November 2013

WAV Group 2013 MLS Technology Survey Report

by Mike Audet on November 27, 2013

It is our pleasure to share the results of the WAV Group 2013 MLS Technology Survey report with you.  The WAV Group 2013 MLS Technology Survey was fielded on September 13 and closed on October 16. 11,176 staff and users completed the survey.  Survey results are only included for those MLSs that provided both staff and user ratings.   Staff and user results are presented separately in the report. Overall,  MLSs are happy with their MLS technology but there is some churn in the industry.  43% for the participating MLSs have been with their vendors for 10 years or more.  Only 7% of the MLSs say they are definitely going to look for a new vendor, while 12% say they have had issues and will look seriously at switching.  Half are happy and will likely renew without a search and 32% say they will probably renew put plan to look.  These numbers represent considerably more “looking” than we have seen in prior years. A number of factors are contributing to this rise in system reviews and system conversions. First, systems have really improved over the last few years.  Interfaces are improving and overall flexibility at the staff and user level is improving on multiple systems.  Client collaboration tools are getting better as well. We are seeing advances in numerous other functional areas. Second, a large portion of our MLSs are still on legacy systems that are showing their age.  Some MLSs are being presented new system options from their vendor as their current systems are being phased out over time.  Many of these MLSs are wisely looking at all system options prior to making a system decision since even upgrading with their current vendor will require a true system conversion. The great news is there are a number of excellent MLS vendors and system choices and one size does not fit all.  We are often asked to identify the best vendor and system and the truth is, it depends.  It depends on the system you are on, the size of your MLS, the level of IT expertise you have at the staff level, how important price is, etc.  And don’t forget company culture.  Your MLS vendor is your partner so finding the right fit, in terms of company culture, is hugely important for a successful vendor/client relationship.  We encourage you to take a look around if you haven’t recently as there […]

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Happy Thanksgiving!

by Mike Audet on November 27, 2013

All of us at WAV Group would like to wish all of our friends in the industry a happy, healthy and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday.  We all have very much to be thankful for in our industry and this is a great time to take stock of our blessings. Our real estate market has turned around from a period when things looked very dark and gloomy to one where the future looks very bright.  Our real estate system for all its imperfections is the best in the world.  All of you who have had the opportunity to live abroad know what I am talking about.  We are a nation and industry of achievers and a side effect of that constant push to move ahead and beyond our past accomplishments is a tendency to minimize how well we are already doing.  We are the only country in the world where real estate professional cooperate and share compensation on a mass scale.   There are imperfections and disagreements but we talk and we listen.  Our leaders on all sides truly look for ways to address concerns and make improvements and we do improve.  The bottom line is our industry works and when you consider that no one else in the entire world does it as well I think that is something to be truly thankful for.  Those of us that have made a lifelong commitment to the real estate industry know how crazy our little world is but ask anyone one of us and it is clear that we also love being a part of it.  So congrats on a job well done at all levels! This Thanksgiving we are going to slow down for a moment, enjoy our families and remember how good things really are.  It can always be better and we will keep working to make it so, but in the meantime all of us at WAV Group are truly thankful to be in this industry with all of you. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Fear of Agent Ratings

by Victor Lund on November 25, 2013

The real estate industry seems to want to avoid judgments and ratings of any and all kinds. It may be for good reason, or it may be for fear. The reality is that agents resist ratings for fear and reason. Most people react to change with emotion and justify that emotion with logic. Fear According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia, fear is an emotion induced by a perceived threat that causes entities to quickly pull far away from it and usually hide. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific stimulus, such as pain or the threat of danger. In short, fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or-flight response) but in extreme cases of fear, a freeze or paralysis response is possible. As we break down the definition of fear, there are a number of keywords like “perceived,” “pull back,” “hide,” “basic survival,” “threat stimulus,” “fight-or flight response,” and “paralysis.” These are all very deeply rooted primary drivers of the human condition. It will take a revolution to overcome this fear, and I think the groundswell of that revolution may have already begun. Yelp, Zillow, California Association of REALTORS®, National Association of REALTORS®, countless technology firms, and countless MLSs have all dabbled in agent ratings. To be clear, consumers of real estate services demand ratings as part of their selection process. Real estate agents are fearful of the ratings because they may or may not be true depictions of the expected services delivered by an agent. Like it or not, agents will be rated. The real question for our industry is who will you trust to rate you? Who will consumers trust? Trust Back to Wikipedia, Trust is when one party (trustor) is willing to rely on the actions of another party (trustee). The trustor (voluntarily or forcedly) abandons control over the actions performed by the trustee. As a consequence, the trustor is uncertain about the outcome… but develops expectations. The uncertainty involves the risk of failure or harm to the trustor if the trustee will not behave as desired. Who should agents Trust? I have always believed that the administration of programs like agent ratings should be local – like the local MLS or Association of REALTORS®. These entities are there to develop structure for the agent […]

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SEM and VTs

by Victor Lund on November 25, 2013

SEM and VTs, sounds a little more than conspicuous. Its code for using some Internet strategies to do a little more with online marketing. There is a gaping area of unexploited territory available to cleaver brokers who understand how to leverage unbranded virtual tours in real estate. As WAV Group has discussed before, the unbranded virtual tour allows a broker to publish a Virtual Tour to other broker and agent websites. If done correctly, that virtual tour provides a link back to the broker’s website. It is not a link that the consumer sees or can even touch, but search engine spiders follow the link. It has long been known that link backs are a big benefit in Search Engine Optimization. However, like every exploit – this strategy wanes in effectiveness as more brokers adopt the strategy and as search engines change their ranking algorithms. Moving on, some WAV Group clients have begun to try some new strategies that are proving to be pretty effective. The unbranded Virtual Tour can place a cookie on the consumer’s browser that can be used to target search engine marketing and online banner advertising to the consumer across the Internet. Obviously you cannot advertise to a consumer on a competing broker’s website, but you can track that consumer when they leave the competitor’s website and hit them with all kinds of advertising all over the web. This practice is commonly referred to as retargeting. Don’t get too excited. Many browsers are beginning to block cookies that do this sort of thing – making the strategy more difficult and the reach less effective. But when it works, it works really well. The cookie acts like a beacon that shines a light on consumers who are on broker or agent websites looking at IDX listings. That is a target rich audience for advertising. There is a little more to this story. It involves recruiting. As we learned in our 2013 Broker Website Effectiveness study, few brokers are deploying search engine marketing strategies. Remember that many of the visitors to agent and broker websites who are looking at virtual tours are agents. It may seem unprofitable to advertise to agents, but that is far from the truth. When an agent sees a broker’s online advertising they get the impression that the broker is doing more than their current broker to market online. That is a powerful recruiting […]

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Top 5 Articles of the Week

by Victor Lund on November 22, 2013

How to Lose a Listing My neighbors really like their original real estate agent, Agent One. They wanted to work with her again. But they tell me that they probably won’t choose her to list their home. This is pretty catastrophic for her, whether she knows it or not, because repeat and referral business is a real estate agent’s bread and butter. 4 NAR ® Member Benefits You Should Be Using The REALTOR® Benefits Program brings members of NAR discounts and special offers on real estate products and services. The value of the Program isn’t just the financial savings; it also ensures that the prodcuts offered are carefully selected to meet the needs of real estate professionals like you. It’s about receiving a quality product for a quality price. Buying a New Tech Tool? The First Question to Ask I consider myself a very open-minded person, but try to convince me to switch from Mac to PC, for example, and I’m going to dig in my heels. I’m not alone; most of the people you meet are committed to their marriages, their families, their careers, and their operating system. So when you’re choosing any technology product, your first question needs to be whether or not it will work with your OS.  Every Listing is Worth a Million Dollars Okay, perhaps not literally. Some of your listings will sell for much less while others may sell for even more – and everywhere in between. But your attitude should always be the same. You should treat each listing and each client as if they are the most valuable you’ve ever represented. Your 2013 Holiday Blogging Plan With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to let your blogging habits fall by the wayside. The festive season presents a wealth of easy post ideas, however, so make sure sure you’re not neglecting your blog! We’ve rounded up a few topics that will help you connect to consumers by providing useful information.

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LeadRouter Gets Much Better

by Victor Lund on November 20, 2013

LeadRouter is the solution that is used by the REALOGY firms to manage the hundreds of thousands of leads generated by the franchises and the franchisees across the world. It is arguably the most commonly used lead management solution on the planet. Today, it just got better for the agent and for the consumer. In Thursday’s version release, LeadRouter has taken steps to allow agents to immediately contact the consumer by phone when the lead comes in, and the record of that contact record is automatically published in LeadRouther. It is simple, elegant, better. If you are not a LeadRouter user, you may not appreciate this subtle sounding improvement. But it is big. Before the update, an agent would get a get a lead from LeadRouter. Hang up the phone, make another call to the consumer. Complete the call to the consumer, then log into LeadRouter, accept the lead,  then update the lead status. All of these steps have been reduced to “Pressing 5” on your phone keypad. When an agent gets a lead and “presses 5,” LeadRouter will dial the consumer’s phone. If the call to the consumer spans 30 seconds, then the contact will be automatically applied to the status of the lead in LeadRouter. One step. Press 5! WAV Group lead research has indicated that our industry is paralyzed when it comes to lead management. Half of all internet leads are never answered and when they are, it is typically more than a day later. REALOGY continues to invest in solving this customer service problem in our industry. LeadRouter “searches” for the most available agent according to brokerage business rules. Usually, the lead goes to the listing agent on all company listings. If the listing agent does not respond within some reasonable time frame, the lead moves on to another agent in the brokerage. Agents who have not taken LeadRouter orientation or do not respond to leads will typically have their LeadRouter account frozen until they take an action to pay attention to consumer inquiries. It is a smart system. IDX or co-broker leads go into lead pools that are targeted to the best available agent that can respond. The leads pass from one agent to the next until the consumer request is satisfied. WAV Group works with many of REALOGY’s largest brokerages to tie all lead generation applications into LeadRouter as a single point of servicing […]

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Top 5 Articles of the Week

by Victor Lund on November 8, 2013

Broker Webinar: Convert More Buyers with the Next Generation of School Content Did you know only 3% of homebuyers compromised on the quality of schools during their home selection process last year (according to the National Association of REALTORS®)? This webinar will teach you about incorporating the newest in school-based search into a web and mobile experience that meets the needs of today’s buyers. Learn how you can use School Attendance Zones and advanced School Profiles on your site to help users find matching homes. Brokers will also discover how to arm agents with better decision support tools to add value to their clients. It’s All Over, Folks. Hurricane Craig(slist) Has Flattened North America Dubbed Hurricane Craig, this change is a seismic shift in Craigslist’s posting policy throughout North America. Many of the most commonly-used HTML tags in Craigslist are now disallowed. If you are posting to Craigslist, what does this mean for you? 5 Ways Brokers Can Leverage Single Property Websites This summer, Century 21 teamed up with Properties Online to automatically generate single property websites for every active listing. What can brokerages gain from specialized sites like these? Here’s what Centrury 21 already knows. Write Listing Descriptions That Sell While it’s well known that it’s the photographs in a real estate ad that will pique a buyer’s interest in a home, the right words in the description may just get them into the car. Yet, finding ways to describe your listings — coming up with catchy headlines and intriguing come-ons — is pretty challenging. Banish “One Size Fits All” Agents can fall into a “one size fits all” approach, losing their edge and their clients in the process. Instead, you can show your clients that you see them, hear them, and appreciate them by crafting a strategy that is unique to them.  

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Why are MLSs surprised?

by Victor Lund on November 5, 2013

WAV Group has been purposefully quiet during the storm of enlightenment whereby the industry pundits that recognize the role of the real estate broker in our industry.  In truth, the leading MLSs in America are perfectly cognizant of the role and needs of brokers in real estate. Frankly, many of The Realty Alliance brokers own MLSs or are standing members of the Board of Directors. Even in the absence of having a broker owned MLS or having broker led governance in your MLS, there is plenty that you can do that involves the broker in your MLS strategic planning. Every WAV Group facilitated strategic planning session segments the brokers of all sizes to measure their satisfaction with MLS service and opinion on MLS policy. MLS ‘participants’ are the first customer of the MLS. Subscribers to the MLS are the welcome guests of the Participants. If you are not a Participant focused MLS, make that a strategic goal for 2014. In strategic planning, every MLS should have a positioning statement for each of its customers. You should clearly know what you do for brokers. Complete this sentence: For brokers, MLS name is the only MLS that ____________________ for brokers. Reasons to believe this are 1) ___________________ 2) ____________________ 3)_____________________ The positioning statement for broker participants should be harvested from broker research. Broker research means that you need to know your brokers, by name! You should know where their offices are. You should know their technology partners that are powered by MLS data. As the MLS, you play a pivotal part in making sure that data gets to their systems. Granted, you cannot do this for every broker. But you absolutely must do this for your largest brokers. Think in terms of your top 10 first. Your 10 largest brokers probably absorb a large percentage of your subscriber base. If your services fail to meet their needs, then you are also failing to meet the needs of a large segment of your subscribers. Having a MLS broker focus group of 10 large brokers, 10 medium sized brokers, and 10 small brokers is a great idea for MLS. Simply asking the focus group questions about current or upcoming initiatives will be a great barometer of how they think about current or future initiatives. Sometimes you will learn that they need information. Sometimes you will learn that they have information that you do not […]

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Anybody that runs a company wants to believe that consumers LOVE their brand – after all we love our brands don’t we?   While that’s a great goal, it’s a lot harder than it looks to create a strong emotional connection with your customer base. Apco Worldwide, a public relations firm recently fielded a global survey. Here’s the list of the Top 100 Most Lived brands.  According to Apco’s press release, here’s what it takes to rank as a loved brand: “APCO’s proprietary Emotional LinkingSM model served as the basis for evaluating the companies by measuring consumers’ emotional attachment to brands along eight dimensions, providing companies with a roadmap to understanding consumer expectations in an actionable way. Technology companies were the largest industry represented in the top 10 with Apple coming in at ninth on the list. “The best brands are those that build a strong, enduring emotional attachment with consumers,” said Bryan Dumont, president, APCO Insight. “In addition to acting as a highly predictive tool for consumers’ purchase choices, the Emotional Linking model has proven to be an excellent way to help companies retool their campaigns to build stronger emotional attachments between their key audiences and their brands.” The rankings are the result of a decade-long research project including a global survey of more than 600 of the world’s largest corporate brands among more than 70,000 individuals in 15 key markets around the world. The Emotional Linking model identified eight emotions that are critical to effective brand communication. These eight critical emotions are: Understanding, Approachability, Relevance, Admiration, Curiosity, Identification, Empowerment and Pride.” This methodology is very interesting and seems to have found a way to quantify emotional connections to brands. So what can real estate brands learn from this research about how to create stronger brand loyalty and connections to their customers? Understanding In the real estate industry we are notoriously bad about engaging consumers in dialog to truly understand their wants, and emotional desires.  We cannot expect to create a meaningful connection if we don’t even know what really drives them? As I have written about many times, it’s time for our industry to embrace the consumer and engage in regular dialog with them.  Companies like the Houston Association of REALTORS® as well as Trulia and others regularly engage in conversation. Approachability Do we make it easy for potential customers to approach us?  In many cases, consumers are afraid […]

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Cheap MLS Systems

by Victor Lund on November 1, 2013

The results are in from the annual WAV Group MLS Technology Survey. We will be working on the report in the coming weeks. Last year’s report showed that there were not any MLS software solutions with super high ratings. This year’s survey showed that the ratings have dropped down for every vendor. What can be done about that? As you may know, WAV Group provides RFP services to MLSs who are facing a contract termination date. It is smart to shop around to see if there are solutions that are better shaped to meet the evolving needs of agents and brokers. The goal is to find a better system at a lower price. Vendors know this. They do everything they can to operate their business as efficiently as they can so they can meet the Low Price needs. The notion of “Better System” is more about design than function. If the system cannot look great, the vendor focuses on throwing in MLS toys – like a consumer website, IDX, Agent Websites, Virtual Tours, Document Management, or some other tool. They pile on additional applications in the base price of the MLS to sweeten the deal. The WAV Group survey measures two groups of MLS customers. It measures the attitudes of the staff and the attitudes of the agents. Every vendor in the industry is facing lower ratings by both of these groups. The industry is ripe for change. The pendulum needs to swing away from lower price and more toward better systems. Change #1 – Reduce Profits. One of the hidden fiefdoms that contaminate our industry is the MLS markup to paying subscribers. It its most pervasive form, the markup happens when the Regional MLS wholesales services to the Association of REALTORS® who retail the service to the subscriber. This often results in the doubling of the service costs so the Association may realize a profit. MLS systems that are wholesaled below $20 per agent per month wind up costing the subscriber more than $40 per agent per month. No doubt, the Association MLS providing training and support adds a cost burden to the core fees. And there are other cost centers like rules enforcement and subscriber management. The markup is not pure profit, but profit is a significant percentage of the fees. Change #2 – Don’t Switch Systems. Every time an MLS switches systems their satisfaction ratings plummet. This […]

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