Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

Join me at Midyear next week!

NAR_midyear_logo_hp2014_conventionLooking forward to catching up with everyone next week. I want to highlight a few events that I’ll be attending/participating in.

Tuesday

CMLS BRINGS IT TO THE TABLE WORKSHOP : CERTIFIED
May 12, 8 a.m. ?12:45 p.m.

The City Club of Washington
555 13th Street, NW
Columbia Square
Washington, DC 20004

Registration ends today, so hurry and register if you haven’t already. It includes lunch people, get on this!

Wednesday

MLS Association Executives Session
May 13, 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM

I just spoke to Chris Carillo and they have a strong session planned. They have asked me to moderate a panel on Syndication (what else?) at this session. My esteemed panelists include the Cameron Paine, the Jim Harrison and Matt Consalvo. Should be fun so get there early for a good seat.

Thursday

We (W&R Studios) are co-sponsoring the ListHub Party (Cirque du Mystique)
May 14, 8:00PM to 1:00am

Maimasion
3401 Water Street NW
Washington, DC 20007

Also I’ve got a few slots left open for meetings about Cloud CMA and our newest product Cloud Streams. Katie and I would love to give you a demo and show you the latest. Just contact Katie at the link below:

katie@wr-studios.com

See you there!!

“Whistleblower” stirs things up between Move, NAR and Zillow.

Whistleblower alleges Zillow is stealing listing data from agent websites

Andrea Brambila from Inman News:

“In court filings today, Move said it received the letter yesterday, April 9. The company, along with fellow plaintiff the National Association of Realtors, is calling for the court to grant third-party discovery in the case, saying “The defendants simply cannot be trusted to be the sole source of evidence in this case regarding their conduct.”

Move declined to comment on which third parties would be involved.

“The plaintiffs have complained for months that the defendants are systematically hiding evidence in secret non-Zillow email accounts and file-sharing services,” attorneys for Move and NAR said in the court filing.

“The defendants have denied the claims, deriding them as ‘silly’ conspiracy theories and claim they have produced everything. The whistleblower’s letter appears to confirm, however, the plaintiffs’ worst fears.”

This is getting very ugly. The letter itself is pretty detailed. It doesn’t just focus on Errol and Curt but Spencer Rascoff, Zillow’s CEO, and Greg Schwartz, Zillow’s Chief Revenue Officer, and a bunch of other Zillow employees.

I think the letter was written by someone who had an executive position in the company (Zillow). I’m betting it’s a former employee, with an axe to grind, and I bet Zillow knows exactly who he is.

But its hard to believe any of the stuff the letter suggests. Its either blown out of proportion, not relevant, or taken out of context. Is having a rolodex a crime? Zillow has been kicking realtor.com’s ass without any sort of help, why risk it?

Murdoch makes his MOVE.

lord murdoch

Shit just got real.

ListHub, a subsidary of MOVE, Inc now owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp just announced that starting in April they will stop sending listings to Zillow. Now this could just be a lot of saber rattling. But me thinks it might be real.

The topic/idea/theory of ListHub shutting down feeds to Zillow may seem familiar to Vendor Alley readers.

Back at the NAR Midyear meetings I got a chance to interview Steve Berkowitz, then CEO of MOVE. He stated that it would be “batshit crazy” to shut down ListHub to spite realtor.com competitors.

I guess Rupert Murdoch has been called worse. 2015 is starting off with a bang!

Inman News has an excelent post on this story so quit being a cheapskate and get a Select membership already!

Rupert Murdoch playing hardball with Zillow

“The Big Three”, What Now?

I’ve been asked to conduct 3 interviews next week at the MLS Executive Session at NAR Midyear. The session is called – “The Big Three”, What Now?

I will be speaking with Curt Beardsley of Zillow, John Whitney of Trulia and Steve Berkowitz,CEO of Move, Inc./realtor.com

If you have any questions you would like me to ask, drop me an email. The interviews will be conducted separately.

The MLS Executive Session is co-chaired by Wes Wiggins and Chris Carrillo. It will be held Wednesday, May 14th at the Omni Shoreham Hotel – Regency Ballroom, Lower Level from 3:00PM to 5:00PM.

Should be a lot of fun! See you there!

Over 1,000 brokers send their listings to Zillow directly.

Zillow ‘Pro for Brokers’ participation takes off
Portal receiving direct listing feeds from more than 1,000 brokers

Paul Hagey for Inman News

Zillow is now receiving listings directly from more than 1,000 brokers under its 2-year-old Zillow Pro for Brokers program.

The program, which Zillow launched in June 2012, has grown rapidly in recent months. Last fall Zillow announced that approximately 200 brokers were enrolled.

Impressive.

“Both Zillow and Trulia have been making a push to get direct feeds from brokers and multiple listing services to improve the accuracy, timeliness and comprehensiveness of their listing databases. Their chief rival, realtor.com, gets listings directly from over 800 MLSs across the U.S.”

I’m starting to get a better idea of what Curt meant by the “save ListHub” plan.

ListHub launches an online “Reference Guide”

bill stack

This ought to clear things up: ListHub Reference Guide

One way to fix agent responsiveness

Charlie_Bucket_(Willy_Wonka_and_the_Chocolate_Factory)To me one of the biggest challenges that faces online real estate today is the issue of agent responsiveness. How do you get agents to respond to leads, whether an email or a phone call? A recent survey done by the California Association of REALTORS shows that 45% of consumers want a response “instantly”, a total of 85% on consumers wanted a response within the hour.

I’ve helped launch a couple national real estate portals and I can say the response rates from agents is super, super low.

So here’s the idea. I call it the “Golden Ticket Powerball”:

1. Every week, you either send an email, or make a phone call to a random agent who is part of your company’s lead network. If that agent responds in 10 minutes (what I would realistically call, “instantly”) they win $1,000.

2. If the lead you send out goes unanswered then the $1,000 rolls in to next week, making the prize $2,000 for the next lucky agent. Of course you make a big deal about this to your agent clients when the prize money goes up.

You could tweak this model out. Maybe if the agent responds in an hour they get $500. Or you up the prize money. At $1,000 per week that $52,000. Imagine if you went to Trulia/Zillow/Realtor.com and said “I can raise your agent response rate from 23% to 67% for only $200,000 per year.” I think it would be money well spent.

Why doesn’t MOVE just shut down ListHub?

“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” – Sun Tzu

I had many great side conversations at last week’s Inman Connect in New York City. One of them imagines the premise that MOVE shutdowns ListHub.

Think about the consequences. It would basically cut off the largest source of listing data for Trulia and Zillow. At the same time Realtor.com would immediately become the largest single source of all listing data in the United States.

It also puts brokers back in the driver’s seat. For Trulia and Zillow to compete they would now have to do a full court press to brokers for data. Think about it, who would have the leverage in those conversations?

Brillant or batshit crazy?

Broker Strangelove: The scoop on the Realty Alliance’s (crazy) plan to rock the real estate industry

strangeloveEver since Craig Cheatham put the MLS industry on double super secret probation there has been much speculation about what The Realty Alliance’s grand plan is and how they will go about implementing it.

Well, I’ve spoken to over a dozen individuals and believe I have connected all the dots at this point.

I must qualify this by saying these are still rumors – the “word on the street”, so to speak, but I’m confident I have all the major details worked out.

What the plan?

Basically the plan is to create a database upstream of the MLS providers. This will be a national broker database, not any sort of regional, “lets try it and see if it works” sort of thing.

Brokers will put their listings in this database first, then decide where those listings go, who to share them with, an under what terms. So if this thing ever gets traction (it won’t in my opinion) brokers could decide to send listings (only some?) to the MLS, or not. They could syndicate, or not. They could share with other brokers, IDX-style, or not. And they would not be subject to any rules regarding monetization of the data.

The key here is brokers want to gain leverage over their MLS providers by creating a national upstream database.


How do they make money?

The idea is to charge brokers up to $2.00 per listing to upload listings to the database. That’s not a joke. $2.00 per listing. Memories of Homestore come to mind. Having done RFPs on many of the large franchisor websites I have a fair understanding of the cost involved in creating (and maintaining) a listing database. So I just wonder if anyone has really done the math of this sort of effort. Nevermind the complexity of getting brokers to implement another listing upload program.

Oy Vey!

What I’m also hearing is that they also hope to repackage this data and sell it to Wall Street. One spin on this is that they may highlight the “Berkshire Hathaway” name when doing this. Who loves Warren Buffet more than Wall Street? Their partner in this effort would be Collateral Analytics. Collateral Analytics has been requesting MLS data on behalf of their broker clients for the last year or so but is running in to problems with some MLS providers as to the nature of how they are using. it. I guess they think by having this data outside the MLS, and stamping Warren Buffet’s name on it, it will be all good. If RPR, CoreLogic and, dare I say, REBIG couldn’t make this happen I very skeptical that these guys could make a dent.

Who wrote the plan?

My sources say the business plan was put together by The WAV Group, most notably Victor Lund. I don’t believe the selling of data to Wall Street was part of the plan put together by WAV Group. But the upstream national broker database and charging brokers up to $2.00 per listing to upload was proposed in the plan put forward by WAV Group. As I said, the plan written by WAV Group hopes to increase brokers’ “leverage” with MLS providers. Phase One would be to create this upstream national broker database. I believe this is the “big initiative” The Realty Alliance voted to proceed with last month.

I believe WAV Group is also responsible for drafting the RFP for this database and facilitating vendor selection. What is puzzling to me is why The WAV group, which has been hawking their strategic MLS planning services pretty hard lately, would venture in to this territory. Gotta eat, I guess.

Who is going to build it?

I haven’t seen a definitive list of vendors, and I doubt any of them would confirm or deny involvement, but I can make an educated guess about two of them.

In all cases I don’t see any clear win for vendors (inside the industry) who choose to cooperate. Seems like kryptonite to me.

1. CoreLogic, always a WAV Group favorite, seems an obvious player. But as one of the biggest providers of MLS software to the industry already committed to share any “Wall Street Revenue” with MLS providers I don’t see the logic here.

2. RED- Real Estate Digital. RED aggregates data for RPR (via LPS), builds broker platforms, and builds and sells public-facing MLS websites (something TRA abhors). Since the broker database is upstream from the MLS they can’t really leverage their MLS data aggregation know-how.

Plus, take a step back. A broker database business model that relies on brokers paying $1 to $2 per listing to operate? Really? I may not be the smartest guy in the room but that idea seems batshit crazy me. What vendor would want to be involved in that quagmire?

And I’m also hearing that not all members of the Realty Alliance are confident in the plan.. And not just a few, but a lot of them. Which is why this stuff is starting to get out.

In Summary

This is a bad deal for brokers and MLS providers. Actually I think it’s worse for brokers because of the time suck and money wasted. The MLS providers will just sit on the sidelines laughing their asses off.

I still think cooler heads will prevail. The members of The Realty Alliance are smart business people. Some might be more ready for change than others. But they have to realize you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. You have to find new ways to win.

As I’ve said in my first post on this subject…

“Stop listening to the consultants you’ve hired. Stop drafting new business plans. Go sell a ton of real estate. You have the MLS community attention. Take advantage of it.
Don’t lose this opportunity.”

Clareity publishes Realty Alliance’s rant list.

Craig Cheatham
Craig Cheatham
Gregg Larson has compiled the list of “MLS practices that are likely to create/increase conflict between MLSs and participant firms” that Craig Cheatham, CEO of The Realty Alliance, rushed through on stage last week at CMLS’ annual conference in Boise, ID.

Eliminating MLS and Broker Conflict

The Realty Alliance and some other large brokers and franchises have invested money in R&D on a project that could dramatically affect MLS and several vendors that were in the room know the details of this project but are under NDA so they are not talking about it. And no, technology is not a hurdle.

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