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.

Dave Linger replaces Margaret Kelly as CEO of RE/MAX Holdings

RE/MAX Holdings Announces CEO Transition, Replaces Margaret Kelly with Board Chairman Dave Liniger

“Liniger said, “We owe Margaret our deepest gratitude for the contributions she has made over the last three decades. Her leadership during her tenure as CEO allowed us to emerge from the recent financial crisis as a stronger company and led us through an initial public offering. Due to Margaret’s management, our business is performing exceptionally well and we’re positioned to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.”

Whoa! This is interesting a lot of levels. As many of you know Dave Linger went through some major health issues is the past few years. I remember being at the T3 Summit in Las Vegas earlier this year. In an interview with Swanepoel, Dave recounted part of his recent health scare, along with some other great stories. He got a standing ovation at the end. Dave is the real deal and a true bad ass. So I gotta believe this means his health is back. Good news for him, not so much for his competitors.

Nice scoop for RIS Media on this story. Although it seems like the nice bow they put on Margaret’s departure is a bit too perfect.

NAR Midyear recap link pack

IMG_4290What a week. The meetings, the parties, the dinners, and the drama is over. Or has it just begun? Here are a few takeaways.

CMLX was a hit!

The Council of MLS'(CMLS) new certification program, CMLX, was held last Tuesday. I spoke to several who attended and the feedback was terrific. I know that a lot of people put a tredmendous amount of effort to get this thing off the ground so congrats to all of them for pulling off a successful program. You can find out more here.

Quote of the week:

Dale Stinton

“You can’t ever talk about a national MLS without getting into trouble. You can’t talk about the number of associations without getting in to trouble. You cant ever talk about professional standards without getting in to trouble,” Stinton warned. “What I’m here to say on behalf of leadership is we’re ready to get in trouble.”

When I read this quote the first time I had to quickly check VendorAlley.com to see if Dale had stolen the brass balls on the right. They’re still there.

The big news you didn’t hear about.

There was some HUGE news that didn’t break at the conference. I’m surprised that the secret was kept. More on this later in the week.

Unleash the hounds.

Was it confusing to anyone else to hear early in the week that people loudly applauded “taking back realtor.com” to then hear this past weekend NAR may let realtor.com “do more“.

BOD Policy

The real reason NAR included MLS public facing websites as a basic service.

This may be obvious to everyone else, but imagine if the NAR Executive Committee amendments stuck and MLS providers could no longer charge members or promote their public facing websites. What would that have meant for realtor.com? Isn’t that NAR’s “public facing website”? Or was that the final goal of big brokers all the time?

Real Estate is back! Lets party.


My thanks to ListHub for throwing a great party. Cloud CMA was a co-sponsor and the party was off the hook!

Speaking of parties…

It’s John Heithaus’ rock and roll fantasy, we just live in it! Once again John’s band got everyone’s groove on at the RETechnology party. Thanks to John and Victor for throwing another great event.

RE/MAX acquires master franchise for Texas

RE/MAX Buys Master Franchise for Texas

“As of December 31, 2012, RE/MAX of Texas, with its 4,300 agents and 260 offices, becomes the 11th Company Operated Region owned by RE/MAX, LLC of Denver. Richard and Jeanne Filip, owners of RE/MAX of Texas since 1996, agreed to transfer ownership of the Master Franchise for the state of Texas, but remain the owners of several individual RE/MAX brokerages.”

This is big news, for several reasons.

“The last time RE/MAX, LLC added to its inventory of Company Owned Regions was in 2007, when it purchased the Master Franchise for three regions; RE/MAX California and Hawaii, RE/MAX Florida and REMAX Carolinas.”

If you bought a house in 2007, what do you think it’s worth now? More than likely, less (way less) then what you paid for it. Now imagine buying 3 real estate regions. Ouch! That gives you some clue to the struggles RE/MAX have been going through the past several years. That being said with this acquisition it seems they have turned the corner and are ready to go on the aggressive. Maybe Dave has gotten his mojo back.

Marnie Blanco departs RE/MAX

I’ve been a bit remiss in mentioning the departure of someone I greatly respect who has left the real estate business. Her name is Marnie Blanco. Earlier this month Marnie left a VP position with RE/MAX International (now RE/MAX LLC, which is a whole other story). Marnie played a pivotal part in the history of online real estate.

The thing about RE/MAX was that is was full of beautiful, smart and talented women. Kristi, Marnie, Staci and plenty of others. Every time I went to their corporate offices I felt I had entered the fabled Amazon tribe where women ruled, and men were regulated to servitude of their every whim.

When I first met Marnie I liked her immediately. I began working with her while running the sales and marketing at eNeighborhoods. She was no nonsense, smart and had a bit of a potty mouth. So I naturally thought she was the bee knees. eN was an authorized technology vendor with RE/MAX and I had a fun time getting them to help promote eN to their agents.

A story…

Andy Woolley and I had decided to crash the “Topics In The Tropics” conference being held in Ft. Lauderdale. You might remember that the conference was “off-limits” to vendors (unless you were Ann Bailey, of course). So we were meeting a few clients in the lobby of the hotel to head out for drinks/dinner. From across the room Andy had spotted Marnie. Which was unusual, since this was an MLS conference. He waved and she came over to talk. Andy asked here what she was doing here. She said that RE/MAX was looking to make a big move in online real estate and she was doing research.

The rest is history.

Now that’s not the only story about Marnie I have, but its probably the safest I can come up with.

I can’t pretend to know the reasons why so many have left RE/MAX recently. Kristi Graning’s departure this past March, and Staci Woods departure to Metrolist, Inc. comes to mind. But I can only guess it’s not the same place that it used to be. Which is a shame, because RE/MAX, back in the day, was a sight to see. A lot of us are hoping that Dave will somehow get his mojo back. Time will tell.

Normally I like to say that when someone leaves the real estate industry an angel get their wings, but in this case I’m just sad to see the industry lose such a talent. Best wishes Marnie. Good luck at your new gig!

RE/MAX Results chooses Trulia, calls Edina Realty bluff.

RE/MAX Results Partners with Trulia to Reach Home Buyers in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin

Ginger Wilcox:

“As part of this agreement, nearly 700 RE/MAX Results real estate professionals will receive prominent placement and brand exposure for their property listings on Trulia. 23 million home buyers, sellers and renters come to Trulia each month to search for homes.”

Seems like all I hear about is Zillow lately. But it appears that Trulia is making some moves of its own. Since Edina Realty pulled the plug on Trulia, Realtor.com and other portals it was only a matter of time before one of their competitors jumped at the opportunity. Smart move by RE/MAX Results in my opinion.

Now the interesting thing is if the newly formed Berkshire Hathaway Home Services will continue the same strategy as it did with Edina.

Warren Buffet Bets Big On Real Estate

HomeServices and Brookfield Announce a New Residential Real Estate Franchise Brand—Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices®

“The combined networks of more than 53,000 Prudential Real Estate and Real Living Real Estate agents generated in excess of $72 billion in residential real estate sales volume in 2011, and operate across more than 1,700 U.S. locations.

“Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices is a new franchise brand built upon the financial strength and leadership of Brookfield and HomeServices,” said Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. “I am confident that these partners will deliver value to the residential real estate industry, and I am pleased to have Berkshire Hathaway be a part of the new brand.”

“We are honored and proud to be entrusted with the use of the Berkshire Hathaway name as our new real estate franchise brand,” said Ron Peltier, chairman and CEO of HomeServices. “We will convey the strength of Berkshire Hathaway’s reputation and its associated principles of integrity and financial stability in everything we do.”

The message is loud and clear. Warren Buffett has decided its time to bet on real estate again. And bet BIG.

This is great news for all of us in the real estate industry. But lets peel away the layers of the onion.

If you look up wwww.BershireHathawayHS.com (BHHS) on WhoiS you find out that the URL was purchased by HomeServices back in June of 2012. So either Home Services was already making plans to rebrand itself back then or this deal has been in the works for a long time.

This move solves Brookfield’s brand problem with Prudential. Since the Prudential name was going away they needed to come up with a brand the Pru brokers would not stick their noses up to. How are you going to compete with a “piece of the rock”? I think the Berkshire Hathaway brand will be something that will be very enticing to Pru brokers. I mean, what agent, at a listing presentation wouldn’t want to say that their company is owned by Warren Buffett?

Which brings me to another point. This could be a big risk for Berkshire Hathaway. They are leveraging the Berkshire Hathaway name for the first time. And who are the stewards to this exclusive brand? Real Estate Agents, which are just a couple steps above used car salesmen on the public respect scale.

Ron Peltier as Chairman makes sense. Earl Lee as CEO is interesting. Buffett is famous for being a great business operator and cultivating managerial talent. Broker-owners love Earl, but will he cut the mustard?

The other two execs, recently pictured with Earl on the August cover of RIS Media’s REAL ESTATE Magazine, are also interesting choices.

Aleya Chattopadhay rose from the ranks of Brookfield to become the CMO. She has a lot of experience internationally and in conversations I’ve had with her I can attest to her smarts and passion about the industry.

Steve Phillips came from GMAC Relo division before he joined Brookfield. I wonder since this is technically a JV between BHHS and Brookfield if they are still employees of Brookfield or have they left Toronto for good?

Time will tell.

The rate this industry is changing is dizzying. Think about it.

Here comes the Canadians!
Brookfield acquires GMAC Real Estate
Brookfield acquires Real Living, then merges GMAC Real Estate brand into Real Living.

Here come the “Interlopers”!
Zillow goes public
Trulia goes public

The Old Guard makes a stand!
Realogy goes public

There go the Canadians!
HomeServices acquires majority stake in Real Living and Prudential RE from Brookfield.

My head hurts!

A few takeaways:

HomeServices of America has always had a stable of multi-branded real estate companies. Think Long Real Estate, Edina, Prudential X,Y, Z etc. While I can’t see a company like Edina changing brand names I do see the Prudential brands under HSofA moving toward the BHHS brand. This will give them a web presence they haven’t had before. If I was Zillow and Trulia I would be watching these developments very carefully.

A wise man once told me that Joint Ventures never work. In this case HomeServices owns the majority share, so that will help, and Brookfield gets the cachet of being partners with Warren Buffett.

You gotta feel for the staff at what was GMAC, Real Living and Prudential Real Estate. They been through 3 years of nothing but change, and now this!

The Harley Rouda story that leaked yesterday I reported on. Was it an honest mistake, a crossing of wires due to the Hurricane? Or was Harley tweaking Brookfield’s nose?

No matter. Right now I’m optimistic on real estate’s future.

So Nouriel Roubini can go suck on it. The Housing Recovery is official, Warren Buffett said so!

Brookfield RPS sells majority interest of Real Living and Prudential to HomeServices

Rouda returning to lead HER as Berkshire Hathaway takes stake in Real Living

“Brookfield has sold, or plans to sell, that controlling interest in Real Living to HomeServices of America Inc., a Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.B)-owned owner of numerous local residential real estate brokerages, according to the HER press release.
HomeServices, however, has yet to post the announcement on their website.
HER has retained the right to use the Real Living trademarks for a year as the regional brokerage considers the direction HomeServices takes the Real Living brand, according to Jim Stevenson, HER’s senior vice president of marketing.”

This is huge news. You gotta feel for everyone at Real Living, GMAC and now Prudential Real Estate. These guys have gone thru major changes in the past 3 years and it going to change even more.

Kristi Graning is leaving RE/MAX

Kristi Graning
When I first heard the news I was shocked.

After a stunning 21 year career Kristi Graning has announced she is leaving RE/MAX. I’ve written a lot about Kristi on this blog. She is what I call a “triple-threat” in the industry. Having worked with her back when RE/MAX launched their “network of broker IDX websites” (which put RE/MAX as the solid number 1 franchisor on the web) I witnessed first hand the commitment she gave RE/MAX and the huge accomplishments she made during her tenure there.

This move gives me some pause on the state of RE/MAX currently. This departure was clearly Kristi’s decision and makes me wonder what she knows that the rest of us don’t know.

She had posted on Facebook that she has been talking to several companies but decided to spend the summer with her boys.

I wish her nothing but success and know that we will be hearing from her soon enough on her next chapter.

RE/MAX selects Homes.com

This is a wonderful story. It’s a story only a few people in the industry can fully appreciate. I’m glad I’m one of them.

Both RE/MAX and Dominion Enterprises have gone through a lot in the past few years and its great to see when the good guys win.

It all began when Dave Liniger made the statement that the industry was being besieged by companies that were “bring nothing but a fork to the potluck”. Then in 2005 RE/MAX announced a bold new strategy where RE/MAX International would create a “network of broker idx sites” under remax.com and give all the leads free to RE/MAX associates. They selected eNeighborhoods as their vendor and with Kristi Graning leading the effort on the RE/MAX side they went on a roll that solidified RE/MAX as the top innovator in the online real estate market for the next several years.

I was leading the sales and marketing division at eNeighborhoods when we signed the deal with RE/MAX but the real credit goes to Andy Woolley for recognizing the opportunity and leading the effort to make it come to life.

A lot has happen since. eNeighborhoods had been bought by Dominion Enterprises, and then Dominion Enterprises tried to sell itself unsuccessfully. And of course the real estate crisis took over the country. Both companies retrenched. In the case of Dominion Enterprises they consolidated most of the companies they acquired and formed Homes Media Solutions. And who can blame them? Homes.com is a true player in the online real estate space. It made sense for them to finally do the hard work on integrating all the companies under one platform.

RE/MAX has also dealt with internal struggles as well. Independent brokers have asserted their independence from the mothership with mixed results. But with this partnership it appears that RE/MAX corporate has regained some of their footing. And ask any vendor in the industry what franchisor would be number one on their list to partner with? The answer is RE/MAX. Why? Despite the fascination with “agent count” anyone that really knows this industry knows that RE/MAX has consistently the most productive agents in the business. Period.

So congratulations all around. RE/MAX is hosting their annual convention in Las Vegas right now and I’m sure Andy, Kristi, Marnie, Staci and the rest of the crew are celebrating over some good food and great wine (chosen expertly by Andy ‘natch!).


Full Press Release Below:
Homes.com and RE/MAX® Launch New Online Strategic Partnership

Homes.com selected to power remax.com and create new mobile apps suite

(Norfolk, VA, March 6, 2012) —Homes.com and RE/MAX®, LLC, announced today the launch of a major new online marketing partnership. RE/MAX has selected Homes.com to power the new remax.com website and the newly released suite of RE/MAX mobile applications for Apple and Android mobile devices. The two organizations will also be launching collaborative efforts to market Homes.com local advertising products and the new Homes Connect marketing platform to RE/MAX Sales Associates throughout North America.

“We’re thrilled that RE/MAX has selected Homes.com to power the most important elements of their online marketing efforts. Remax.com is clearly a leading property search destination and is the cornerstone of the RE/MAX online strategy,” says Brock MacLean, executive vice president of Homes.com. “By combining our proven search technology with the powerful reach of our Homes.com website and mobile applications, we’ve developed a complementary approach to ensure traffic and leads from both websites are delivered efficiently and directly to RE/MAX Sales Associates.”

Key aspects of the Homes.com and RE/MAX partnership include:

Homes.com will build and host the new remax.com, leveraging the same innovative technology that powers Homes.com and Homes Connect.
The new RE/MAX mobile application suite for Apple and Android devices was developed by and is hosted on the Homes.com platform. Versions for other devices will be available soon.
RE/MAX listings will also be showcased on Homes.com, driving new traffic to remax.com and leads downstream to RE/MAX offices and Sales Associates.
A RE/MAX co-branded version of Homes Connect is being marketed by the two companies to RE/MAX Broker-Owners and Sales Associates throughout North America.
“The selection of Homes.com as our preferred online marketing partner is the result of a two year evaluation, and considerations of a variety of approaches and potential partners,” said Marnie Blanco, RE/MAX Vice President of eBusiness. “In the process, it became clear that the best approach was to leverage the powerful technology of a national listing portal that could lead consumers to remax.com. Homes.com provides RE/MAX all the components and the clearest path to making this complementary approach a reality.”

“With all the negative attention lately surrounding syndication, it’s important the Homes.com brand and mission avoid getting caught up in that fray,” added MacLean. “We offer brokers and franchisors a unique approach, combining our innovative technology services with our vast consumer reach. When a technology strategy is in line with a marketing strategy, as it is with this new RE/MAX partnership, the two complement each other beautifully.”

About Homes.com

Homes.com, part of the Homes Media Solutions division of DominionEnterprises, is a leading provider of real estate marketing and media services, including brand advertising, property listing exposure and syndication, search engine marketing and instant response lead generation. Homes Connect by Homes.com offers the real estate industry’s first-ever all-inclusive marketing platform for agents and brokers featuring single-login convenience. Homes.com is visited by over 10 million consumers each month to search nearly 4 million properties for sale or rent, to locate real estate agents in their area and to find useful home buying tips. For more information, visit www.Homes.com.

About Dominion Enterprises

Dominion Enterprises is a leading marketing services and publishing company serving the automotive, recreational and commercial vehicle, real estate, apartment rental, employment, parenting, travel, and daily deals industries. The company’s businesses provide a comprehensive suite of technology-based marketing solutions including Internet advertising, lead generation, CRM, website design and hosting, and data management services. The company has more than 60 market-leading websites reaching more than 20.9 million unique visitors monthly, and more than 280 magazines with a weekly circulation of 2.4 million. Headquartered in Norfolk, Va., the company has 3,300 employees in more than 186 offices in the United States, Canada, England and Italy. For more information, visit www.DominionEnterprises.com.

About the RE/MAX Network

RE/MAX was founded in 1973 by Dave and Gail Liniger, real estate industry visionaries who still lead the Denver-based global franchisor today. RE/MAX is recognized as one of the leading real estate franchise companies with the most productive sales force in the industry and a global reach of more than 80 countries. With a passion for the communities in which its agents live and work, RE/MAX is proud to have raised more than $120 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Susan G. Komen for the Cure® and other charities. Nobody in the world sells more real estate than RE/MAX. For more information about RE/MAX, please visit www.remax.com or www.joinremax.com.

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