March 2014

“Full Service” Starts With Serving Your Agents

by Victor Lund on March 25, 2014

Agents need help. I guess that I did not truly understand how much until a series of events collided this week. The first lob was the announcement that Century 21 is launching a new program that allows agents to subscribe to a “Marketing Assistant” program for $300 per year. The marketing assistant will be fully trained on all of the services offered on the brand’s Century21Online portal. In launching the portal, Century 21 CMO made a prophetic statement: “The last thing that agents need today is another tool.” She is right. Outside of core technology solutions, agents can be heavily distracted by technology. Based upon the data we collect, by the time they learn it, they cancel the subscription. The idea of the marketing assistant is brilliant. It was the buzz of the annual convention and every voice said, “I am going to sign up for that.” Congratulations to Century 21 for delivering on a heavily desired service. What Thorne made clear is that the Marketing Assistants are not a Help Desk. The second lob colliding into my week was a reminder about TechHelpline from the Florida Association of REALTORS®. They fill the technical support gap by helping with computer repairs, virus removal, virus protection, email set up and problems, software applications and software repair, printer help, data recovery, network problems, spyware removal, and more. I was sitting next to a REALTOR® at dinner when the table topic turned to the acknowledgement that my table mate was the “help desk” for a number of agents in the office. Everyone joked and laughed about how “nice” he was to help. In my mind, it triggered the reality that this agent is having his productivity undermined by this distraction. This agent needs to tell the other agents to go away and spend $200 per year for TechHelpline. This leads me to the last lob, which came from Alex Perriello, head of the REALOGY Franchise Group. “The best way to succeed in real estate is door knocking!” He’s right. All of the technology in the world will not come close to the overwhelming success that agents find from door knocking. The top producer for a broker I work with joined the real estate industry four years ago. For the past four years, she has been working with the company coach and she has dedicated herself to knocking on 100 doors a week. Her […]

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Transaction Management Update

by Victor Lund on March 24, 2014

WAV Group performed Transaction Management research in 2005 and in 2009. The goal of the research was to survey trends in Transaction Management adoption. On Wednesday of this week, RE Technology will be hosting a candid conversation with DocuSign’s lead Transaction Management Vice President, Glenn Shimkus. There will be a 30 minute discussion of today’s Transaction Management challenges and a 15 minute overview of their new enterprise solution (They have had an agent solution for some time now). Here is the webinar information – please join us! Brokers: Accelerate Your Business with DocuSign for Real Estate RE Technology invites you to learn about DocuSign’s latest innovation for brokers! Join Glenn Shimkus, Vice President of Real Estate Solutions with DocuSign, on Wednesday, Mar 26, as he provides a first look at the new Broker offering from DocuSign- Transaction Rooms for Brokers. Learn how DocuSign for Brokers can provide you with a powerful platform for managing all digital transactions across your business. It’s a simple, self-configurable system that allows you to support your team and agents more efficientlytoday, and as your business grows. Glenn will share his insights about how the Broker solution from DocuSign was developed and answer your questions about this product. Space is limited. Register today! 

This RE Technology webinar is free and is sponsored by DocuSign. Date: Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 Time: 1 pm Eastern/ 12 pm Central/ 10 am Pacific  

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Top 5 Articles of the Week

by Victor Lund on March 21, 2014

As you may or may not know, RE Technology was founded by the WAV Group partners to support the role of MLSs and Associations in delivering a wide array of information and education about real estate technology. On May 5th, the company turns three years old! Since 2011, we have been able to deliver over 100,000 pages of valuable information that helps practitioners learn about technology and the companies that provide technology services to power their business.  Each week, RE Technology sends a report to more than 4500 executives and staff of the nations MLSs and Associations of REALTORS® offering the most read articles. It keeps them sharp on the currency of information that is most relevant to the 250,000 weekly readers that pour over our editorial. You will find those top 5 articles below. If you do not have an RE Technology account. Reach out to Victor Lund. You will need a username and password to access the site if you are not affiliated with one of the 87 MLS and 260 Associations of REALTORS® that provide this service as a member benefit. My brief take away from this weeks’ top articles. DocuSign as emerged from an ingredient brand to a leading brand in the industry and they are parlaying dominance and brand into transaction management. The acquisition of CARTAVI brought them an agent transaction management solution and a talented team of developers and project managers who have an intense passion for the category. Everyone is keeping a sharp eye on them and this webinar will be the first look that many will have on their enterprise Transaction Management Solution for brokers. The article about Jump starting your listing inventory was contributed to RE Technology by the Point2 division of Yardi. Point2 does a great job of edutizing – providing valuable content to agents and brokers that warms up their brand. It is a smart marketing strategy and keeps them sharp on what REALTORS® are interested in – which is more listings. The Listhub article about listing presentations helps agents get the value they need by understanding listing syndication more fully, and learning how to articulate the strategy to sellers. Mike Audet’s article about a top producing agent who used CRM to take his business to another level is a great read. CRM solution are underutilized by sales people in real estate. Those who do adopt CRM tend to […]

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Getty Images for Brokers

by Victor Lund on March 19, 2014

If you are like most brokers, you have received at least one threatening letter from Getty Images for using one of their images. Good news is that Getty is now allowing people to use their images for FREE! I guess all of that lawyering worked out. Or, perhaps they realized that chasing everyone for using their images was more cost than it was worth. I do not know of anyone who did anything other than ignore the notices. In any case, Getty has changed their business model. They now allow anyone to embed their photos, but you need to do it the Getty way – that means that there is a watermark on the image and you are marketing their photo services. Like many businesses, they have learned that internet traffic is a great way to generate revenue. Another interesting strategy for Getty Images is a service they call Getty Video. They have an enormous library of video that makes great content for your blog or community landing pages. Again, they get all of the SEO credit, but you win by publishing extraordinary content that engages consumers on your website. Many broker websites experience about 6 to 12 minutes on site per visit. Search engines like Google and others track this information and you get search engine optimization for the longer people stay on your site. It is their way of not only measuring your site’s traffic, but moreover the engagement level you offer to consumers when they visit your site. Adding a video to a text page may double or triple the time on site. That’s a good thing. Remember, as a real estate broker you are also a publisher. You either need to think like a publisher, or partner with a web services firm that will do it for you. We find that there is always a difficult challenge to hire a content manager for your staff or outsource. The gate to that decision typically hinges on the size of brokerage. Expect to pay a minimum of $36k for a decent content coordinator. If you have 10 offices or more, each office should be able to burden the $300 per month. If you have fewer offices, you may be better off hiring a service. Most service providers start at $1500 per month. In summary, if you are publishing content to your site yourself – take another look at […]

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MLS Data Standards

by Victor Lund on March 17, 2014

MLSListings is the MLS service provider in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, which includes; Silicon Valley, San Jose, Monterey County, Santa Cruz County, South San Francisco, and parts of the East Bay. It is a large region in the heart of the most daunting techno-consumers, techno-brokers, and techno-agents in America. Satisfying the needs of this audience is intense, but MLSListings has been doing it successfully for many years. They are a company that is constantly evolving to meet the ever-expanding demands of real estate information in their market place. MLSListings CEO, James Harrison published an excellent paper last week called MLS Standards: Can and do Exist. You can read the paper below.  One of the strong take-away points from the paper is the plea that more MLSs join MLSListings in adopting and adhering to the Real Estate Standards Organization or RESO standards. Here is the ugly truth about the issue of standards:  All NAR affiliated MLSs are supposed to adhere to the RESO standard according to their charter. That includes the Real Estate Transaction Standard or RETS. In other words, all MLSs are under an agreement that requires them to be RESO and RETS compliant. NAR is in the difficult position of having to enforce standards, but it has been challenging. As a result, few MLSs have data standards in America today. There are 850 different data standards and systems that do not talk to each other unless someone maps the data and maintains the mapping. It’s insane for the brokers and agents who need this level of consistency for their business practices. Of the 850+ MLSs in America today, only “64 are charter members of RESO,” according to Harrison’s paper. This is evidence that many MLSs are simply asleep at the wheel. There is absolutely no reason why every MLS and every RETS system cannot be compliant with the RESO standard. MLSListings is a leader. It is an MLS that is way ahead in adopting the RESO standards. In truth, most of the large MLSs in the nation are part of RESO and are RETS compliant. I give a lot of credit to the COVE Group for making this happen, especially Anne Bailey for her role as the facilitator. Where is the rest of the industry? Whenever large firms bring this issue to their local board or MLS they get rebuffed as bullies. Who else can make a […]

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A Potential New Role for the MLS

by Marilyn Wilson on March 13, 2014

The home buying process and obtaining a mortgage are inextricably linked. The Mortgage industry has been pushed to the forefront by the recent mortgage crisis, marked by unprecedented rates of loan delinquencies, defaults and foreclosures.  Recent studies on this topic cite various causes, including risky product offerings, economic conditions, a housing price bubble, adverse selection, and questionable marketing practices Today, MLS organizations are positioned to play a much broader role through their network of subscribers to leverage technology to make the process of buying and selling a home much more efficient and effective. Some of the most innovative MLS organizations provide their subscribers with a tool that educates homebuyers on home affordability working in conjunction with their members’ lender(s) of choice. MLSs need to continually reinvent themselves, serving the needs of large and small brokers, top Producers and part time REALTORS® alike.  They need to serve a spectrum of needs without demonstrating bias to any of their customer segments. MLSs can provide support to their subscribers beyond the property database. WAV Group has drafted a white paper outlining the potential for MLSs to expand their relevance, especially for top producers by finding ways to encourage clients to pre-qualify for a mortgage before working with a REALTOR®.  Click here to download the paper.  The paper outlines a new method to expand the value of the MLS WITHOUT leveling the playing field. The Difficulty of Securing a Mortgage In today’s regulation-heavy marketplace it has become more and more difficult for consumers to secure a mortgage.  According to NAR’s 2013 Home Buyers and Sellers Survey, nearly 9 out of 10 homebuyers are financing their home with a mortgage.  Nearly 100% of all first time homebuyers finance their home purchase with a mortgage. Download the full paper HERE!

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Important Information from the NSBA

by Marilyn Wilson on March 13, 2014

It is a great honor to be able to serve on the Board of Trustees of the National Small Business Association. Below is a piece by NSBA President and CEO Todd McCracken discussing important issues facing all small business across industries, including real estate. I look forward to sharing more valuable information like this from the NSBA with our industry! To become a member of the NSBA visit nsba.biz   Inside the Beltway – March The Monthly Update on Small-Business Policy By NSBA President and CEO Todd McCracken Small Business Policymakers On Wednesday, March 5, the Senate Small Business Committee voted to approve the nomination of Maria Contreras-Sweet as Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Nominated Jan. 15, 2014 by President Barack Obama, Contreras-Sweet’s nomination now heads to the full Senate for a vote, wlthough no clear timeline has been established for that vote. NSBA registered support for Contreras-Sweet and is urging the Senate to move expeditiously in confirming her. In addition to changes at SBA, the U.S. Senate Small Business Committee has also welcomed new leadership in recent weeks. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has taken over as Chair for the committee, replacing Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who became Chair of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Sen. Cantwell’s first act as chair was overseeing the committee markup to approve the nomination of Contreras-Sweet as the next SBA Administrator. Sen. Cantwell has been a champion for many small business issues, specifically calling for improved small-business access to capital. Tax Reform Tax reform has long been a top priority for NSBA, where data has shown that recently, complexity is outpacing financial cost as the number one burden posed to small businesses by the U.S. tax code. On Feb. 26, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) released broad tax reform language—the culmination of several years of intense work by various Members of Congress, staff and stakeholders—which would lower corporate and individual tax rates, reform U.S. international tax rules and aims to simplify the tax code. Among the key provisions in Chairman Camp’s proposal that would impact small-business owners: The current 35 percent top corporate rate would be reduced over five years to 25 percent; The current seven individual income tax brackets—ranging from 10 percent to 39.6 percent—would be replaced by just two tax brackets of 10 percent and 25 percent; A 10 percent surtax would be […]

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Mid-Year Party and Tech Guide

by Victor Lund on March 13, 2014

The Annual RE Technology Midyear Party is scheduled for Wednesday May 14th at a secret location 1 mile from the Omni/Wardman hotels. The limit of people this year is 200, so if you would like to buy tickets or be a sponsor – contact victor@wavgroup.com. The entertainment will be the SuperStar Factory band featuring our favorite Miss Wendy Moten. This sells out fast. Proceeds go to the venue and the band. Many of you have been associated with the WAV Group for many years now. You remember that from 2003 to 2011 we published the annual MidYear Technology review. It started out as a way that Mike, Marilyn, and I could take the notes from the NAR Mid-Year conference and summarize them for our clients. In 2010, that document had grown to nearly 200 pages and went beyond our grasp. This is one of the reasons why we founded RE Technology. It digitized that information and made it easier to access. Today, RE Technology carries on the tradition of the WAV Group Mid-Year Technology guide, and it has continued to be published each year as a digital magazine. It is a beautiful publication that reaches more than 150,000 industry executives who use the guide as a resource though out the year. If you are a technology vendor, I hope that you will consider having your product included in the 2014 guide. We are in the final process of page reservation, so please reach out to victor@retechnology.com for more information. Take a moment to look at the 2013 Guide Here http://techguide.retechnology.com    

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How Data Killed The REALTOR

by Victor Lund on March 13, 2014

If you look at the demise of Encyclopedia Britannica, you see a clear roadmap of how history will repeat itself to cause the demise of the REALTOR®. Up until 1994, the Britannica sales associates sold about 120,000 hard copies. Sales people consumed the most amounts of profits from the transaction. The sales people at Encyclopedia Britannica protected their data. The three or four thousand pages of the books were protected by copyright. Then came the Internet, and more importantly, Wikipedia. The Britannica sales person was disrupted by a price point of free.  The cost of data was disrupted by user-generated content. Adapt the pattern to real estate. Like Britannica, sales people or REALTORS® consume the most amount of profits from the transaction. REALTOR® sales people are protected by data copyright and forms copyrights today. The MLS protects REALTORS®. The National Association of REALTORS® protects REALTORS®. Disruption is coming. Today, 1 in 4 buyers find the home they ultimately purchase using the Internet. Like Wikipedia, the cost of consumers to access listings on the Internet is free. Even posting a listing on FSBO (user generated content) is free. Heck, in less than an hour I can publish more information about my home than any REALTOR® would ever be able to produce. I can do it for free. This is exactly like Britannica – free and user generated content. REALTORS® have one advantage remaining today. Processing the transaction. State and local transaction and disclosure forms are only available to REALTORS® or Licensed Sales Associates who subscribe. This is the final leg of protection. Will the last REALTOR® turn off the lights. If you are a REALTOR®, or a real estate brokerage, or a real estate brand, or an Association of REALTORS®, or an MLS – and you do not think that you are on a path to self-destruction, you are delusional. Your reckless behavior with data management not only exposes the privacy of the consumer you have vowed to protect, it undermines your future existence as a service provider. Your actions are planting the seeds for the evolution of FSBO transactions. To preserve your future, you need to do one simple thing. Copyright your data and only share it with others through a restrictive data license – or, do not share your data. Only a small handful of practitioners have chosen not to share their data. I revere their courage, but I […]

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How A Top Agent Goes To The Next Level

by Mike Audet on March 12, 2014

A while back I did an interview with Justin Havre, who is a top real estate agent in Calgary Alberta working at CIR REALTY.  CIR is the largest independent firm in Canada with about 650 agents.  With his team, Justin Havre & Associates, he has been number one or two in his market for a number of years, (#1 team for 2011-2013) and to put things in perspective, at the time of the first interview he and his team were doing nearly 200 transactions a year. I sat down with Justin in our original interview to understand some of the things he was doing successfully to reach this level as well as to see where he thought he could improve his business practices. In our original interview, Justin noted the significant investment he makes in technology every year.  He operates multiple real estate websites and the leads generated from these sites form a significant piece of his business.   At the time of the first interview he had 6 people on his team and one of the problems he noted as needing improvement, was the ability to respond effectively to the large number of leads he received every day. The second key area he identified that needed to be improved was his communication and contact with customers he has already worked with.   He realized that largely due to the huge new lead volume he was experiencing he was neglecting the people that he had already done business with. I interviewed Justin recently to get an update on how things were going and to see what he had been able to do to address this specific business needs noted in the first interview.  Most importantly, I wanted to see if whatever steps he took had the outcome that he desired. Re-invent Your Business Remember, Justin is hugely successful and ranks at the top of sales year after year in his markets.  Yet the first thing he told me in this follow up interview was that shortly after our first interview he ripped his business apart and re-invented himself and his team.   A key to the transformation was his willingness to see that if he didn’t change he would get the same outcome, which might look good to some, but to Justin it wasn’t satisfactory.  So his first step was to increase the number of agents on his team from 6 to 28!  […]

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The Speed Of Need

by Victor Lund on March 10, 2014

We know that companies are created when they meet the needs of their customers. But, what we fail to understand is the nature and complexity of Need. Need is a singular thing that is driven by a vast array of attributes. The most common attributes are Price, Functionality, Customer Service, and Relationship. But there is a new attribute of need which I call the Speed of Need. Price is a fundamental attribute of need. Customers must be able to afford a product or service if it is ever going to fulfill the need. Functionality is another fundamental of need. Even if a product is priced right, feature and functionality deficiencies or abundance can cause needs to go unmet. Customer Service is perhaps one of the most critical factors of success in fulfilling a need. Great products that run short on customer service don’t have staying power. Relationship is often a component of need. Frequently companies succeed or fail based on relationships – but this is not always important in fulfilling needs. I do not have much of a relationship with many of the products and brands I rely upon – but in some cases it is important. The Speed of Need is something that many companies tend to overlook when they consider their customer needs. However, in the technology that serves industry today – the speed of need is critical. The reality is that the technology needs in all industries move at a pace or speed. Customers have a need for their product and service providers to keep pace with that speed of need. This entails the ongoing development of their products to deliver new and improved functionality. You can hear the speed of need complaints from customers quite easily. It sounds something like this – “I love the price, your product works great, your service has always been terrific, and I value the long term relationship we have. However you have been promising me these fixes and features for (Insert Timeline) and I am getting tired of waiting!” Failure by companies to address the speed of need can eat away at their success as quickly as bad pricing, bad service, weak functionality, or bad relationships. It can erode a company’s reputation to new customers and cause loyal customers to rethink their partner choices. A great way to measure your company’s ability to meet the need for speed is with […]

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New Listing Alerts Favor Portals

by Victor Lund on March 10, 2014

Sometimes you really need to dig into the nitti gritty details of something to understand how home shoppers behave and why they make choices when using online property information websites. For this particular case study, I am looking for a multi-unit residential complex in North Hollywood, CA. The Dynamics I am working with a REALTOR® – actually a team of REALTORS®. They “found me” through a sign call when I was driving neighborhoods. My needs – An investment property that is walkable to dance studios since parking is horrid. Parking. Cash-flow neutral with 25% down. Safe neighborhood. North Hollywood is part of The MLS CLAW, but my REALTOR® is a member of both The MLS and CRMLS. The REALTOR® is also part of a franchise organization. I told the REALTOR® clearly that I will be doing a 1031 Exchange and that I need to market another investment property before I buy. I just need to get a feel for the market. Client Servicing Tools Listingbook CRMLS Listingbook The MLS The MLS Client Servicing Solution Pro Although my REALTOR® did not suggest it, I am also using R.com, Zillow, Trulia, and Homes.com How New Listing Alerts Favor Portals New Listing Alerts are my personal favorite feature of website technology. Rather than having to search for listings everyday, listings come to me.  Clearly The MLS listing alert feature is by far the best: it is the first one to arrive, and it has more depth of information. The biggest flaw in the MLS Client Servicing Tool is that new listings often lack photos. Listingbook (and all IDX websites) was also lacking photos. Hence, as a consumer, I searched the property address for the photos. I am able to find the photos of the new listing on the portals before the MLS, although the listing shows as off-market. The MLS was the only site that displayed the rental income of each unit in the building. The site that had the best source of information for this particular property type was LoopNet. I would deduce that the REALTOR® listed the property on LoopNet before The MLS. New Opportunities There may be an opportunity for brokers, franchises, MLSs, technology vendors, and others to license historic photos from portals and display them when photos for the property do not exist in the MLS (with proper disclaimers and disclosures). My understanding is that realtor.com has every photo ever […]

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