February 2009

Join me at the AFIRE conference!

by THE WAV GROUP on February 27, 2009

afire logo

The 3rd annual AFIRE (Awesome Females in Real Estate) is being held from March 25th – 27th in historic Savannah, Georgia. This is absoiutely my favorite conference of the year. It is the only conference I have ever attended that combines personal growth with incredible real estate networking opportunities.Conference attendees are primarily female executives from real estate brokerages, technology vendors, associations and MLSs.  It is a terrific collection of hard-working, intelligent, successful women who come together to share ideas about how to open the potential for more success in business and personal situations. For those of you that feel like you need some support and nurturing during this tough time, AFIRE is for you.  It is a time to let your hair down with peers and help each other solve problems and challenges. It is also a time to learn new skills and gain broader perspectives about the industry that you can apply when you get back to the office. If you can possibly find the time, energy and funding to attend I would highly recommend you make room in your schedule for it.  You will not regret it! Here’s some of the particulars: There are a superb lineup of speakers for this year’s meeting. The theme is “Navigating from Chaos to Opportunity.” Marilyn Naylor will give the opening keynote on “The Elephant in the Room–Fear.” She has lead fear and anger workshops for years and will have concrete suggestions on how to move past the obstacles that stop are stopping many of us right now. John King, who has an incredible model for leadership and is the co-author of Tribal Leadership, will round out the speakers on the first day, followed by the opening reception and slumber party (women only.) Terri Murphy will provide the opening keynote on the second day. Terri has an inspiring story about reinventing her life after a major car accident that almost killed her. In addition to the keynotes, we’ll have panels on technology trends, going green, protecting yourself (both on and offline) and some wonderful surprises as well. On Thursday afternnoon, we’ll head out for a tour of three antebellum homes. After the tour, you’ll have time for shopping and then on to Paula Deen’s for dinner. We’ll wrap up on Friday between 12 and 1:00. Due to the economy,  the early bird special at $695.00 rather than the $895 is being extended.  […]

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New Green Rating Service Franchise Launched

by THE WAV GROUP on February 27, 2009

The Closing Gift that Keeps on Giving Fox Energy Specialists launched the country’s first green/energy rater franchise last week at the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) National Conference in New Orleans, LA. The timing for the launch could not have been better with the announcement of the Stimulus package which includes millions of dollars earmarked for Energy Improvement projects in all 50 states. In attendance at the conference, were key staff members from the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Program and the Department of Energy who were there to educate the Home Energy Rating Industry on both current and upcoming programs, and how Raters are needed across the country to support them. According to James Rodriguez, Executive Vice President for Fox Energy Specialists, “We took a close look at the secrets behind our success as an energy rating company, and found that more than 60% of the Rating Business relies on the administrative and support systems behind the actual services provided to clients. We have our systems automated and patented. Unfortunately, most certified Energy Raters are trained on becoming great Rater technicians, but very few are trained on running a great Rating Business. That’s why we decided to launch the franchise.” He continues, “According to the National Association of Home Builders, Green Building is projected to grow into a $40-$70 billion market in the next four years. Energy Raters in the industry know that green begins with energy efficiency.” Fox Energy Specialists, a Division of The Nelrod Company, is an award winning Home Energy Rating Provider based in Fort Worth, Texas with offices in Houston and Washington, D.C. Fox Energy Specialists has been providing ENERGY STAR Services, energy code inspections and existing home energy audits in Texas since 2000 and after eight years and over 40,000 homes, the firm has earned the country’s only process patent (U.S. Patent No. 7,389,157) for inspecting a home’s energy efficiency. It would be great to see the real estate industry embrace the concept of energy ratings and provide them as a value-add their customers when they buying or selling a home.  What about an energy rating instead of a traditional closing gift?  Your customers will appreciate you every month when they realize you helped them save money on their energy bill!  

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SIMI VALLEY, Calif., February 26, 2009 – Rapattoni Corporation announced today that Goomzee Corporation, the text message marketing solution provider, has successfully completed their integration of the Single Sign-On (SSO) standard. With the SSO feature in place, MLS users can log on to the Rapattoni MLS system once and access Goomzee’s marketing and lead generation platform without requiring separate logons. Goomzee is the first mobile solutions provider to implement SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) with their system. SAML technology is the backbone upon which SSO is built. SSO and SAML allow the establishment of “trust” relationships between the Rapattoni MLS site and other Web sites for the convenience of the users. Rapattoni’s SSO program is based on open standards and allows the user to avoid repeated logons. Once the user gains access to Goomzee’s SAML compliant remote site, they can move freely between the websites. Rapattoni has been leading the charge on this open standard for the real estate industry since early 2007. To see other SAML compliant vendors visithttp://www.rapattoni.com/prod/securelogon/sso_saml_vendors.asp. Nick Rapattoni, president of Rapattoni Corporation, said, “We are committed to developing technology solutions that simplify the user experience. This achievement is another example of how Rapattoni continues to provide innovative solutions that set the standard in the real estate industry.” Mike Sparr, CEO of Goomzee, said, “Goomzee takes great pride in developing enterprise-grade technology solutions that are easy to use and result in increased efficiency and opportunity for real estate professionals. Our integration with Rapattoni is a perfect example of how simple we make it for sales professionals to add the mobile channel into their traditional marketing and sales activities.” About Goomzee Goomzee Corporation provides a mobile marketing technology platform that connects buyers and sellers at the point-of-interest. Goomzee’s flagship product, Realty Connect, and now Mobile Virtual Tours, specifically assists real estate professionals to win more listings, acquire more leads and close more sales. The Company was established in 2003, offering hosted online storefronts to small businesses as well as consulting for some of the world’s largest companies and brands. Goomzee is an industry leader in text message marketing and continues to innovate from a client-first perspective. To learn more, visithttp://www.goomzee.com/ or call Goomzee at (866) 472-6062. About Rapattoni Rapattoni Corporation has been serving the real estate industry under the same name and management for 39 years. The company provides an array of integrated products and services for real […]

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What is a VOW and how can it help you grow your business?

by THE WAV GROUP on February 24, 2009

Part One of a five part series “Roadmap to using VOWs in Real Estate”   A Powerful New Marketing Tool As a result of a settlement between the US Department of Justice and the National Association of REALTORS®, brokers now have a powerful new marketing tool at their fingertips. Brokers who are members of a MLS can now provide more comprehensive information to their customers than any non-REALTOR® website can feature. They can now offer a data feed of all MLS listing information to their clients via a Virtual Office Website (VOW). Consumers are hungry for more and more real estate information. They are not only looking for active data, but any information that will help them get a better gauge on the local real estate market and neighborhoods they are interested in. They are looking for as much accurate, comprehensive and current information available. Who better to serve their information needs than REALTORS®? The MLS has the greatest depth of real estate information available anywhere. VOWs can help the industry capitalize on the strength of MLS and Property databases. They can help keep REALTORS® at the center of the real estate transaction instead of encouraging consumers to go to third party non-REALTOR® websites for their real estate search needs. What is a VOW?   The simplest definition of a VOW is a broker website that allows consumers to access all of the non-confidential information in the MLS after registering with a REALTOR®. Virtual Office Websites are really not much different from the websites that brokers offer to consumers today. There are only two significant differences – more data fields and a registration requirement. More Data Fields The rules and regulations pertaining to the display of listing information on broker websites across the country vary from market to market. Some markets have long permitted the display of deeper data fields like Sold Listings, Listing History, Tax Data, Price per Square Foot, and Days on Market. However, many markets did not allow this information to be displayed online. Only a member agent or broker could access that level of data by signing into the MLS and delivering the information to their client. Suffice it to say that MLSs are now required to provide a data feed of all MLS information to any member broker for display through VOWs with a few exceptions: A. Expired, withdrawn, or pending Listings B. Compensation offered to […]

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MLSs can learn from the State of California Legislature

by THE WAV GROUP on February 21, 2009

Many of you may have seen glimpses of the issues that the State of California legislature faced in passing their budget.  They were faced with closing a $42 Billion budget deficit. The final budget recently agreed upon but some voter resolutions that will need to be passed in order for the budget to work. Funding levels will need to be cut that impact citizen benefits like education, health services, and other key areas. Furthermore, revenues will need to be increased in areas like vehicle registration fees and sales tax.  These changes will not be popular, as they will touch everyone in the state in a significant way, but are necessary to stay solvent. We see similar discussions happening in our strategic planning sessions with MLS Boards. MLSs are faced with new challenges today.  The Department of Justice is mingling in their affairs, and MLS of Choice combined with Data Sharing gives participants new MLS offerings.  How do you balance services with fees?  What is your MLS’ core product and what is its competitive value?  How do you communicate your product offering and value to your participants? These are difficult questions that require strategic thinking, research, and debate to answer.  One strategic path is to offer low fees and fewer services; the other is to offer higher fees and more services. The answer requires an assessment of competition and a balancing of services and fees that reflects the needs of your participant customers (research).  It is clear to me that bulk license agreements per member per month for products that are being used by less than 5% of participants will need to be restructured or cut.  Focus will need to be placed on core services that MLSs must provide at the expense of removing services that are nice to have.  Training and participant communications will be critical to making sure that participants are leveraging the core services in the best possible way to get the maxim value from them. If you need help, be sure and contact the WAV Group.  

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WAV Group's ComScore Portal Results show Yahoo! in the lead

by THE WAV GROUP on February 20, 2009

There has been a lot of chatter of Trulia vs. Zillow this past week.  I did not see the results of the battle royal, but I think that brokers and agents should use both of them to have a comprehensive and effective online solution. The giant in the closet that seems to get lost in this discussion is realestate.yahoo.com – who passed REALTOR.com in traffic three months ago and continues to lead.  WAV Group also reported this in our Listhub Syndication study last fall.  Please note that REALTOR.com does hold a lead if you roll in MSN which is powered by Realtor.com.  Also, AOL would look better if the combined results also included Cyberhomes which came in 30th on the list. Here are the WAV Group January 2009 Comscore numbers for top third party portals (reported in Millions). #1 Yahoo! Real Estate – 5,968 Unique Visitors – +24% Month over Month, +29% Year over Year *record high $2 Realtor.com 5,173 Unique Visitors – +37% Month over Month, -18% Year over Year #3 AOL Real Estate (powered by Cyberhomes) 3,680 Unique Visitors, -4% Month over Month, +35% Year over Year #5 MSN Real Estate 2,729 Unique Visitors, +18% Month over Month, 0% Year over Year #7 Zillow 2,478 Unique Visitors, +31% Month over Month, +24% Year over Year #8 Trulia 2,422 Unique Visitors, +29% Month over Month, +12% Year over year.  

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Good and Evil

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands: one Nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.” Recently I was given an opportunity to share a summary of the settlement between the United States Department of Justice and the National Association of REALTOR regarding Virtual Office Websites.  Before the meeting, we stood together with our right hand over our hearts and chanted the Pledge of Allegiance To the Flag of the United States of America. As I stood before the MLS Board, their shareholders, and broker members, I was awash with the feeling that in some way, the Department of Justice was acting in a way that reduced the freedom of our republic and the libertarian view of our founding fathers, and the MLS in which I stood. Now the Department of Justice has a new target.  They are mingling in the governance of the Consolidated Multiple Listing Service of Columbia, South Carolina stating that their fees are too high, and forcing them to accept listing contracts like exclusive-agency whereby a consumer represents himself or herself in a transaction.  Is the Department of Justice going too far in their interference with private industry?

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Broker Website Effectiveness Study

by THE WAV GROUP on February 16, 2009

Last year WAV Group was given access to many of the top broker websites in the country to view thier traffic statistics. The hope was that by sharing the aggregated data, many of the false myths of succeeding online would be dispelled. As it turns out, SEO is not a big deal (despite some websites spending more than $1MM over time on it). Listing Syndication is important for sellers, but also not a huge driver of traffic. REALTOR.com does not pass much traffic along to brokers. And there is more.  Please download our whitepaper on the topic here. Or enjoy the presentation I prepared for the world wide luxury real estate conference in Paris by clicking the read more offer

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Are we going to give yet another marketing advantage away to third parties? Hard times call for hard measures….we need to be aggressive as we can and leverage every marketing tool available to us.  We need to provide consumers with the information they require.  To stay at the center of the transaction real estate pros need to provide consumers the information they want in the way they want it. What is the one of the most important marketing tools top producers can provide –  feedback from past clients. As noted in the WAV Group paper entitled Your Secret Weapon, Your Reputation, consumers do not really trust traditional advertising nearly as much as they used to. They look to credible sources to tell them the “truth”, not marketing hype filled with “look at me, look at me” messages. Top producers bend over backwards to satisfy the needs of their clients arguably more than any other industry. When’s the last time you called your lawyer at 8:00 pn on a Saturday to set up an appointment for Sunday morning?  There is a great opportunity to take credit for all of this hard work now. The Internet has opened up opportunities to share your great performance and client satisfaction via the Internet now. This type of feedback is espeically important for buyer’s agents who do not have listings to use as a promotional tool. There are many third parties who have recognized the consumers desire for this type of client feedback. Consumers look to fellow consumers for guidance on choosing a REALTOR® just like they do when they buy a digital camera or choose a book. Companies like Agentratings.com are taking advantage of this trend. They are leveraging the reputations of realtors to create traffic to their site.  They are happy to sell agents leads from consumers looking for an agent. Redfin is now offering agent ratings on their site as well. Is the industry going to give away yet another powerful marketing tool – realtor reputations?   We gave away listings years ago and now many companies use our own industry data to create value for THEIR shareholders, not for REALTORS®.  Lets not let third parties own one of the most important assets agents work so hard to secure their reputation! Check out a company like QSC(Quality Service Certified) instead. Built by REALTORS® for REALTORS®, they send feedback forms only to your clients and […]

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Victor Lund delivers VOW Session to NNRMLS Leadership

by THE WAV GROUP on February 13, 2009

Virtual Office Websites or VOWs will be going mainstream in 2009 as a result of the Department of Justice settlement with the National Association of REALTORS.  WAV Group has been delivering a series of talks to MLSs around the country to MLS Directors, Shareholders and Broker members to outline how VOWs.  Please contact Victor Lund if you need support communicating the impact that VOWs will have on real estate websites to your membership. VOW Overview   View more presentations from victorlund. (tags: virtual office)

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Developing your global brand

by THE WAV GROUP on February 7, 2009

Marilyn Wilson of the WAV Group prepared a dynamic presentation for the members of Who’s Who in Luxury Real Estate who attended the recent international conference in Paris. Developing Your Global Brand   View more presentations from victorlund. (tags: branding real)

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Who should drive this real estate bus?

by THE WAV GROUP on February 3, 2009

Attending the recent Real Estate Connect conference in NY City I heard a lot of very bright individuals speak about the future of MLS.  There were some great opinions and observations a few semi- heated debates but more than anything, what really stood out for me, was how disjointed and dysfunctional our industry is in some regards.   The other thing that struck me was how well our industry and in particular, MLSs, work in spite of that fact. Think of the different tracks we see being taken by influential, bright movers and shakers in our industry and tell me if you agree with any of my observations. NAR is driving forward with their plans for a national property database, currently called the Realtors Property Resource. They say the intent it not to create a national MLS but let’s get real, if it walks like a duck…If this project really comes together it will be hard for it not to take on some or all aspects of a national MLS at some point in the future. I’m not making a judgment on whether this is a good or bad thing at this point but there is no way it is not going to impact every MLS in the country if it comes about. Large regional consolidation is taking place on a regular basis around the country. This is not being done in conjunction with a national master plan. It is being done based on real, immediate needs of local markets. Open minded MLS leaders are breaking down walls and coming together on common platforms in many places where the natural selling areas have been redefined over the years. Where the boundaries really have changed these MLS regionals are a “natural” evolution. On another front data warehousing/sharing efforts are taking place in several areas in the country where multiple MLSs, on the same or different vendors, are using a separate technology like the MRIS CURE product, to create a common data platform that allows for seamless data sharing. All of the shared data can be pushed back to each respective MLS system or ultimately the underlying system, be it CURE or some other solution, where it can be accessed directly. This movement is also taking place as a result of real and immediate local market needs and is being driven by the executive leadership of these MLSs. At some state levels, we […]

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European Model May Point to Future of U.S. Real Estate

by THE WAV GROUP on February 2, 2009

Over the past 2 years I have been very involved professionally with a brokerage/franchise model that originated in Europe and recently came to selected areas of the U.S. The name of the company is Engel & Volkers. I have been helping this company understand the US real estate industry, our technology and how they needed to modify their system to successfully enter our market. They did just that in late 2006 in Florida, where they have about 30 licenses. Next they opened in NY and New England in 2007 where they now have about 12 licenses and most recently they launched in California with their first license being signed in Santa Monica. The timing was obviously not the best given the recent economic issues we face but in spite of that they are selling new licenses when many existing franchises are closing offices. The model is quite different from current U.S. models and while reading through Michael Wurzers blog on the future of the real estate industry, I thought it was worth sharing some of the differences as they tied in nicely with some of the other posts Michael points out. As an aside, Michael’s posts have been fantastic for both his comments and insights but also the great links to widely varying views on the whole topic of the broker/agent model today and in the future. I see the approach this European company is taking in their worldwide and U.S. expansion as tying in nicely with some of the observations made on Michael Wurzers blog, a related post by Rob Hahn and also Danilo Bagdanovic’s post. By all means read all of these posts and those they reference for a better view of the whole topic.   Engel & Volkers began in Hamburg, Germany in 1977. They have been franchised for 10 years or so, and now have licenses on five continents and in 25 countries. There model is quite unique, compared to current U.S. franchise models and I believe their model falls in line with some of the points mentioned by Rob Hahn in his post last month but there are differences as well. Rob points out (from his post): I believe that the brokerage of the future will be large enterprises that are consumer-centric, with most of the power shifting back to the broker and away from the agent. I believe that the smaller brokerages will become boutique shops, who are allowed to […]

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