October 2013

A couple of months ago I wrote a post called the “Challenge for Positive Change” that highlighted many of the relationship dysfunctions we are experiencing in the industry today. We have the honor of working with large brokers as well as MLSs, Associations, technology companies and even title and home warranty providers. We see misperceptions and distrust running rampant between each of these groups. It’s clear that there are many that are feeling as though our industry could be working together much better than it is at the moment. Fast forward a few weeks and we get to CMLS and the now infamous outline of issues delivered by Craig Cheatham, President and CEO of the Realty Alliance, a highly-respected network for many of North America’s largest full service brokerages and their affiliated business. Many people in the audience were shocked with Craig’s candor and level of frustration, but I’m not sure why. The types of issues he outlined are the types of issues that have been circling around in MLSs and Associations for a long time. I think the difference is that many groups were simply not listening or taking the conversation as seriously as the tone in which Craig delivered his eloquent presentation of the issues suggests they need to. The issues he outlines are complicated. Some are quite easy to rectify, but many of the issues are based on local tradition, not on sound business logic that considers today’s consumers and the brokers that serve them. I have a theory as to why large brokers believe real estate organizations are in conflict with their business goals. I believe that the industry’s extreme focus on satisfying the perceived needs of agents is getting in the way of progress. When you look at it just about every organization in the industry is agent-centric and not broker-centric. From the National Association of REALTORS® all the way down to a one office brokerage, the needs of agents are considered above all others. Every model depends on agent quantity and not necessarily quality. With that focus comes a lot of dysfunction. Associations and MLSs are well aware that agents and brokers have different perspectives about the industry and yet, in many cases, agents dominate committees, boards and taskforces. They drive decisions that are best for individual agents, but not necessarily the most appropriate or workable for brokerages. In my article called 5 Ways […]

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IDX Reboot

by Victor Lund on October 24, 2013

This is a rather obscene notion, but sometimes the best way to innovate is to ask a bunch of questions about the status quo. For brokers and MLSs to innovate, they need to question the effectiveness of IDX. I would not question its value. Rather, I believe that it has uncompromising value to MLS participants and subscribers. I question how we can make it more valuable. Perhaps it is time for a reboot. A reboot is a process where you turn something off and turn it back on to stop routines from running that undermine the operation of the machine. Some Background Here is a little background on how the consumer’s online behavior is measured. This is important to understand because if you don’t, you will take some consumer statistics for facts when they really are not. For example, according to ComScore, 1 in 3 consumers visit the top 3 real estate websites: Zillow.com, Realtor.com; and Trulia.com. The education about this stat is in the statement “according to ComScore.” You see, ComScore only counts using survey data. They put a tracking cookie in a bunch of consumer browsers and watch how they behave. Using a little bit of data, they estimate a lot trends. The second thing that you need to know about ComScore is that they only track the top 100,000 websites in America. That means that they only track a thin number of real estate websites. Only huge broker, franchise, and a couple of MLS consumer sites even get counted. Taken out of context, ComScore data would yield that IDX is useless to most agents and brokers because nobody goes to those websites. That is incorrect. ComScore is not counting IDX sites. In truth, nobody really is. Reboot Idea Number One – Start Counting What is really great about IDX is that permitted use is structured in a way that benefits all participants in the program. There is an agreement. What if that agreement required that you install a tracking code on every site that displays IDX data. You have seen reports from portals about the number of times that a listing appeared in search results and the number of times a listing detail page was viewed. If that data were counted for every IDX site in every MLS across America, I would expect that the total amount of traffic would be very different than what ComScore is […]

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Thinking About Regionalizing Your MLS?

by Mike Audet on October 23, 2013

We all know there are too many MLSs in the US. It’s just a fact. MLSs were originally set up according to Board boundaries established by NAR based on market areas that existed many years ago. Times and technology have changed everything. Real estate market areas have expanded far faster then our industry has responded so in many areas of the country we have multiple MLSs serving areas that should logically be served by one. It is hard to argue that cooperation and ultimately consolidation is good for everyone involved in buying and selling real estate. Brokers and agents who work in areas where successful consolidation has taken place now have access to greater territory with a single technology interface. Multiple MLS fees are eliminated. Brokers are able to get data feeds for their true market areas from a single source. MLSs that offer public search sites can now serve a wider group of consumers through a single interface. It all just makes sense yet across the country we see example after example of MLSs that continue to work side by side compete with other MLSs that really should all be combined? The Cause Resistance to consolidation is not only caused by MLS staff afraid of losing their livelihood. This is certainly a factor at times but in many cases it is actually the local brokers who dig their heels in and fight consolidation. Why would they do this if what we said in the previous paragraph is true? Brokers that feel this way believe that opening up their market area through consolidation will unleash a rush of new competition into their area, which will ultimately hurt their business. They basically want to build a wall around their market so they can serve it exclusively. They want to keep the outsiders out. What is not being considered in this thinking, however, is the fact that local market knowledge is always critically important. Just having access to an area through a database doesn’t mean that you are in a position to help people buy or sell in an area. In addition, when boundaries are expanded that means the areas they can work in easily have expanded as well. Most importantly, consumers that need to have broader market information can now work with an agent that has access to the broader area. While there is certainly some truth to the notion that […]

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As many of you know there is quite a bit of discontent with selected large brokers and their MLS relationships. While there are many components to this discontent, there is one tangible action step that MLSs can take to help improve the relationship. The Realty Alliance recently published their Fair Display For MLS Public Facing Websites Document. Fortunately, our experience suggests that most MLS websites comply with these rules. For any MLS that already offers a site or is considering launching one here are the gotta have rules you must follow to be in compliance with The Realty Alliance’s dictate: 1. Brokers may opt-out of displaying their listings on the MLS-operating consumer site MLSs need to make it a simple toggle switch allowing brokers who would not like to participate in the program to opt-out. Also, this opt-out can NOT be tied to participate in IDX or other syndication policies. It needs to be isolated JUST to the MLSs website. 2. Unbiased display of all listings To be in compliance, MLSs need to display listings based upon the consumer’s search parameters, not given special preference to agents who pay for featured display of any sort. This would also suggest that no MLS can allow another subscriber to “claim” to be the listing agent on a listing that is not theirs, something that happens regularly on other third party sites. 3. Consistent display of listing data Each MLS will determine the amount of listing data and photos to be displayed on their website. There will not be charges imposed for displaying any data related to the listing or the agent, such as fees for additional photographs or broker/agent contact information. WAV Group recommends that MLS websites allow agents to display at least 20 or more photos per listing and then use the photos on their MLS site. 4. No ads for other brokerage or agents displayed on or with a Brokerage’s listing Only the actual listing broker and agent may be displayed on the property details page. No ads from companies that may compete with a broker’s affiliated business such as mortgage, title or escrow companies will be displayed on an individual property-listing page. This requirement is easily met if you work with third party ad provider like CoreLogic, MLSListings or the Realm from Real Estate Digital. They each allow you to set ad-type exclusions so you steer clear of every type […]

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RE Technology Top 5 Articles of the Week

by Victor Lund on October 18, 2013

Webinar: Is Your Website Designed to Meet the Needs of Tomorrow’s First-Time Homebuyers? With new mortgage regulations on the horizion and a larger pool of first-time homebuyers ready to take action, the needs of the next generation of buyers is changing. Join us for a webinar that will review the growing interest among consumers in homeownership programs and how you can use your website to leverage this market opportunity. Date: Thursday October 24th, 2013   Time: 2 pm Eastern / 1 pm Central / 11 am Pacific   5 Steps to Maximizing Your Marketing Budget The most important number you need to pay attention to with regards to marketing is ROI (return on investment). The whole purpose of marketing is to spend some money to get more customers and more money in return.    Think You Know Top Producer? Think Again. We reviewed Top Producer CRM in May 2012. Since then, we’ve been hearing rumors that the team is going to make some big improvements. We met with them again this week to see what’s new and discovered that they weren’t kidding: This isn’t your mother’s Top Producer.   Will the Real John Doe Please Stand Up? Signatures on real estate documents shouldn’t feel like an episode of the game show, “To Tell the Truth.” You should know exactly who signed the document, in addition to where and when they signed it. This may be an area of pushback from clients when you tell them you’d like to use electronic signatures. You can assure them, however, that reputable electronic signature solutions can provide true confidence in signer identity.  How the New Cartavi Helps Optimize Agents’ Productivity. On Tuesday, hundreds of agents and brokers attended the second event in our October webinar series, “Keep Real Estate Digital: Optimize Your Workflow.” Cartavi CEO Glenn Shimkus gave us a live demonstration of how Cartavi 3.0 can streamline your workflow and help you provide clients with a better experience. If you weren’t able to make it, no worries–we recorded the webinar for you! 

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Lead management services have been around in some format for years, of course, and many tech companies have been putting a lot of effort into delivering tools that tie the broker, office manager and team leader.  Agents historically (and still today) are inconsistent at best with responding to online leads (and are usually worse at follow-up). Brokers need to fix this! CRM providers are responding to two trends we see emerging that are changing the landscape of lead management for brokers. The first one is confounding. Agents want syndication and online advertising but only respond to about 1 in 4 leads. When they do, it is normally a “one and done” call or email. The second trend is the need for brokerages to increase their visibility, management and ROI of leads – online and offline. As a broker you need to benchmark and set goals for enterprise lead responsiveness. That means you need to see performance across the company, each office, and each agent in each office. We recently found a top-producing agent getting more than 39 leads a month from the broker who never responded! WAV Group sees four key takeaways. Office Reporting helps brokers better understand leads overall and leads by lead source. This is a fundamental requirement to managing your online lead strategy. WAV Group emphasizes that brokers use these reports to publish the facts about online lead generation. If sites are not delivering any leads to agents, show agents the results, then turn off the data feed. Don’t waste your listing asset on partners who do not perform. Syndication to 200+ websites is an online marketing mistake. Agent Lead Responsiveness helps managers understand what agents do not care about online leads. It helps the office manager open a discussion with the agent to determine a strategy for lead placement. Either the agent needs to commit to following up with the leads with broker support and coaching, or the leads should go to another agent or a relocation desk. Don’t waste them! The lack of responsiveness by an agent will tarnish the brokerage reputation with the consumer. It’s disgusting to think that a consumer would reach out to a broker on a home purchase and be ignored. Brands cannot handle this type of erosion in consumer confidence. Agent Performance is another measure on the dashboard. Not all agents are alike. If some agents are converting more online […]

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Austin Board of REALTORS Bids Syndication Farewell

by Victor Lund on October 10, 2013

Sunsetting services is never any fun, especially services that do not cost the membership any money. That is exactly what the Austin Board of REALTORS® is on a path to do this spring. The ABoR directors released a formal statement this week announcing the plan to sunset the Listhub agreement by April 30th, 2014.  The process for researching this difficult decision is nicely outlined http://www.abor.com/syndication. In June 2012, the ACTRIS committee, which is the MLS of the Austin area, created a Syndication Task Force with diverse representation of members and brokers. They cited some interesting findings. The decision to syndicate to third party websites should be an independent broker decision. They found there to be questionable consumer benefit in providing data to non-REALTOR® websites. They opined that Non-REALTOR® websites damage the reputation of REALTORs® They are of the belief that Non-REALTOR® websites misinform and mislead the consumer They believe that they can support REALTOR® members market listings without facilitating syndication to Non-REALTOR® websites. Note: There was no indication whatsoever that ListHub did not do an excellent job with the services offered to ABoR. The issues are occurring downstream of Listhub. The sunset process The committee put forth a roadmap for the process of sunsetting the Listhub service. Announcement to members and brokers Creation of a MLS Learning Community for online discussion Broker Forum It is interesting that ABoR  moved in the exactly opposite direction of fellow Texas MLS operated by the Houston Board of REALTORS® this week. HAR announced that they are adopting the Listhub service. HAR was one of the final major markets in America to offer Listhub as a member benefit. Publishers indicate that the best path to listing accuracy is a solid partnership with the MLS who provides the trusted source of accurate listing information. WAV Group research has shown that even in markets where the MLS provides data to publishers, the listing accuracy is still way off the accuracy found on a broker website. However, it does make an improvement. The key issue of listing accuracy is that publishers (REALTOR.com excluded) take listings from multiple sources. If they only took the MLS Listhub feed, the accuracy of a broker listing on the publisher website would be synchronized at least daily. Until publishers let brokers nominate the trumping rules and listing terms of use, data accuracy will continue to be a cancer. Brokers in Austin will not be left in the lurch. […]

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Listhub Offers New Terms HAR Agreement

by Marilyn Wilson on October 9, 2013

Listhub has finally enrolled the Houston Association of REALTORS® in its listings distribution platform by matching the terms of HAR’s unique needs for listing syndication. Historically HAR has entered into direct agreements with major portals. Houston CEO, Bob Hale spoke briefly about the organization’s strategic shift toward Listhub during our discussion at the Council of MLS meetings in Boise, Idaho. “We track everything so our brokers can maximize their success in online marketing,” said Hale. The Houston Association of REALTORS® pioneered the STAR reports that have long provided their members with detailed reports on listings and leads displayed on HAR.com. What was missing was a federated report that shows how HAR.com stacks up against the leading portals.” Historically, Listhub has offered its listing syndication services for free to MLSs, in exchange for the opportunity to market “premium” reports to brokers and agents. HAR wanted to acquire customized weekly listing metrics reports for their members. When the system goes live, brokers and agents who have active listings will receive reports that show how well their listings a performing on HAR.com and other sites where brokers choose to publish their listings. HAR is installing the Listhub tracking codes on HAR.com. Brokers and agents may still choose to subscribe to other premium reports. REALTOR.com President, Errol Samuelson remarked “with our partnership in Houston, Listhub has now eclipsed the aggregation of 90% of listings in the United States, a landmark accomplishment.” There are a couple of interesting best practices that emerged in this agreement that are worth noting. In some instances HAR may maintain their practice of contracting directly with a publisher and not rely solely on the agreement between Listhub and the publisher. REALTOR.com listing views and leads will be included in the HAR Listhub reports. HAR is not truncating the data feed at this time. Some MLSs like Sandicor have also implemented a Syndication Remarks field into the MLS that allows agents to promote themselves differently for syndication than the remarks intended for IDX. HAR stopped short of a few opportunities that WAV Group has identified for listing syndication. No MLS has successfully implemented tracking codes into the MLS system. This is a strategy identified by MRED MLS that was attempted with Onboard Informatics but the pilot program was not implemented into full production. It would also be very interesting for an MLS to require every agent and broker website vendor to install tracking codes. WAV […]

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Many consumers are looking to educate themselves on the housing market. They often end up on third party sites like Zillow and Trulia to see what listings in their area look like INSTEAD of your own site. WAV Group partner Marilyn Wilson is moderating this RE Technology webinar. This webinar is targeted to real estate brokers. Unfortunately, these sites can provide inaccurate data but time and again consumers head there because it’s the only location that provides them this information. Would you like to learn about an affordable program to attract potential new clients directly to your website, avoiding the additional cost of paying for promotion on third party sites? This webinar will help explain how to leverage your agent or broker site to become your local market’s go-to listing information portal that provides accurate information for prospective buyers. Learn how to attain qualified leads that will help your business explode this fall! Moderator: Marilyn Wilson, WAV Group Panelists: Dennis Vaughn, Quantum Leads Richard Eimers, Broker at Eimers Group   Date: Tuesday Oct. 8th 2013 Time: 1 pm Eastern / 12 pm Central / 10 am Pacific [Please adjust for your time zone!]   Click Here to Register!  

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ReTechnology.com Top 5 Articles of the Week

by Victor Lund on October 1, 2013

Webinar: Make Your Business Explode with a Powerful Lead Generation Program Many consumers are looking to educate themselves on the housing market. They often end up on third party sites like Zillow and Trulia to see what listings in their area look like INSTEAD of your own site. This webinar will help explain how to leverage your agent or broker site to become your local market’s go-to listing information portal that provides accurate information for prospective buyers. Learn how to attain qualified leads that will help your business explode this fall! Date: Tuesday October 8th, 2013 Time: 1 pm Eastern / 12 pm Central / 10 am Pacific    3 Final Down Payment Assistance Myths Debunked The August REALTORS® Confidence Index Survey (released Sept. 23) weakened slightly due to concerns about the prospect of further increases in interest rates and the continued difficulties in accessing mortgage financing. It’s time to look at how down payment assistance can help more buyers gain the mortgage financing they need.  4 Ways to Help Buyers Prepare for Higher Mortgage Rates After years of historically low mortgage rates, home buyers are seeing the tide turn and wondering how much higher rates will inch up. What advice should agents give them?  Google Analytics 101 for Real Estate In order to turn all that great data Google Analytics provides you with into actionable insights which can help you improve your business, you must learn the basic terms and functions so that you can use the tool effectively.  3 Ways to Set Yourself Up for a Successful Listing Presentation Listing presentations are a big deal, so this is your opportunity to take some time and set your “future self” – the one that goes to the listing presentation – for an outstanding meeting. Here are three ways to set yourself up for a successful listing presentation.     

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CRIS and NORMLS MLS Move to CoreLogic Matrix System

by Mike Audet on October 1, 2013

After an extensive RFP process the Centralized Real Estate Information Service (CRIS) and the Northern Ohio Regional Multiple Listing Service (NORMLS) have chosen CoreLogic’s Matrix system as their new MLS platform. CoreLogic’s press release follows; IRVINE , Calif., October 1, 2013—CoreLogic® (NYSE: CLGX), a leading residential property information, analytics and services provider, today announced that the Centralized Real Estate Information Service (CRIS) and the Northern Ohio Regional Multiple Listing Service (NORMLS) have entered into a new five-year agreement to license the Matrix™ suite of multiple listing products and services. “The decision to contract with CoreLogic for its Matrix platform was the result of extensive research, investigation, and actual hands-on testing by our MLS vendor task force,” said John Kurlich, CEO of CRIS. “Ultimately, the group decided that Matrix offers not only a state-of-the-art system with the speed, flexibility and mobility required in today’s real estate market, but also the ability to adapt to—and take advantage of—technological advances yet to come.” “Homebuyers and sellers expect to be able to communicate with their agent any time they have a question,” said Carl DeMusz, president and CEO of NORMLS. “With its standards-based HTML design, Matrix gives our members the freedom to access the MLS directly using the device of their choice, including the iPhone®, iPad®, and Android™-powered smartphones and tablets. Matrix enables a new level of mobility and responsiveness for Northern Ohio real estate professionals.” Matrix will be the MLS platform for the Northern Ohio Real Estate Exchange (NEOHREX), a collaborative listing database maintained for the mutual benefit of both organizations and their combined membership of more than 9,000 real estate professionals. CRIS and NORMLS plan to cut over to their new Matrix system in March 2014. “Matrix continues to find favor in new markets thanks to its tremendous performance and compatibility,” said Ben Graboske, senior vice president of Real Estate and Financial Services for CoreLogic. “As technology rapidly changes, more and more MLS organizations are looking for an enterprise platform they can count on to work no matter what computing device or operating system their members decide to use tomorrow. We’re proud that premier organizations like CRIS and NORMLS continue to choose Matrix above all others.” For more information on Matrix, visit www.corelogic.com. About CoreLogic CoreLogic (NYSE: CLGX) is a leading property information, analytics and services provider in the United States and Australia. The company’s combined data from public, contributory and proprietary […]

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