ZOLVE.com – Another RE Network

[photopress:et.jpg,thumb,alignright]On Sunday I had the opportunity to interview Brian Wilson who is today launching yet another Real Estate “Social” Networking platform, ZOLVE.com

The press release states it is “the industry’s first and only”:

COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. – October 9, 2007 – Zolve today announced the launch of the first online network for real estate professionals. Zolve is the industry’s first and only online real estate network designed to help real estate professionals streamline the client referral process and expand their spheres of influence in order to do more business.”

We all know it isn’t the first, but it may be the first to charge for the privilege of being a participant.

“Zolve offers a 30-day, risk free trial. During the first year of operation, Zolve membership is $395, a discount of $600 from the list price of $995 per year or $99 per month.”

The interesting part of this story is that Brian dreamed up the idea after being deployed and while serving in Baghdad.

The more I spoke with Brian, the less I got the impression that it was like Facebook or Linkedin, the two names he mentioned the most during the call. I said, Brian, it sounds more like a network that would have been started based on a designation like CRS. A place where agents with a CRS designation could find other CRS designated agents.

He said, well ARDELL you kind of “nailed it” in that I DID start with fellow CRS designees. I asked how many of the 2,200 pre-signed members were CRS designees. Brian replied ALL 2,200 of them hold the CRS designation.

Given that fact, one might sign up now in case the current participants assume that all are CRS designees. Just sit quietly in the closet like ET, hoping to blend in and be chosen by association. Though I think it might have been more valuable if holding the CRS Designation was a requirement of membership long term. With all of the Social Networking platforms springing up everywhere, perhaps an exclusive group would have more appeal.

The referral fees are exchanged broker to broker in the selection process, and not shared in any way by the ZOLVE owners. While it is being touted as a place for agents to find other agents, I think its value will lie in buyers and sellers being able to view the members directly.

Everyone can find most agents online all by themselves. Shouldn’t the process of an agent getting 25% or more of the commission for telling another agent about someone who is interested in buying or selling a home just go away? Shouldn’t companies like Microsoft let their new hirees from around the Country go to one of these sites and pick their own agent, instead of charging the agent 35% or more so that the Company can choose an agent for them, to help defray the relocation costs?

Still the question begs to be answered. When will technology benefit the buyers and sellers directly? When will the machine that keeps the commission high so it can be split up into various slices, fall by the wayside? When will the buyers and sellers be able to take that same 25% – 35% or more for themselves, by entering into sites like ZOLVE and choosing their own agent.

Why can’t they “refer themselves” and take the same money an agent is more than willing to pay to another agent, but not to their client direct?

Until new and more sites evolve that create better and cheaper options for consumers, these sites like ZOLVE are just another way to perpetuate same old, same old. All the commission dollars being kept high to support the good old boy agent to agent palm greasing.

So a real estate broker, this one sitting in Baghdad, dreamed up yet another way to profit off agents paying each other for an introduction to a buyer or seller of real estate, adding yet another layer of cost for the consumer.

Better to have used that “think time” to find a way for buyers and sellers to pay a small fee to enter the site, choose their own agent, and take 25% of the commission into their corner.

Referral fees should go away. Yet another site to perpetuate referral fees is using Web 2.0 for the wrong reason.