Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

Georgia MLS extends fee reduction/suspension through August

Re: Georgia MLS Extends Fee Reduction and Suspension Through August 2020 To Ease Financial Strain On Brokers, Agents, and Appraisers

“Georgia MLS (GAMLS) is extending the suspension of the broker office dues and the reduction of the appraiser monthly fee through July and August. During this uncertain time, GAMLS has been working to help ease the financial strain on brokers, agents, and appraisers

The country is going to have to hunker down if we are going to defeat this thing.

Also, found this interesting.

“We are also pleased to report that our member numbers have increased during this time period to an all-time high of 42,356 subscribers, up from our previous high of 42,033.”

I’m seeing this with other MLS providers as well. Not many, but some. Plus we are seeing more Cloud CMA reports being generated YOY. Does anybody have any theories? Put ’em in the comments.

Vendor to Vendor: What I learned

The post I wrote called Vendor to Vendor was inspired by an email sent out by 1000watt, called “A little help”. The team at 1000watt offered to do a one-hour video conference, with one company, each day for two weeks. Brilliant, I thought, maybe I could do something similar. I already speak to a lot of other vendors about the particulars and my experience of running a real estate software company. My company, W+R Studios, had done some planning due to the coronavirus crisis, so I had something to share and possibly learn from talking to them. I spoke to 11 different companies. Most smaller, but also larger ones as well. Here are the top 5 takeaways from those conversations.

  1. The biggest worry is the unknown. The unknowns being, how long will this crisis last, and will my customers pay. Both things I’m afraid to say, nobody has any control over.
  2. Cutting “expenses” only goes so far. Being a technology company means that your biggest expenses are people. This weighs very heavy on founders.
  3. Many brought up the CARES act, and how this might help as a “payroll protection” plan for them. If you own a business and don’t know what this is, look it up NOW.
  4. Most companies were adjusting well to work from home. A lot of these companies already had a significant amount of their workforce working from home, so the transition was relatively easy.
  5. Everyone is optimistic. This isn’t surprising. Entrepreneurs by nature have to be optimists in order to build their companies.

Overall the biggest takeaway for me was how many incredibly smart and passionate people we have in our industry.

In the end what our conversations ended up with is something that Mike DelPrete wrote about in this post called “The Real Estate Pandemic Survival Guide”, which can be summarized in two steps:

  1. You must survive
  2. There is no step 2. Survival is everything.

I have confidence that most if not all these companies will survive. I am equally sure that new innovations will arise from this crisis.

But then again, I’m an optimist.

P.S. Mike DePrete is doing a free webinar this Friday, April 3rd, 8 AM PT based on his Pandemic post, you can register by clicking on this link => Survival of the Fittest: The Real Estate Pandemic Survival Guide

Vendor to Vendor

I don’t pretend to know everything. But, I started my first real estate software company back in 1992, so I’ve seen a few things. That being said what is going on is unprecedented.

I know a lot of other vendors are feeling uncertain at this time. After speaking to some of you I wanted to reach out with this offer.

My team at W+R put together a game plan(s). If you want to have a one on one conversation with me I would be glad to share our thoughts.

My only ask is to speak to owners, CEOs, or co-founders. Hit me up at greg [at] wr-studios [dot] com and I’ll make some time. I will be as honest and open as I can. And selfishly I’m looking for any good ideas as well.

We are all in this together.

“Cloud CMA’s iBuyer Connect has legs.”

I couldn’t come up with a better headline than Inman News in their post today about Cloud CMA’s new feature “iBuyer Connect” so I just stole it. : )

Cloud CMA’s iBuyer feature has legs
New feature from W&R Studios is patent-pending, now open to investors nationwi
de

“In August, W&R Studios began testing iBuyer Connect, originally called Cloud Investor Connect, in Southern California. It gives an agent the option to request cash offers from iBuyers after creating a CMA for a property, provided that the property meets the requirements of an iBuyer.

Should any iBuyers that are part of the iBuyer Connect network choose to submit an offer, the agent can then go to a listing presentation armed with one or more cash offers to present to a prospective seller, along with a CMA.

If the seller accepts the investor offer, the agent will represent the investor as a buyer’s agent. The agent might also win the listing, in which case the agent could also serve as a dual agent. The feature doesn’t comes with any additional cost, and the compensation agents receive from an iBuyer varies by company and market.

Our current test is with a Southern California company who is focused on flipping homes. Venture backed iBuyers like “Opendoor” are typically making offers closer to market value. Cloud CMA can work with both models.

We recently celebrated the results of agents who used iBuyer Connect for the first time to make transactions. The response from these agents has been great.

We are also surveying all agents using iBuyer Connect and are very encouraged by the results (we sent the survey out to a pool of 250 participants and got 35 results back).

When asked, “How likely would you use this feature on future listing presentations?” Over 85% said they were “Very Likely”, “Likely” or neutral.

Here are some other quotes from the survey.

“The services works as advertised, the communication from the investor was great. “

“It could work for certain properties. We would use it again in the future.”

“I think this is a great new tool and look forward to using it again. “

“The offer was extraordinarily low… but still useful for selling an investor network to clients.”

“I really appreciate the service. I believe that it is great to have that service available when listing homes, especially when the home needs work and you dont need to wait for an offer.”

I reached out to one of the agents, Briar Warren of Murrieta, who successfully sold a home using iBuyer Connect, you can read her comments on our press release here.

As we continue to test this feature we are learning how to provide even more value to Cloud CMA subscribers. We think agents can provide a great experience to their clients by enabling them to participate in this growing iBuyer marketplace.

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

Yup.

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.

What a true act of a patriot looks like

Tim Cook PatriotFrom the New York Times:

Why Apple Is Right to Challenge an Order to Help the F.B.I.

It is understandable that federal investigators want to unlock an iPhone used by one of the attackers who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., in December. And it’s understandable that the government would turn to Apple for help. But Apple is doing the right thing in challenging the federal court ruling requiring that it comply.

Tim Cook deserves all our support.

Glenn Kelman’s post gives insight to latest financing round.

In my opinion Redfin is the only true disruptor in the industry.

Slideshow? This time, it was different: Redfin’s $50 million financing all about customer value

Glenn Kelman:

“But software entrepreneurs have mostly gone only halfway. We have sometimes been like the medieval monks who were once so committed to the celestial sphere that they had to confess to any acts of manual labor.

The result of this cloistering has been breathtaking virtual worlds. But from the perspective of a new generation of entrepreneurs who are using our software expertise to build, say, electric cars, these worlds can sometimes seem like a high school science fair project, with a limited impact on the real world. Just look at what is happening now that the people who make 1′s and 0′s are also trying their hand at physical goods and services:

-Uber is an iPhone app for ordering a ride, but it’s worth 100 times more than Taxi Magic because it has built its own transportation system.

Spot on.

Lead Ambiguity

One of the favorite vendor pastimes is trying to solve “the big problems” in online real estate today. This happens in hallway conversations, lobby bars, or big plush chairs in hotel lobbies. One of the biggest topics is the fact that most agents don’t respond to leads. Who cares if your site has tons of traffic, if the leads it generates don’t get responded to? And if you are selling products to agents that claim to generate leads then you have a bigger problem. Retention.

Typically the conversation ends in a head shake, a swirl of the adult beverage you’ve been sipping on, and the muttering…

“Stupid agents”.

I got a call from Dave Howe from MetroList Services in Sacramento. Dave has been in the MLS business longer than most. He’s seen vendors come and go through his market for many, many, years. I fondly call him the “hardest working man in the MLS business”. Anyway Dave wanted to chat and said to me, “You know I’ve come to realize, it’s more important to brand a lead “trusted” to an agent, than it is to brand a listing “trusted” to a consumer”. In a Yogi Bearish type of way Dave was on to something.

But how do you brand a lead “trusted”, or maybe a better word is “legitimate”? Most lead notification comes via email, and you can’t really brand a subject line.

After a bit of back and forth what we came to was that the problem really wasn’t “stupid agents” not responding to leads, but the shear amount of other email filling their inboxes that causes the agent to be distracted. I’m not talking about the “mickey mouse” or “john doe” leads, there will always be those. What I’m more talking about is the desensitization agents get from the promotional email they get from vendors promising them leads/services. Sometimes they can be from the very vendor who they are paying to receive leads from trying to upsell them to a another package.

There have been several solutions to this problem, most of them center on the broker (i.e. Weichert) taking over the lead follow up process and doling out the leads to paying/qualified agents. But the problem still remains for a vast amount of agents wanting to sign up for these lead generation services directly. It’s a huge opportunity.

But it’s time to change the premise of the argument. We (vendors) are so compelled to upsell agents to the next column of products and services we forgot the rules of any long term relationship. We need to establish trust first, then deliver on what we promised. If we do that, the rest will follow.

The big problem in online real estate isn’t just the agents not responding to leads (or using your product), it’s stupid vendors who want to jump from first base to third base too quickly.

Why FBS’ new Spark platform matters

I just had to say something about the new Spark platform that FBS announced earlier this week. Often the word “game changer” is used but in this case I think it’s truly warranted.

As a 3rd party software developer in the real estate space I can attest its not easy. I see 3 points of friction to get products in to the hands of real estate professionals.

1. Data standards
2. Permissioning
3. Awareness

Credit card processing and billing is also a huge factor, and new entrants are going to appreciate an e-commerce solution. For the purposes of this post I’m going to focus on the challenges listed above.

Data standards and Permissioning.

At a recent Inman Conference I sat in on a session moderated by Mike Wurzer and Rebecca Jensen. The topic swirled around data standards. I raised the issue that even if we had a single data standard for all MLS systems in the country 3rd party data developers would still have the issue of Permissioning to deal with. As an example we can get Cloud CMA up and running with a proper RETS feed from an MLS in less than 48 hours, but it sometimes takes months to go thru the approval/permissioning process.

I’m not saying that MLS providers should just open its data to all 3rd party developers. They have the responsibility to the safeguard that data. But that problem needs to be solved. After reading FBS’ post on Spark their new Spark API looks to have the ability to manage and streamline the permissioning/approval process. This is HUUUGE.

I’m super excited knowing that our next app could realistically launch and be available to hundreds of thousands of real estate professionals, DAY ONE!

Awareness

I’m flattered that at most events I go to Cloud CMA seems to be the poster child for 3rd party MLS apps. We’ve been working hard with many MLS providers to integrate Cloud CMA in to their online stores. You can see some examples of these stores below:

Metrolist Marketplace
MLSListings PERKS
MRIS Products
Coastal Carolinas Storefront

I think all these MLS providers/vendors have done an excellent job with these sites. And I love the fact we can tailor the message to each market. But there is a fundamental issue with all of them. For the most part, they stand alone and don’t get much traffic. Little traffic means little sales. Not good for me or my revenue sharing partner (the MLS provider). The Spark Platform looks to be a way to bridge this gap.

My belief is the best solution would be to have a direct link to an MLS App Store from the MLS system itself. Not a link buried somewhere, but visible at all times. The Spark Bar solves seems to solve this issue in a very innovative and elegant way.

This is why I’m so excited about this news. With the Spark platform, Spark API and Spark Bar the whiz kids at FBS have really studied these issues and come up with what appears to be a winning solution.

Now I’m not naive enough to believe that this will be an overnight success. They will have a lot of work to do. But, the framework and thought process is solid. And it looks like the big MLS providers are jumping in.

The only problem is…. I want it now! Hell, I wanted it 20 years ago. Imagine being in Stellar and downloading Lightning. Boom.

Inman Innovator Award Finalists Announced

Inman News has posted the list of finalists for their annual Inman Innovator Awards.  You can check out the list here.

I’m very happy to announce that both Vendor Alley and Cloud CMA have been selected as finalists.

Vendor Alley was nominated in the Blog category.  I started Vendor Alley back in 2007 and am continually amazed at the popularity of the site.  Thanks to all Vendor Alley readers who voted to make it a finalist.

I am also super excited about Cloud CMA being nominated in the Web Service category. At W&R Studios we have only launched two products, Dwellicious and Cloud CMA.  Dwellicious was a finalist last year (losing out to Closing.com) and now with Cloud CMA making a list of finalists this year I’m not sure if my partner Dan Woolley can handle the pressure on any new products we create!

We have some stiff competition in both categories so good luck to everyone and thanks again for your support!

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