Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

Is Upstream dead?

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.

Pro Tip: Attend the Digital Marketing Workshop at Inman Connect SF 2015

Audie List BroHave you guys heard of this yet? Lots of of my favorite people talking about one of my favorite subjects! Go register now.

Digital Marketing Workshop

Attendees to the workshop will learn the latest digital marketing tactics and strategies to drive more leads, growth and return from their marketing efforts, including:

How to set up and use analytics and A/B testing to improve the performance of your website and digital marketing campaigns.
How to use the latest features of the Facebook advertising platform to attract new listings, new clients and close new business.
The latest organic traffic strategies to get free traffic and leads to your website.
Strategies and tactics for building your brand online.
How to leverage public relations to get more exposure for your business.

Jessica from 1000Watt Consulting

Katie from Katie Lance Consulting

Chris Scott from The Paperless Agent

My man Audie from Lion & Orb (Guess who he’s hanging out with now)

Seth from Placester

Morgan from Inman News

Register here:

Digital Marketing Workshop

Cloud MLX – Lightning strikes twice

MLX Team

We are showing an early version of our new product, Cloud MLX, next week at Inman Connect in San Francisco, to a few MLS/industry people. The team is still hard at work (and will be through the weekend) to put all the pieces together. Cloud MLX is an alternative front end to the MLS. Like all our “Cloud” products it will serve as a complement to existing MLS systems. We are hoping for some good feedback on our current direction with the product. See you next week!

Cloud MLX Logo

Clareity MLS Executive Workshop highlights 2015

A few things I wanted to highlight about last week’s Clareity MLS Executive Workshop in Scottsdale, AZ last week. First off Gregg and his entire team did an amazing job. The content was fantastic and they managed to keep the conversation above the salacious syndication war between MOVE and Zillow Group narrative that has been floating around.

But, one of my takeaways about the Zillow Vs MOVE thing was how it effects other players, notably Homes.com. Seems like an opportunity for these guys. When I asked Andy Woolley, now Industry Relations at Homes.com. Andy was quick to point out that while they don’t, and won’t possibly ever have as much traffic as ZTR, they were focusing a lot on “quality”. Meaning the “quality” of leads coming through Homes.com. I was sent a screen shot of a ListHub report (from the Houston market) that seemed to prove that out.

Homes.com lead ratio

Yes, I know their total detail views is much smaller, but their lead ratio is crazy good.

HAR .08%
Zillow .06%
realtor.com .03%
Trulia .019%
Homes.com .97%

The other thing was the direct feed count. Check out this slide.

Direct Feed Count

Homes.com has 400 direct feeds from MLS providers. 400 freaking hundred. Zillow Group isn’t even close. Great lead ratio, huge direct feed count, you gotta wonder what that is worth to someone.

On another topic, was the release of the MLS Satisfaction survey. Here’s the results of the “End User Satisfaction.”

MLS Satisfaction Survey

Looking at MLS Vendors with more than 2 customers it appears that Black Knight and FBS still dominate the top two spots above their competition. Kudos to both of them.

Thanks again to Gregg, Matt and the rest of the Clareity team. We are always thrilled to participate. And I hope you enjoyed the Cloud Streams t-shirts. They look great!

“Active” users

I recently read a great post by Ev Wiliams, one of the co-founders of Twitter. Ev’s post is titled, “A mile side, an inch deep”. He makes some solid points about his frustration with user metrics. The post stems from a recent report that Instagram has surpassed Twiiter in total number of users. To which Ev responded… “I frankly don’t give a shit if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures”. Hubris? Not really.

“Ask any junior high student which rectangle is bigger, one that is three inches wide or one that is two-and-a-half inches wide, and they’ll tell you it’s a nonsensical question unless they have more information — specifically, the height.

And yet, we literally say one company or service is “bigger” based on a single number — specifically, number of people who have “used” it in the last 30 days. Even without even getting into how “use” is defined, this is dumb.”

This got me thinking about the debate of usage and “adoption” rate of third party software programs in MLS markets. Questions like, what metric should products be measured upon? Is it one metric? Is it several?

To make matters worse some vendors call an “active user” someone who logs in to the service one every 90 days, some say 60 days or 30 days. It varies, so its always hard to compare different services apples to apples.

This discrepancy also shows up when vendors report how many customers they have. Some vendors report that anyone under a site license (which are technically paying customers) are active customers. Even though many of those MLS members have never used their software.

When my company (W&R Studios) launched Cloud CMA we wanted to “open the kimono” on usage rates. We think this a key best practice for any Enterprise SAAS vendor. So in every MLS market we launch Cloud CMA we include a real time MLS Dashboard. The MLS Dashboard contains a ton of information including:

Have many users signed up/created an account?:

this week
last week
this month
last month

How many reports were created?:
past week
past month

What types of reports were created?:
Buyer Tours
Property Reports

Some MLS providers have also asked us to include:

Unique visitors in the last 30 days

I tend to focus on how many reports are being created. But, we also track all kinds of other metrics too. One of my favorites is the number of seconds it take a new customer to create their first report after signing up, our fastest is just over 2 minutes (156 seconds). Which we think is a good measure of how intuitive the software might be.

The point I’m trying to make, and Ev does a much better job, is that there is no “God Metric”.

“Numbers are important. Number of users is important. So are lots of other things. Different services create value in different ways.”

Good food for thought.

As a side note I’m going to be a panelist at Inman Connect NYC later this month. The topic is:

“Does Building Business Around Big Data Make us Stupid?”
Thursday, January 29 2:35pm to 3:00pm

The panel will be moderated by David Charron. My other panelists will include John Heithaus from RealEstate Business Intelligence, LLC (RBI) and Matt Shadbolt from the New York Times.

It should be fun so please join us!

Today is Bob Hale Day.

The city of Houston has proclaimed today, October 25th, 2013, Bob Hale Day!

bob hale day

And I thought that every day was Bob Hale Day! Congrats Bob! #bobfest

Tom Ferry event draws close to 4,000 agents.

I’m at the Tom Ferry “Success Summit” today. It’s being held at the Anaheim Convention Center. This is the second year I’ve exhibited the event. I was amazed at the number of agents he had last year. They have gone even bigger this year, drawing close to 4,000 agents. It really isn’t too hard to believe. Tom is a dynamic speaker with a deep bench of coaches and speakers, and the content is geared to top end agents.

I’m told the average ticket price is around 199.95. You do the math.

MREDpalooza lives up to the hype.

I’ve been down on trade shows lately. Most of the time the organizations putting on an event don’t do a very good job. Poor attendance, or lack of traffic, etc. But Russ Bergeron and his crew at MRED showed us how its done.

We had our single best day for Cloud CMA Power Pack orders. I also spoke to a few other vendors and heard the “best day ever” comment more than a few times. The place was rocking for 7 hours straight. I probably left some money on the table by not having another person in the booth with me, it was that crazy.

But the biggest take away I had was how MRED just raised the bar on how I look at other events and where I’m going to spend my money in the future. We got a helluva bang for our buck at MREDpalooza. I can think of other events, I did last year, that had LESS than half (way less!) the attendance of MREDpalooza and cost me MORE money.

Those phone calls are going to start with something like “MRED had over 3,000 people attend their conference and I spent X, how many do you expect?”

The Passion Of Bob Hale

Bob Hale, CEO of H.A.R.
Bob Hale, CEO of H.A.R.
The fight to keep the option of associations and MLS providers to give their members a choice of providing a public facing MLS site could have no better hero than Bob Hale.

He seems to be everywhere. And when he isn’t there, his name is still on the lips of everyone. In D.C. you had a sense that Bob was fighting for much more than the right for MLS public facing websites, he was fighting for his legacy.

I can’t say that I know Bob all that well. But when first meeting him and his wife Susie you got a feeling that these were “good people”. From time to time he does send me a text or a quick email with an insightful comment on a blog post I have written. I think he gets my weird sense of humor. His name has been so prevalent in our industry a few years ago I came up with the Vendor Alley awards, and the top “Vendy” I dubbed “The Anyone But Bob Hale Award”. I was glad to hear he liked the homage.

A quick story. I was visiting Houston a couple months ago and had a chance to get a tour of the HAR Central Office. Sam Scott graciously led me around introducing me to staff members. Towards the end of the tour we stopped by Rene Galvan”s office. Papers with handwritten notes were strewn across Rene’s desk. Bob was seating at the end of Rene’s desk just finishing up a phone call. They had been working on the MLS policy back then, and it was apparent they had been working for hours (days) and more hours (days) to come. “Hey buddy,” he said, “How you doing? Welcome!” His phone rang again, “I gotta get this”, and he was back working the phones. Lyndon Johnson would be ashamed. My impression was its not easy being Bob Hale, it takes work. A lot of work.

When I walked in to the the MLS Policy committee meeting last week Bob was at the microphone. He was summarizing the importance of MLS public facing websites. Answering questions, fielding counter arguments, always with a glint in his eye….in the arena.

The fight isn’t over. More challenges lie ahead. His biggest yet might be finding a decent hotel room in Boise at the 2013 CMLS conference. But this year, if I had to give out the “Anyone But Bob Hale Award”, I would have to give it to…Bob Hale.

Reesio puts on a show

reesio-logo-5648354179ec9f4cce32c4ea8b1795eaLater this month I will be attending and my company W&R Studios will also be exhibiting Cloud CMA at a conference put on by new real estate software company, Reesio. Reesio is a startup less than a year old. They are in the crowded space of transaction management. They felt a good plan get the word out was to put on a conference. The conference is called RealTech SF 2013. Here’s what Mark Thomas, Co-Founder and CEO of Reesio has to say about the event.

“As part of the journey that we as founders of Reesio have gone through with our company, one thing that we’ve noticed is how difficult it can be for real estate professionals to easily find out about new technologies that exist out there to make their jobs easier. In addition, there’s a tremendous dearth of publicity around real estate technology in general, despite the fact that real estate can be one of the more painful processes of any industry. We have 2 main goals that we’re trying to accomplish by hosting and putting together RealTech SF 2013:

1) To educate and highlight to real estate professionals the latest and greatest technology initiatives currently going on within the space that can help them grow/manage their business and enhance their careers.

2) To bring more awareness about real estate technology as a whole to people outside of the industry, and to show that the products that companies are currently working on are solving truly painful experiences that people are currently having to go through.”

The show is only $25 to attend, so pretty reasonable for an agent. The speakers seem to be a mix of industry vendors and brokers. I like the hustle approach Reesio is putting forward, plus Spring in San Francisco? I’m in!

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