August 2014

MyOnlineYardSign Attacks MLS IDX Policy

by Victor Lund on August 28, 2014

Generally speaking, real estate business media companies write pretty respectful commentary regarding the well-developed MLS IDX policy. Sure, the policy is a living document and the MLS Policy Committee is an open forum for clarifying the policy and amending it from time to time. But generally, it is a well adopted program that publically exemplifies cooperation among brokerage firms. Today, Travis Saxton of Real Trends promoted a product called MyOnlineYardSign. The product allows real estate agents and brokers to put contact information and the company logo on their photos for free. Watermarking of this type has been around for a long time and I think the product is exceptional for listings that are being syndicated. However, the article suggests that agents upload these photos to the MLS – which is a clear violation of every IDX policy in America. But wait, it gets better. The website, http://myonlineyardsign.com, goes on further to explain what agents should do if the MLS not approve the photos. On the resources page, http://myonlineyardsign.com/Resources they suggest that Talk to other agents in your office including your managing broker to call or write to the MLS Talk to other agents in other offices to call or write to the MLS Start a petition to the MLS I am more than a little surprised that the Real Trends article does not inform the agents or the broker that the photos would be a clear violation of IDX policy that will ignite disciplinary action agent the firm and the agent. Be that as it may, MLSs may want to put agents and brokers on notice about this company and remind them about the MLS policy that forbids this activity before it gets started. But in a larger sense, I do think that IDX policy could use some renewed thinking. Perhaps the stoic policy of tucking the listing broker and possibly the listing agent down at the bottom of the page has lived out its life.  Perhaps a discussion should be started about IDX following the broker fair display guidelines, or eliminating IDX all together. The consequences of brokers who want to tightly manage the display of listings online is a very slippery slope. It slides from the open range of anyone using the broker’s data for any purpose without restriction to the closed door of requiring that only a consumer working with an agent may ever view the listing. […]

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ZipLogix® has long been a provider of electronic forms software. They led the migration of processing transactions from paper to online with the launch of their zipForm® software and have opened up a huge opportunity for innovation, risk reduction and efficiency. zipLogix® is on a roll. They are forging tons of partnerships with companies that provide other valuable parts of managing the real estate transaction. The Ultimate Goal? Looks like a path to truly create a seamless, paperless transaction. Way to go zipLogix® – we at WAV Group have been asking for this type of integration for years! We wrote a paper called Brokerage Technology – An Industry Needing Backbone back in 2010 and then another called The Shift in Real Estate Technology  highlighting the need to make it easier for brokers to conduct business. We’re glad to see that industry technology integration is finally starting to happen in a meaningful way! With previous partnerships, zipLogix was able to create a simple way to complete forms online and signs form online with their partnerships with Digital Ink and Docusign.  Last month they announced a partnership with BackAgent. BackAgent offers a variety of brokerage solutions that streamlines the back office workflow. Brokers easily monitor and manage agent transactions while providing structure and guidance for their entire office. Today, zipLogix announced a new partnership that helps reduce the hassle, risk and inefficiencies from the offer management process. Their partnership with OfferRunway.com “will give zipLogix users the ability to track the entire history of their offers on a real estate transaction and share it with their broker all with the click of a mouse button,” said John Murray, president and CTO of Realty Pilot, creator of Offer Runway and the #1 team three years in a row according to the REAL Trends/Wall Street Journal’s number one broker team. “Both agents and their brokers will have access to the completed offer files in the most secure and reliable real estate platform available.” I love it when I see smart partnerships being formed to make the process of selling real estate more efficient.  It’s great when one of the industry leaders like zipLogix take it upon themselves to solve important issues and help brokers connect the dots between many technologies that can help them.  It’s time that we find ways to work together for the benefit of everyone in the industry. According to Walt McDonald, […]

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MLSs Need To Focus on the Customer Record

by Victor Lund on August 25, 2014

The Real Estate Standards Organization (RESO) is clearly picking up steam at driving standards across the real estate industry. A pivotal inflection point in the success of standards is the adoption of those standards by MLS service providers and their vendors. One of the vendors who is particularly aggressive at adopting those standards is FBS, developers of FlexMLS and Spark. You can translate “particularly aggressive at adopting standards” to leadership in real estate technology. I will be using FlexMLS to demonstrate my point thought out this article, but to be clear – many MLS Vendors and MLS service providers are on the same track. To Download the full report click here.

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Are you living the life of a Customer Servant?

by Marilyn Wilson on August 25, 2014

We all know that our businesses are dependent on our customers, yet we don’t always live the dream of providing amazing customer service. It’s easy when you get tired to say “I’ll get up early and do it tomorrow”.   When the phone rings and we don’t answer it we might justify it by saying I need to focus on this CMA I am building. Or worse yet, the phone might ring and we ignore it because we’re talking to one of our friends or having a cup of coffee. While we’re all human and we have our moments of weakness, customer service is fundamental to what we provide in the real estate industry.   After all that is what we’re really selling at the end of the day – Expertise, Local Knowledge and Service.    At the end of a day if a client doesn’t feel like you care about them, you’re not going to get very far. Certainly you won’t be able to create a lifetime experience with them. I would like all of us to ask ourselves a fundamental question through a little exercise I have created.  Do you truly have the heart of a servant? Do you LOVE to help your clients achieve their goals?  Do you get up in the morning thinking about how you can delight one or more of your customers today? As a brokerage do you inspire your teams to live the life of a servant to their clients?  As an MLS do you encourage and incentivize every one in the company to do whatever it takes to help your subscribers be successful, addressing their needs quickly and completely? Do you proactively provide them tools, training and service that will go above and beyond what your members would even ask you for? Do you celebrate service excellence regularly?   Do you review areas of customer dissatisfaction and proactively train on ways to eliminate it for the future?   Do you have processes in place to objectively measure Customer Service Satisfaction? We just spent a week at the Omni Hotel in Rancho Mirage. They were living the dream of amazing customer service.  Every one on their staff was plugged into our needs. It was like they almost knew what we were thinking before we did!  We asked one of their staff about it and she showed us a card that every employee carries with them outlining their key […]

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An Industry Can Change In A Moment

by Victor Lund on August 25, 2014

There are many in our flocks that don’t have a calculus for manifestation of change. It just seems to rub them the wrong way. The belief is that, among those who fight change, there are the people who have wired the world for their own success. I don’t think so. I believe that fear of change is something internal, and innate in the nature of some portion of our humanity. It is probably not a bad thing either. It makes change difficult, and perhaps more worthwhile. After considering all of the testimony, documentary evidence and arguments of counsel presented during and after trial, the court finds that the challenged NCAA rules unreasonably restrain trade in the market for certain educational and athletic opportunities offered by NCAA Division I schools,” Wilken wrote in the 99-page ruling.  I am always fascinated by the optics of change from the exterior. What does change look like when it does not really impact us? I guess that in some way, opening the door to allow amateur college athletes to profit from their own names, images, and likenesses may not seem like a big deal. But it is actually enormous in consequence. There are plenty of people who opine on the immediate and future outcomes of this change, but nobody really knows. It will simply happen – and everything will adjust. We will see how it goes, and the impact that it may have on the economic roots of our higher education systems. Change happens all around us, all of the time. Normally, change evolves slowly, but sometimes change happens quickly. It can happen in a court ruling, as we see in the NCAA example. It can happen symbolically, as we see in the fall of the Berlin wall.  It can happen through revolution and war, as it does so often. It just happens. From my perspective, the most curious thing about change is the failure to prepare for it. Somehow, in life and in business, there is a resignation along the lines of Que Sera, Sera. We buy insurance to protect ourselves from hazard and happenstance. We store some reserves for a rainy day. But rarely to we develop action plans for change. For whatever reason, contingency planning evades us. We would rather talk about it over a glass of wine than in the boardroom. Common wisdom is to “embrace change.” Have you ever met […]

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Advertiser’s Nirvana is CRM

by Victor Lund on August 25, 2014

If you want to see the marketing department at Lowe’s or Home Depot salivate – tell them you have a data source that will notify them of the Name, phone number, address, and information about the property they just purchased. In fact, you will even be able to tell them the closing data and the move in date. That is the kind of information that is in CRM solutions and until now, that data has not been mined for advertising. Nobody understands this better than Trulia, the company that may have the most highly adopted CRM solution in America. In this assumption, I am excluding MLS systems. MLS systems have a lot of the same data in their client servicing solutions. The NAR has significant relationships with many companies who are attacking business opportunities in the moving space. A home purchase triggers a massive spending event. I have always been curious about why NAR does not offer a free CRM solution to all REALTORS. It would fit in nicely to Realtor’s Property Resource. The positioning of RPR has been to allow REALTORS to communicate more effectively to consumers – which requires a consumer record – or customer relationship management system. Maybe that is in the product roadmap already – I do not know. The Real Estate Standards Organization, RESO, is creating a structure for transporting the customer record across applications. In the years to come, RESO certified solutions will be able to leverage bi-directional RETS or RESTful APIs to make the customer record (contact information and activities) transportable. This will allow an agent to manage the customer and related activities in any number of applications like the MLS, like broker or agent websites, like direct marketing solutions, like transaction management solutions – on mobile or desktop – anytime any where. No more duplicate customer record. But there is more. Someone will contemplate monetizing the customer record. Salesforce.com is the most popular CRM solution on the planet. At the high watermark of pricing, it costs $65 per user per month. What is the value of a lead? How much do you think you could sell the customer record for if you sell it to Lowes, Chase Bank, Fidelity Title, etc. Looking at the price mortgage is paying for leads today, having just a mortgage company and Lowes would cover the cost of the CRM. I often wonder if companies managing buyer […]

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Idea #1 – How to Take Credit for the Industry’s Service Quality Every real estate association I have the pleasure of working with is struggling with how to re-invent themselves. Everybody knows it’s a problem at some level, but yet there has been no fundamental change in the focus, governance or scope of associations in several years. Are we just going to sit by and watch the association business go away?  Should it go away?  Has the value of an association run its course? My fundamental belief is that Associations CAN and DO play an important role in the industry, but there needs to be more tangible evidence of the important roles that boards play. Here is the first of several ideas that I will be publishing to identify specific ways Associations can find ways to become more relevant to their members Promote Customer Satisfaction Levels When I ask the question how strong are you on professional standards in your market, I ALWAYS get the response “we’re really good at it”. Then when I ask how many people have suspended from your organization for nefarious or other code of ethics violations I usually hear none or maybe one over the past 10 years. Then when I ask a third question how many of you today are working with people that you believe violate the code of ethics just about every hand in the room goes up. There is definitely a discrepancy between perception and reality. So how can we change this circular logic and protectionism behavior? Here’s one way to start: I’m sure that many of you have heard of the J.D. Powers survey. Here is their role according to their website: “J.D. Power captures the opinions and perceptions of millions of consumers annually. Our data and insights are used by companies worldwide to improve quality, satisfaction, and business performance, while our ratings aid consumers in making more informed purchase decisions. “ So what if we tried this approach in our industry?  An association could deliver a valuable service to every one of its members if it tracked the satisfaction levels of every transaction and then rolled it up into one satisfaction number.  Then it could put teeth behind a REALTOR® ad campaign.  Just like J.D. Powers, the association could use an objective, third party brand that measured satisfaction. Then the local association could confidently claim “Your local REALTORS® deliver […]

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Who Syndicated My Listings?

by Victor Lund on August 25, 2014

We have learned over the last half-decade of doing listing syndication that it is complicated, especially for firms that have multiple offices, multiple associations, multiple MLSs, and possibly a franchise or network. We call this overlapping syndication disorder and the existence of this disorder can lead to syndication fraud. Last month, Amy Gallagher of Century 21® Hometown Realty in California encountered a fraud attempt that was blocked by ListHub. This is an important component of our service that you may not be aware of. Gallagher’s firm participates in three primary MLSs along the central coast of California and is also a franchise of Century 21. All three MLSs offer listing syndication and so does Century 21. Because the firm’s listings overlap in some MLS areas (same listing in multiple MLSs), they choose to use the ListHub service offered through their Century 21 franchise as their primary syndication tool. Gallagher has a ListHub account in each MLS, but has the listing syndication turned off. In June of 2014, Gallagher received an email stating that her new ListHub account in a certain MLS was requested. The ListHub team alerted her that someone was using her broker credentials to try to create a ListHub account. The effort was blocked. “Without this fraud alert feature in ListHub, our listings could have been taken over and abusively syndicated!” Since over 90% of consumers begin their home search online, it is essential that technology is available to support real estate professionals who choose to advertise their listings online within a safe environment. And if brokers want to block syndication there should be a mechanism to support this option as well. ListHub, a leading technology-provider used by more than 450 MLSs and 50,000+ brokers in the United States, is a good example of a managed syndication platform. ListHub is controlled solely by the broker-in-charge and connected directly to the MLS. With ListHub, for example, only the broker-in-charge can decide where the company’s listings are being distributed online, or if they are distributed at all. ListHub has protective measures in place to help brokers prevent listing fraud including the ability to block syndication for your office codes, ensuring that no other broker or agent is able to fraudulently syndicate your listings via ListHub. A little background to understand how this works… The ListHub platform is set up so that when a broker account is configured ListHub pulls the […]

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The End Of War Between Zillow and Trulia

by Victor Lund on August 13, 2014

There is a major war going on in the taxi industry today. Uber and Lyft are duking it out. Both companies have deep cash pockets and they are deploying it in marketing and undercutting each other. It is pretty hard to know which service is better as they work hard to drive market share. As Zillow marches toward the stock swap to join forces with Trulia, perhaps a new wisdom of that transaction will reveal itself. They just avoided a very expensive war where the two of them may have killed each other off to reign supreme. It is pretty clear that the company that spends the most to attract the consumer is the company that gets the most traffic. Sure, the site itself is important in terms of usability or in terms of features like AVM, mortgage information, agent ratings, rentals and the like. But the real reason why these companies have the traffic they have is that they take every dollar they bring in from agents and brokers and buy more traffic. Many industry analysts have long term concerns about the voice of real estate not being a broker or an agent or part of the REALTOR family. Those are reasonable concerns that any incumbent would have in the face of new competition. But look at the facts. These companies are marketing the entire real estate industry on the back of investor dollars more than ad revenue from agents and brokers. Even if you want them to go away – be sure to thank them for the advertising first. They built the mulit-billions in value in their business. As an aside – Uber and Lyft have grown their value to $18.2 billion. I guess the taxi booking business is big business. Remember, market-share lead does not assure success. These companies are hopeful that it will, but in the interim, some brokers and agents are riding on the returns from their investment in reaching the consumer. They are putting more dollars to work than the dollars that you pay J We expected this value to continue for many years as Trulia and Zillow independently competed against each other by deploying dollars from their IPO. With the merger, these companies are not likely to be injured by competition between the two of them. They are on the same team. It will be time for Realtor.com and Homes.com to step up. Competition […]

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  Greater Alabama MLS and ListTrac put out a joint press release that you will find below. ListTrac is free, which makes it an attractive product for any MLS. We are keeping a close eye on them to see how it goes. Today, the voice of real estate seems to be the publisher sites – nobody is counting the traffic in the MLS or IDX sites. However, we know from looking at MLS activity, auto-email, MLS consumer website traffic, and, IDX site traffic that – if measured, equates to some significant consumer listing engagement. Under NDA, WAV Group has seen some of the early reports where ListTrac is installed, and the traffic is huge. Mid-sized MLS are sending out 6 million consumer emails every month at 80% open rates. MLSs have significant daily traffic and listing impression numbers. ListTrac pulls all of that data together so sales associates and brokers can include that information along with portal traffic in telling a seller how their listing is being marketed. I have not noticed any other ListTrac press releases, but I know that they are installed in a few markets because we have reviewed the reports. The console operates in real time – which is surprising. I am interested to see how consumers react when they see how much marketing is being done in the MLS and IDX sites. Listhub has been doing a great job of reporting on syndication sites. I am not sure if Listhub has been installed into any MLS system. I think that they are installed in piecemeal fashion on broker sites. Onboard tested the thesis that ListTrac is delivering in MRED a few years ago.  From what I have seen so far, this product has some strong legs. Time will tell…. Press Release follows: -New Capabilities Help REALTORS® Measure and Report on the Effectiveness of IDX, MLS, and Syndication Marketing  SAN DIEGO, CALIF., August 12, 2014 – The Greater Alabama MLS and Birmingham Association of REALTORS® have entered into an agreement to provide ListTrac™ as a member benefit to their broker and agent subscribers. With this new service, the Greater Alabama MLS will be monitoring and measuring engagement every place a listing is viewed by a REALTOR® or a consumer. Greater Alabama is joining a handful of other leading MLS in America who are pioneering this effort to improve the management of listing data online. “As online advertising […]

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Of course, the ultimate goal of any business is to create profitability for its owners, shareholders and stockholders.  Without profitability, the business will cease to exist. To quote Kenny Rogers, sometimes you need to know when to hold up and when to fold up, though.   There are times when a company is in a significant competitive situation where it needs to go into the market guns a-blazing and grab as much market share and mind share as it can. In the market we’re in right now, some might think the worst is over.  They may think it’s time to start “milking” the business trying to extract as much profitability as they can.   WRONG Answer!  I have lived this dream myself so I would like to give all business owners and leaders a piece of advice learned in the School of Hard Knocks. If your market share is not growing then it is actually declining, even if your market share is significant. If you’re not getting better you’re actually getting worse, because there are others that are getting better around you. Business marketplaces are not static. There is always someone gaining and someone losing. If you’re “stable” that means you’re actually losing because there’s someone else that is growing. Here are some signs that you’re falling into the profitability over market share trap. You fundamentally believe that it’s okay to have stable market share and don’t consistently chase growth Customer service is left up to each individual agent or customer support manager – you’re not measuring the company’s customer satisfaction scores on a regular basis because the customer “isn’t equipped to provide educated feedback about what we do”. You’ve decided to spend LESS on customer-facing programs because your market share is stable and strong You’re decided to invest LESS in training or technology because you have invested heavily in the past couple of years The core focus of the company is to find to make your internal processes more efficient We work with technology companies that tell us their key focus is to make their marketing dollar work harder. While I applaud a constant evaluation of marketing effectiveness, if you are too worried about not wasting one dollar you’re going to miss out on opportunities. If you have an aggressive competitor they’re going to invest in a diverse array of programs, especially if they sense that you are not doing the […]

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Real Estate Book and Homes & Land Under One Roof

by Victor Lund on August 5, 2014

Real Estate Media Holdings, LLC, a Lion Equity company, has broadened its investment in the real estate marketing space by adding Homes & Land, a leading real estate media brand, to its portfolio, along with the additional brands Estates & Homes, Rental Guide and Home Guide. The group purchased NewPoint Media Group, publishers of The Real Estate Book, in June of 2012. Both The Real Estate Book and Homes & Land publish local real estate magazines in hundreds of markets across the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean through a network of independent business owners. In addition, both brands power high traffic consumer websites, RealEstateBook.com and HomesandLand.com, with millions of homes listed for sale, as well as mobile, social, and direct mail marketing tools for real estate professionals. “Real estate marketing, and specifically, locally distributed print advertising, is a very strong business model,” said Ari Silverman, Co-founder and partner in Lion Equity Partners. “Reaching local buyers and sellers is paramount to an agent’s business, and hyper local offline advertising does that very effectively. We’ve experienced this with The Real Estate Book and feel that adding Homes & Land will strengthen our investment in the industry and further build the return to our investors.” A recent study conducted by Borrell Associates on the marketing spending habits of agents, brokers, and builders indicates that they have not abandoned their commitment to local print as part of an integrated marketing strategy. In fact, the forecast suggests spending will increase. The category represents nearly 650 million in spending and is expected to continue to grow 8% over the next 5 years. “Many would have you believe consumers shop for homes exclusively using the web,” said Scott Dixon, President of NewPoint Media Group, publishers of The Real Estate Book. “Our experience is that when a consumer is in the zone, in terms of shopping for a home, any and all information regarding the most important financial investment in their lives is deemed relevant and useful. Local real estate magazines offer a useful reference point for shoppers and a way for top real estate agents to distinguish themselves from others in the market who rely solely on their company’s website and Zillow or Trulia.” “Zillow and Trulia, who announced their consolidation earlier this week have effectively become a public MLS system, while our offering is targeted to showcase those premier agents who offer their clients marketing services […]

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