November 2012

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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 […]

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Watch Your Widgets

by Victor Lund on November 28, 2012

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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 […]

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Adding Broker and Agent Branding to Syndication

by Victor Lund on November 28, 2012

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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 […]

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Zillow expands rental offering with Hotpads acquisition

by Victor Lund on November 26, 2012

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Market leading real estate publisher Zillow expanded their footprint by entering into an agreement to purchase Hot Pads today. The strategy behind the acquisition seems squarely aimed at conquering a larger audience of real estate consumers, namely consumers interested in rental properties. In October, Hotpads had nearly 2.8 Million Unique Visitors. Depending on how you add up traffic to Zillow and their other sites like realestate.yahoo.com, it adds up to less than a 5% increase in traffic. Moreover, Zillow picks up highly skilled staff that understand the real estate portal business, and how to manage data. Although Zillow already has a solid technology team, these 19 extra craftsman from Hot Pads are bound to prove their value by lending their expertise, and hit the ground running. Zillow is also likely to fuel their sales funnel for their rental software product, Rent Juice. It is hard to see the full vision for Zillow’s investment strategy with the money raised from their successful public auction, but one by one, pieces fall into place. They are certainly becoming stronger every day. For those of you who send listings to Zillow and Hot Pads, you may want to watch for any changes in effectiveness. The 2007 Series A investment in Hot Pads raised $2.3M. Zillow purchased the company for $16M giving the Hot Pads founders and investors a nice return. Congratulations to both companies on their success. Here is the Zillow Press Release: SEATTLE and SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Zillow, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z), the leading real estate information marketplace, today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to buy San Francisco-based HotPads, a map-based rental and real estate search site for $16 million in cash. This is Zillow’s first acquisition of a primarily consumer-facing company. The transaction is subject to satisfaction of customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2012. HotPads™ is an established and significant player in rentals for both consumers and professionals, offering a robust website and five mobile apps across iPhone®, iPad® and Android™. Nearly 2.8 million unique users visited HotPads in Octoberi, primarily to shop for rentals. Nearly 70 percentii of all listings viewed during the month were homes or apartments for rent. The addition of HotPads will allow Zillow® to expand the size of its growing rental audience and extend the reach of its marketing tools and productivity solutions for rental professionals. […]

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Data Only Brokers

by Victor Lund on November 20, 2012

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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 […]

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CMLS brainstorms new approach for MLS Rules

by Victor Lund on November 12, 2012

CMLS Brings It To The Table

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 […]

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Listhub expands publisher filtering

by Victor Lund on November 8, 2012

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With listing syndication expanding to 50 or more websites, brokers are challenged to keep up with the features, policies, and display rules of each site. In an effort to help brokers understand the differences between publisher websites, Listhub provides a broker dashboard that spells out the differences and enables brokerages to filter out websites that the broker does not like. Listhub expanded their filtering based upon feedback that they received from their customers including MLSs, Brokers, and Franchise Organizations. The new features are: Refreshes Daily: The publisher posts new or updated listing information at least once a day. No For Sale By Owner: The publisher does not display FSBO listings Mobile App Available These three filters expand upon many of the other filters that support the broker in selecting a publisher: No Re-syndication Posts Redirect Link back to broker website Provides Error Reports Provides Metrics of listings including search results and leads Displays broker contact information Removes expired, withdrawn, or sold listings in a timely manner Provides Timely Support In addition to these new filters, Listhub added a website lookup tool. This helps brokers figure out who powers sites through resyndication. For example, sanluisobispo.com – our local newspaper website is powered by homefinder.com. Trulia and Zillow also resyndicate to other sites – mostly newspaper websites. With any luck, Listhub will go further and provide brokers with traffic data on publisher websites in the future.

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While brokers have lots of technology tools at their fingertips today, a high impact website is still a critical tool driving success for any size real estate company.  Third parties continue to gain traction and traffic with consumers because they know what consumers are looking for and they deliver on their needs consistently!  If brokers want to become THE source for real estate consumers, they need to find ways to enhance and re-invent their own web presence. Brokers also need to learn about how to use their online presence to nurture new customer relationships for their agents. RED and RE Technology are working together to host a really interesting webinar to help brokers learn how to make their online presence work much harder for them and become the preferred choice of consumers online. In less than an hour, learn how you can start to drive more traffic to your site, improve your consumer experience and turn visitors into leads! Take advantage of this FREE webinar and learn how to make your online spending work much harder for you. Here’s just a few of the tips and tricks you will be learn in this action-packed hour: Don’t waste a consumer’s time…understand the top 5 behaviors! See the “Make or Break Page” Learn the key performance indicators for your site Opportunities in “Organic Search” Today’s SEO: Think Beyond the Link Understand what the user – the consumer – really wants Date:Monday,  November 5th Time: 11 am Pacific, 12 noon Mountain, 1pm Central and 2 pm Eastern Time   Speakers David Camp, RED Platform Expert Real Estate Digital Corey Quinn VP, Business Development The Search Agency, Inc.  

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Your Real Estate Website is Illegal

by Victor Lund on November 1, 2012

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It is November, that time of year when you need to schedule the update on your copyright to © 2013 before January 1st. But there is more that you should be considering, a revision to the way that you handle the terms of use. Most real estate websites place their terms of use conspicuously down deep in the footer of their website, along with their privacy policy. This is the way that it has been done for years. However, a court case involving Amazon.com subsidiary, Zappos just changed all of that. In the Zappos case, 24 million consumer email addresses where stolen by hackers. Zappos went to arbitration and settled the case. The judge in the case threw out the arbitrated settlement for two reasons. The Zappos terms of use indicate that they can change the agreement at any time. The judge ruled that this is inherently unfair, and previous courts have invalidated contracts on those grounds before. The consumer did not explicitly agree to the Privacy Policy or Terms of Use. Go look at your website, and register. Is there a clickwrap? How about if the consumer fills out a form? In truth, you should speak to your lawyer about what is best in your State to comply with State and Federal Laws. I know that Larson Sobodka LLC and Privacy Solutions both have deep experience in these areas of  law and they get real estate. If you contact the firm, start with Brian Larson at Larson Sobodka or Darity Wesley at Privacy Solutions. They may pass you along to one of their Associates in the firm – but do not worry about that. They have done this sort of work before and are saving you money by having a lower paid lawyer get you fixed up. It should look like this (Image courtesy of RE Technology – Privacy Audit performed by Privacy Solutions)  

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