Where Real Estate Gets Its Dirt

Industry relations….

NAR just sent out this message to its membership.

“NAR: We stand with those who respect our Realtor® members
NAR is joining a lawsuit filed by MOVE Inc., against Zillow and new Zillow Chief Industry Development Officer Errol Samuelson. In addition to NAR and MOVE, the plaintiffs include RealSelect, Inc., Top Producer Systems Company, and Realtors® Information Network, Inc.

NAR’s relationship with MOVE and realtor.com® is based on a mutual respect for Realtors® and their efforts to bring online home buying and selling resources to consumers, and the defendants named in the lawsuit have not demonstrated that same respect.”

If Zillow’s intentions of hiring Errol and now Curt was to improve industry relations it sounds like the plan may have backfired. Time will tell.

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.

Earn up to $70K/year selling real estate in San Francisco with Zillow!

The thing about true disruption is that it hits you from the blind side. You think X is going to happen and Y slaps you in the face.

Take for instance the big fear out there that Zillow/Trulia‘s “master plan” is to become a real estate broker. Nope. Here’s why.

I’m sure you seen this ad below on billboards and online from Uber.
Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 8.46.38 AM

Uber famously states, “We are not a taxi service.”, they just connect people who need to get somewhere with drivers you can get them there.

Trulia is not a brokerage. Trulia just connects people who want to buy a home with real estate professionals who can help them complete a transaction.

See what I did there?

No? Let me paint a picture for you….

Zillow as uber

Rapattoni leverages the web with its mobile strategy

Rapattoni Mobile Interface ImageRapattoni recently announced that Andy Rapattoni and Rex Marr had celebrated 45 years of serving the real estate industry. I not sure about you but that gives me a whole lot of perspective. Over the years I’ve seen lot of companies getting bought, sold or just fade away. I’ve said it before, it’s inspiring to see such resilience.

But that doesn’t mean Andy and Niki are stopping. Rapattoni has launched a web based mobile interface for the tablet and smartphone. This web-app can be used on variety of mobile devices including iPhones/iPads and Android based smartphones/tablet.

I may be biased but I think this is smart move by Rap, I see a lot of vendors doing partnerships with consultants to create native solutions for their MLS systems. Native is fine, and sure you get a snappier user experience but what you gain by “being in the app store” you lose by having full control. And where do you stop, iOS, Android? How many code bases to you want to support?

As the saying goes “Software never sleeps”. Iteration is key. You need to be able to tweak, cajole, sand, and polish your product. That’s the work that makes a good product great. It’s very difficult to do that when your disparate teams.

Rapattoni has also gotten into the public facing website game with its Rapattoni Integrated Website Service (IWS). As with their other product the new IWS works with their existing applications, which seems to be an advantage over non-MLS vendor solutions.

More and more MLS vendors are adding this type of solution to their offerings. In some cases, like Solid Earth, it is becoming a “tent pole” type of product.

Homes.com adds MLS direct feeds from 9 MLS providers.

Homes.com Adds Nine Direct MLS Feeds
Consumers visiting Homes.com will see more accurate listing information

“The display agreement provides Homes.com with data from the following MLS organizations: Houston Association of REALTORSÒ, California Regional MLS, MetroList Services (Sacramento area), Southland Regional Association of REALTORS (San Fernando Valley, CA), BAREIS (North San Francisco counties), MLSListings (Monterey to Silicon Valley), Intermountain MLS (Boise, Idaho), MLS Property Information Network (New England), and Midwest Real Estate Data (greater Chicago area).”

Super Impressive. Those are some of the largest and most respected MLS providers in the country. Plus think about the number of listings they have. This is a HUGE deal for Homes.com and win for consumers. If they keep this up their ListHub feeds might be regulated to just smaller MLS markets.

Then there’s this…

“Homes.com is an industry partner with a deep commitment to creating connections between real estate professionals and consumers. We believe that this starts with a direct relationship with local MLSs,” said Brock MacLean, executive vice president of Homes.com. “Through agreements with these nine MLS organizations, more than 200,000 MLS members will now be able to leverage traffic from more than 12.5 million homebuyers who visit Homes.com monthly, better connecting their member agents and brokers with active consumers.”

Riiiiight. It took a super connected dude like Brock McLean to get these deals done.

Homes.com adds “parallax” design elements to homepage.

Homes.com Mock proof 2You got to love competition. It drives companies to come up with new and enticing ways of capturing our business. Homes.com has decided add a little pizzazz to their homepage by introducing “parallax” design elements. Instead of describing it, you need to see if for yourself. So check it out now at Homes.com.

Some people might call this trendy but I’m kind of a sucker for it. A friend of mine had forwarded me this link of another site http://www.stickin.ag/#stickin (in Germany), that also did a fantastic job with these type of design elements. Apple is also exploring parallax views in their new iOS 7 operating system.

All of the portals have content “below the fold”, but it seems to be more about SEO juice than anything else. To that end Homes.com has used these elements not just for show, but to highlight core assets of the site, (local agents, homes for sales, and other content marketing), which works well in my opinion.

But the real test will be if this new design drive more engagement. How long or quickly this new design stays up with give us the answer.

2013 Inman Innovator Awards Finalists announced

Lots of great names here, I just wanted to highlight a few. Innovator_logo_2013

Introducing: 2013 Innovator Awards finalists

Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise

I was glad to see Estately as a finalist, Galen and his team have been killing it. @properties is another favorite.

Most Innovative MLS or Real Estate Trade Association

East Bay Regional Data, Inc., MLS Listings, Midwest Real Estate Data LLC (MRED), and Metropolitian Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS) just to name a few. I probably shouldn’t weigh in here but from a vendor’s standpoint MRED getting over 4,000 agents to a tradeshow is pretty damn innovative. : )

Most Innovative Real Estate Agent App, Tool or Vendor

Doorsteps (recently acquired by MOVE, Inc.) is a strong contender, but I do hear good things about BuyerMLS as well.

Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise App, Tool or Vendor.

I like Imprev here, there new stuff is hot, interesting to see Reesio make the cut.

Most Innovative MLS or Real Estate Trade Association App, Tool or Vendor

I think the favorite in this category has to be the Spark Platform. Clareity Store is still getting ready to launch (very curious on how their “portal” approach performs, it’s different from anything I’ve seen). Interesting to see LPS also nominated, they been having a great run since their high rankings on the Clareity MLS survey results.

Most Innovative Digital Real Estate Marketing Campaign or Strategy.

I like Chase “My New Home” app in this race. It caused quite a stir in the industry and I had a lot of friends outside of real estate asking me about the ads.

Most Innovative Use of New Technology

I like Double Robotics. Gives a “virtual tours” a new meaning.

Good luck and best wishes to everyone!

Trulia to build Google Glass app.


Trulia building Google Glass consumer app

Via Inman News

“The app, Trulia for Glass, will prompt Glass to notify users when they’re near a home that meets their search criteria, let them see listing details and images by sliding their finger along the Glass headset, or listen to the device “read” out a property description”

How is this better than just looking at your iPhone?

Did you hear?

I’ve been super busy and there has been a lot of news to catch up on. Here’s a few links to stories I think are worth checking out…

Bob Gottesman has been selected as RESOs new Executive Director, effective May 2013. Check out Matt Cohen’s Live Blog transcript to see this and all the RESO Spring Meeting news.

Todd Carpenter’s new site Realty Nex.us is fast becoming one of my favorite industy sites. He recently published a “Special Report” – “Why online consumers love Zillow and Trulia more than you.” It’s free and worth the read. I’ve also added the link to the my “Read This Now!” header.

Speaking of special reports Rob Hahn’s (aka The Notorious R.O.B.) has another report, “[PREMIUM] Move, Trulia, Zillow: Q1/2013 Report – The Narratives Take Shape”. You need to be a premium subscriber to access the content. I haven’t had a chance to read this one yet (you know you need to carve out a big of time for Rob), but his first two Premium reports were excellent.

And if you really need to get caught up on the MLS public facing website debate look further than Inman News for great content and discussion.

Ever heard of the Dymaxion House? How about a conveyor belt linen closet? Now you have.


Trulia and Market Leader analysis…

Good analysis from Brian Boero at 1000watt Consulting. Go read it, it’s really smart. I agree with him on most points. But just one quibble.

Brian Boero:

Thoughts on the Trulia/Market Leader deal

Interesting energy

This is admittedly fuzzy, but both of these companies have suffered from something I will simply call “bad vibes” in the industry (yeah, I know, incisive analysis!).

I’ve been in this business since 1997. And you hear things. Opinions. Rumors. Rants. And I’ve heard more of these types of things about Market Leader over the years than just about any other company. I’m not certain it was ever justified, but it was in the air.

Trulia has been dogged by this too. Some in the industry fear Zillow. Some resent Realtor.com. But a lot of people I know always felt suspicious of Trulia. I think part of this was taken care of pre-IPO, and it seems to be getting better, but, again, it’s there.

Of course, a few bad vibes didn’t stop either of these companies from getting where they are today, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.”

I’m not exactly sure what Brian is talking about here. If people have been suspicious of Trulia I think its because they’ve kept things closer to the chest, whereas Zillow has pounded its chest like a gorilla. In regards to Market Leader, maybe the “bad vibes” that Brian speaks of is due to the multiple pivots Market Leader has made over the years. Nobody likes changes, but good leaders like Ian Morris and his team deserve kudos for keeping their company relevant.

Bad vibes indeed.

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