December 2012

Internet Explorer Is 3x faster than Firefox

by Victor Lund on December 29, 2012

Browser Adoption Trend

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 […]

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InmanConference

PHOENIX—According to sources currently seated in rows 14 through 18 aboard flight 763, two middle-aged REALTORS® are really hitting it off during the trip to Inman in New York. Using terms like “AVM” and “CMA,” the slightly overweight, average-looking men are reportedly engaged in a detailed discussion about overwhelmingly exciting work-related topics and, sources said, seem to be getting along great. “They got to talking as soon as we boarded, and you could tell they just clicked right away,” said 31-year-old Camille Catteano of 16B, adding that one of the men, upon looking up from his REALTOR Magazine™, immediately recognized the Keller Williams™ logo on the polo shirt of the man sitting down in the next seat. “Since then, they’ve been going on and on about Zestimates, Lead Generation, RPR, and commission splits.” I mean, just listen to them,” Catteano continued. “You’d think they were old pals. But they just met and just happen to both be in real estate.” Nearby passengers confirmed that the men, both wearing khaki pants with cell phones clipped to their belts, began the conversation by exchanging information about their respective listings and recent transactions. Reports indicated they then began to discuss various methods for “social networking” and “Search Engine Optimization” which appear to occupy a sizable portion of the day-to-day work in their profession. “I tuned them out for 30 minutes or so while listening to music, but when I took my headphones off, they were still going strong, chatting about some trade show they’ve both attended in Orlando,” said Marco Cruz, who occupies the row’s window seat, adding that the two joked about how difficult it was to get between meetings at all of the hotels around the convention center. “Then they got into how IDX policy standards have changed over the years and how listing syndication is really broken across the board, and at that point I dozed off.” Although sources reported a brief lull in the conversation when both men took out their laptops and began typing blog posts. The discussion is said to have picked up again after one of the men complained about his company’s efforts to write a blog, prompting both individuals to express their frustration that “its every agent for himself now” and “no one has offices with doors anymore.” “When I came around to their row with refreshments, they were so engrossed in conversation, talking about […]

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Larson Sobotka selected as general counsel for CMLS

by Victor Lund on December 26, 2012

larson sobodka logo

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.

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Merry Christmas

by Victor Lund on December 22, 2012

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Broker Profitability POD concept

by Victor Lund on December 20, 2012

Broker POD System

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, […]

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iPad Is What Agents Want For Christmas

by Victor Lund on December 20, 2012

ipad image

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 […]

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SFAR hires Association Vet Baczkowski from Point2

by Victor Lund on December 18, 2012

sfarlogo

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.

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The Role of Mortgage on Broker Dollar

by Victor Lund on December 17, 2012

Money Table

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.

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Constellation Web buys Birdview and Z57

by Victor Lund on December 13, 2012

Constellation Web

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 […]

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Technology Tools Used by Great Office Managers

by Victor Lund on December 10, 2012

success manager

All too frequently companies focus on broker tools or agent tools, losing sight of the tools used by great managers. Brokers who truly understand the value of office managers dedicate resources to deliver manager tools that drive company success and agent productivity. These tools fold into three categories: Market Analysis, Sales Analysis, and Agent Effectiveness. Market Analysis Tools Market Analysis involves using tools like Terradatum Broker Matrix or Trendgraphix. These tools give office managers access to two specific measurements that are key to success: Competitor Sales Volume and Agent Sales Volume relative to market pace. The first is a competitive overview of competitor sales volume vs. office sales volume. Managers can compare their office productivity relative to competition in the market to understand pace. Pace is a different measurement than market share, and is more important. Your office will always grow or shrink in sales volume relative to real estate cycles. Pace is the measurement of growth vs. competitive growth. If your office is up 22%, you may be excited. But if competitive offices are up 28% in the same market, you are losing pace. Likewise, an excellent manager may have a 10% loss in sales, but if competitors lost 15%, that manager’s office has out paced competitors by 5%. Sometimes even when you are losing, you win. The second measurement of success is individual agent pace and Sales Volume. How are each of your agents doing relative to each other. Your top-producing agent may be having a great year, growing business 22% over the prior year. However, a competitor’s top agent may be growing at 30%, out pacing your top producer. Great managers know this, and use these measurement tools to motivate agents in the office, and identify the best recruits from competitors. Aside from pace, managers can evaluate performance relative to days on market and list to sale ratio. Sales Analysis Great managers use a variety of tools to understand sales. Most MLS Systems and tools like the REALTORS® Property Resource provide managers with the ability to view sales activity on a map. It helps them identify neighborhoods and price points of sale activity so that they can both measure sales performance in hot areas and focus agent prospecting activity in those areas where sales are happening. This is a strategic farming strategy that great managers develop to succeed where others often just tread water. Agent Effectiveness Measuring […]

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Cindy Miller joins NTREIS

by Victor Lund on December 4, 2012

Cindy Miller NTREIS and MetroTex Association of REALTORS

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, […]

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