I am a Mac. It pains me to look at this data, but the data is accurate, statistically relevant, and conclusive. The Explorer browser is faster than Firefox, with more features. I do not exactly know where Explorer lost its reputation as the internet browser of choice. Like most preferences, it likely happened gradually as consumers were attracted to shiny new objects. I must admit that there was a time when I flocked to any new browser that I could get my hands on… ergo, my tender relationship with Opera and the socially networked browser called RockMelt. Frequently, software is measured for quality in terms of features, not speed. If you think of an MLS system, your IDX search, your website, your accounting software, etc. These products are selected on the basis of what they do more than how fast they do them. But browsers are different. When you ask consumers, or family and friends why they use a particular browser, they are unlikely to tell you reasons such as the quality of spell check, parental controls, mouse gestures. They always say “because its faster.” Nevertheless – Internet Explorer is among the top feature rich browsers on the planet. If you want to see a side by side comparison, do as I did, and do a search for Internet Browsers. The page I liked the most is http://internet-browser-review.toptenreviews.com. As a side note, during MLS vendor selections, user groups also remark that speed is among their most important features, expecially in large markets where you have many concurrent users and large listing databases. In looking at the features of browsers, I tend to measure each feature in terms of importance. You will notice that Internet Explorer is the only browser to offer email and telephone support. To me, that is very important when you run your business using browser based software. In fact, MAC lovers will note that Safari is among the browsers with the worst feature set – especially for security features like Anti-Phishing. Indeed, the only reason why Safari was considered a better browser for security was that nefarious people looked at the size of the consumer audience and ignored it. Too small to attack. But this is changing, and it is not good. Evil-doers are now looking at the $2000 Mac buyer vs. $500 PC buyer and redirecting their efforts. Features aside, this article is about speed. WAV […]
Minneapolis, December 26, 2012: The Council of Multiple Listing Services (CMLS) announced that it has selected the law firm of Larson/Sobotka, PLLC, as its general counsel. Larson/Sobotka, led by managing member Brian N. Larson, brings substantial experience in MLS matters to the service of CMLS, the leading association representing multiple listing services in North America. “We are pleased to assist an important leader in the real estate industry,” said Larson, who was chief staff officer of an MLS for nearly a decade and has served MLSs as outside counsel for more than a decade. “We have a unique set of skills and experiences,” he continued. “In addition to my own experience in the industry, other attorneys here offer unique skill sets: Elizabeth Sobotka has worked on major collaborations of MLSs, including data sharing and merger efforts; and Mitchell Skinner is our lead on MLS contracts and data licensing deals.” Larson said he expects the unique experience of his firm to bring great value to the trade association. Cathy Holefelder, 2013 president of CMLS and SVP of Heartland MLS, said “We are excited to have the Larson/Sobotka expertise working in conjunction with CMLS and look forward to this working relationship.” About CMLS: CMLS was formed in 1957, as the Northwest Council of MLS. The three founding members of Northwest Council recognized the need to share ideas, service models and management concepts. The brainstorm of these MLS leaders evolved into a volunteer-led organization with a membership that stretches across all of North America. CMLS’ mission is to successfully act as the premier forum and resource for Multiple Listing Service organizations. CMLS’ goal is to provide facilitation of practical information and cutting edge management ideas to empower members (and their constituents) to meet the challenges of changing technology, legal issues, and organizational structures. About Larson/Sobotka: Larson/Sobotka PLLC is a law firm based in Minneapolis that focuses its practice on e-commerce, databases, web branding issues, and rule-making for online communities. The firm has garnered praise from clients for delivering legal advice seasoned by years of business experience; it focuses on achieving practical results while keeping legal expenses in check. The firm’s clients include many prominent real estate trade associations, multiple listing services, and brokerage firms. Check out the firm’s MLS/association-related blog at www.MLSTesseract.com.
This may be the real future of real estate brokerage. You will need to endure a series of short product stories to understand the POD concept for real estate brokerage. The coffee industry hit a home run with coffee pods. As it turns out, consumers would be happy to pay more for coffee if they do not need to deal with filters, scoops, and cans. The coffee pod industry was able to sell less coffee for a higher price by offering convenience. The pod revolution did not end with coffee. The rather smart dudes and dudettes at P&G took one look at the coffee pods and deduced that they have powered stuff that consumers would like podded up too. They released dishwasher soap pods. The same effect took place. They found that consumers hated managing boxes of powder or gooey liquid soap. They put the soap into pods and were able to sell less soap at a higher price by offering convenience. P&G was so overjoyed, that they sought out pods for everything. Next up on their list was Tide Detergent. If you have ever had to go to a laundry spot to wash your laundry, you know how painful it is to carry around that big box of Tide. P&G put Tide into pods and were able to sell less Tide for a higher price by offering convenience. There is a pod thesis for real estate, but it has not been executed yet. It is a customer for life strategy where the real estate brokerage manages everything for the consumer. Imagine fractional ownership for homes, only you own the entire house. The consumer just writes a check every month. The broker handles everything including maintenance, mortgage, insurance, everything. Atlantic & Pacific Real Estate is sort of on the path to do this. They buy bundles of homes, fix them up, and either sell them or lease them out. They run the brokerage like a factory, and provide all home services – maintenance, landscaping, mortgage, title, insurance, taxes, etc. It is nice to have a hedge fund supporting this. In many ways, I think that an innovator like Redfin could tackle something like this too. It could be easily pulled off by any of The Realty Alliance firms too. They have all of the pieces in place, especially those with large warehouse lines of credit. For many large brokerages today, […]
2012 was an outstanding year for real estate technology embracing mobile. 2013 will be even better. However, all of this new freedom functionality will be for naught if agents do not buy iPads. In November, WAV Group did a number of research projects that included information about the adoption of mobile in real estate. By our average numbers, 60% of agents now have a smartphone. 40% of agents have a tablet computer like an iPad. We would have served ourselves well to break out the types of devices that agents use by sorting Apple devices from Android devices, but we did not. Lots of people talk about cloud computing. The notion is that all applications and data are in the cloud, accessible from any device that can reach the Internet. Unfortunately, this is not exactly the case. As WAV Group has long bemoaned, the cornerstone of agent technology is the MLS, and many MLS systems have been slow to fully support Apple desktop and mobile devices. It is the number 1 complaint in agent satisfaction surveys. Sure, there are tools to work around it, but at the end of the day, many MLS systems are not fully functional on mobile. Alas, things are looking up. Most MLS systems are now cross-browser compatible or will be in Q1. In many ways, secondary applications like agent website administration, CRM, CMA, and Marketing solutions are ahead of MLSs at going mobile. All things considered, the industry is moving in the direction of supporting mobility, but 40% adoption rates for tablets undermine the marketplace. Many think that 40% adoption is great, others see it as lack luster. It is all about perspective. The single piece of advice that I would give to an agent to prepare for 2013 is to get a tablet (preferably an iPad), and learn how to use it. Brokers missed a huge opportunity up until now. Rather than complain about the MLS’s failure to support Apple and Mobile, they could have delivered end-to-end solutions that enabled the agent to skip the MLS entirely, and rely on the broker for all things in serving the client. To effectively do this, the broker would have needed to insist that administrators manage listing input and modifications. This is still a very wise and practical strategy. If you are a great broker, you have listing input in the broker solutions that you provide to […]
Congratulations to Walt Baczkowski as he returns to his roots in Association Leadership, taking the helm in San Francisco. Walt is departing his post at Point2 where he was VP of Marketing and wingman to division leader Saul Klein. San Francisco is a great Association and MLS – the crown jewel of the San Francisco Bay Area. San Francisco covers about 49 square miles, pinched between BAREIS to the north and MLSListings to the south. East Bay and Contra Costa are in the East Bay. They share some data, and most agents are members of more than one Association or MLS. It will be interesting to see if any major changes abound the Bay Area under Baczkowski’s leadership. He loves technology. Here is the press release. The San Francisco Association of REALTORS® is pleased to announce the appointment of Walter T. Baczkowski Jr., CAE, RCE as its Chief Executive Officer. Walt Baczkowski is a 31 year REALTOR® Association executive who most recently served as Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Point2 Technologies, an international MLS data syndication firm. Prior to this most recent position, he served as CEO for the Metropolitan Consolidated Association of REALTORS® (Detroit), the New Jersey Association of REALTORS®, and the San Diego Association of REALTORS®. SFAR President Jeffery Woo stated, “SFAR is fortunate to have been able to attract such an experienced CEO with a proven track record of leadership and accomplishment. As SFAR continues its mission of service to our REALTOR® members and toward the promotion of homeownership, we look forward to Walt’s guidance and management of the Association in a technologically and politically changing world. Walt Baczkowski stated, “The San Francisco Association of REALTORS® is a tremendous organization with a history of member services as well as member involvement. I am extremely fortunate to return to association management with such a terrific Association.” SFAR conducted an eight week, national search for its new CEO with the help of Jerry Matthews, a national executive recruiting advisor. It is anticipated that Walt Baczkowski will commence work with SFAR on January 15, 2013.
Only the largest brokerages in a given region provide loan solutions through joint ventures or wholly owned mortgage companies. This provides these companies with a distinct advantage in many areas of providing a full array of consumer services around home ownership. For these companies, it is a generous source of additional revenue and the consumer loves the convenience. The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that independent mortgage banks earned between $2150 and $2450 profit per loan in 2012. The average production profit in basis points ranged between 107 and 120. The average production was between 1700 and 2000 loans per quarter. The total loan production expense (commissions, compensation, rent, equipment, and other expenses) averages just over $5100 per loan. About $3300 is personnel expense. Looking to forecast production for loans in 2013? Productivity per employee averaged 3.9. So choose 4 as your break-even analysis. To improve the penetration of home service offerings, it is important that brokerages seek tighter integration between business units, especially in the area of data sharing. All home services offerings need to be clearly articulated to the consumer on the broker website, email alerts, newsletters, phone hold recordings, at open houses, in listing presentations, on mobile solutions. All customer record data needs to be collected in DPN or Profit Power and shared with the mortgage company and other home services businesses. Update customer records each year by pulling data from CoreLogic or other public record source to identify mortgage rates. Need help? Call us.
Constellation Web has been on a buying spree, acquiring two of the nation’s longest standing agent and broker web solutions providers – Birdview and Z57. The Z57 transaction closed on December 3rd. The Birdview transaction closed back in May, but we missed that. Constellation has largely been thought of as a mega broker solution – providing services to many of America’s largest brokerage companies like Howard Hanna, Coldwell Banker Burnett, Shorewest, RealtyUSA and Many others. Here is the Z57 press release TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwire – Dec 3, 2012) -Constellation Software Inc. (“Constellation”) (CSU.TO) today announced that its wholly-owned division, Constellation Homebuilder Systems (“CHS”) has purchased 100% of the shares of Z57, Inc. (“Z57″). The acquisition further expands Constellation”s market presence in online marketing for residential real estate agents. Headquartered in San Diego, California with customers across the United States, Z57 is a leading provider of web sites, lead management and lead generation solutions for real estate agents. Its market leading solutions include professionally branded websites, Internet traffic programs, PropertyPulse – a cutting edge social media offering, and Z57Go – a mobile solution for agents. “We continue to invest in new products and services in the residential real estate industry”, said Dexter Salna, President of CHS. “Constellation provides excellent products, support and services to help our customers succeed in real estate now and in the future. Our acquisition of Z57 is an ideal partnership to continue to grow our real estate presence. We welcome the customers and employees of Z57 to the Constellation family.” “We are very optimistic about our new parent, Constellation Software”, said Ryan Whitlock, CEO of Z57, Inc. “Constellation”s experience in the real estate market will strengthen Z57”s opportunity to grow its products for our current and future clients. It”s a strong strategic move for us.” About Constellation Software Inc. Constellation”s common shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “CSU”. Constellation Software is an international provider of market leading software and services to a number of industries across both the public and private sectors. The Company acquires, manages and builds vertical market software businesses that provide mission-critical software solutions. Further information about Constellation may be obtained from its website atwww.csisoftware.com. Here is the Birdview Press Release Thursday, May 31, 2012 Constellation Web Solutions Inc. welcomes the staff and customers of Birdview into the fold! This is an exciting time for CWS as the premier provider of technology solutions to real […]
WAV Group had the opportunity to work with North Texas Real Estate Information Systems in 2012, facilitating the company’s strategic plan. NTREIS is among the largest MLS service providers in the nation, and probably covers more square miles of real estate than anyone (not fact checked). It is a great organization with a popular governance model that establishes each Association of REALTORS® as the MLS Service provider to their members, powered by NTREIS. The Associations are the first line of support, training, and billing to the agents. During our project, we had the opportunity to work closely with Cindy Miller who was the MLS Director for MetroTex AOR, the largest AOR, and the largest shareholder in NTREIS. Cindy Miller has joined the team at NTREIS where she can spread best practices of providing MLS Services of all Associaton Shareholders of NTREIS. Here is the press release Dallas, Texas (NTREIS.net) – North Texas Real Estate Information Systems, Inc. (NTREIS), announced Cindy Miller as the new Director of Communications. Ms. Miller joins NTREIS after eight years as MLS Director of its largest shareholder, The MetroTex Association of REALTORS, having previously served as CEO of local associations in North Texas and East Texas. With an ever increasing number of new products and technologies to roll out to subscribers, Ms. Miller’s primary role will be to keep the Shareholder Associations informed and trained on the latest offerings. In this new role, Ms. Miller is also leading the NTREIS Customer Care Team that directly supports the staff at each of the Shareholder Associations. “Cindy’s experience working with Associations and MLS management of various sizes along with her involvement in community and civic public relations campaigns provides unique insight to our efforts at NTREIS to effectively communicate with our Shareholders”, said John Holley, NTREIS CEO. “Having worked within the region for so many years, Cindy already has an established relationship with our Shareholders and with many of our vendors which has made this a smooth transition for our team.” Ms. Miller is a REALTOR Certified Executive as well as a certified e-Pro instructor. She will be presenting a workshop on “New Perspectives for Small Associations” at the NAR Association Executives Institute in San Diego in March 2013. Miller said “I am happy to be working with the great staff at NTREIS and look forward to the challenges ahead. In addition to our traditional means of communication, […]
We are pleased to present the results from the WAV Group 2012 MLS Technology Survey for your review and ongoing technology evaluation. From September 29, 2012 to November 4, 2012 WAV Group fielded the WAV Group 2012 MLS Technology Survey to participating MLSs. 72 MLSs, representing 37 different states or provinces participated in the survey at both staff and user level. 15,130 individual participants filled out the survey completely making it the largest survey of its kind. WAV Group would like to thank all of the MLSs and individual respondents that participated. Download the report here! Participants Receive Additional Report This survey report is unsponsored and is provided at no charge to our friends in the industry. We hope you find this useful in your ongoing review of MLS technology services. Participating MLSs also received a detailed survey report for their MLS system, at no charge, which includes the results from all of the MLSs that use their MLS system. If your MLS did not participate this year we encourage to register for 2013 so you will receive this additional information to assist you in your ongoing technology review. Survey Distributed to MLS Staff and Users The 2012 WAV Group MLS Technology Survey is distributed to both staff and MLS members. What is important to an MLS staff person may be totally different from what a user wants to see in their MLS system so it is critical to obtain feedback from both for a balanced perspective. As you review the survey results you will see a number of differences when comparing staff and user ratings. Since this is the second year we have run our national survey we are also able to show you some trend results from 2011 to 2012. MLS Systems Included The following MLS systems has a sufficient number of responses to be included in the report: connect MLS FlexMLS by FBS Fusion by MarketLinx InnoVia by MarketLinx LIST-IT MLS by Solid Earth Matrix by MarketLinx MLXchange by MarketLinx Navica MLS by Systems Engineering Paragon 5 by LPS Rapattoni MLS TEMPO 5 by MarketLinx In-House MLS Systems (4) One Part of a Technology Review Surveys should never be used on their own to make a technology selection. We recommend this information be included as part of your ongoing technology review but encourage you to do a detailed analysis when and if you are looking to make a […]
There is great leadership thought around the possibilities that may exist for real estate widgets or apps. Very small teams of developers may be able to invent fantastic software that fills a diverse set of niche needs across the real estate industry. One cannot help but to be amazed at the explosion of applications for the iPhone or the Android or other mobile devices. Bringing that type of creativity to the Million-strong real estate community is very viable. Real Estate has the benefit of the economy of numbers – outpacing any other industry beyond teachers (who do not buy anything). Real Estate development is investment worthy because there is $2B to $6B in revenue moving from REALTORS® to the companies that serve them. Contrast this open product universe with the perceived monopolies of our industry today. There are only about 20 companies offering fewer than 100 products that service 90% of the software needs of the industry today. For each of these companies, its cost more than $1 million to launch a new product into the industry, sometimes many millions more. If the product is a real estate consumer product, the development investment may easily reach $50M or more when you combine the marketing costs. Trulia and Zillow have each burned through more than that. An app like Nudge can be developed easily for less than $250,000. Perhaps far less investment. Here is the rub… Have you ever noticed what happens when you put an app on your iPhone? Do you know whom you are doing business with? Have you considered what that company could do with your data? How about the data of all of your contacts on your phone, or contacts in your social networks? Do you trust that company to “protect” you and your information? Do you care? Think for a moment about the “private and confidential” data that REALTORS® and the MLS handle. In a way, today’s group of monopoly providers protects everyone. They have too much at risk to abuse their customer, and sell data out the back door. If they get caught, millions goes away. But the little app developer only risks a fraction of that – so their risk tolerance is far lower, and the risk to the REALTOR® using the app or widget is much higher. Help Me! Ever call for support on an app that you downloaded to your phone? You […]
The gray skull of shame is the single most tarnishing factor of an agent’s online reputation. Yet today, more than 30% of listings on leading third party websites are missing photos or display incorrect contact information about the agent. There is absolutely no reason for this to happen. Today, listing syndication service providers and MLSs can fix this with ease. In truth, no change in real estate data is easy. Unless there is profit motivation, change takes place at a very sluggish pace. In order for agent and broker branding to be added to syndication, standards need to be developed. A Thesis For A Standard Developing standards is never easy. Simply look at the complexity of the standard for listing display on IDX websites and you will appreciate the considerable thought that goes into them. Perhaps it is best to begin with a thesis, and allow the critics to bring forth purpose driven refinement. At a minimum, websites displaying listing content of licensed agents or brokers must display the broker logo at a minimum pixel size of 150 x 150 or higher on listing detail pages, 75 x 75 on listing result pages with a baseline screen resolution of 1024 x 768. The pixel size allowable for higher or lower screen resolutions will adjust the minimum pixel size pro-rata (this means that if the listing is being displayed on a mobile device whose screen resolution is smaller, the requirement is proportionally smaller). The broker logo will be the default image to display on every listing. If the listing agent photo is provided to the publisher, the agent photo will be given priority for display in place of the broker logo. Here is the Rub Ideas like this are easy planted, but harvesting them is the burden of fruitful enterprise. The fact is, data in the MLS and at the Association of REALTORS® that identifies agents and brokers is not that great. Broker logos and agent photos are not required fields. This is also true for many franchise databases like Realogy™, the nation’s largest single syndicator of data. It is pretty hard to set a requirement without full data. I would think that as an industry, we should do a better job at setting standards for professionalism of licensed practitioners. What we cannot get over is the following: some brokers to not have a logo, and some agents do not like […]
There are lots of brokers who subscribe to MLS services. They are called participants, and as participants they are provided data rights beyond agents, and way beyond vendors or third parties. Moreover, participants are the nucleus of reciprocal offers of compensation, an agreement that if one broker represents a willing buyer and the other broker represents a willing seller, they will share compensation. There is a new brokerage model that has entered the MLS sphere, and I am not sure if it is a good thing or a bad thing. I will call this type of brokerage a “Data Only Broker” or DOB. These DOBs truly are licensed brokers under state law. They join the MLS conforming to policy. They pay dues. They typically do not have agents. You see, a DOB does not intend to list homes for sale, or show homes to buyers. They are simply in it for the Data Rights and possibly referral fees. Many of these brokers can make plenty of revenue with data, especially if they scale nationally. DOBs see themselves as mavericks of the digital frontier. They breathe the spirit of virtual brokerage, virtual office, consumer self service, digital transactions. I think that Brad Inman is calling this the “Latte of Real Estate” for his upcoming NYC conference. Inman has developed a thesis that buying or selling a home should be as simple as buying or selling a latte. After all, there is a lot of technology behind the Latte – bean growers, bean toasters, transportation logistics, customs, FDA requirements, restaurant licensing, health inspections, labor laws, service solutions, commerce, and the ever-present espresso machine. Despite all of this complexity, if you wait in line at Starbucks for about 15 minutes, you walk out with a delicious Latte. Brad is correct. Using the right technology, a consumer can purchase a home online. Interestingly enough, the digital home purchase was not developed by some outside pioneer looking to reThink Real Estate and deliver what is NEXT for the consumer. It was enabled and developed from within as a method to digitize and expedite the real estate transaction. If we write the book of digital genesis, Adam would be played by REALTOR® Associations who brought us electronic forms, and Eve would be played by title companies who brought us transaction management. I guess that the Apple would be Docusign, without which the original sin of an electronic transaction would not be possible. With sincerity, I pray that my Old Testament metaphor […]
The CMLS meetings (Council of MLS) were held on Wednesday, November 7th. There were numerous presentations but one in particular seemed to engage the Nation’s leading MLS executives in attendance – ReThink MLS. The question before the panel was “What If We Started from Scratch?” As we all know, MLS rules (including Broker Reciprocity) provides structure for how brokers and agents will behave when sharing listings with one another: Two problems have arisen since these rules were first crafted more than a dozen years ago. The MLS rules have become cumbersome in length and somewhat unwieldy to manage and enforce. Technology is advancing at a faster pace than the development of the rules. As the title to this article would suggest, the purpose of the session was to brainstorm, and contemplate ideas that might frame a more perfect union. It is upon this premise that Art Carter, CEO of America’s largest MLS – CRMLS proposed a thesis framed like a constitution or list of commandments. Disclaimer: Mr. Carter had feedback from his panelists and others on the creation of this list – so do not be alarmed – it is merely a thesis to promote discussion. The notion for discussion is that by creating a one page set of rules that outline the spirit of cooperation within the MLS – life may improve. You shall compensate other Brokers within the MLS if they bring a ready, willing and able buyer to your seller. You shall present offers in a timely manner to your seller and pay the compensation as published in the service if an agreement is reached regarding the sale of the property. You shall not place your listings in other places prior to your home MLS and this must be done within two days of getting the listing, unless your seller designates in writing otherwise. You shall not publish the listings of other Brokers via the Internet unless they have given approval and the listing brokerage is given credit for the listing on your website. Only fields that the Service allows for publication can be shown on the Internet unless the Brokerage operates as a virtual office website, then the Broker must show electronic evidence of a relationship with the viewing consumer. Remember the rule of cooperation, when placing a listing in the service, you are agreeing to help other brokers bring a ready, willing and able buyer […]