Buyers want a house; Sellers want a buyer

The National Association of Realtors held their Mid-Year conference this week. Often the Mid-Year Conference kicks up more dirt than the Annual event, as the Mid-Year conference focuses more on the business end and the mls issues (legislative sessions).  Less partying…more in depth issue discussions.

The big new issue is about Trulia and Zillow and the like. “Scraping” data vs. being spoon fed “appropriate” data. The big old issue is Dual Agency and what are “we” going to do about “it”.

The only news we must all and always be mindful of during these discussions is “we” are not the only ones in the “room”, and never will be.  Remember in the Bible when the Powers That Be of the time tried to trick Jesus into boiling everything He said in His whole life down to ONE major and single Rule?  Jesus didn’t skip a beat. If you don’t know what His one line answer was, well…go Google that. This is a Real Estate blog .

The one and only single rule of real estate, from which all other rules should follow is this: Buyers want a house at the lowest overall cost; Sellers want a buyer who gives them the highest net return.

Now take every mls rule, every State’s agency law, everything any broker wants and doesn’t want, everything any agent wants or doesn’t want, and hold it up against that one measurement…that one rule above all rules. Does what you want help buyers get their house at the lowest overall cost to them? Does what you want help sellers sell their house at the highest net return possible? If the answer is no…then change what you want.

The Big “New” Issue is about control of the mls data, control of the inventory, data scraping vs. direct feed via what insiders call IDX.  IDX is what you see when you search property on any agent site. Simple as that.

The sticky wicket for issue number one is that buyers want to see all the houses, including For Sale by Owner homes, preferably all on one site. That is why a Public MLS (kind of what Trulia and Zillow may turn into) serves the needs of buyers better than a private and Broker controlled site. That will continue to be true until and unless the Brokers fill the need of buyers (and to some extent sellers) by permitting listings that have no listing agent. Don’t hold your breath on that one.

The answer, as I see it, is two sources and not one.  One that has all listed property via any Brokerage site (as we all have access to all via IDX) and one that has all UN-listed property…and nothing else. Until then, buyer’s of homes will be confused into thinking that Zillow and Trulia and the like have all of the listed property PLUS…which it doesn’t. That means some portion of the public is always being mislead. Those that use only a brokerage site, and miss a choice For Sale By Owner property, and those that use Trulia or Zillow or, and miss a choice listed property. [One additional site for all rental property would be nice too. There’s a need someone should fill. But there never seems to be enough money generated by rental fees to support it actually happening.]

The Big “Old” Issue is Dual Agency. We already have that answer to some extent, it’s called Designated Agency. We simply need more time and practice and experience in the actual practice of Designated Agency…and that as they say is the SLOG of it. Until California adopts Designated Agency…there is no answer beyond the slog of it. When and IF California adopts Designated Agency, we’ll be able to make quicker progress.

Eradicating Dual Agency is not The NAR’s prerogative (Jim Duncan). Why? Look at The main rule of real estate according to ARDELL, characteristically in BOLD lettering in this post at paragraph four.

Sometimes and often, the buyer’s best way to get the house and/or get lowest overall cost, is by using the listing agent.  Not always, but sometimes and often. The State can’t…the NAR can’t…remove that option from the buying public. In reality what a buyer wants is full representation, from the person who knows the most about the house, and at the lowest possible cost which is free (or what they sometimes perceive to be free).

Sometimes and often, the seller’s best way to get a buyer to buy his house and get the highest net return is to cut out one of (or both of) the agents in the process.The State can’t…the NAR can’t…remove that option from the selling public In reality what a seller wants is ready access to all buyers in the marketplace without having to pay two agents, AND they want the buyer agent fee to come back to them vs. it being given to the buyer, if the buyer has no agent. They also don’t want to pay a buyer agent to tell the buyer that the house is overpriced or inadequate. They also want the agent they hire to be free to bring them a buyer direct (dual agency).

All of the answers with regard to Dual Agency are done with from the NAR’s perspective. They discourage agents from practicing it, until and unless it is absolutely necessary (when the buyer and seller want it). Each State has a long way to go on agency issues, like explaining “no agency” in it’s required agency disclosure noting it as an option. Until States stop asking for the real estate industry to approve and help with it’s agency options, “No Agency” will not appear as a fully explained option for their constituency.

Join me for a Housing Market Conversation with Lawrence Yun

I don’t normally cross-post between and Rain City Guide, but tomorrow I’m having a conversation with the Chief Economist of the National Association of REALTORS that I think will interest many people in the Rain City Guide community.   We’re going to be talking about the effect that the recent news associated with the FDIC bailing out IndyMac and the Treasuring providing support to Freddie/Fannie will have on the housing market.

I fully expect this radio show to be interesting, lively and informative and welcome you to join.   As with Rain City Radio, there’ll be an associated chat, and I’ll be picking out questions from the chat room.   Please consider joining us!

Are you going to Vegas?

or more interestingly, are you going to my presentation on Tuesday morning?

If so, I’d love to know. I’m just finishing up the presentation now and would love to include a few screenshots of people’s blogs who will be in the audience.


By the way, the impetus for this blog post is that I like to localize my presentation. But considering most of the people in the audience will not be from Vegas, I’m looking for another way to personalize the show… Maybe it will work, maybe it won’t… but it won’t do much harm to try.

And there are lots of clues for what the talk filed under the seminar tag

Tweet tweet

So far, we have Jeff, Joel, Jessica, Keith and Myself prepared to twitter the NAR 2007. Follow along, or better yet tweet with us, at Jeff’s summary site: NAR Updates.

And I’m voting for using “NAR2007” (one word) as our tag on Flickr, YouTube, etc. Use it and you’ll make it easy for us to find your stuff! 🙂

Does the NAR & the Big Brokers really want to fight The Blogosphere?

There have been a lot of discussions lately regarding Blogging, both it’s merits and potential for fallout on many levels. The problem with trying to keep Blogging under wraps: If you do, you have the potential for political backlash, both from the agents that build the brand of the broker (Re/Max, Windermere, Coldwell Banker, etc. ) and the Blogosphere itself, an enormous Goliath. Is it a battle anyone really wants to have?

Over at the Seattle PI Real Estate Professionals Blog, agent Sandy Kaduce remarked, “they will take away my blog from me when they pry it from my dead cold hands.” And, our friends howling down in the Sun in Phoenix take on the National Assn. of Realtors possible policy on curbing blogging for its membership.

But, what if an agent’s very own client blogs about their very own listing for sale and soliciting advice from the general public? For example, this case at Seattle Bubble from blogger “Econ101”. (a little more than halfway down in the comment fields)

I’m not certain anyone understands the possible repercussions of curbing blogging.

Death by a thousand paper cuts

[photopress:papercut.jpg,thumb,alignright]Every once in a while a realtor or broker from out of state will ask me to develop an IDX web site for them. Unfortunately, supporting a new MLS is very similar to supporting a foreign language. It is a large software engineering task that takes a lot of time, and since I don’t already have the code written and don’t already have access to their MLS’s feed, I inform them that time is money and the conversation usually ends there. Someday, that may not be the case, but I’d rather be small & profitable than large & broke.

The problem is made worse by the fact that many Realtors don’t know what format or protocol their MLS uses for data downloads or even who to contact in their MLS to get a feed for an IDX vendor. If you ever want to change IDX vendors, hire a software engineer or are crazy enough to do it yourself, you should know this. Knowing how your MLS distributes your listing data is like knowing how to change the oil in your car or how to defragment your hard drive. You don’t have to know, but it’s good to know. It may seem like I’m ranting about some MLS techie mumbo jumbo thing again, but it is preventing the industry from taking advantage of the low cost IT innovations that could be. I don’t think folks fully appreciate the challenges that an IDX vendor faces and how those challenges are retarding the industry’s growth and health.

For example, the NWMLS (Northwest Multiple Listing Service – serves mainly Seattle, WA and western Washington) uses software from Rapattoni. It provides listing data via a proprietary SOAP interface and all the photos are accessible via an FTP server. Listing data is updated constantly (a new listing usually appears in our feeds about 15-20 minutes after it’s been entered into NWMLS by a member as I understand it).

By contrast, EBRD (East Bay Regional Data – serves mainly Oakland, CA and the east bay area) uses Paragon by Fidelity MLS Systems provides it’s listing data via nightly updated CSV text files, down-loadable by FTP. The new and updated listings images are accessible via ZIPed files via FTP. The photos for active listings which haven’t been recently added or changed are not available (unless you bug the IT dept).

The only way they could make their systems more different is if the EBRD encoded their listings in EBCDIC! In order to support both, I need to develop 2 very different programs for downloading the listing data onto my server, importing the listing data in my database, dealing with differences in the listing schema (for example, the EBRD doesn’t contain a “Number of Photos” field or a “Community Name” field), dealing with differences in the photo location downloading (the NWMLS stores all photos in an uncompressed format in one of a thousand sub directories while the EBRD just stores the fresh photos in one big zip file). So I can spend my limited time improving my software for new markets (that have no customers) or improving my software for my home market (which has paying customers). Unfortunately, given the current market realities I can only afford to support my home market at this time since MLS IDX programs can be very different and there is no place like home (so far as I know anyway).

I keep waiting for RETS to save me from this madness, but until it happens in Seattle or the East Bay, I’m not holding my breath. After all, if two of the larger MLSes in the country in the two most tech savy areas of the nation don’t support it yet, I interpret it to be a vote of no confidence. I suppose, RETS could be going great guns in the rest of the country, but if it was, I’d expect the NWMLS & EBRD to be all over it, like the establishment on Redfin.

The Center for REALTOR® Technology Web Log, paints a rosy a picture regarding RETS deployment in the industry. Unfortunately, according to Clareity Consulting, an IT consulting firm that serves MLSes and other parts of the real estate eco-system, RETS is the NAR’s unfunded mandate. Although, everybody wants the benefits of RETS, nobody is willing to pay for it. Furthermore, it appears back in days before I got sucked into real estate technology, there was an effort to promote the DxM standard and that went nowhere (which is a bad omen). What’s worse is that they keep moving the goal posts. We don’t even have widespead RETS 1.0 support, and they’ve already depreciated that standard going full bore on RETS Lite and RETS 2.0. It seems the biggest problem is one of vision and scope. They keeping adding more features to cover more scenarios, when we don’t even have wide deployment of the existing standard (assuming that we had standards to begin with at all). It reminds of the recent software industry debacle that is known as “Longhorn reset“. The problem is that RETS is just too complicated, in an environment with too many legacy systems in place, too few resources to support it, and excessive aspirations. The idea of RETS is great, it’s the implementation and deployment that’s disappointing and at least Microsoft pulled Vista out if it’s death spiral…

[photopress:pappercutter.jpg,thumb,alignleft]The sad thing is that computer industry already has great tools for moving data around over the Internet in efficient and well supported (if sometimes proprietary ways). They allow you to query, slice, and dice your data in a near infinite number of ways. They’re called database servers. They are made by multiple software vendors and there are even some excellent open source ones out there. They let you set permissions on what accounts can see what tables or views (gee, sounds like something an MLS would want). The better ones, even have this level of security to the field level. Even better, most of these so called database servers have the ability of exporting data into spreadsheets, reporting tools, and even GIS systems. All of them provide a well defined and often times well implemented API that software developers can use and exploit to implement what hasn’t been invented yet!

Why doesn’t the NAR & the MLSes save us all the trouble, standardize on a few good database platforms (I’m a fan of MS SQL Server and MySQL, but I’d settle for anything that has ODBC, .net & Java support at this point), and provide everybody RDBMS accounts? It’d lower the cost for us IDX vendors (less code to write, since everything is just SQL), it’d lower the costs for MLS vendors (since data access, security, programmability, and scalability is now the RDBMS vendor’s problem), provide more choices for agents and brokers (since getting Excel talking to MS SQL Server is a cakewalk compared to RETS) and it will lower IT costs for the MLS (because the MLS vendors don’t need to invent an industry specific solution to a problem that’s been largely solved already and I’m betting that the MLS vendors already use somebody else’s RDBMS to implement their solutions anyway). Granted, a SQL Server won’t enable all the scenarios that RETS wants to enable (if RETS was ever well implemented and widely deployed enough for that happen). However, I’m of the belief that it’s not going to happen until after Trulia or Google Base becomes the de facto nationwide MLS by providing a single schema with a simple REST like web services interface.

So, what does your MLS do to support IDX vendors? Do they provide all the data all the time, or just daily updates? Have they deployed RETS yet? Are they going to? Who is their MLS software vendor or do they have a home gown solution? What do you want to do, that you can’t do today because the data is in a format that you can’t use easily? Would you be willing to pay more in membership dues for better software or better service from your MLS? Are we at the dawning of the RETS revolution, or is it too little, too late?

PS – Anybody, know anybody from an MLS / IDX dept or MLS vendor that blogs? I’d love to know what things are really like on their side of the listing data fence.

NARdi Gras Blogging

[photopress:nardi_gras_eventlogo.gif,full,alignright]The folks over at the Center for REALTOR Technology have made it a bit too tempting, so I’ve decided I’m going to blog the NARdi Gras!

Please join me over on the new blog platform on as I take over the site with a Mardi Gras theme for the next week. 🙂

By the way, if you are attending the convention and plan to blog, let me know! I plan to keep an extensive list of bloggers covering the event!

Also, I’d love to keep track of all the real estate technology products that are going to be announced at the event, so if you’re releasing something, let me know. I already mentioned my first product announcement yesterday (when I said that Top Producer recently unleashed a blogging tool available to any of their clients for FREE!!!), and I’m sure there will be many more to come over the next few days!


[photopress:images.jpg,full,alignright] The big news today, according to Inman, is that the Judge has ruled against the National Association of Realtor’s motion to dismiss the suit against them by the Department of Justice.

I don’t think this is a surprise. In fact, had the Judge ruled otherwise, it would have been a great disappointment. A lot of time and money has already been spent by both sides, and much more money will be spent before all is said and done. Had the motion been dismissed, all of those public funds spent, would have been for naught. And that can’t be a good thing.

My only concern about the whole thing, is that the DOJ doesn’t know enough about what they don’t know, to achieve the best results for the public at large. Lots of fishing expeditions, but what will they achieve, when all is said and done. It clearly would be best for all concerned if NAR would just “get real”. But that is not likely to happen. So the chips will fall where they may, in the end. My worst fear is that it will end up like the AT&T breakup. My worst fear will likely be the end result, the way things are going so far.

"Frank"-speak on "broads" and the mls' lame 24 hour rule

[photopress:bgrable.jpg,thumb,alignright] This broad is lonely. You know, the kind of lonely that just has to be scratched…like an itch. So she says to me, she says, Frank, I just gotta get out there and get a man, and she starts putting on her coat. I say Whoa there…hold up, Babe. You ain’t gonna get the right man that way. Go in the toilet there and fix yourself up a bit first. Pin up your hair like Betty does, and put on that fancy armored under-stuff that makes every woman look like a Betty Grable pinup at first look, till you get up real close and see the spines on ’em. That’s right. Take your time, honey. The better you look, the more successful your gonna be at this venture. Now put on that lipstick and pull down that thing over there and hike up that and stand up real tall, like you don’t need nobody! That’s better. If youse goes out lookin’ like a loser, that’s exactly what you will end up bein’ at the end of the night…a loser!

Now someone please tell me who came up with that stoopid mls rule that says a seller HAS-TA put his house up for sale within 24 hours after he signs a listing contract? Hell man, da ink isn’t even dry yet! Do yus really think an owner can get his sh-t together that fast and spif up da joint in 24 hours?! Heck…he barely has time to pull up his pants and douse his tonsils with his “Jack”. Are you guys kiddin’ me??

And what agent worth his weight in peanuts is gonna have a fancy, glossy, snappy flyer ready in 24 hours? Heck, can ya even get a sign up that fast? Who made up that rule anyways? You guys better stop drinkin’ that NAR Koolaid and get da F outta here pronto! Cause I ain’t puttin’ my house on the internet for everyone to peek at until it’s good and ready! Ya hear dat! GOOD and ready. And youse guys can go pound sand with your lame mls rule dat says udderwise. I don’t give a rat’s behind if you guys stab each other in da back or in da front or any other ways. Dat ain’t MY problem! You can’t tell me what I HAVE to do and you sure as hell can’t tell me that I ain’t got no say in it. So what that I can give you some letter saying “hold up, pal”, what about da poor slobs dat don’t know any better and have their underwear hanging over the shower curtain in the mls photo. Scratch that rule…scratch it now…cause it’s lame. Like my pal Robbie says…Lame, Lame, Lame MLS Rule! Trash it, cause it’s garbage and its stinkin’ up da place!”

I’m signing this here contract to get me the best damn agent there is and I’m sure as hell payin’ him plenty of dough! So’s he better damn well work his butt off for a whole lot more than TWENTY FOUR HOURS before HE pushes that button that sends me LIVE into the cyberworld.

I thought it was jes dose NAR Koolaid drinkin fools spoutin’ this garbage. But when I saw David Barry sayin’ his NEW Consumer Oriented Free Public mls was gonna go and copy that same stoopid lame mls rule, I said dat’s IT. I’ve HAD it. Jilly…go knock some sense into dos guys before the whole planet goes koo-koo on dat koolaid! Knock some heads together if ya has to…but don’t let the poor public be fooled into thinkin that they have to go out in public lookin’ like a LOSER! It ain’t dare right to say so…cause I say so and it just ain’t the right way to treat people and their most valuable asset. Heck, a girl takes longer than that to spruce herself up to find a guy. How da heck is a fella supposed to spruce up his whole house in 24 hours! It ain’t right…it just ain’t right.

Polarized Activity and the Real Estate Industry

[photopress:Cavegirl.jpg,thumb,alignright]I started butting heads on industry changes long before I started “blogging”. Below are two “posts” I made to an internal agent real estate forum about a year ago. They have been “picked up” on the internet, and so are now “publicly available” on the internet. I thought I would take them out, dust them off, and look at them again and see if my views have changed at all in the last year.

From September 2005: The challenge of this industry is to find the correct resolution to “What’s wrong with this picture?”

From the DOJ and the consumer standpoint, what’s RIGHT with this picture is the opportunity for Joe Public to pay less than the rate Realtor’s dictate is correct and appropriate. What resolution resolves the issue for both Realtors and the public’s right to competition in the marketplace with regard to cost of service?Secondly, if you insert the EBA model into the above excerpt with all facts the same except “Why would you want to call the “Seller’s Broker” when you can have separate and full representation at the same price?” you have another question to answer. What “boycotts” the discounter also “boycotts” the EBA, as they both use other Broker’s listings to promote a model that urges you not to use the company who listed the property. Is there an answer that is fair to the listing company/agent, provides an open marketplace with regard to commissions charged consumers, and allows the Exclusive Buyer Agent to promote the benefits of separate representation?

Is your response part of the solution or simply an attempt to keep your finger in the hole in the dike for as long as you can.
Ardell DellaLoggia

To date, the Realtor organization has considered it a courtesy or “by permission of” the listing company for one to advertise oneself by using another company’s listings. Those outside of the Realtor organization have not considered this internal courtesy arrangement, and so are confused by the Realtor argument against anyone using listing info as they choose without approval. Even within the industry there are discrepancies as listing “agents” give permission when, in fact, the Broker should be, and usually is not consulted.

The house of cards is toppling. We created a system that supported the traditional business model and frankly, “set” fees nationally. The DOJ is not incorrect in seeing a problem with the system from the consumers’ perspective. It is incumbent upon the movers and shakers of this industry to promote a solution that is fair to all.

To date, our systems have only supported the full service, traditional, full fee business model. I once suggested to Early (maybe twice 😉 that he not be a Realtor as his business model does not “fit” with the Realtor organization’s objectives. I put my money where my mouth is in that I have followed my own advice. I set my fees on a case by case basis and I am very cognizant of the consumers’ right to choose their form of representation among the various options available to them. I am not a “discounter” or “single agency shop” by definition, I simply allow the possibility for the consumer to choose from all options. That is really all the public wants and deserves.


Back to the present, sometimes it takes a “Cavegirl” who has been around the block a few times, and carries a big club, to beat the issues into submission from both sides of the fence. I’m going a bit inward here and re-examining my own words and thoughts from a year ago. Are we any closer to the true solution? NAR is not. The DOJ is not. I’ll have to read over my own words a couple of times and see where we are…