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Jun 5 17

Anatomy of a Zestimate

by Greg Robertson

Jasjeet Thind writing at Zillow Data Science Blog.

Home Value Estimates:Understanding Their Purposes And Evaluating Their Results

“In the case of the Zestimate modeling framework, which contains numerous submodels, each estimating a home’s value via different valuation approaches and data inputs, our goal of independence means that the listing price is not a factor in any of our valuation submodels.”

Fascinating read on what goes in to Zillow’s Zestimates. I also love the comparison of how Zillow’s methodology differs from Redfin’s AFTER the home comes on the market.

Jun 1 17

Boston Logic buys Propertybase

by Greg Robertson

Teke Wiggin for Inman News:
Boston Logic buys Propertybase, with more acquisitions in sight

“Boston Logic CEO David Friedman declined to disclose terms of the deal, other than to say that Propertybase will retain all of its employees.

Boston Logic became Providence Equity’s “platform for acquisition” of real estate software after the private equity firm, which has $50 billion in capital under management, made an undisclosed investment in Boston Logic last year. Drawing on Providence Equity’s deep pockets, it’s looking to build real estate tech portfolios through acquisitions — a goal shared by some other well-heeled firms like Zillow Group.

“We are looking at a lot of opportunities out there,” Friedman said. “Price does not scare us away.”

Boston Logic was attracted to Propertybase because of its global reach and effective use of the Salesforce platform.”

Consolidation is happening everywhere. On a side note David Friedman was my very first guest on my Listing Bits podcast. You can listen to it here.

May 31 17

MLS Emancipation

by Greg Robertson

Jim Harrison, CEO of MLSListings, in a guest post for Inman News

Why we need to make room for the emancipated MLS

“The birthplace of the current MLS was the local Realtor association. For much of the past 50 years the Realtor association has been the owner, master and effective parent of the MLS.

Even today, all but a dozen or so of the 719 operating MLSs continue to be owned, operated and parented by the same local association that originally gave birth to them. It is true that some have escaped association control and have managed to morph into regional or business centered entities, but that is not the norm.

Just as the original MLSs reflected the values of their parent associations, the fact is that today over 700 of these organizations are still operated in strict compliance with their parent organization’s traditional values, which haven’t changed much over the past 50 years.

Today, the industry has accepted the fact that one of many things that has to change is the continued existence of over 1,200 local associations. The industry also recognizes that many of its current threats and challenges have been caused by a lack of change and adaptation, which are so critical to survival in this current disruptive environment.”


May 26 17

The Upstream Shift: Pivot or Reveal?

by Greg Robertson

Many thanks to our very first sponsor, Centralized Showing Services (CSS)!

Just when you thought the Upstream shift might foster a new spirit of collaboration in the real estate industry, the guns were drawn again with NAR CEO Dale Stinton’s combative rhetoric, as NAR approved an additional $9 million in funding for the scaled back version of Upstream at the Realtors Legislative Meetings in D.C.

Today Rob and Greg talk about the fallout from the Upstream announcement and subsequent doubling down by Stinton at the board meeting that followed. As always, our illustrious hosts each have a unique take on the motives of NAR and how Upstream’s CEO might approach his role moving forward.

Listen in as they discuss the ambiguity around the project now that Upstream will allow brokers to enter their listings into their MLSs and how the change in tactics will affect particular industry players. Click to learn how the antagonistic framing of the big announcement further divided the vendors and MLSs from the brokerages, when it might have been an opportunity to mend fences.

What’s Discussed: 

The three-part Upstream bombshell (dropped at NAR’s Midyear)
– The so-called pivot
– Blaming the vendors
– ‘Live demo’ controversy
Rob’s theory re: the motivation for Upstream
– Planned syndication from the start
– Working to regain control of lead gen
NAR and Upstream’s missed opportunity to generate a spirit of collaboration
The purchase of ListHub as an alternative to Upstream
How eliminating a single point of entry makes Upstream a simple listing syndication dashboard
The industry skepticism around Upstream’s transparency and NAR’s motives
Why Upstream is a top priority for brokerages
How Upstream’s messaging has evolved over time
– Syndication
– Multiple inputs
– Blending data
– Cyber terrorism
Why Zillow is feared by brokerages, MLSs and associations
Zillow’s capability to provide a data management solution
The inflammatory language used by the NAR CEO Dale Stinton (e.g.: vendors and MLSs as ‘cartel’)
The ambiguity of Upstream moving forward
– Still building listing module?
– Just another option?
The Upstream pivot as a win for Zillow
Why Zillow may have purchased Bridge Interactive
How Upstream drove MLSs into the arms of Zillow
The likelihood of a continued alliance between Zillow and MLSs to fight NAR
How Upstream CEO Alex Lange might approach his role moving forward
Post-pivot licensing issues for Upstream


Centralized Showing Service (CSS)
NAR Bets on Upstream with Additional $9M in Funding’ by Andrea Brambila

Connect with Rob and Greg:

Rob’s Website
Greg’s Website

May 24 17

Clareity’s 2017 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo Report

by Greg Robertson

Matt Cohen does a great service to all of us for recapping some of the highlights of recent the N.A.R. Midyear meetings. You should check it out here.

I totally have to agree with this observation about the trade show.

” With all of the jewelry and other gear on the floor, one software vendor told us they thought it felt like a “flea market” down there.”

And our team at W+R Studios totally appreciates the recognition of Cloud MLX.

“Clareity has never included an MLS “front end” in this section of our report before, but we think W+R’s Cloud MLX deserves a shout-out here. There are now over 35 MLSs, covering over 200,000 agents on the platform.

May 24 17

New York Times article on Opendoor

by Greg Robertson

Farhad Manjoo, reporting for the New York Times.

The Rise of the Fat Start Up

“Opendoor fits that mold. Its plan is precarious: The company faces rising competition, high operating costs and — because we are talking about the market that caused the global financial crisis — the possibility of an unforeseen blowup. But if it works, Opendoor could be transformative; by making buying and selling houses as easy as buying and selling cars, it might thoroughly alter the American economy and change how we think of homeownership.

“Real estate is a $25 trillion asset class — people spend more on housing than food, transit, health care and education,” said Eric Wu, a founder and the chief executive of Opendoor. “We think we can make it work much better than it does now.”

These guys are for real. It’s pretty clear why these guys have gotten in to Zillow’s head.

May 23 17

Is Upstream dead?

by Greg Robertson

I heard the news in the air, while flying in to DCA. UpstreamRE had “pivoted”. Instead of brokers entering listings in what UpstreamRE CEO, Alex Lange described as a “Google Drive” in the cloud they could now enter their listing data through their MLS.

I sent out a quick tweet.

2 years and 12 6 million dollars later, the brokers had finally listened to what MLS executives have been saying all along. Use the MLS stupid!

When I landed the texts and calls came in about how Alex Lange presented the news at CMLS’ “Brings it to the Table” event.

Alex was there, along with Dan Elsea. Alex announced they had pivoted. He described that brokers could enter data via the MLS first, and allow UpstreamRE to receive those listings from the MLS.

After all the hubris from UpstreamRE, I can only imagine the mental energy it took to stop the collective eye roll of every attendee in the room. But this party was just getting started.

When Alex was pressed on why the “pivot” he made a statement that a big reason was MLS vendors had been uncooperative. At this point Michael Wurzer, CEO of FBS and a CMLS board member called bullshit. He described FBS’s interaction with the project, which contradicted Alex’s previous statement. To which Alex said it wasn’t really FBS and then proceeded to throw CoreLogic under the bus. Stay classy Alex, stay classy.

And then the shit show continued. Tim Dain stood up and asked Alex if the rumors were true that RPR had sent a team of developers to Portland to get a working demo of the system, and that the demos they were touting at the Midyear meetings were not a “beta” or “up and running” or really even “live” as they were being promoted thus far, but more of a “proof of concept”. To which Alex, handed the microphone to Portland RMLS CEO, Kurt von Wasmuth. To which Kurt confirmed everything Tim suggested. Oy Vey!

Also, is “pivot” even the right word?

I was chatting with Matt Cohen a bit and he thought that their use of the word “pivot” was really a poor choice. Here’s Matt…

Upstream has FINALLY realized that being “Upstream” – creating and implementing the technology / integrations – will take quite a long time. It’s still their goal to be upstream but they need to start getting users and generating revenue. That means, providing the “control” value of syndication next year, which requires MLS data – so, in the short/medium/medium-long term, they will need to accept listing data from MLSs. I don’t see that the long term goal has changed or their long term high-level strategy (no pivot) but in the short term there’s just an intermediate step on the way to their goal. To use examples of real pivots: Odeo was about finding and subscribing podcasts before pivoting into micro-blogging as Twitter. That’s a pivot to an entirely different end-product with no plan to ever return to a podcast business. Confinity was about beaming payments from a PDA before it pivoted into online payments as Paypal. That’s another pivot into an entirely different space. Again, I see Upstream not yet changing their end goal – just adding a step in how to get there


Then Saturday happen. The N.A.R. approved an additional $9 million to project Upstream and Dale Stinton, the current CEO of the N.A.R. started pointing fingers and made some inflammatory statements toward MLSs and MLS Vendors. Don’t they realize that if they ever want to accomplish this project they are going to need the cooperation from the the same guys they are throwing under the bus? Good luck with that!

Can’t we all just get along?

I get it. Everything can get heated. Hell, the original title to this blog post was “SHITSTREAM”. So beyond my snarkiness I really do think there might be a positive side to this whole fiasco. When Craig Cheatham announced at the CMLS Conference in Boise that the MLS industry had “10 days” before they would feel the wrath of their brokers it really did wake up the industry.

Since then things have changed a lot. NAR core standards initiatives have contributed to less associations, Bright MLS kicked off a wave of consolidation the industry has never seen before. And data standards are gaining more momentum.

In a sense the brokers are getting what they wanted. They won.

But I think this progress has been stifled by hubris of Upstream, and now the N.A.R.’s stance that the MLS industry is a “cartel” and must be stopped.

We all need to press the reset button, and move forward.

May 22 17

The Zoffer

by Greg Robertson

For as long as I can remember one the most effective “call to action” in real estate has been the venerable…

“What’s My Home Worth?”

You can find this messaging on all manners of of real estate media. Some products do it better, than others. Hell, the reason we are even talking about Zillow is the “Zestimate”, which is the personification of that call to action.

But it turns out the Zestimate was really more geared towards Buyers (and voyeurs). But it’s a Sellers market. So what’s a Zillow supposed to do if it wants to drive Seller leads?

Enter, Zillow’s “Instant Offers“. Or what I’m calling a “Zoffer“. Which gives the value proposition,

“I can sell your home in one week!”

Zillow is testing this in 2 markets, Orlando and Las Vegas. And the entire industry is collectively losing its shit. Check out the comments on Inman’s post, Zillow launches ‘Instant Offers’ pilot program for homesellers, to get a taste.

I think its a ballsy move driven by a real need to generate seller leads for it Premier Agents, but also as a counter to all the hype surrounding Opendoor. Zillow wants to show Wall Street its got its sexy back.

Are they crossing the line? Are they becoming a broker, or just a matchmaker? Lots of questions.

I think its too early to tell. But I’m super curious to see if it works. And if any of those agents need a good CMA, I know where you can find one.

May 22 17

Listing Bits: The Upstream Pivot with FBS CEO Michael Wurzer

by Greg Robertson

I had a chance to sit down with Mike Wurzer again at NAR Midyear to discuss the recent announcement about Upstream, well, not really being “upstream” anymore. This was recorded before NAR announced the details to their additional funding. More on that in a later blog post.

The first step of problem-solving is to assign blame. Right?

That seems to be part of Upstream’s tactics in explaining their delayed progress at NAR’s May Legislative Meeting in DC. They succeeded in raising the heartrate of today’s guest – by implying that a lack of cooperation from vendors is to blame for the snail’s pace of the project. Upstream also made a big announcement regarding what they term as a pivot, but may be more appropriately called a 180.

Michael Wurzer is the President and CEO of FBS, an employee-owned company committed to exceeding customer expectations. Their signature product, Flexmls, is a standards-driven technology platform connecting real estate professionals to their customers with collaboration tools that deliver timely and accurate information. FBS products serve 185 organizations and 2,000-plus agents in the real estate sector.

Under Wurzer’s leadership for the past 20 years, FBS has worked to constantly evolve and embrace change. They were among the first to build a web-based system, striking a balance between the stability of being an established company and creating a culture of innovation. Today he examines the Upstream pivot in detail, discussing how the Upstream messaging has evolved over time, the pain points the initiative was working to address, and the need to foster collaboration among industry players.

What’s Discussed:

The major players in the Upstream initiative
How the Upstream messaging has evolved over time
The major Upstream pivot announced at NAR’s Legislative Meetings
How the pivot was influenced by feedback from experienced MLS professionals
Greg’s take on the fundamental change in premise of the Upstream initiative
The pain points the Upstream project was working to address
– Ability to sync listings
– Integration with third party products
The buy-in for Upstream from big brands
Upstream’s explanation for its delayed progress
The need to foster collaboration among industry players rather than assigning blame
– All focused on solving broker problems
The CMLS campaign to highlight the value of the MLS
The controversy over RPR’s team of developers
The confusion re: the meaning of a ‘live demo’
The ability to enter a listing from third-party system as a RESO objective
The evolution of technology in the real estate software space
– ‘We’re building the airplane as we’re flying it’
Success stories in MLS system consolidation
The beauty of competition in shaping market dynamics
Zillow’s next steps in light of the Upstream pivot
The need for clarity of communication re: syndication
What the Upstream pivot means for AMP
Wurzer’s prediction of what’s next in real estate tech innovation
Upstream as ‘another option’ rather than a revolution


Realtor Magazine Article

“Upstream Returns to Earth” by Matt Cohen

Connect with Michael Wurzer:


May 22 17

Placester offers free IDX websites to N.A.R. members

by Greg Robertson

Inman News’ Teke Wiggin on Placester’s new offering.

NAR offering free Placester websites to Realtors

“The National Association of Realtors is offering free property search websites to all members as part of a new deal with real estate software provider Placester.

The partnership makes it possible for all Realtors “to build an online presence they can control,” said CEO Matt Barba in a statement. And it could fuel Placester’s efforts to build a massive user base that could be receptive to buying upgrades.

A previous deal between the trade group and Placester made basic versions of Placester sites available to Realtors for $5 a month. Under the new deal, the two are offering Placester websites for no charge.

The free mobile-friendly websites come with features including IDX [Internet Data Exchange] listing integration, “global listings search,” homepage with slideshow, mortgage calculator, social media share buttons and editable listing search, about and testimonial pages.”

This is exactly why I’ve never had a desire to enter the agent website business, it’s a race to the bottom.

But it looks like it’s not “free” in all markets.

“For 60 of the 600 multiple listing services covered by the product, agents must pay a surcharge to activate IDX-powered property search.”

I wonder how many agents do those MLSs cover? Also, it’s well known that less than 90 MLS providers contain about 90% of the all the active listings available. So it will be interesting to see how “massive” their user base grows.

I written about this before but my take on these freemium models is the the TAM (total available market) isn’t large enough.

I do think this is a big win for N.A.R. members. But if you read the comments in Inman’s article you’ll see that agents are keen to look a gift horse in the mouth. Sheesh!