July 2012

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MRIS to Launch First of its Kind GPS‐Based Mobile App For Real Estate Professionals Smarter Agent Partnership Provides On‐The‐Go MLS Access to Brokers, Agents and Consumers ROCKVILLE, MD (July 30, 2012) — Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc. (MRIS), the Mid‐Atlantic Multiple Listing Service (MLS) that facilitates more than $92 million a day in real estate transactions, has announced that it recently partnered with Smarter Agent, the global leader in mobile real estate search and discovery apps to launch the first of its kind suite of mobile solutions for real estate brokers, agents and consumers. “It’s our goal to provide our customers with real estate in real time,” said John L. Heithaus, MRIS Chief Marketing Officer. “Providing real estate professionals with access to listing information while on‐the‐go allows us to extend their desktop as far away from home as possible.” Today’s real estate market demands a greater degree of mobility and real time access to critical data. Consumers want immediate replies in minutes, not hours. As a result, smartphones are vital to staying efficient and productive in the real estate industry. To help meet this challenge, this first of its kind MRIS Agent Pro App, HDB Mobile, will utilize Smarter Agent’s patented location based search and discovery technology to enable MRIS’s 43,000 customers to view their MLS real estate information in a single click. To enhance customer service, the App will provide real estate professionals the ability to log in to view full listing data, search all listing statuses and eventually edit listing information right from a mobile device. The GPS‐based MLS search technology enhances the day‐to‐day capabilities of real estate professionals. The App enables real estate pros to react swiftly in the field and easily handle inquiries and on the fly questions about properties in real time, regardless of location. Empowering agents to respond promptly will improve the customer experience in the Mid‐Atlantic region and beyond through direct access to the most reliable and accurate listing information. “MRIS conducted extensive market research with hundreds of real estate professionals to ensure that the custom created mobile App will meet the needs of agents and brokers in the field,” said Michael Belak, MRIS Chief Information Officer. “After thoroughly evaluating a variety of mobile technology providers, MRIS selected Smarter Agent for their strong track record of developing award‐winning apps. We’re confident that this product will increase our customers’ productivity and success.” Through this […]

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Defense of Commissions

by Victor Lund on July 27, 2012

Dollar Signs with handshale

American business is founded on the principal that pricing for a product or service is based upon what a willing seller will accept, and what a willing buyer will pay. This happens on an individual basis with each transaction, and price fixing is not allowed. Recently, Casey William Hyland who purchased a home from a Home Services of America brokerage, Semonin REALTORS brought a suit challenging the 6% commission rates on real estate transactions. His claim indicated that the 6% rate was price fixing and is a Sherman Anti Trust Act Violation. When there are multiple transactions of commerce, pricing patterns emerge. Consider the grocery store shelf. Within a given product category of similar items, pricing becomes normalized around a price point, plus or minus 20%. This trend happens everywhere, in every industry, and well beyond the grocery isle. The Plaintiffs claims were articulated as follows: Defendant engaged in parallel behavior by charging a “standard or typical commission of “6%” for “virtually standardized Services;” and Defendants “are expressly aware of the fee charged by one another” via their membership in and organization of at least 28 Multiple Listing Services (“MLS”) in the Commonwealth; and Defendants require that the real estate brokers pay their franchisees the “regularly charged brokerage commission or fee” for any home that the brokers purchase for their own habitation. The Defendants have engaged in parallel pricing of real estate broker commissions since at least 1991 at a “standard” or “typical” 6% even though: (a) the costs of providing these services have decreased, and (b) the prices of real property in Kentucky have increased dramatically; and The Defendants have “an aggregate market share in excess of 70% and, in certain areas of the state, in excess of 90%; and The Defendants have “boycotted price cutting rivals, such as Help-U-Sell…a non-Internet based discount brokerage firm that recently began operating in Kentucky.” The court ruled in favor of Homes Services. The Plaintiff failed to satisfy parts of the Sherman Act Test which include (1) a contract, combination, or conspiracy; (2) restraint of trade; and (3) an effect on interstate commerce. There are many interesting considerations that come from reading about the facts in this case regarding the conduct of brokers and agents when they are discussing commissions and fees. Clearly our industry has found an economic balance around a commission of 6%. 6% represents much more compensation to the practitioner […]

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Brokers pulling out of IDX

by Victor Lund on July 25, 2012

Change-same

Game changers happen when businesses test radical strategies. When a company breaks from the pack they learn things that none of their competitors learn. They understand a strategy that nobody else as any experience with. They grow their business wisdom and often find new ways to edge out the competition. By studying the impacts of strategies like withdrawing from listing syndication; launching single listing websites or virtual tours; and, withdrawing from IDX, marketers can learn volumes about how these strategies impact their online strategy. Listing Syndication Strategies that work WAV Group has been studying listing syndication strategies for more than 7 years. The depth of the data that we have aggregated and the case studies that we have modeled has informed performance increases for brokerages nationwide. There are three strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness: Scarcity, Abundance, Data Variance. We have clients using every one of these and they all work. Using the correct strategy for your marketplace is key to success. How does the syndication strategy impact SEO This year, WAV Group is extending our research methodology to understand the impact that syndication strategy has on search engine optimization. The methodology is rather simple. Take a broker’s listing and check the first 4 pages of popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Record the website domains and the order in which they appear. Address search is known as “long tail search” and it is important for two reasons. First, the searcher is presumably more valuable because they are highly focused and already partially informed (they know the address). Secondly, the volume of these searches is immense. The findings are impressive. Once thing to remember is that many third party websites have every property in America on their website – active or off market. Why aren’t brokers doing this? Why aren’t MLSs helping? How do single listing websites and virtual tours impact SEO Nothing is more powerful for search engine optimization than purchasing the address domain name and launching a single listing website. Beyond that, a virtual tour done correctly does an excellent job of enhancing search engine optimization. Virtual Tours done right means that the tour is built in HTML, not flash. Virtual tours are dynamically created using MLS data on every listing and updated with IDX. Non-branded virtual tours are posted to the MLS and distributed through the IDX feed. All virtual tours are hosted on the broker […]

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Loyalty Marketing in Real Estate

by Victor Lund on July 23, 2012

Loyalty Marketing

An innovative concept known as loyalty marketing was heralded by the launch of American Airlines AAdvantage in the early 80’s and has since evolved to become competitive table-stakes as loyalty programs have saturated the business landscape. It is curious that an industry like real estate, powered by 80% repeat and referral business has missed the mark on loyalty marketing. Real Estate is not the only industry getting it wrong. It’s safe to say that the majority of programs consumers experience today have been designed “By Boomers for Boomers,” all while fundamental shifts in consumer purchase behavior demand that new models emerge to capture the attention of digitally connected consumers. For real estate to do it right, we need to focus on extending loyalty programs to new forms of media right out of the gate. Customer experience, customer engagement, and Big Data are buzzwords competing for the attention of marketers, and a flood of new technology based on mobile devices, points-of-sale, and social networks offer potential solutions for business, both large and small. Real Estate collects more personal data than almost any industry. We know where people live, income details, debt details, family details, professional details, personal preferences, and have recorded deep levels of contact information. The majority of real estate brokers leave it to their agents to curate this information or, they store this data in paper files in a storage facility for 7 years and throw it away. I think that we can do better as an industry. Moreover, I think that companies that develop loyalty programs and use customer relationships to create clients for life will outperform their peers.

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Scott Dixon and Partner buy The Real Estate Book

by Victor Lund on July 12, 2012

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WAV Group congratulates our friend Scott Dixon and his colleague Stewart Christian for purchasing The Real Estate Book and affiliated publications. Scott and WAV Group partner Victor Lund have been friends for years. Lund has always admired Dixon’s vision for the role that highly targeted and well produced print publications play in real estate. “Certainly, The Real Estate Book has done a great job working with their national footprint of publications. We are excited to see the next chapter of the company development under its new ownership,” says Lund. The new company name is NewPoint Media Group. Here is the press release NewPoint Media Group, LLC ™ Completes Purchase from Network Communications, Inc. Two NCI Management Executives and Lion Equity Partners Form NewPoint Media Group And Purchase The Real Estate Book, Mature Living Choices, Senior Living Choices, New Home Finder, New Homes & Ideas, New Homes Journal Brands and publication printing division and facilities. LAWRENCEVILLE, GA, June 29, 2012 –NewPoint Media Group, LLC has completed the purchase of business assets from Network Communications, Inc. (NCI), including all print and digital assets; and trademarks of long standing real estate brands, The Real Estate Book, Mature Living Choices, Senior Living Choices, New Home Finder, New Homes & Ideas, New Homes Journal brands along with NCI’s publication printing division and facilities.   Scott Dixon and Stuart Christian, both longtime management executives of NCI partnered with Lion Equity Partners to form NewPoint Media Group, to complete the purchase.   NCI retains the assets associated with Apartment Finder, Unique Homes, ByDesign Publishing, along with home design titles and Digital Sherpa division.  NCI and NewPoint will continue to have an ongoing business relationship.  NCI will provide distribution services to NewPoint while NewPoint provides printing services to NCI.   “We are all pleased with the outcome of this transaction,” NewPoint Chief Executive Officer, Scott Dixon said. “Our President and Chief Operations Officer, Stuart Christian and I have both been associated with these brands and this business for years and are excited about the opportunity to continue to grow.  Our visions of future opportunities aligned well with Lion Equity’s vision so our direction and path for NewPoint Media Group is clearly defined.  It’s an exciting time for all of us.”   In addition to the aforementioned titles, NewPoint purchased NCI’s state of the art printing facility and publications print division.  “Through the years, this division has become experts in niche publication printing and in providing the […]

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Zillow brings battle to Listhub

by Victor Lund on July 3, 2012

ListingSyndicationsmall

Zillow launched a preemptive strike against Listhub yesterday by requesting IDX feeds from the nation’s MLS providers. Zillow Executive Bob Bemis sent an email to all MLS CEOs and Executives titled “Why two data feeds when one will do.” In the email, Bemis admits that Zillow.com is focused on improving data accuracy and timeliness. The note goes on to explain that Zillow’s IDX service, Diverse Solutions, already has the data, why not allow Zillow to use it for Zillow.com so Zillow can circumvent their reliance on Listhub data feeds. A battle ensued when Listhub got word that Zillow was calling them out on the frequency of listing updates.  The Bemis email stated: “Because of the multiple hands through which the data passes, it can sometimes be days before a revised listing reaches us for posting.” Listhub responded to the call out from Zillow in an email titled “Correcting Zillow’s recent communication regarding Listhub.” Listhub executive Luke Glass indicates that Listhub feeds data to Zillow every day, and moreover – Listhub has had a standing offer to send data feeds to Zillow every 6 hours, but Zillow refused. Glass goes on to talk about the disadvantages of sending listings directly to Zillow which include multiple broker syndication dashboards, increased complexity of brokers managing feed sources, customer support, and something about setting a precedent of using IDX for Syndication. Here is the deal. If Zillow or other publishers want to clean up their data, they can do so in two steps. First, they can only display data that comes from a broker (not franchise) combined with the Listhub or Point2 feed. Zillow is spoiling their data by accepting feeds from non-MLS sources as an action of their own will, including FSBO listings. Until they end this practice, their data will always be kludgy, Listhub aside. Secondly, any listing that has not been updated for a time certain (90 days?) could be purged from Zillow display. It would appear that some consumers have gotten wind that Zillow data is suspect. This represents a significant risk to the company’s long term success and reputation. I applaud them for trying to fix it. MLSs should take great care in their next steps. IDX is restricted for display on Participant and sometimes subscriber websites. Licensing broker data to a third party without the expressed consent of the broker is a serious matter. If you want to measure Zillow accuracy in your […]

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