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.

MRIS and TREND to combine data feed

MRIS and TREND Announce Combined Real Estate Content Feed

“Last fall, MRIS and TREND announced their intention to consolidate their MLSs to create the next era of MLS that will preserve compensation and cooperation, promote the expansion of an orderly and efficient marketplace and provide brokerage firms greater control of and access to their listing content. MRIS and TREND are starting now to find concrete ways to serve the combined brokerage community. The first product to be delivered will be a new feed with listing content from both MLSs.”

Another blow to the narrative that MLS providers aren’t serving or listening to the needs of their (big) brokers members.

“When brokerages operate across multiple marketplaces, they must aggregate information from multiple data feeds, apply the appropriate display rules for each MLS, and pay redundant technology costs, all in order to have a unified IDX search on their own websites or improve brokerage operations,” said Sandra Troccoli, Director of Information Technology & Website Services for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices (BHHS) Homesale Realty. “This is a new opportunity that will reduce technology costs and cumbersome management of duplicate feeds. It highlights the importance of MLS consolidation from a technology standpoint.”

Moves like this and CRMLS and MLSListings’ previous announcement are showing that MLS providers can come up with ways to address the concerns of big brokers. But big brokers must make MLS providers part of the solution.

A Few Good MLS Execs

Some fun for the Zillow meetings in Las Vegas this week….


You want answers?

Industry Consultant 1
I think I’m entitled to them.

You want answers?!

I want the truth.

You can’t handle the truth!

And nobody moves.




Son, we live in a country that has an MLS. And that MLS is more than just managing a database. Who’s gonna do it? The Seller? You, Mr. Big Broker? You, Mr. Industry Consultant? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep that listings are now everywhere and curse the MLS. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: The genie is out of the bottle. Your old gatekeeper days aren’t coming back. Upstream and BPP are DOA. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, helps you do more business.


You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at Inman Connect, Realty Alliance or Gathering of Eagles, you want the MLS. You need the MLS!


We use words like cooperation, compensation, accuracy… we use these words as the backbone to a life spent building something. You use ’em as a punchline.


I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very piece of mind I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I’d prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you move to Australia. I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to.


Did you do a deal with Zillow?


I did the job my members sent me to do.


Industry Consultant 2

Did you do a deal with Zillow?!!




You’re goddamn right I did!!

CMLS 2014 afterglow and hangover

It was the biggest CMLS conference by attendance and sponsorship. I remember when it was a small group (Northwest Council of MLS), say less than 90, for the whole conference. Compare that to today, where FBS took out over 90 of their customers to dinner on Thursday night. Things have changed. I may be biased but I also have to say it was the best location as well. The weather was perfect. The hotel was fantastic. The food was amazing. You have to give it up to Art Carter, Patty Connor and the rest of the CRMLS staff for pulling off such and incredible event.

Before the event I heard a few people complaining about the agenda. They were wondering why all the “non-industry” speakers. Art Carter made it clear from the beginning, he wanted to craft an event, “I would like to see”. As it turns out the outside speakers were a huge hit. So much so, I bet future conferences you’ll see more of them than less.

Then there were the parties. My company held an “Open House” at our W&R Studios headquarters down on Main Street on Tuesday night. It was a huge hit, even if it required you to go big on the first night. Trulia and Zillow held separate events, one at Red O restaurant in Newport Beach (very che’che’). And of course there was Mini-Kiss event at Hurricanes on Wednesday night (I heard the band was spotted later and a local I-Hop around 1:30am, can you imagine the stares?)

Again, I may be biased, and I think I say this every year, but CMLS 2014 was best CMLS conference ever.

And then Craig Cheatham took the stage.

It was about 4:15PM on Friday afternoon and Art had a big smile on his face. He even commented, “If you are wondering why I have a big smile on my face its because I see so many of out there.” Having Craig Cheatham, the CEO of The Realty Alliance, as the last presenter was no coicendence. It was a master stroke from Art and did exactly what he hoped, keep people in their seats for the entire conference.

It’s hard to blame Mr. Cheatham for what happen next. And I have to give him credit for showing up, the expectations were pretty high. But he seems to be just a messenger, and a poor one at that, to the whims of The Realty Alliance masters he serves. Kind of like a Roger Goddell, with much less pay and prestige.

The Realty Alliance had gotten the MLS industry’s attention with Mr. Cheatham’s declaration last year, of “You’ve got 10 days”. One year later they had nothing to show or really talk about. Mr. Cheatham’s responses were, at best, oblique. I think John Mosey, CEO of Northstar MLS, put it best in a follow up question, Mr. Cheatham’s statements were “clear as mud”.

The subsequent interview was, at best, awkward, at worst insulting and a waste of everyone’s time. It’s a shame because the audience was full of MLS professionals who truly wanted to help make things better. It reminds me of the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

But lets move on, and not waste anymore time on these Keystone Cops.

My thanks again to everyone at CRMLS, the CMLS board of directors (you too Sarah), for putting together a truly spectacular event. And see you next year in Kansas City!

CMLS 2014 Prelude

2014_CMLS_Logo_270px1Art Carter doesn’t think the problems we face in real estate are that different from what other industries are facing or have been facing. That’s the central premise of CMLS 2014, the premier MLS industry event being held in Huntington Beach, California next week.


To prove his point Art (current President of CMLS) has gathered speakers from all over, including Zappos, Yelp, USC, and salesforce.com (just to name a few). This is a big change for a CMLS conference and I think will be a big hit with attendees. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing on the agenda for industry specific topics, but I think the central theme here is still geared toward outside perspectives.

We’re back.

But lets face it, CMLS is about people. It’s about community. It’s about lobby bars and great conversation. The real estate market is back, some of us made it through the valley, some of us didn’t. It’s been a tough time and I hope that we’ve learned a lot through those tough years. From what I hear CMLS 2014 will be the largest attended CMLS conference in history. Maybe its the location, the market, whatever, but we are back baby, stronger than ever.


To me this CMLS conference represents the first time the industry has turned corner on Zillow and Trulia. Its become boring to me to focus so much energy on whether or not these companies are good or bad for the industry. They are just another vendor, and they will be measured by their actions, not conspiracy theories. I hope we have finally gotten over it.

The Realty Alliance

Last year’s conference ended with Craig Cheatham, president and CEO, of The Realty Alliance proclaiming “you have 10 days!”, which expressed the large broker community feelings of unhappiness with the MLS industry. And lets face it, no matter how much back pedaling was done later, it was a threat. This caused a lot of MLS execs to retreat to hallways after the session to call on TRA members (many who served on their boards), to ask the question, “Are we cool?”

So, CMLS 2014 ends with the session aptly titled, “The Realty Alliance – One Year Later”. So it seems the tables are turned, so let me make the statement: “Realty Alliance, you’ve got 8 days.” Was it all just bluster? Are you upstream without a paddle? I can’t wait to see what ought to be a spectacular tap dance.

So CMLS 2014 seems to have it all. The sun, the sand, the surf, good friends and Mr. Bojangles.

I can’t wait!

Brad Inman’s take on Zillow.

Zillow Plays To Win
Brad Inman, Publisher Inman News

“Zillow’s relationship with this segment of the industry is shaping up somewhat like Amazon’s relationship with big book publishers.

Tense cooperation is the best way to describe how Amazon works with publishers (think brokers and franchises). They have no choice but to partner, but Amazon has the power because it controls the consumer. On the other hand, Amazon seems to favor authors (think real estate agents), as their position in the value chain is closer to the reader (think home shopper).

Great analogy and spot on.

“As many real estate insiders know, there is a secret real estate initiative dubbed Upstream that promises to give brokers more control over their listing data and leverage with the likes of Zillow. Is this folly? If it follows the path of becoming a feeble reaction to Zillow like publishers tried with Amazon, certainly yes.”

Brad instinct here is also correct. Those who find themselves backing Upstream will be left without the proverbial paddle.I’ve been waiting six weeks to use that last sentence-thanks Brad!

“After the recent fiasco with Zillow, a leading real estate executive was somehow inspired to call me and unload his frustrations with NAR. (I promised to keep him on background, sorry for the mystery).

He pointed to the suing of the ex-Move exec as only one example of problems with NAR.

In the last several years, he calculates that NAR has spent $100 million on ventures outside of its core competence — including RPR, a credit union, a university and a venture capital fund — without the level of adoption or return on member money that was expected.”

How great would it be that the incoming President came in to NAR and made it his/her mandate shut these down? (I would also add HouseLogic.com to the list.)

Excellent read and analysis and reminds me of the old adage, “The only thing new in the world is history you don’t know.” This game has been played out long before online real estate. Get your popcorn out.

Deep Linking Doo Doo

Solid Earth’s Spring platform provides ‘deep linking’ to brokers from public-facing MLS portals

Andrea V. Brambila from Inman News:

“Brokers who belong to multiple listing services that operate public portals powered by Solid Earth’s Spring platform can now add a “deep link” bringing consumers who find listings they represent on the portals back to listing detail pages on their own websites.”

I just think this is the worse idea ever. Why? You need to sweat the details. A good portal needs to have a coherent path; homepage, search results page, and property detail page. It needs to be consistent. If a consumer clicks on a listing and then it brings up a whole new website (different colors, different typeface, etc.) they are going to wonder, “what’s up with this?” and go somewhere else where they can get a better experience.

I understand the industry is trying to come up with ways to encourage “big brokers” (and lets be honest and just say Berkshire Hathaway, okay? -thanks) to participate in MLS public facing websites. But if that means making your existing website a shitty experience, then everyone loses.

Strategic Hypocrisy

From MLS Tesseract
Strategic hypocrisy and management by anecdote

Brian Larson

“TRA brokers are flabbergasted that some MLSs don’t want to provide data feeds for this use of MLS data. But if someone else had come along proposing to do it three years ago, let’s say, those same brokers would have protested quite vigorously. In fact, in one of our MLS clients, the MLS executive presented the TRA proposal and local broker’s request for data feed without identifying the broker requesting it; one of the MLS’s board members protested it vigorously… until she learned it was her own company making the request. Of course, then it was OK..”

So good.

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