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.

Dear Zillow-meisters – Better start makin’ copies of the Trulia-nator

The folks at Trulia, have just released a new feature that is cooler than the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. In fact, I think Zillow and will need to order more photocopiers. Trulia has just released their Trulia Publisher Platform, and the coolness of this feature is that it lets publishers use their search technology, with your listings, with a publisher’s co-branding, and at no cost to the publisher. This is the real estate equivalent of Google AdSense and will change the nature of the real estate web advertising game, perhaps drastically.

Currently, Trulia has signed up Kiplinger, American Towns, and perhaps most interesting, Seattle Weekly. Getting Seattle Weekly as a publishing partner has to annoy Zillow more than Apple giving free computers to Redmond-area schools annoyed Microsoft. If Trulia can sign up more publishers (frankly the value proposition is so simple & compelling for small to medium sized publishers, I can’t think of a reason why they won’t sign up) they are going to have to upgrade their servers to handle the increase in traffic.

What’s this mean for publishers? Well if they are small or medium sized, they just got a much more effective way of associating their brand and increasing real estate related web traffic. Granted, Trulia controls the listings and the technology, but if your core competency isn’t real estate search, getting a co-branded search tool is much more cost effective. And since Trulia has over 2 million listings, the publishers will probably get more traffic & ad revenue too. Seems like an easy decision to me.

If you’re a big publisher, it’s a much harder decision. But since developing technology is expensive and getting listings critical mass is difficult, I suspect the desire to partner w/ Trulia got much stronger unless you’re a direct Trulia competitor. If Trulia gets big web media players to partner with it, things could get very interesting.

What’s this mean for I dunno, but it’s increasingly looking like they are going to get HouseValued (yes, I just made that verb up), if they don’t show some brain activity.

What’s this mean for Zillow? Just when Zillow’s listings feed program was getting off the ground, Trulia does this! I’m guessing the sales & engineering departments just learned what they are going to be working on for the next several months.

What’s this mean for the broker in the trenches or realtor on the street? Well, if you have a Trulia listings feed, you just got more free exposure. If you pay Trulia to feature your listings more prominently, well you just got a much better return on your investment. If you liked the free traffic Trulia gave you before, you’re going to LOVE them now. Perhaps even more than the 12th man, loves his Seahawks.

Where should the MLS end and the IDX begin?

The whole ruckus over the NWMLS no longer sending its member’s listings to inspired many unlit pixels of commentary and many more wasted bytes of hard drive space. As I pondered a while ago, the industry appears to have a healthy appetite for technology. However, one of the comments was really insightful….

I still feel that this decision made by the board was wrong. As was the decision last year to disable the client email updates from Locator. We have the technology but are unwilling to use it. I have no love of but I see no problem with sharing a limited set of data with them and offering our sellers maximum exposure of their listing. In fact, perhaps one of the reasons they discontinued the feed was because as Galen said, “ was given the exclusive non-broker feed…” and they were getting pressure from Google and others to get a similar feed. I say give it to them. NWMLS has the ability to provide its members, all of them, with the technology usually reserved only for those with very deep pockets.

The whole thing got me wondering if this just a tactic for the big brokers to keep their upstarts at bay? Because of the MLS system, the big brokers share their listings inventory, with the smaller and independent brokers. However, perhaps the big brokers want the technology out of the MLS, because it harms the smaller upstarts without withholding listings from them?

Maybe there’s a less nefarious motivation. Since the NWMLS board appears to be dominated by members that belong to big brokers, perhaps they don’t want the NWMLS spending its’ limited computing resources (at the end of the day, even the Google’s & Microsoft’s have limited budgets, they just have a few more zeros at the end than most of us do) in areas where a big broker’s IT department or a motivated IDX vendor could do a better job. Regardless of the motivations, it does bring an interesting issue to light.

What should the MLS responsibilities be in terms of listing change notification, statistics/reporting, automated listing distribution, listing access via mobile devices or any number of things that either an MLS or an IDX vendor could provide?

I’m sure the big brokers are less enthusiastic about this type of thing because some have probably already invented these kind of technologies in house years ago (and paid for it out of their own pocket). They probably also see the MLS as competition for viewer eyeballs and would rather the MLS make it easier to combine listings data across their empires instead of being a shared technology provider. MLS regionalization is probably much higher on their MLS IT wish list. After all, the point of an MLS is to share listings data, not share listings technology.

The independent agents and the smaller brokers, probably want the MLS to provide these services, so they don’t have invest any more money in their IDX vendor / IT infrastructure that they don’t have to. I also suspect a lot people in that market segment see technology as an expense and not as an investment. They only want it, if they don’t have to pay for it.

As for me, I’m just an IDX vendor (I don’t have a dog in the fight). From my biased perspective, the less the MLS does, the more valuable my technology becomes, the more useful my services become, and the more opportunities for paying customers I get. I want you to spend money on your IT infrastructure and your IDX vendor! Apparently, the big brokers want you to do the same via their MLS policy direction!

What's in the best interests of agents?

Jan at the logical dog has set up a petition that requests the NWMLS board to reverse it’s decision and continue sending listings to

This got me thinking about the often-interesting dynamic between the “best interests” of brokers vs the “best interest” of agents, which is something I’ve heard Russ Cofano talk to quite eloquently. However, I really don’t have a feel for how agents feel about this issue. Is the decision to stop sending listings scene as something that was “thrust” upon agents, or is it something they advocated for? Because of the NWMLS unusual status of a “broker-owned” MLS, I’m assuming the former, but I’ve been wrong before so I’d be interested in hearing from agents in the audience…

What a week!

First Zillow releases a new version of their web site.

Then Microsoft releases a new Virtual Earth (VE 3D in Firefox).

Then the a new Beta of is released.

Galen releases new ShackPrices features.

Ardell is using her Verizon EVDO card in Vegas, probably while playing the slots and sipping drinks with umbrellas in them.

Then I discover, Redfin is merging with Move and they also just sold a home in neighborhood!

I’m feeling WAY behind the tech curve today.  I’m going curl up into a ball and read my RSS feeds in a corner now…. 😉

Announcing the next great real estate blogger…

As many of you probably already know, I’ve been searching for a secret weapon that will help me win the Project Blogger competition…

[photopress:slide0001_image002.jpg,full,alignright]About a week ago, after many very interesting conversations (and many wonderful options!!!), I finally settled on my apprenticeliterally.

Interestingly, I was inspired to “Go Hollywood” with my choice after Ardell picked a Floridian based on his looks. I asked some people around Move if they knew of any Hollywood stars who might be interested and thanks to a direct connection with Trump (he’s been known to purchase the Featured Home product on!), I was able to connect up with Kendra Todd. 🙂

But beyond any celebrity, the main reason I picked Kendra is that she thinks big! Trump big! The tipping factor was that in our conversations, she convinced me that she really understood how important blogging would be if she was going to dominate her local market (the State of Florida). And yet, at the same time, she didn’t want to limit herself to Florida issues. (Florida real estate isn’t that interesting…)

I think it is safe to say that over the next few months you can expect great things from Kendra’s real estate blog!

History of

Since I know there is more than a little bit of interest among RCG readers with regard to, I thought I’d point people to this video interview I just posted with Phil Dawley (Move’s Chief Technical Officer) and also one of the first employees. (direct link to video)

BTW, I’m up for more of these interviews, so please feel free to suggest people/topics/questions… takes a step closer to Trulia

Come spring, won’t have access to the Northwest MLS, so only houses from agents who pay to participate will show up., a site the “crawls” broker web sites to fill its database, will probably have more listings from western Washington from that point going forward (the NWMLS still has the most).

Usually I believe that access trumps all, but it is unseemly for an organization like the NWMLS to give its data away for free to a corporate giant, but block all other interested parties., I’d like to be the first to welcome you to the rest of the world, where you either have to work with a licensed broker and play by the rules, accept listings for free, or crawl the web to find listings.

Corporate Blogs – Yes please!

RSS IconDustin’s comments in his last blog post got me thinking (which is never a good thing). Dustin said “You just set my blogging efforts at Move back by a year or so”. To which I reply, “I hope not! You don’t have that much time!”

One of the cool good things that has happened recently is the rise of corporate blogging. What’s interesting is you’re finding them in places you wouldn’t expect. Did you know Dell has a blog, meanwhile Apple does not? I think it’s an excellent way for a company to get in touch with it’s customers (and vice-a-versa), without the reality distortion and corporate hubris that happens when communicating via a scripted “public relations firm” message.

You may be surprised to learn that even the venerable General Motors has blog (In case anybody from GM management reads this – Good luck turning the company around and keep up the great work at Cadillac and Saturn. I’m rooting for you). If a 100 year old company in the rust belt has seen the value of blogging, I have to wonder why hasn’t every large company? 

In case you doubt the potential of corporate blogging, look no further than Microsoft. Robert Scoble helped put a human face on the “evil empire”, by spearheaded Microsoft’s Channel 9 video blogs and wrote the book on corporate blogging. When he left Microsoft for PodTech, it created nearly as much news as when Bill Gates announced his “retirement”. An anonymous Microsoft employee, through his blog has changed the company for the better. Even though the Human Resources dept has a blog, and prominent engineers have them too, a small corporate blog can as useful as the MSDN blogging network is to the “Redmond Giant”.

I personally enjoy reading Zillow’s blog, RedFin’s blog, and Trulia’s blog every day. Even the HouseValues’ blog can be interesting on occassion (it seems like they have a fun corporate culture, even if they just sell leads for a living). But where is the John L Scott, Coldwell Banker and Windermere blogs? I know countless agents of those brokers and independent brokers blog and do it very well (I think I’ve seen most of them on Rain City Guide at one time or another), but where is the human voice of those companies? They should at least give me a way to search for their agent’s blogs. Are these brokers nothing but a logo for an agent to put on their marketing? They may not realize it, but I think they are losing mind-share (which may become market-share) by being silent in the blogosphere.

Which brings me back to my original question, regarding Dustin’s comment. When is Move going to get a corporate blog?

Although, Rain City Guide is an excellent blog, it’s not the most appropriate venue for Move specific information (nor should it be). Why hasn’t Move added RSS feeds to any page that offers e-mail alerts? How are Move’s product offerings better than other things out there? What cool stuff is Move is doing? Why would a Software Engineer want to work there? Why should a realtor advertise with Move instead of one of these “Web 2.0 upstarts”? Heck, why not feature profiles of happy customers (something HouseValues does well)? I’d love to hear somebody explain the the Innovator’s Dilemma that Move faces to your constituency, so they’d understand why Zillow, etc are steeling the mind-share that used to have. What’s the best MLS in the country to deal with and why? If Dustin or his co-workers explained why things are the way they are, maybe somebody in a position to change things would read the blog and start talking? After all if GM blogs, the CEO of Sun Microsystems has a blog, and Mini & Scoble can change Microsoft, I think anything is possible.

I’m not trying to pick on Dustin, but I really want to add the Move blog to my RSS feed reader and I can’t!

Day Two – Realtor Mid-Year

Yes, I am tardy with my report for Day 2. There was not much going on from an interesting meeting standpoint so I visited the tradeshow floor. For anyone that has not been to a Realtor tradeshow, it is certainly an experience. Flashing buttons, contests, people throwing free things at you. Having been to many of these, it always amazes me the types of companies that have booths. For example, there were several jewelry and makeup booths. While I am not a woman, it seems odd that they would come to a real estate tradeshow. It would be like having Titleist as a vendor. Lots of real estate guys like to play golf but they don’t really fit at a Realtor tradeshow. Then again, I am pretty dense about this stuff and they seemed to have a bunch of women buying stuff so I guess they are the smart ones.

I visited a bunch of booths but a couple stood out for different reasons: – They intro’d a Zillow/HouseValues-like feature on their home page called “What’s Your Home Worth.” It is a lead generation system for agents that provides basic home value data and then let’s the consumer elect to get more refined info if they want from a “featured” agent. Agents can buy territories and they apparently will rotate as consumers access the feature. Once a consumer asks for more info, the “featured” agent will get an email and that consumer will see the particular “featured” agent for a period of time each time they return. With the large amount of traffic that gets, it will be interesting to see how well the lead gen system works. I tried my zip code and there was already an agent signed up! I think this will be a winner for and the agents that jump on it but I also think that agents will squak when their choice area is sold out.

HomePoint – This is a Trulia-like company (although the get data via the MLS directly) that is trying to become a portal of sorts. Agents sign up for territories and get “featured” when a consumer clicks on a listing. Again, this is a lead-gen system for agents that even extends to listing agents and FSBOs. The thing that I did not get was how they were going to generate traffic. No eyeballs, no leads.

More later….