase, but with the situation as it now stands, I feel I must speak to make sure people don’t jump to the wrong conclusions.

First, let me start by reiterating once again that we have the utmost respect for Elizabeth Mendenhall, John Smaby, and Bob Goldberg, as well as the rest of the NAR Leadership Team and staff. We consider them all to be friends. This isn’t a “fight” as some people have characterized it. We believe they are trying to make the best out of a bad situation that they inherited. We’ve been in near constant contact with them during the past few weeks. In fact, when we took a particular action, we informed NAR leadership before we did it. We have had an open dialogue with them, which we appreciate.

HAR’s opposition to the proposed dues increases, including opposing the 2.5% annual automatic escalator, simply comes down to a question of how to fund the budget in the most financially prudent way. Some have said that $30 isn’t that much money, and many of our members agree. This isn’t about $30 though. It is about $39 million. They feel it would be throwing good money after bad.

We have asked questions about the budget, but they have always been professional and respectful. These questions have resulted in a thoughtful dialogue with respected leaders of our industry, such as Sam DeBord and Bill Lublin. That’s a good thing and was part of our real goal; get people talking and looking at all sides. We don’t believe it is ever appropriate or warranted to make reckless claims against anyone in volunteer or staff leadership.

The op-ed I submitted to Inman News, as well as letters sent to HAR members and association leaders across the country presenting our positions, were written as a collaborative effort among the HAR executive officers and executive staff. A small group of us drafted each of these documents and then sent them out to our executive committee, boards of directors and local NAR directors. This list totaled about 37 people reviewing each of these communications before they were sent to anyone outside of HAR. Some people had very valuable suggestions, which were incorporated into the letters. If our original letter expressing our positions was somehow twisted into the accusations that were made about honorable NAR leaders, then I personally apologize. That would never be our intent.

No consultant was involved at any time in our process, including preparation of the member survey, Inman op-ed or any other communications related to the proposed NAR dues increase.

The fact that we surveyed our members has also come into question. NAR invited member feedback, which is what led us to survey our own members, which are also NAR members. We are all on the same team and want to do what is best for REALTORS®. We have a robust research program, which includes regular surveys of consumers and members. We are a membership-based organization, so we want to know what our members think. Does it mean you have to follow exactly what they say? No. But it does provide helpful insight and give you a sense of the sentiment among the members at large. When 97% of the respondents say they oppose something, then that is hard to ignore. There are literally thousands of comments that they submitted, all of which may be viewed at www.har.com/NARDues.

Even though we have been sidetracked by the other (now retracted) op-ed, we stand behind our original proposals for funding the budget. We fully support the REALTOR® Party political advocacy efforts at which NAR usually excels. Note that HAR is well on its way to raising more than $1 million for RPAC for the third year in a row.

We don’t necessarily expect the vote to go our way on May 19, but we do hope that it has opened a constructive dialogue about priorities and how to fund them. All of our communications with Elizabeth, John, and Bob lead us to believe that this coming year will be one to review these activities, and we believe they are the right people at the right time to make NAR stronger.

As I also keep saying, we want NAR to succeed because its success is our success. If there’s one thing we learned from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, it’s that REALTORS® are stronger together. I, along with everyone else from Houston, look forward to a productive NAR Midyear and Board of Directors meeting.

Respectfully,

Kenya Burrell-VanWormer

Kenya Burrell-VanWormer is the chair of the board of directors of the Houston Association of Realtors, which is the second largest local Realtor association in the country, with more than 37,000 residential and commercial members.

Together. Yup.

May 14 18

What were you doing in the 80s?

by Greg Robertson

If you are Rob Larson, CIO of CRMLS, then you were playing bass in a hair band. My only question is, why is his left hand in his pocket? 😂

May 14 18

Compass, Inc. hires Industry Relations rep

by Greg Robertson

Bill Fowler recently resigned from Zillow to become Compass Inc.’s Sr. Director of Industry Relations. Bill had previously held positions at dotloop and Solid Earth, Inc. Congrats Bill!

May 12 18

Jim Harrison apologizes for op-ed piece. Based on false information.

by Greg Robertson

This was just sent out….

When I stand corrected, I do so as publicly as any other statements bearing my name. The “opinion piece,” while intended to prepare our leadership for the NAR meetings with new information, was in hindsight, not a fair presentation, nor was it truly reflective of my sentiment and an appropriate representation of MLSListings. The letter was written by our consultant based upon inaccurate facts that he shared with our team who has since been dismissed. Let me say unequivocally, I have always worked well with NAR staff and leadership. The integrity of NAR and its leaders, volunteers and staff should not have been called into question.
I would like to take this opportunity to profusely apologize to the staff, leadership and volunteers of NAR for the impact and disruption this has caused with local and state associations and members during this open dues discussion. I also apologize for the implication that there should be long term concern about the direction of NAR under the leadership of CEO Bob Goldberg. He has guided and we have applauded the new open transparency and direction we all enjoy now from NAR. Goldberg has our full support and any implication to the contrary was misleading and completely false.
There are many considerations being undertaken by NAR, such as; annual dues and a desire by membership to understand the organization’s financial expenditures, and these are issues that those attending the upcoming NAR legislative meetings in Washington, D.C. should be attuned to and participate by expressing their opinions. Again, the letter was intended to prepare MLSListings leadership for the NAR conference and the continuing dialogue about finances and member dues. When it was shared, Inman News got word of the letter and called my staff.
In the case of fee increases, they will never be liked and when fee raises are proposed, they inspire higher levels of scrutiny of organization spending. The same happens here at MLSListings. I will always take the position that we should be able to ask and answer tough questions when it comes to our fiduciary responsibilities, and make those answers known.
The original letter failed by questioning the transparency and integrity of NAR’s use of the profits from the IPO without sharing this with NAR leaders. This was based on wholly inaccurate facts that were presented to us and ones we took at face value. We recognize the unfairness of this and I want to express my deepest apologies for my words in this matter. As NAR President Elizabeth Mendenhall has stated, “no members or staff have profited from the DocuSign IPO” and we stand by her statement.
We were also given a mischaracterization of remarks supposedly made at the NAR Finance Committee meeting and reactions to the presentations. Again, these were taken as fact, which was a grave mistake on our part. I regret this deeply and apologize to NAR leaders for these assumptions based upon false information.
Additionally, it failed to address the outreach, information and clarity that NAR has provided to all members, AEs and their Board of Directors to be able to have this informed conversation on the dues. This is hard work and is an unprecedented step for NAR.
The response to the “opinion piece” has been swift and in the case of NAR, justified in its rebuke. But it has also had the advantage of spurring what I hope is a productive dialogue. I hope these words will help bring about an opportunity to have a dialogue – one that accurately reflects my sentiments in a tone that is more fair-minded and respectful. My passion for organized real estate remains and I will always be a devoted advocate for the tremendous work we all do and for the ability to make meaningful change that benefits our memberships.
My passion for protecting the members and customers in this industry remains. That passion may have been misplaced, but it remains focused on what is good for brokers and agents, and those who trust us with their business.

I doubt this story is over but glad to see Jim own up to this and make things right.

May 11 18

CRS Data expands footprint in MLS space

by Greg Robertson

CRS Data Doubles MLS Customer Base

CRS Data, headquartered in Knoxville, Tenn., is a leading provider of public record information for real estate, banker, and financial professionals across the U.S. Since 2014, the company has doubled its MLS customer base, expanding service of its popular and ever-growing MLS Tax Suite. Today, CRS Data integrates seamlessly with leading MLS platforms, providing property data service in more than 800 counties across 30 states. Optimized across mobile devices, the public records system is uniquely designed to offer an innovative, simplified property data experience.

Good for them! Great to read about this kind of success. Follow the link to a video, really awesome testimonials from their MLS customers. Congrats!

May 11 18

Will the Feds shut down Upstream?

by Greg Robertson

Government staffers question Upstream CEO on antitrust ahead of launch

Lange confirmed to Inman that he spoke with staffers from the DOJ and FTC yesterday and has separately spoken with staff attorneys for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy and Consumer Rights on two other occasions in September 2016 and January 2017, including a trip to Washington, D.C., to answer questions surrounding whether Upstream would violate federal anti-competitive laws.

So the government has questioned UpstreamRE on 3 separate occasions, in 2016, 2017, and now 2018? Does that sound normal? Does that inspire confidence?

“David Kully, a former staff attorney in the DOJ’s antitrust division, spoke at an MLS forum hosted by Zillow in Dana Point, California, in late April. He said if he were still at DOJ, he might ask whether Upstream “is something that is going to help facilitate brokers overcoming the competitive forces that have caused them to share data and to change from that.”

“I do not mean to say that the intent of Upstream was to allow brokers to stop competing on where they send listings and to reach a potentially illegal agreement to boycott listings portals, but I wonder whether it might unintentionally have that effect by making it easier for brokers to do so,” Kully said when reached by Inman.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone at the DOJ or FTC about this and don’t know whether this is on their radar screen.”

Real estate giant Zillow Group confirmed that it speaks with government officials regularly and has specifically pointed to Upstream as a company it has concerns about within the real estate ecosystem.

Mr. Kully has raised this same issue last month.

So the DOJ/FTC has questioned UpstreamRE 3 times over the past 3 years. The former lead attorney for the DOJ (who fought successfully for the DOJ and forced NAR to change it’s listing policy) says a side effect of Upstream could make it anti-competitive and Zillow (the 6,000 pound gorilla in the room who’s CEO regularly visits Washington D.C.) also “has concerns”.

Is anyone paying attention? Upstream is already two years behind schedule, and if it ever launches (and that’s a big IF) it appears there’s a good chance the government may shut it down. This after, less than a year ago, NAR approved an additional funding of 9 million dollars (I’ve lost count on how much already had been spent).

I think Will Rogers said it best.

“When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

Or maybe Kenny Rogers,

“You gotta know when to hold them, know when to fold ’em”

Or maybe Bruce Springsteen,

“It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young”

But hey, whatever man, roll the video…

May 9 18

Get ready to rumble!

by Greg Robertson

Op-ed piece from Jim Harrison on Inman News…

It’s time to stop ignoring the crisis at NAR

“Over the past 90 days these issues have intensified over events related to NAR finances. Questions have been raised internally and externally about a pattern of unsuccessful NAR efforts and exploits. These include HouseLogic, the Realtor Credit Union, Realtor Radio, The Realtor University, RPR, Upstream, AMP, the almost childlike, “Logo-gate,” NAR’s lackluster performance at the recent T3 conference and, most recently, NAR’s wholly-owned Second Century Ventures entity.

Get your popcorn ready, next week is going to be fun!

UPDATE: NAR Responds!

NAR ‘furious’ over criticism of leadership, denies profiteering

“We are not afraid of criticism and welcome an open respectful dialog and honest discussion. However, this type of bullying is unacceptable and no volunteer or staff should be subject to this. It discourages participation and involvement. The future of our organization is strong and we want our members to be fully engaged with their National Association of Realtors.”

May 8 18

Rapattoni launches custom report writer

by Greg Robertson

Rapattoni MLS Launches New Custom Report Writer

“The new Custom Report Writer includes a variety of templates which MLS members can use as starting points for customizing their own reports, or they can start on a blank page to build new reports from scratch. Users can overlay listing images in different sizes to highlight important features and amenities, increasing visual interest with customizable shapes, borders, and background colors.

In addition to listing photos, Rapattoni’s powerful report designer allows users to add clip art from the MLS’s “royalty-free” library, or users can upload images to create a unique look. Once completed, reports can be printed, emailed, and shared with clients.”

This is interesting to me. I actually had a back and forth with a friend of mine about the value of such a product. His take was that report writers have “never, ever” worked for MLS and third party software vendors before, why would this be different?

I have to agree somewhat if you look at the past. Remember “Crystal Reports“? Yuck. These so called WYSIWYG editors, were the farthest thing from user friendly. Plus design is hard. You have to have a certain level of skill to make something look good and convey information in an easy to understand format.

Today is a bit different. Sites like Squarespace, Wix and on some level WordPress have really changed the game. These sites are template driven but offer a much better experience than tools of the past. My company created Cloud Attract, which is drop dead simple way of creating beautiful landing pages.

Granted, creating printed material is a little different and I haven’t used Rapattoni’s new Report Generator but I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions on basing old tech/UI/UX with what’s possible now.

May 8 18

CoreLogic partners with Homes.com to offer MLS providers public-facing websites

by Greg Robertson

CORELOGIC TO OFFER CONSUMER SEARCH SITES POWERED BY HOMES.COM

“Under the agreement, CoreLogic will begin offering the Homes.com Fusion Portal product, a public website platform for multiple listing organizations to CoreLogic clients. Consumer-facing websites follow fair display guidelines, clearly identifying the listing broker and agent on properties for sale.”

Make sense on a lot of levels. First Real Estate Digital (red) left this market awhile back, so there’s no clear leader. Second, Homes.com is one of the best at MLS data aggregation. Third, it gives the CoreLogic’s sales teams a quality product to sell back in to its channel. Plus Homes.com is a good partner. They’ve been powering RE/MAX national website since 2006. Andy Woolley and his team are second to none in integrity and have always been champions of the MLS industry.

A couple of observations. To me this puts CoreLogic in direct competition with BPP and Homesnap. Will MLS providers who signed up for Homesnap also purchase a public facing website? Doesn’t that go against what the BPP “partnership” is all about? Also, the marks the third time (by my count) the industry has used the “fusion” moniker. Please everyone, stop trying to make “fusion” happen. 😉

[UPDATE: Turns out Black Knight is Real Estate Digital’s reseller, so they haven’t exited as I first thought. Sorry for the confusion. Plus we know that with FBS acquisition of Solid Earth they also have a dog in this fight.]

May 8 18

John Mosey recognized for work at BPP

by Greg Robertson


St. Paul real estate veteran plays key role in development of Homesnap

The site is the real estate industry’s answer to the countless third-party property listing sites that have become influential in the sale of homes. Years in the making, a key player in its inception and launch is St. Paul-based John Mosey, longtime president of Twin Cities-based Northstar MLS.

“There was this grand notion that the industry could tap its resources to go head to head with the Zillows, Trulias and Realtor.coms of our world,” Mosey said.”

Zillow Group couldn’t have asked for a better picture of John for their dartboard. Of course he’s a much smaller target now. 😄

Photo credit [Minneapolis Star Tribune]