Pilgrims vs. Portals

by Victor Lund on September 20, 2013

Pilgrim

History tells many stories of long ago that reflect on the conditions of today. I came across a story about the Pilgrims that made me think that in some way, it is similar to the real estate industry and portals.

In 1630, a Pilgrim court dealt a nasty blow to one of its settlers. They ordered him to be incarcerated, burned his house, confiscated all of his goods, then ultimately exiled him from America. The Pilgrim’s name was Thomas Morton, and they said that he was a danger to society.

Morton went to England and pleaded with the English court, which was the court of record for Pilgrim society. Morton had found a new way to trade with the Indians for furs. Rather than barter goods, he held parties. He picked a nice spot outside of town, brought some jugs of booze, and invited some of the town’s young ladies to join him. The Indians saw that they were having a good time and soon began flocking to his parties bringing furs as a gesture. Morton was getting richer by the day. The English court saw nothing illicit about Morton’s ways, and sent him back to America with the court ruling in hand.

This is where my real estate industry and portals relationship analogy comes in. When you have a look at the top websites of our era, they are having a great party with listing information that pales to the stoic puritan society of real estate broker websites. They offer information on every home in the area, not just active listings or 7 years of recently sold MLS listings. They lift up the skirt of home values and show the legs of when homeowner purchased their home and what they paid. They even invite FSBO girls and Foreclosure girls and offer their frilly information to their guests.

Things did not end well for Mr. Morton. Even with his English court papers. Upon returning to America he was jailed until he went mad. Somehow I do not think that today’s leading portals are going to loose their sanity anytime soon. Indeed, it would seem that the real estate industry is the crazy one. Perhaps we should turn our attention to supporting brokers in throwing parties of their own.

When I do a gap analysis of the data on broker sites vs. the data on portal sites, the differences are plainly visible.

  • Every home on portals has information.
  • Every home on portals has an AVM value
  • Every home on portals has tax history
  • Foreclosure data is available for Bank owned property
  • Almost all active listing data is available
  • They enrich every listing with school boundaries, demographics, drive time calculators, cost of living information, lifestyle information et. al.
  • They provide quick and easy access to Mortgage professionals, Insurance professionals and real estate professionals – everyone that you would need to use as a resource in a transaction.

Sure, the accuracy of their data may be less than puritan sometimes – but the party is great. If you want to compete as a broker, you had better take off your hair bonnet and tall black hat.

WAV Group works with brokers and MLSs to license data assets. If you want to compete, we can help. But you will need to be prepared to have a flexible website developer who can integrate sophisticated APIs into user-friendly listing detail pages. A website developer that has a strong command of using search features to pull information from disparate data sources.

And last but not least, you need the support of your MLS or MLSs. This type of property website goes way beyond IDX display rules. And that, my good friends, is the Puritan problem. Prepare to be jailed, and to go as far as the NAR court or the Department of Justice to plead your case.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

JOSEPH SOARIS September 20, 2013 at 4:18 pm

DONT UNDERSTAND THIS

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Richard Hinds September 21, 2013 at 5:24 am

It’s a little obscure but right on point. Keep up the good work. I find WAV’s data and analysis to be the best in the market. You’re leading the parade instead of following it. I respect that.

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D. Fischman September 21, 2013 at 6:02 am

Crazy analogy with no basis. Your point could be made much better with actual facts. I’m sure a Native American would have a heyday with your analogy of having fun at the White settler’s parties. If true, boy, did they wake up with a hangover they regretted.

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Jim Bray September 21, 2013 at 6:03 am

I could not agree more Victor. Unfortunately, we have given our advantages away. It will take a lot of b—s and hard worth to regain the advantage. Do we as an industry have the energy and khow how to pull this off?

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Giovanni Mascolino October 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Poorly written post. I don’t understand why you work so hard at creating a bad analogy. I would prefer you, or anyone with the resources, to examine who owns the data, how it is being used, if there is cost not being paid, and the impact of the displayed inaccuracies.

The issue of who owns the data and the rules or laws surrounding it’s use is fundamental to the future of all MLS’s. The portals are obviously aggregating the data from public and other sources. If they are using our data legally we have a problem. If they are harvesting listing data illegally, we have a problem.

The obvious solution to me is that because broker’s own the most important and accurate data, we should have the best portals. We should stop complaining about third-party portals and create our own. We have the best data, we should develop the best portals. We don’t need the author or any other third-party. We can compete on our own terms. We have what everyone wants and we should be able to set the rules.

Also, you shrug off the notion of inaccurate data as if it presents no impact to users of that data. The inaccurate data creates a divide between buyer and seller. When the buyer sees an inaccurate price on a portal he or she finds it hard to negotiate with a much higher, though accurate, price offered by a seller.

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Victor Lund October 1, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Thanks for the comment. Sorry you did not like the post.

We have examined who owns the data. It is the broker. However, terms of use when syndicating to third party sites provides them the unrestricted use of the data – but the liability of claims remains with the broker. WE published a paper on this called Terms of Use – read the fine print. It is available on our Reports page for free download.

I think that the impact of displayed inaccuracies impacts the broker, the agent, the consumer, and the portal. The portal would love perfect data, but they do not have access to it unless it is authorized by the broker. That plagues them with bad data. However, some of it is by choice. Most portals take data from anyone without any question. They know that data feeds from monthly real estate magazines, many virtual tour providers, many agent website providers, and so forth are not very accurate. They don’t seem to care. Some have put policies in place that will remove the listing as an active listing if it is not updated every 3 months. Most don’t.

I agree 100% that brokers should have the best portals. Maybe they should cooperate with one another to develop one. It would be a smart collaboration. I guess that REALTOR.com is their site in a way. They just don’t own it.

I also agree with your notion that inaccurate data presents a divide between buyer and seller. It offends the public trust of the real estate profession. The minute that consumers realize that they can operate without agents, bad things will happen. Part of me suspects that will happen if brokers don’t take action.

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Giovanni Mascolino October 2, 2013 at 7:34 am

Most businesses that rely on broker or agency relationships have changed. For example, I have not used a “broker” to buy or sell securities for ten years. I have never met my insurance “agent”, if I even have one. I buy and sell cars via web portals that service consumers in volumes unheard of for brick and mortar dealerships.

Though I have been in real estate for 20+ years, I do not see value brought to the table by most agents or brokers. I always tell my associates that if they cannot offer anything to our clients besides pointing out that “this is the living room” or “this is the den and can be another bedroom”, then they do not deserve a commission.

Of course complicated transactions may require the skill and expertise of an experienced agent or broker. But even there, lawyers are likely involved in the complicated transactions already — and most agents I know are in real estate because they don’t want to be waitresses or sell cars.

Buyers and sellers of real estate do not necessarily “need” agents, they need legal advice and escrow services. It is up to brokers to define the value they add to the transaction.

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