The Future of Real Estate? It Arrived Today

This is what the future of real estate will look like - no MLS number

This is what the future of real estate will look like – no MLS number

I could not be prouder today. Quill’s first Single Broker Listing is live and looks great! On the Quill Blog, on Zillow, on Redfin – heck, it looks great EVERYWHERE!! By my estimation, this is what the future of real estate will look like: One broker marketing a property directly to buyers via multiple channels, without offering to pay the buyer’s agent’s commission (so no MLS number). Exciting times here at Quill!!

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“Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate”: Zillow Tries Too Hard, Tips Its Hand; the Future of Real Estate Isn’t Here Yet (But It’s Close)

Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate, by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries

Reviewed by Craig Blackmon

This book by Zillow’s CEO and Chief Economist, respectively, is a wonderful advertisement for Zillow. It’s also a good book. It’s easy to read – really easy, clearly written to appeal to the broadest spectrum of readers – and very informative. It does a good job of illustrating the power of data and how it can be harnessed to make the most informed investment decision possible when buying a house.

But the book aims higher. It concludes with some stirring language about the power of data (don’t worry, this doesn’t require a Spoiler Alert): “Numbers don’t lie. And they won’t lead you astray. Indeed, they’ll help you find your way home.” (The same expression dominates the Zillow home page.)

Ah, home. The term is associated with so many wonderful things: family, laughter, love, shelter, protection, and on and on. “Home” is not just a place. It’s a very special place, a destination that is both more common and more unique than any other.

Is this book going to help you find your way to your home? Probably not. In fact, I hope not. Home requires more than a well-researched financial decision. Much more. Besides, any prediction of the future is just that, a prediction, and in the meantime life marches on. A good life needs a good home, regardless of the financial future.

With its focus on the trees and not the forest, the reader is left with a sense that it is much ado about nothing. The book relentlessly promotes the web site, implicitly and explicitly, from start to finish. You’re left wondering: Is that it? Has Zillow really changed real estate? The web site provides useful insight, sure. But it hardly upends real estate, an industry that continues to operate on a 19th Century model. Does Zillow show us the final, evolved real estate industry of the modern, technological, information age?  I mean, nobody uses a travel agent or a stock broker anymore….

The answer is revealed by a closer examination of Zillow and the people behind it. I believe Zillow is an ongoing project that will change dramatically as real estate evolves. And it will be instrumental in that evolution. But Zillow itself cannot lead the change. And in the meantime, it uses a business model that keeps it in business, biding its time until the eventual evolution.

This book is a “must read” for investors and real estate brokers, but not homeowners

In other words, folks who make a business out of real estate will benefit from reading this book. It does an excellent job of demonstrating how data – available via zillow.com, a constant underlying refrain  throughout the book – can be used to calculate a property’s current and future value. So if the primary and essentially sole reason for purchasing a house is to make money (or if you sell houses yourself), this is a great book. It’s loaded with a lot of great insight.

For example, did you know that proximity to Starbucks is a good indicator of better appreciation? (Chapter 4) Or that you should list your home between March Madness and the Masters if you want the best chance at the best price? (Chapter 12) Fascinating stuff and worth considering when you are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars. A slightly better percentage return, thanks to in-depth analysis of the available data, can lead to quite a bit more money.

But if you’re looking to buy a home, don’t bother with this book. It’s myopic focus on dollar values simply doesn’t foster a good decision when looking for a home. Should you take into account financial considerations? Of course. But the primary focus should be on finding the right home for you and your family. So, while good schools may be an indicator of future value (Chapter 6), that shouldn’t be the focus. Rather, look for good schools so that your kids get a good education. This is a home. Not just an investment.

Zillow Is Setting the Stage for the Future of Real Estate

In its current iteration, Zillow doesn’t really do  much in terms of bringing the real estate industry into the 21st Century. As the book makes clear, Zillow simply wants to attract as many visitors to its web site as possible. Why? Because Zillow makes money as a lead generator for today’s real estate brokers.

In other words, Zillow currently complements and feeds off of traditional real estate brokers. The more people who use the Zillow site, the more leads that Zillow generates, and thus the more money it makes. Zillow is built on web traffic, nothing more. And it doesn’t do anything to disrupt a long-standing traditional industry, because that industry is it’s target market.  Even though that same industry is ripe for disruption.

Which is weird. Because the guy who co-founded Zillow previously co-founded Expedia. The web site that put travel agents out of business. Rich Barton is a widely recognized and highly regarded “disrupter.” His motto is “power to the people.” He believes that the internet can empower consumers in new ways that lead to better and more efficient ways of doing things. According to Mr. Barton, his companies Zillow and Expedia have “created new opportunities for new professionals to make new businesses for themselves.”

Except that Zillow hasn’t. Not yet, anyway. It’s merely expanded existing opportunities (lead generation) for a long-standing professional industry that allows it to sustain it’s dominant market position. Nothing new there.

But what if Zillow is a work in progress? What if, in only the highest level strategic planning documents, there is a plan for Zillow 2.0? That would start to make some sense.

What the Future of Real Estate is Going to Look Like

Today, there are two ways to sell your home: FSBO, or using the traditional cooperative real estate broker system. Home sellers can market their properties via many different channels other than the local MLS. Including, of course, Zillow, which shows both “Make Me Move” and true “for sale by owner” listings. So an owner is empowered by the internet and can forego using the real estate broker system, which includes payment of a commission to a cooperating agent.

But what if the home seller wants the professional insight and counsel of a real estate broker? From advice on preparing the home to market, to staging, to keeping the seller informed and educated, a real estate broker provides substantial value. And the broker is a trained marketing professional who will efficiently and effectively utilize the full array of marketing channels available in the 21st Century: yard sign, flyer, and open houses and tours, of course; but also web sites and social media.

Today, that real estate broker can exist, thanks to Zillow. With its brand recognition and size, it is used by a large number of home buyers. A “listing” on Zillow can lead buyers to the home, without paying for other agents to bring them. So a home seller can sell for a fraction of the cost, as they will no longer need to pay the 3% buyer agent commission.

In other words, Zillow has positioned itself to be one of the successors to the multiple listing services maintained by cooperating real estate brokerages all over the country. And by positioning itself there, it provides the platform necessary for meaningful change in real estate. But until that change happens, Zillow will sustain itself (and its shareholders) by working within the existing system.

 

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March Madness for Real Estate Events

I’m a volunteer on the planning committee for the next Seattle Real Estate BarCamp and I’m amazed at how many events being planned for real estate professionals in March…it’s borderline madness!

Here are a couple that I’m aware of:

March 2, 2011Northwest Video Marketing Summit brought to you by Frank Garay and Brian Stevens of TBWS fame.   Cost is $100 and you’ll leave the day long event at the Seattle Center with your own video blog.  Follow on Twitter:  #vmssea

March 3, 2011Seattle RE BarCamp takes place at the Seattle Center Northwest Rooms (same location as last year).   RE BarCamp is a FREE event where the real estate industry can come together to learn from each other (social media, tech, trends, etc.).  It is NOT intended to be a “class room” with instructors.   It’s an “un-conference” where participation from attendees is required.  The agenda is determined the morning of the event based on what is suggested by the participants.  If you’re wanting to be taught and not comfortable with the BarCamp format, you might want to consider other events.  Twitter: #rebcsea

March 9, 2001Agent Reboot  at the Washington State Convention Center.  This is more of a sit down and learn type program with a set schedule of what will be taught.   Cost is $49 if  you pre-register.

March 15 -17, 2001Real Estate Coach Tom Ferry will be at the Meydenbauer Center.  Cost $197.

Am I missing anything?

Coming Soon: Pacific Northwest Housing Summit and Seattle RE Barcamp

I’m very excited about two events that will be taking place next month at the Seattle Center on March 18 and 19, 2010 for the real estate community.   Full disclosure:  I’m actually involved on the planning committees for both.  🙂

The Pacific Northwest Housing Summit is on Thursday, March 18th and consists of panelist from across the country reprensenting all aspects of the real estate industry and various levels of government.

panelist
At this time, the featured panelist include (in no particular order):

  • Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen
  • David Horn with the Federal Trade Commission
  • Ohan Antebian with Realtors Property Resource (RPR)
  • Bret Bertolin with the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council
  • Spencer Rascoff, COO of Zillow
  • Stan Sidor Chairman of the Appraisal Coalition of Washington
  • Brenda Rawlins, President of the Washington Land Title Association
  • Frank Garay and Brian Stevens from Think Big Work Small
  • Marc Savitt of the National Association of Independent Housing Professionals
  • Ken Reid of Genworth Mortgage Insurance

We are still adding panelist to the event–I’m pretty amazed at how its all coming together!   It will be interesting to hear from these folks what they see for the near future of our housing market.   The Pacific NW Housing Summit has been approved for clock hours (some pending approval).    If you pre-register, you can save ten bucks (that’s 2 or three lattes!) vs. signing up at the door on the day of the event.    Registration includes a gourmet boxed lunch from Gretchens on Thursday.

This event is brought to you by Washington Realtors and the Washington Association of Mortgage Professionals.

barcamp-logosmallRE Barcampis no stranger to Seattle.   This will be the third Seattle REBC (not counting Bellevue’s mini-REBC last year) and what I appreciate about RE Barcamps is that each one is unique and has their own personality.  I think this happens because the volunteers vary and even more so because the event is planned based on the attendees.    I’m betting that since this RE Barcamp is taking place the day after the Pacific NW Housing Summit, that we’re going to see more sessions on issues far beyond social media.   This won’t be your “typical” REBC…at least that’s not what I’m expecting.   No lunch is included on Friday–but with all the great restaurants located near by, you won’t have to travel far.   Even though REBC Seattle is free–your rsvp is greatly appreciated.

The venue for both days is going to be great.   It’s located at the Northwest Rooms at the Seattle Center with tons of parking.   The rooms are designed for conferences and will easily handle both days formats…and there will be free wi-fi!    

I look forward to seeing everyone next month!

Twitter on a Real Estate Blog?

Over the slow Christmas weekend, we added a new feature to RCG and it generated so many interesting conversations on Twitter, that I thought I’d bring the conversation to a blog post.

The new feature is the Twitter widget on the sidebar. Here’s a snapshot:

Picture 5

The current implementation shows all the tweets from this Twitter list: @tyr/rain-city-guide, which takes all “original” tweets from current contributors plus “replies” to others on the list.

The type of feedback I *though* I would get from the other contributors was: “awesome! More Seattle people reading my tweets!” but instead, the reactions were somewhat more tame… with initial reactions being along the lines of Ardell’s reaction: “I have lots of fun on twitter and say things inappropriate for RCG.”

However, the contributors were kind to me and seem more than willing to play this out a bit, but now it’s time for feedback from the rest of the community… Here are some of the options I see for including Twitter on RCG going forward:

1. “Do Nothing” option. i.e. keep “as is”

2. Show all replies from contributors. If I add each author individually to the backend of the plugin (instead of use a Twitter list), it should include all their replies so the feed would include more people and not look like “RCG contributors talking to each other.” (However, if you check out my twitter feed, you’ll see that I talk with people from all over the country, so it will add a lot more noise to the list. Ditto for Ardell)

3. Remove the Twitter feed from RCG. (Kevin Tomlinson voted for this option when he said: “@ARDELLd mixing mediums ain’t the way to go. imo

4. Include larger Seattle community. I could use a much more general list (i.e. more than just RCG contributors).  I’ve created a bunch of “Seattle” lists associated with the Rain City Guide Twitter account. We could modify one of these lists and include the updates from anyone on one of these lists, the benefit being the feed wouldn’t just show RCG contributors talking to each other, but the negative being there’s likely to be a lot more “noise” in the updates as more people are contributing to the feed.   As someone in the RCG community (yes, that’s you if you’re reading this!), would you be interested in being on the list???

Do you have a better option?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the best way to bring Twitter into a real estate blog!

Gone Facebooking… Be back soon

seahawk fansEarlier today, I launched the latest integration between Facebook and RCG… If you check out the right sidepanel, you’ll see that you can now become a fan of RCG directly from this site thanks a new tool released by Facebook called the Fan Box.

Since I launched the RCG fan page a few weeks ago, I’ve been experimenting will all kinds of content. Some RCG articles, some news articles, some community blog posts, some event related posts… and it’s been really interesting to see which ones resonate with people enough to get them to engage. Just some of the articles I’ve highlighted on our fan page include:

What I really like about the RCG FB Page is that it lets me publish quick links that I think will be interesting to the RCG community without the need to take up a post.

If you’re interested in taking part in this extension of RCG, all you need to do is “become a fan” using the box to the right!

And if you have a story you want to see us cover, I just created a page that will let you use a nifty Facebook Updater widget to share links and/or stories with us. This is definitely not the permanent solution, but as a test of the technology, it should do the trick!

Happy Facebooking!

[CC photo courtesy of Lopolis]

My “Talking” Good Faith Estimate

Ardell asked me to share with you how I present Good Faith Estimates to my clients when I’m not meeting with them face to face…and believe or not, most of my clients I never have the pleasure of meeting.   We do most of our conversation via email or over the phone.    When possible, I like to include a presentation where I review the good faith estimate for the client section by section.  

Here’s an example from a transaction a few months ago where my clients were buying utilizing an FHA mortgage with minimum down payment.

The program I use is called Jing and you have up to 5 minutes to record your presentation (I was pushing my time with this presentation…you might be able to tell that I’m trying to wrap it up at the end).   The uses for this program are endless.

This does take some extra time to prepare an estimate…but I think it’s worth it!

Live Video Streams on RCG? With Facebook Chat?

I’ve been told my interest in using Facebook for marketing is a bit unhealthy, but I’ve been having so much fun, and this week I pushed the limits in some ways that I thought I’d share in the hope we could spark some interesting conversations…

275x229First off, I’ve been really fortunate to work with the team behind a really interesting movie called The Stoning of Soraya M. that’s being released in selected theaters today (and Seattle on July 17th). It’s a controversial movie based on the true story of a woman who was stoned to death in the Iran after being accused of adultly adultery by her husband. To help with outreach for the movie, I built (with some ridiculously well-timed help from Loren Nason of the Future of Real Estate Technology) a Facebook app that let me combine both a live video stream with a streaming facebook chat-style app. The result was an interview with the director where we took questions from the Facebook community. You can see a recording of the video on the Spinnio app page where we hosted the conversation.

However, before I was ready to go live with the app for the movie, I decided to use the Spinnio app to record a weekly radio show that I run with Rob Hahn called the RE:RnD (Real Estate Radio with Rob and Dustin)… Normally, Rob and I record our radio show form opposite sides of the country, but this week, we were both in Orange County for REBCOC. We took advantage of some of the great real estate people in attendance to interview:

You can watch the video here:

But wait, there’s more!!!

seattle-channelI happen to think the technology of streaming video with Facebook Chat is simply too interesting to resist… so I created a page on RCG that combines the live stream from the Seattle Channel with a chat box that lets you comment on the video with anyone else on RCG watching the video. While I doubt this page will get the critical mass to be extremely interesting, hopefully you can see how cool it could be and just where the Facebook chat/status update technology is heading.

Also, I’m somewhat hesitant to throw a generic chat on RCG in a prominent place, but what do you think?

FB.init(“639647c0b027e22dfc546244ab17a875”, “files/xd_receiver.htm”);

(By the way, this works! Feel free to try it out, although be prepared that each comment leaves a “status” update on your profile.)

I’ve never liked the idea of adding a message board because I simply don’t have the time to moderate it, but I have a feeling that this would be pretty self-moderating considering it’s tied to people’s Facebook account… But what do you think? Should I create a place on RCG where you can leave comments and engage in conversations that aren’t tied to any blog post?

Top 3 Reason to Love Facebook Pages

We already know the folks at RCG love twitter, and while I like twitter, the marketer in me has completely fallen for Facebook Pages (note: these are a very different beast than Facebook profiles)… and if you’re running a small business, there are many reasons you should be interested in FB Pages too.

The three main reasons I’m been putting a ton of energy into building out Facebook Pages for my clients lately are:

  • Traffic: at this point traffic from social media feeds (like twitter’s stream and Facebook’s newsfeeds) are generating more traffic than RSS feeds for almost every website I run.
  • Engagement: For new sites, it’s becoming harder-and-harder to build a “community” on your own site without tapping into the communities where they already exist (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Reach. Unlike Twitter, Facebook Pages allow you to get into the highlights and recommendation sections of fans… allowing you to reach the often elusive “friends of fans.”   For most small businesses, the friends of your fans are a ridiculously relevant audience and even more relevant than traditional SEO traffic.

rain city guide on facebook

By the way, I was inspired to create this post because I JUST created a Facebook Page for Rain City Guide and of course, I’m hoping you’ll join up and become a fan.

Similar to the Rain City Guide blog, I’m going to be using the page to engage with folks about Seattle real estate.   It’s not that we “need” another place for a conversation, but rather an experiment to see what it will look like when we take the typical RCG conversation to the Facebook audience.

Of  course, many of the stories on the Page will be about RCG articles, but truth be told, I’ll be looking to link out to any real estate articles I think will interest people interested in Seattle real estate.  So, if Facebook is the place you’d like to engage, join the conversation by becoming a fan of RCG!

And if you’re interested in a seeing a more developed implementation of Facebook Pages, check out the business page I created around my social media consulting and speaking.  In just a few months, it’s grown to over 1200 folks who are consistently engaging in ideas around using social media to generate business.