Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

Industry Relations Episode 51: We Don’t Know What to Call Zillow Anymore!

Zillow started out as a listing portal or syndication site. But the company has evolved to become… Well, we’re actually not sure what to call it anymore. Perhaps ‘the Amazon of real estate’ is most appropriate. And on September 23, 2020, the company announced that it’s hiring employee-agents to streamline the iBuyer process. So, if Zillow is a brokerage now, what does that mean for the industry?

On this episode of the podcast, Rob and Greg are discussing Zillow’s decision to take its iBuyer operations in-house and how that move will impact other aspects of organized real estate. Our hosts explore how MLSs might respond to having Zillow as members and describe how access to MLS data could change the consumer experience on the Zillow site.

Rob and Greg go on to consider the impact of Zillow being part of NAR and state and local associations, weighing in on how their participation can be seen as a win for the industry. Listen in for insight on how Zillow’s announcement demonstrates their commitment to becoming an iBuyer-brokerage and learn how Zillow entering the system might lead to an improvement for everyone—or a ‘horror show.’

What’s Discussed: 

The evolution of listing portals into brokerage and iBuyer hybrid models

How Rob and Greg define brokerages differently

Zillow’s decision to use employee-agents to bring its iBuyer operations in-house

How MLSs are likely to respond to having Zillow as members

Rob’s theory on how Zillow might reposition its Industry Relations team

The potential impact of Zillow being part of NAR as well as state and local associations

How access to MLS IDX data and VOW rules could transform the consumer experience on Zillow

The leverage Zillow has in getting information from smaller MLSs

What makes Zillow’s shift a WIN for humans (and organized real estate)

Connect with Rob and Greg:

Rob’s Website

Greg’s Website


Opendoor vs. Zillow on Industry Relations EP050

Greg’s Blog Post on BPP

Rob’s Blog Post on Zillow

Stop Zillow Campaign

Greg on Twitter

CLAW’s Delay to Syndication Feeds

REALTOR Political Action Committee

NAR’s Rules on Virtual Office Website

The 2008 DOJ-NAR Settlement Agreement

‘It’s a Good Life’ Episode of Twilight Zone

‘A Trifecta! NAR Sued Again Over Buyer-Broker Commissions’ in The Real Deal

Thomas Jefferson’s Quote on Change in Laws and Institutions

Collateral Analytics

Greg’s Blog Post on Zillow

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So, I’m officially an author…

Well, to be clear, a “self-published” author. But hey, you gotta start somewhere. I got my first run of books from the printer and have set up a website where you can buy them. Check it out.


You can also purchase the book on Amazon. But they take a hefty cut so ordering through my website ensures the money goes directly to the children. In this case, my children, not Jeff Bezos.

I would appreciate any way you could promote the site. Bulk discounts are available. So they make a great gift for your board of directors, or your favorite REALTOR. ????

Why did I write a book? I’ve had a few ideas of books I’ve wanted to write, and still want to write, but in the end, someone once said, “write what you know” so I took that advice.

And one thing I’ve learned, nobody writes a book alone. And I have a lot of people to thank. First off Charles Warnock. I had started to write this over 2 years ago, without much success, but things started to move once Charles came on board to help me stay on track, give me honest feedback, new ideas, and make anything I wrote even better. Thank you, Charles. I also have to thank Dan Woolley my co-founder and partner in crime for close to 30 years. I wouldn’t have one ounce of success if it wasn’t for Dan. Sharran Srivatsaa was gracious enough to write the forward to my book. I met Sharran through Rob Hahn and if you don’t know him you should, he has been a big influence on me and was very encouraging during this process. Stefan Swanepoel is a big inspiration and gave me a lot of great advice and honest feedback. Victor Lund saw an early draft and was very kind and gave me a blurb for the back of the book. David Charron was great through this whole process. He read a copy of the book early on and cheered me on. I think David was expecting a lot of f-bombs in the book, while my wife Jenn was telling me to take them all out! Also, I want to thank Brian Boero from 1000watt who was very generous with his time. Whenever I read anything that Brian writes, I almost always say, “God, I wish I wrote that”, or “I wish I could write that good.” Brian had some key feedback that helped us a lot. Go sign up for 1000watt’s blog now.

I have a lot of great stories, ideas, and inspiration from Brad Nix, Katie Lance, Chris Smith, Brad Inman and Tom Ferry in the book. I stole from the best.

I dedicated the book to Maggie, Eddie and Dan. Maggie and Eddie, along with Dan were my first co-founders at IRIS, LLC. We had no idea how to build and run a software company but Lightning -Easy MLS Access and Lightning CMA Plus laid the groundwork for everything in my career.

Last but not least I want to thank my family. Jennifer, my wife, put up with the clicking sounds of my keyboard on a lot of early Sunday mornings.

And thanks to all of you in this industry who have given me your friendship, support, and allowed me to do what I love.

W+R Studios’ Co-founder, Greg Robertson Releases Debut Title, The Art of the CMA.
New book helps real estate agents and brokers let go of fear and compete in a new world of proptech.

September 10, 2020 (HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA) – Software entrepreneur, blogger and podcaster, Greg Robertson has released his first book, The Art of the CMA. A 28 year veteran of the real estate technology industry, Greg is sharing his experience of helping create real estate’s most popular Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) tools including the recent Cloud CMA Live. Throughout his career, Greg has had thousands of conversations with agents and brokers nationwide on how they can leverage real estate’s most versatile tool, the CMA. The CMA is powerful in that it highlights their unique knowledge to compete both offline and online in a new world dominated by ever-changing business models and huge real estate portals.

“Artificial intelligence is just that, artificial, it’s not real” stated author Greg Robertson. “All real estate is local, and when it comes to something as crucial as pricing a home, nothing beats the eyes, ears, and nose attached to the brain of a good agent. There is far too much time and energy spent in the industry hating on real estate portals, iBuyers and new business models who are “trying to destroy us.” It is only when agents let go of fear that they can clearly see what a huge opportunity this new era in real estate brings.”

The new book includes a forward by industry thought leader Sharran Srivatsaa and bonus content of the results of the W+R Studios’ 2020 Survey of Best Practices for CMAs and Listing Presentations. 

For more information and to purchase the book, please visit, http://TheArtoftheCMA.com. Bulk discounts for teams and brokers are available.

About The Authors
The Art of the CMA was written by Greg Robertson with Charles Warnock.  Greg has been in the real estate technology industry for over 28 years. He is the co-founder of W+R Studios, a privately held software company.   Greg is on the “Power 200” (https://www.realestatealmanac.com/executives/), a list of the most influential people in real estate.  He has served as a director on the Council of MLS (CMLS) (https://councilofmls.org/), an organization dedicated to improving the Multiple Listing Service industry.  He publishes the popular real estate technology blog, Vendor Alley (https://vendoralley.wpengine.com/).  He also hosts two podcasts, Listing Bits and Industry Relations.  Greg lives in Huntington Beach, California with his wife Jennifer, their three kids, and dog Molly.

About W+R Studios
Founded in 2008, W+R Studios is a privately held web software company located in Huntington Beach, California. The company focuses on creating the next generation of web-based software solutions for the real estate industry. Their flagship product, Cloud CMA, part of the popular Cloud Agent Suite, is licensed to over 500,000 real estate professionals all over North America.
By providing a “less is more” approach to software design, elegant user interfaces, and using the latest in agile programming, W+R Studios’ software applications are at the same time powerful, yet accessible to everyone. Co-founders Dan Woolley and Greg Robertson have over 28 years of experience each developing and marketing real estate software solutions.

Unboxing video – The Art of the CMA

I got a copy of my first book, “The Art of the CMA”, in the mail on Friday. I made a quick video to memorialize it.

We have done a ton of proofreading to make sure there are no obvious errors, but we also wanted to check to see the layout and print quality on the physical book itself before ordering any copies of the book in bulk.

Looks like everything is checking out so I will be placing my first order today. If you are interested to know when the new book comes out you can visit www.TheArtoftheCMA.com and sign up to be notified.

I have many people to thank but will wait when the book is available to everyone, plus I have something fun in mind for the official launch. Stay tuned!

Fear and why iBuyers Offers and Zestimates belong in your CMAs

Jay Thompson, writing on Inman News, Why iBuyers and Zestimates belong in your CMAs 

“Greg Robertson, W+R Studios co-founder, was attacked, called clueless, and challenged as to whether he had any industry experience (yes, almost three decades worth.) IBuyers, also highlighted in the headline, got one mention. Nothing else in the survey report was discussed. A few commenters waded into the fray showing understanding of why they at least look at Zestimates and sometimes mention them in listing presentations. The vast majority of commenters sounded off on the evils of Zillow and the Zestimate.”

I will say I am “clueless” about many, many things. My wife will tell you as much.

Sorry this post is a little long, but I think it touches on a lot of issues (not to mention a shameless plug for my company ????).

Jay, as you may know, is a former broker (The Phoenix Real Estate Guy) and worked at Zillow in Industry Relations for some time. His article is in response to an article published on Inman News about W+R Studios’ announcement of the results of their inaugural survey, 2020 Best Practices of CMAs and Listing Presentations.

Here’s more from Jay…

“No one, including Zillow, W+R Studios or me, is saying the Zestimate should be used as a comparable in your CMA. Of course it shouldn’t be, that’s not its intent or purpose. But to ignore it is to ignore something your clients are looking at and wondering about. Address it upfront, leave out your personal feelings about Zillow, and put any objections to rest early in the process. The listing presentation is the ideal time to address it with sellers, and the CMA is the perfect place to have it on record. “

Emphasis mine

Cloud CMA pioneered ways of including Zestimates to compare against actual sold prices from the MLS data as part of a Cloud CMA report. This has since been copied by other vendors. I was surprised by the amount of push-back we got when we introduced it. Many MLS organizations (after pushback from their members) made us turn the report page off by default, or in some cases, turned off altogether. But every time I sat down, one on one, with a broker or MLS executive and showed them how the report page worked, they understood, “wow this is great, agents are going to love it.”

This happens all the time. Many agents and brokers just hear/read “Zestimate” or “iBuyer” and begin to see red.

As we can see in the survey results and the comments on the article there is still a lot of fear out there. And as Mr. Hurbert once wrote, “fear, is the mind-killer”.

Flash forward to a little less than a year ago when W+R Studios introduced a way of including iBuyer Offers (with Opendoor) in Cloud CMA. We were met with the same type of fear and got a lot of push back and false claims.

“You’re going to put agents out of business!”
“Shame on you Cloud CMA!”

And those were the polite ones. I took these comments hard. We put many of our partner MLS organizations in a tough spot. They began to get calls from their members that “Cloud CMA was sending our CMAs to Opendoor!” (not true). The misinformation got so bad we had to create a document refuting some of the most outrages claims.

But we held firm because we knew, to paraphrase Jay, the listing presentation is an ideal time to address iBuyer Offers, and the CMA is a perfect place to have it on record.

Dan and I are always looking for new ways to innovate, and we are willing to take risks and keep our customers ahead of the curve. Even if these ideas seem crazy or counter-intuitive at the time.

The main thing that got us through the periods I wrote about above was, in the end, our customers (MLS organizations, brokers, and agents) trusted us.

In a recent “Friday Flash” blog post, titled “What are you saying” Brian Boero, CEO of 100watt wrote:

“Honestly, I am glad we have arrived at a point where there are no more red lines to transgress. I used to get revved up about this stuff too. Now, Zillow buys, owns and sells homes, Realtor.com charges referral fees, and yet good agents, teams and brokers continue to do their thing. “

Unlike Brian, I don’t think we are there yet. We still need to get over our fear of these new (old?) models, which as Rob Hahn and I discuss in recent Industry Relations podcast point out, keep turning more and more towards agent inclusion. We need to focus our energy on more positive things. We have a lot more to worry about than Zestimates and iBuyers.

I just hope the industry can take the advice of what a wise old hippie once said…

“You gotta let that shit go, man. Let it go.”

The Art of the CMA

So I wrote a book.  I’m self-publishing it. I’m getting some final feedback on the copy/content and finishing up the images, but in the next few weeks, we will be sending it to the printer.  So, I’m looking for some feedback.

But first, let me tell you a story.  I began writing the book almost two years ago.  One of my favorite artists is John Coltrane.  My son’s name is Cole, which was a compromise I made with my wife. Which should give you an idea of how much of a geek I am.

John Coltrane used to live in Long Island, NY.   MLS of Long Island (MLSLI) holds a tech fair every year in October and his house isn’t far from the hotel I stay in.  So each year I’ve driven by it.  There’s a plaque outside the house that memorializes it. It’s not Graceland or Paisley Park. It’s was just the humble home of a great artist.

For inspiration, I wrote the first words of my book outside that house.  Since then I’ve struggled, started, and stopped multiple times.  Then, last year I was attending a trade show on content marketing in Cleveland and ran into an old colleague/friend of mine, Charles Warnock.  I hired Charles years ago to run marketing at eNeighborhoods and now had a consulting business called Content Marketing Factory. We have been keeping in touch but had a chance to catch up with a couple of drinks at the conference.  Charles mentioned he was co-authoring a book on enterprise innovation and digital transformation. Immediately I told him I was working on a book too, and was having trouble completing it and staying focused.  He was excited by the idea of the book.  So I struck a deal with Charles and he has been invaluable in helping me get the book completed.

So I’ve been working with the graphic designers on my team to create the cover of the book. I’ve decided on a layout and now I’ve narrowed it down to 3 different versions of that layout. So I’m looking for feedback on these three final designs. That’s where you come in.

The name of my book is “The Art of the CMA”. I’ll write more about the concept and content of the book in a later blog post.

Design #1


This the basic layout.  I’m using Neutra (pronounced noy-tra) as the main font.  It’s named for a famous Architect, Richard Neutra. Neutra is used in a lot of signage. It’s the same font I used for our building signage at W+R Studios building and the original W&R Studios buttery soft t-shirts.  I like the fact that the font is tied to dwellings.  The public library in Huntington Beach was designed by him, right before he died and his son took over the project.

The green I use is the same green as Cloud CMA.  But I only mention Cloud CMA once in the book.

The sub-headline “Winning Listings by Mastering Real Estate’s Best Marketing Tool” isn’t final, but I haven’t come up with anything better.

And of course, the illustration is of a house, with a dollar sign symbolizing the value.

Design #2


In this version, we have added multiple colors to the line color of the illustration.  Like an artist’s palette.  The feedback I’ve heard so far is that it looks too close to a company logo during “Pride” month. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

Design #3


Here the artist’s palette vibe and color are more prominent and we changed the color of some of the copy.

So there you have it.  I’ve created a quick poll that you can fill out below. Or write something in the comments or just send me an email. I’m beyond excited about this project and happy to have all of you share in its creation.

Brokers got back!

Proposed NAR policy may give brokers back their MLS data

“This may be a surprise to some in the real estate industry, but there is no current nationwide policy that gives brokers the right to get back the listing data they put into a multiple listing service.

That may be about to change. On Monday morning, at the National Association of Realtors’ online midyear conference, the trade group’s Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee approved a policy that gives MLS participants (defined as brokerage principals) the right to receive a data feed of their own listing information without restrictions on what they can do with that data.”

Tip of the hat to Sir Mix-A-Lot, for the title reference.

Nice work CMLS! I realize that it’s a tough balancing act to drive policy but it seems that CMLS handled this perfectly. The fact that the work done by CMLS was for the benefit to the broker community is like adding a cherry to the top of an ice cream sundae. So cheers to Denee Evans, the board of directors, and the entire staff of CMLS for making this happen.

One last thing, it sounds like we are looking for is a name for this policy? I have a suggestion.


Not IDX, but MYDX, as in MY DEE EX

You’re welcome. ????⬇️

Virtual Showings in the time of a Pandemic

Two thoughtful blog posts from Camille Beshara of Larson Skinner, PLLC on Sellers and Buyer concerns regarding virtual showing from a legal perspective.

Virtual Showings: buyers and their brokers’ considerations -Larson Skinner, PLLC

“Buyers’ brokers must understand the technology well enough not to distribute media accidentally. For example, doing a virtual showing using Facebook’s live streaming technology might work well for buyers and their brokers, but in that case, the broker should be sure they have selected the audiences to whom the stream is visible. They could otherwise end up violating the seller’s requirements or publicly embarrassing their buyers. Live-streaming poses additional risks because of its live nature, meaning that it can’t be edited before distribution. Buyers’ brokers should understand who will be in the home during a virtual showing, and everyone should plan to be on their best behavior.”

Virtual Showings: buyers and their brokers’ considerations -Larson Skinner, PLLC

Virtual Showings: seller considerations – Larson Skinner, PLLC

“Assuming that normally the seller’s listing would be marketed so that buyers’ brokers can just make appointments and show it in person, the risks of allowing the buyers’ brokers to do a ‘virtual showing’ instead (by taking photos, making video recordings, or live-streaming) are more or less the same as those for traditional physical showings, except in one respect: The resulting media from the virtual showing might be distributed beyond the buyer and her agents. In other respects, the buyer potentially has less freedom to engage in misconduct in the property, and fewer people are present to bring pathogens into an occupied home.”

Virtual Showings: seller considerations – Larson Skinner, PLLC


Looks like my hashtag, “#PutItOnTheMLS”, which first appeared here, got some love on the cover of the latest issue of REALTOR Magazine.

It’s not the cover of the Rolling Stone, but I’m surprised how much this made me smile.

Opendoor weirdness

Friday Flash: The year things got weird

“No, 2019 was the year consumers, also known as people, began to do very strange things in very significant numbers.
Two years ago, many in the industry thought the idea of a home seller paying 7-10% in fees for the privilege of getting a low-ball offer on their home was crazy, a pathway only for the desperate. 
Turns out lots of people were willing to do this in 2019. “

Brian Boero, 1000watt

Over the holiday break, I kept thinking about this insightful post (as usual) from Brian Boero of 1000watt. It pairs nicely with a webinar I did with Tyler Hixson, Opendoor’s Director of Real Estate Partnerships & Strategy.
You can watch the replay of the webinar in the video below. But one of the more “weird” things that came out of the discussion is that a vast majority of consumers were willing to pay the fee from Opendoor AND the agent’s full commission. They saw value in both. They appreciated the certainty and speed that Opendoor provided but also saw value in the guidance they received from their agent.

Think about that. In an age where many business models are trying to push commissions lower, or get rid of them entirely, many consumers are willing to pay more.

The fact that iBuyer offers have gone from “lowball” to fair market value might also be a factor. Here’s a quote from a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

“The new study from Mike DelPrete, a scholar in residence on real-estate technology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, found Opendoor and Zillow typically purchase homes for just over 1%, or around $3,800, less than the value of the home as determined by First American Financial Corp. , a real estate title insurance company.”

These two shifts are more significant than people realize. iBuyers are not an either-or proposition, but something entirely different.

Things definitely got weird in 2019, hell I would include the entire decade. What weirdness this new decade will bring is what I’m excited about.

Back to work.

Industry Relations Episode 41: 10 Defining Moments & Trends in the Last Decade of Real Estate

On January 1, 2010, organized real estate was still reeling from the recession. Dale Stinton was steering the ship at NAR. Zillow was seen as the enemy of the MLS. Real estate software was meh. Agent teams were rare. Nearly all brokerages took a split. Selling your house online seemed outrageous. And we still signed documents in pen.

On this episode of Industry Relations, Rob and Greg are looking back at the last 10 years in real estate. They discuss the passing NAR’s MLS Statement 8.0 Clear Cooperation Policy, debating the significance of the office exclusives loophole and how it might lead to government involvement. Our hosts also express their disappointment around the Newsday investigation in Long Island, Testing the Divide, challenging brokerage leadership to make a strong statement against the egregious racism it uncovered. 

Greg and Rob go on to share their top 10 defining moments and trends with the biggest impact on the industry over the last decade, describing how the rise of agent teams, 100% commission brokerages, the iBuyer model and consolidation have transformed organized real estate. Listen in for insight into how NAR’s decision to fund RPR and Upstream changed the way the MLS saw Zillow and explore how the space has evolved from 2010 through the end of 2019.

Editor’s Note: We did record an Episode 40 that was never aired. It was about Policy 8.0 but wasn’t ready before the vote. After the vote passed we decided it didn’t add to anything to the issue.

What’s Discussed: 

NAR’s passing of the MLS Statement 8.0 Clear Cooperation Policy

Rob & Greg’s take on the Newsday investigation in Long Island

How the loophole in 8.0 could lead to government involvement

The 10 defining trends/events in the last decade of real estate

  1. The end of poorly designed software
  2. The rise and domination of agent teams
  3. The transition in leadership at NAR
  4. Opendoor pioneering the iBuyer model
  5. Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia
  6. 100% commission brokerages
  7. Consolidation and the influx of capital
  8. The practice of buying agents/agent teams
  9. The mainstreaming of digital signatures
  10. NAR’s decision to fund RPR + Upstream

Connect with Rob and Greg:

Rob’s Website

Greg’s Website


MLS Clear Cooperation Policy

Compass Pre-Litigation Letter to Bright MLS

Bright’s Response to Compass

Newsday Documentary: Testing the Divide

Rob’s Blog on the Newsday Piece

1000watt Article on Real Estate Software

The Millionaire Real Estate Agent by Gary Keller with Dave Jenks and Jay Papasan

Ben Thompson Interview with Rich Barton

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