Bill Miller

Sacramento, CA (October 18, 2016) – MetroList®, Northern California’s largest multiple listing service (MLS), announced today that Bill Miller has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer. Under Bill’s new leadership role, he will assume the day-to-day operational management of MetroList Services, Inc.Bill is a seasoned executive, and has been with MetroList for the 20 years, serving most recently as its Vice President and Corporate Secretary. MetroList also announced that Bob Greenspan has joined their executive team as Vice President, Business Development. Tom Beede will continue in his role as President, CEO and CFO. Bob brings over 25 years of industry experience and expertise to MetroList, most recently as Vice President for realtor.com where, during his 14-year tenure, he built a nationwide team of Industry Relations’ experts and supported the business relationships between realtor.com and both the California Association of REALTORS and the National Association of REALTORS. “Bob has been a part of MetroList’s successes beginning in the late 80’s when he supported the installation of our initial regional online MLS system,” said Bill Miller, MetroList’s Chief Operating Officer. “Bob’s support for MetroList continued more recently through introducing realtor.com’s “Find” property-centric search application to the MetroList membership.” Prior to his work with realtor.com, Bob launched and managed the MLS service shared by the BayEast and Contra Costa Associations of REALTORS in the San Francisco East-Bay area. Previous to that, Bob served as General Manager for PRC/GEAC-Interealty, a major MLS technology company that has since been acquired by CoreLogic. “We are thrilled to have such seasoned business professionals as Bill and Bob on our executive team, as we continue to explore shared technology and other opportunities with other MLSs throughout the State,” said Tom Beede, MetroList President and CEO. “For more than 30 years, MetroList has provided industry leadership and unparalleled MLS services to its Participants and Subscribers, as we continue to develop innovative business solutions for the real estate brokers and agents that rely on our services.” Bob holds a BA degree in Communications from the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA, and completed the Executive Management Program at Harvard University. He and his family reside in Alameda, CA. About MetroList Services, Inc. MetroList Services Inc. is the largest multiple listing service in Northern California, headquartered in Sacramento, the state’s capital. Formed in 1985 by the Sacramento Association of REALTORS®, the Placer County Association of REALTORS® and the El Dorado […]


Aculist Edge for Brokers – Big Data, MLS Powered

by Victor Lund on October 19, 2016

Aculist Logo

There are a few companies that have developed analytic and business intelligence tools for real estate. Terradatum, RBI, 10K, Altos Research, Trend Graphics, Realtors Property Resource and others. But this past year, one of America’s leading MLSs, MLSListings launched a new product called Aculist Edge™ under the banner of their subsidiary, Aculist (the name denotes accurate listings). Based in Sunnyvale, CA, the heart of Silicon Valley, MLSListings has some of the most advanced software developers in the MLS industry, and they have leveraged those resources in ways that only an MLS operator can. Aculist Edge is something that is truly special. MLSListings is a broker-governed MLS. It is important to understand that because this fact sets the scene around why an MLS would invest in a business intelligence product rather than purchasing one off the shelf. Board members representing firms such as Coldwell Banker NRT, Alain Pinel, Intero, Keller Williams, Sotheby’s, Berkshire Hathaway, RE/MAX, and others demand more information that allows them to better manage their brokerage business. Their feedback influenced the development of Aculist Edge, resulting in a product that fits how they work and use data. Aculist Edge is different than many of the other solutions in two ways. The first is design. Great effort was spent in creating simplicity on top of complicated data, making Aculist Edge easy to use and the reports look terrific! The second component of Aculist Edge is its connectivity to the live MLS database. Many solutions in the marketplace today update only once a month, others once a day. Aculist Edge is happening in real time. Because Aculist Edge is an MLS creation, they have re-imagined some reporting that is not readily available in the market from other solutions. Here are a few examples: Analyze sales data to identify where your next office should be Report on closed transactions and pending transactions Highlight listings that may have an issue with too many days on market Highlight listings that are in escrow too long Those are the special things, but Aculist Edge does the hard work that is not offered as seamlessly in many other competitive solutions, delivering benefits such as: Competitive comparisons by firm, office, team, and agent Agent performance Market trends by County, zip code, city, and school district Company and agent performance by property type, price point, market area, etc. Aculist Edge was built by one of the nation’s leading […]


Down on the Farm with Data

by Steve Cook on October 19, 2016

Online House

The most famous mash-up of valuation data and marketing applications was Zillow’s “Zestimate,” the centerpiece of Zillow’s national launch in 2006.  Zillow’s PR folks at the time positioned their new tool aggressively.  I was VP of Public Affairs at NAR at the time, and I will never forget the phone calls we received from national reporters suggesting that maybe now consumers would no longer need Realtors to sell their homes because they could find out their home values online. Though the early Zestimates needed further refinement, there’s no doubt that the launch was a tremendous PR success.  Automated valuation models (AVMs) like Zillow’s multiplied like rabbits, not just because they can be great traffic generators but because they are also hugely profitable ways to generate leads for brokers and loan officers. Over the past decade, the marriage of real estate data and marketing tactics has taken different forms.  I worked for Allan Weiss for several years to support his extraordinary Weiss Analytics maps and reports on individual properties.  Unlike most other valuation tools, he Allan has assembled a massive Big Data database covering millions of homes and uses four repeat sales indexes to create extraordinary accuracy at the house-by-house level.  Over the past year, Allan has joined with Brad Inman to create what may be the best valuation tool ever developed for real estate professionals.  It not only gives current values based on house-specific data, but it also forecasts near term valuation trends on a micro level—information worth its weight in gold for sellers, buyers, and investors. Now several start-ups are taking valuation data a step further.  They are combining valuations with a wide variety of lifestyle and personal financial data ranging from marital status, family size, employment, the length of ownership and even hobbies to generate “predictive analytics” that resemble the algorithms Amazon and Starbucks developed to anticipate customer preferences for their products.  These real estate applications create “trigger” data that identify specific homeowners for brokers to market. These new tactics, borrowed from retailing and wrapped in real estate lingo, are immensely appealing.  Who would not want to forego the cost of hit or miss mass mailings and mind-numbing cold calling to focus on the family that’s having dinner table discussions on selling their home?  Isn’t it time to move real estate farming into the digital era? The jury is clearly out.  Review and comments from agents who have […]


Redux: Minding Your Trade Show Manners

by Kevin Hawkins on October 19, 2016


Last year, I wrote about the 5 rules for trade show etiquette. Several clients and non-clients have told me they share this with their teams just before they attend a trade show.  However, the last couple of trade shows I attended were still brimming with exhibitor faux pas. As we enter the heart of trade show fall mania, with two of our industry’s biggest ones on the horizon – MBA Annual next week in Boston and NAR in a couple of weeks in Orlando – hopefully, even more people will realize that trade show manners matter. The RESO Conference in Nashville is up next. There, I’m hopeful that these rules will be followed because large or small, every trade show offers unique opportunities for belly-to-belly engagement that’s become highly prized in our increasingly digitized universe. Trade shows offer remarkable convenience. You can get on a plane, travel to a half dozen cities, and go through 10-grand or more to see a few dozen people. Or you can go to a trade show and reach a few hundred, with an opportunity to engage with some who would never be able to pencil you in on their calendars. The upcoming RESO Conference is that kind of place, and so being strategic in how you manage your trade show appearance is vital to achieving the best outcome for you firm. Let’s do two things: First, let’s revisit an abbreviated version of the 5 rules for trade show manners, and second, look at 3 ways you can improve your team’s effectiveness at your booth. 5 Trade Show Rules Redux Don’t drink the water (unless you do it discretely). Food and beverages are best consumed elsewhere, and not at your booth. Remember, your goal is to get people to approach you when you are at your booth, not leave you alone. If you’re eating or drinking at your booth, they’ll keep walking by. Stand, don’t sit. Over 90% of communication is non-verbal. When you are standing at a booth, you are signaling that you’re approachable. When you are sitting, you’re signaling that you are either tired or not engaged. If you have to sit, take a break somewhere away from your booth. Booths with barstools signal laziness. Is that the message you want to convey? Buy comfortable shoes instead. Eyes forward, please. And don’t forget to smile often. This is not a time to surf […]


Six Ways to Get The Most From PR Wire Services

by Steve Cook on October 19, 2016


Public relations wire services like Businesswire, Marketwired or PR Newswire pre-date the Internet, but they hardly resemble their early versions.  Back in the day, they were born to feed releases directly to wire terminals in news media news rooms and investment news services like Dow Jones and Bloomberg.  A major source of their business was—and still is—publicly held companies required by securities laws to release news that materially affects their stocks.  They also have a long history with political campaigns in need of a way to reach news outlets quickly. The online world has created a greatly expanded role for PR wire services.  No longer are they just vehicles to deliver news releases to editors’ desks, though they still fill that need with national, regional and industry-specific wires that target beat reporters.  Now some services also deliver news releases directly to the desktops of consumers and other targeted audiences. Today the services themselves have become a news medium in their own right.  Their offerings are carried in their entirety and verbatim by thousands of mainstream news media ranging from the Wall Street Journal to local TV stations and business weeklies.  Though most traditional news outlets segregate news releases from PR services on their back pages, PR news services are providing them free content that can build their SEO in the eyes of Google and Alexa.  In turn, those who use PR news services also benefit from the high readership of traditional sites because their releases will receive elevated status from search engines. PR wire services also deliver news releases directly to social media like Twitter and Facebook as well as leading bloggers and reporters who work for local and a national real estate online news outlets like RE Technology, Inman News, and RIS Media.  Blogs and sites that carry news content, which in real estate may include local brokerages, MLSs, Realtor associations and lenders, publish news releases for the same reasons as traditional sites: to augment their offerings and build their SEO. The expanded role for these services has also created opportunities for new services, especially those that specialize in working with social media.  Communicators have a range of new choices; selecting the right service depends on their needs, including the audiences they want to reach, the content they want to deliver and, of course, their budgets. Here are some tips on how to maximize the dollars you spend on […]


The Convergence of PR, Traditional Media and Social Media

by Kevin Hawkins on October 19, 2016


One of the most profound changes in the media we consume in recent years is going largely unnoticed. The convergence of public relations, traditional media and social media is causing lines to be crossed – or at least blurred – and that’s making it nearly impossible to distinguish PR, from traditional media or social media. It appears that this convergence is accelerating and what that means is content today is often a bit of everything mixed together. Let me explain. Traditional media – newspapers, radio and television – once ran news only created by their own reporters or from wire services that also used only journalists. The role of public relations was to work with these journalists to “pitch” or suggest story ideas that would interest the reporters because it would be of interest to their readers or audience Today, as traditional media makes is digital transformation it is morphing into something else. The online news sites created by traditional media still features content written by journalists. But today only a portion of online news content is actually written by independent journalists. More and more executives, consultants and other experts are contributing Blogs to online news sites. While their content may appear to be independent, much of this content involves skilled public relations professionals providing guidance, if not crafting the entire piece. Most importantly, for most readers, it is nearly impossible to tell what content was written by a journalist and content created by a non-journalist. This blurring of the lines between PR and traditional media is important, because revenue models today for news sites are driven by traffic. If a blogger has a bigger following than a journalist, who’s content is more important or valuable for the media entity? Many of my journalist friends today are being forced to change as well. Most where two hats: journalist and blogger. Often they are not the same in terms of the content that is created. What they write for the paper may be one thing, and what they write online another. What has also changed because of this digital transformation is today’s professional journalist is being forced to alter their writing based on metrics. Most of the journalists I know are being held accountable to the web traffic their stories generate. Headlines are often nothing more than click-bait, which overpromise and the result is a story that underwhelms. For broadcast journalists, […]


Annual Strategy Planning and Management Retreat

by Victor Lund on October 19, 2016

Puzzle Strategy

There is a curious coincidence about the relationship between strategic planning and success. Large, successful companies always have strategic plans and management retreats to celebrate accomplishments and recognize opportunities for success. Interestingly enough, start ups do the same thing. Where is the middle ground? For whatever reason, companies that are in the middle of the pack typically do not have plans. Or, the plan they do have is stale – the product of a moment in time when the leadership or board of directors insisted to cobble something together which, in turn, was saved in a remote desktop folder or shoved into a drawer somewhere. For decades, WAV Group has been providing strategic planning facilitation for leading real estate brokerages, technology firms, large MLSs, and large Associations. We have also reviewed strategic plans and business plans for the most ambitious young start-ups. If you are planning your strategic plan to launch your business powerfully into 2017, be sure to consider a proposal from us. Organizing your strategic planning session will be unique to your business and culture, but here are some elements of strategic planning that may point you in the right direction. Discovery – Interview the board of directors and key staff to understand their perspectives about the business. Great boards and business leaders are often closer in their perspectives about the strengths and weaknesses of a company than you might expect. Using an outside facilitator opens the door to more candid discussion. Research – Every Company has its Key Performance Indicator – it may be onboarding new agents, satisfaction with technology, consumer satisfaction, retention, growth, or whatever. Update your KPIs and understand how you are tracking toward your goals. The benefit of using a firm like WAV Group is that we can benchmark you against peer groups to better understand your performance. Preparation and Event Planning – Strategic planning is an event. You need to create an environment that is conducive to effective planning. This requires preparation to make sure that participants arrive in the right frame of mind. WAV Group performs a number of strategic plans each month. Preparation is a science. Start the day with an industry overview. When you being your planning, you need to begin with your lens zoomed way out. Be sure to spend about an hour reviewing recent events and industry initiatives that are shaping our industry today and into the future. […]


phone dial

Let’s face it. We operate in a very social industry.  We’re all a bunch of sales people. We love to go to parties, catch that final drink at the bar after dinner and attend swanky events sponsored by technology companies. In general, we just love to schmooze!  Its part of our real estate DNA! I definitely count myself on the list of schmoozers. We host at least three parties a year and countless dinners and events beyond that. They are a great way to get to know people and start new relationships. All of this networking is great, but we all need to be cognizant of something. When it’s time to make an important decision about what MLS system to purchase or what Transaction Management solution will work best for a brokerage, we have to try to separate the schmooze from the substance. Just because a company has bought you a drink or a dinner doesn’t mean they offer the best technology solution for your company. When we facilitate RFPs for MLSs and Brokerages, we sometimes hear a lack of interest in a very viable candidate. What is the reason? We don’t “know” them.  That’s code for we haven’t partied with them at Mid-Year or Inman or any other conference. We haven’t been wined and dined by them. While, of course, trust relationships enter into any decision when choosing a new technology partner, I sometimes feel like our industry is biased more toward the schmooze than the substance.  If you are making decisions for your members or your agents, it is incumbent upon you to separate your personal connection so that you can truly try to examine the company and the quality of its technology offerings. Written Requirements Going through a disciplined selection process with WRITTEN product requirements and a formalized method for actually testing the product with users is critical to making a successful decision. Company Strengths Looking beyond just the technology is critical too.  How is the company funded? Are they a start-up with a shiny new object or have they proven their worth with your peer organizations?  How profitable are they? Tailored Offerings Do they currently service customers with similar needs to your own?  I just heard an example recently where an MLS was using a technology that was used mostly by brokers. While the product in question did a great job of meeting the needs of […]


WAVes of Change: The Fright Stuff – Halloween Special

by Marilyn Wilson on October 17, 2016

Halloween special

With the end of 2016 fast approaching, and 2017 on the horizon, now is a great time to reflect on the best ways to help prepare your organization for the evolutions and revolutions which may happen next year. Are you Making Informed Decisions? Many things can happen when an Association or MLS is detached and not paying attention to the transient nature of the real estate industry and market. They can delay or even completely avoid decisions because they simply seem too difficult or controversial, causing the organization to fall behind or lose its competitive advantage. Even worse, Boards of Directors who do not stay in touch with these shifting trends can enforce and pass outdated rules and regulations that will impede their member’s success. Is your Travel Budget Limited? How do you kick your board into touch when you don’t have the budget to send several of your board members to attend multiple industry events each year? You can enroll in the WAVes of Change™ Series and we attend the events so you don’t have to. Four times a year we present a live webinar which includes exclusive looks at WAV Group research, emerging technology trends, broker challenges, policy discussions and industry initiatives. We also discuss the key threats and opportunities that face our industry today, helping everyone to find new ways to improve the relevance of their organization and ensure its long-term viability. The agenda is ever-changing based on the hot topics of the day! Get 5 Educational Sessions for the Price of 4! Right now, we are offering a Halloween Special!, If you subscribe for the 2017 WAVes of Change before Halloween you’ll get one WAVes of Change™ session free.  Your group will be able to attend 5 sessions instead of four, including one in mid-November THIS year. You can start your organization on the path of being more informed in just a few weeks! If this sounds like something your organization would benefit from please contact marilyn@wavgroup.com or camilla@wavgroup.com to schedule a call and take advantage of this one-time special!  Please join many of your Association/MLS colleagues for this insightful educational series!  You’ll be glad you did!


Elm Street Technology Poised for Acquisition Growth

by Victor Lund on October 10, 2016

Prem Luthra founded Elm Street Technology this year, and they are off to a fast start. Before founding Elm Street Technology, Luthra was a member of the senior leadership team at Real Estate Digital when the company was sold to Nationstar Mortgage, the parent company of Xome. After serving as Xome’s Chief Marketing Officer for over a year, Luthra decided to leave Xome to pursue his vision of creating Elm Street Technology, which he formed in February with a group of investors. In July, Randall Kaplan joined Elm Street as its Chairman through the first acquisition, Listingbook. In September, Elm Street also acquired RLS2000 a well-known broker and agent website provider and marketing services firm based in the New England. Elm Street Technology is in the process of rolling up successful technology and service companies that when complete, can deliver everything a broker or agent needs from lead generation to customer for life retention solutions. Luthra has had a string of wins in the real estate industry, with DNA that connects to the core of the evolution of real estate technology. His career was launched as a member of the team at realtor.com that I call the Four Horsemen – Prem Luthra, Ben Graboske, Marty Frame, and Errol Samuelson. This team was instrumental in Realtor.com’s success. Graboske left to join First American, spun out and led CoreLogic before leaving to become an executive with Black Knight Financial. Marty Frame left with Luthra to start up Cyberhomes for Bill Foley of Fidelity National. Frame was part of the team that sold/licensed Cyberhomes to create what is now NAR’s Realtor Property Resource. Samuelson extended his career at realtor.com and then jumped ship to join the executive leadership at Zillow Group, where he has been active in M&A activities. Luthra joined the Real Estate Digital executive team, where they sold the company once, bought the company back, then sold it again. The investment thesis for Elm Street Technology is pretty simple, but very astute. They intend to roll up best-in-class companies that have been in business for at least 5 years, have an established customer base, and are likely to have a revenue rate of between $1 million and $5 million per year. The $20 million revenue barrier is magical because it attracts the attention of investment bankers. Lone Wolf recently completed a similar roll up resulting in an investment from the $14 billion […]


2017 RESO Board of Directors Nominations

by Marilyn Wilson on October 10, 2016

RESO Real Estate Standards logo

      RESO is now accepting nominations for five open seats on the RESO Board of Directors. The RESO Board of Directors is responsible for the governance of RESO and development of the organization’s Strategic Plan. Two Vendor seats are available (Class B-5), for Vendors with revenues over $25 million. Three MLS seats are available (Class C 1-4), for MLSs with fewer than 50,000 members.  All five positions are for a two-year term beginning January 1, 2017. Candidates for the Board must be an employee of a RESO member organization. With the exception of NAR, no more than one person from a given company or its subsidiaries may serve on the Board of Directors at the same time. If you or someone you know is interested in lending your voice and talents in leadership to our organization’s goals of development, adoption, and implementation of standards, please complete a nomination form here (google form). Nominations will be accepted until midnight Eastern, November 10, 2016. Nominees will be published online at www.reso.org October 15 and updated as additional entries are received. Thank you for your support of RESO.


MLSs and Brokers Misunderstand RESO

by Victor Lund on October 7, 2016

Working Programmer

Our industry is in the dawn of a new day. With some measure of struggle, the Nations’ MLSs and their Vendors have endeavored to adopt a set of standard fields for standardized data transportation from the MLS system to applications that support the real estate industry.  I consider this the dawn of the effort because, for the very first time, MLS adoption of the real estate standards are more strictly mandated by the National Association of REALTORS® MLS Policy. For years, the National Association of REALTORS® supported and funded the Real Estate Standards Organization, which is referred to by its acronym, RESO. Despite being a free standing non-for profit with an independent board of directors, the bulk of the funding for this standards organization came from NAR, and was supplemented by MLS vendors and a few others. Today, the Real Estate Standards Organization has blossomed into one of the most collaborative industry wide efforts we have ever seen, with funding from vendors, brokers, Associations, and MLSs. The effort ties MLS Vendors, Broker and Agent Technology Vendors, MLS Operators, Associations of REALTORS® and many brokerages together. This group is funding and directing a massive overhaul of how information (data) is used today, and laying a strong foundation for the future. It is inspired transformation. Like anything new, different, and technical, there is also a massive level of misunderstanding that is frustrating the efforts. In some small way, my hope is to clarify some things to set some people straight. We try hard to understand before disagreeing, and disagree without being disagreeable. The MLS system has a native database. When agents enter listing information into that database, they most often enter data that is not RESO certified. We refer to this as entering data into the NATIVE MLS Database. Despite the 1,078 fields and 1,475 values within the most current version of the RESO Data Dictionary, the MLS has additional fields, business rules, database logic, and numerated values that are beyond RESO standards today. With few exceptions, NATIVE MLS Databases and listing input forms have not been converted to the RESO Data Dictionary standards. If MLSs were to adopt the RESO Data Dictionary standards for MLS fields, it would require an MLS conversion. I imagine that most of you reading this have suffered through an MLS conversion, so you can appreciate the expense and pain that it would cause to convert all […]

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Are You Going to Get Blind-Sided in 2017?

by Marilyn Wilson on October 7, 2016


As we head to the end of the year in 2016, now is a great time to sit back and reflect on the best ways to help prepare your organization for the inevitable evolutions and revolutions we may experience next year. Do you sometimes feel like your Board of Directors and key staff are out of touch with what’s really happening in the real estate industry today? Are you busy doing your daily tasks and feeling a bit overwhelmed by the speed of change coming at you from within and outside the industry? Are you worried that there could be something around the corner that you’re not thinking about that could ultimately TAKE OUT your organization? Is your organization suffering from stifled and cumbersome decision-making? Here’s what can happen when an organization is out of touch: Decisions can be delayed because they seem difficult or controversial causing the organization to fall behind or lose its competitive advantage. Instead of responding to the waves of change, organizations can be torn apart by the jaws of defeat. MLSs and Boards that do not stay close to trends can enforce outdated rules and regulations that hinder member success. They can make decisions in isolation of the needs of homebuyers and sellers weakening the relationship of their members with the buying public. Worst of all, a Board of Directors that does not stay in touch may not even know it is out of touch if it does not reach out beyond its local community to see where the real estate industry is going. When conducting strategic plans we hear from brokers and board members that their organization is out of touch with today’s reality. So how do you get your board in touch? You can pay thousands of dollars for several of your board members to attend industry events. Many of these events can be very valuable for the content that is presented and the networking and peer to peer learning. The CMLS Conference, Association Executives Institute, and two RESO Conferences and are four great opportunities for MLSs and Associations to get in touch. WAVes of Change Series For those that cannot afford to send a bunch of people to each of these conferences, WAV Group is now offering another method for staying in touch with trends and learning from progressive MLSs and Associations around North America. We call it the WAVes of Change™ Series. This […]

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Today, all MLSs in America are prepared to provide a standard set of data from across the nation. It’s the kind of data that portals have been aggregating for years, which is now being made available to real estate brokers. With great effort Redfin championed this strategy to become one of the most successful broker websites in America. We will be hosting a webinar surrounding these topics on Tuesday October 11th at 10:00am PDT. Register here today! Our panelists on this exciting webinar include:                                 For too long, brokers and their vendors have struggled with the difficulty of managing the different data structures and business rules of more than 700 MLSs. Today marks the beginning of a new era, where each MLS is synthesized into a single common format allowing brokers to provide services, across MLS boundaries without differentiation.  Be sure to register below for this one hour webinar to be hosted on: Tuesday October 11th at 10am PDT CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW!


5 MUST HAVES for your 2017 MLS Budget

by Marilyn Wilson on September 28, 2016


We’re getting to budget time again and  starting to think about what products and services that MLS’s should offer their members in 2017 and beyond. MLSs, of course, need to continue to offer their core MLS system, but there are a few other areas to consider as you move into your next budget planning cycle that will help your members.  WAV Group believes you should offer products and services that are designed to address a core need of your subscribers.  No MLS should offer a technology just because it’s exciting or new. They ALL need to address a fundamental challenge or create new opportunities for your subscribers.  There are five key needs that we believe are vital to the success of any MLS organization that need to be considered in 2017.  We have outlined the strategies and the proposed solutions below: Making Earnest Money Collection Safer Providing Broader Data Access Helping your Members Succeed with Technology Keeping your Subscribers Safe Making it Easy for Brokers to Leverage MLS data Making Earnest Money Collection Safer Our industry has done a good job of bringing the transition process online.  We now have great methods for filling out, signing and distributing disclosures and forms online via a myriad of document management, transaction management and electronic signature solutions. We haven’t yet addressed the final mile though.  Today, agents are still driving all over town to collect and deposit earnest money checks.  There is more risk within this part of the process than any other yet we as an industry have ignored.  Read this interesting case study about how Northstar MLS is addressing this problem very effectively. Providing Broader Data Access The core job of the MLS is to provide comprehensive, accurate and up to date real estate information that every REALTOR can leverage in their business.   Brokers continue to be frustrated by their inability to get one regional source of data for their websites, back office tools and mobile solutions.  MLSs will be doing their members a great service by finding ways to get them broader data access beyond JUST their local MLS.  While consolidation is the ultimate way to accomplish this task, many regions just can’t get beyond the politics. In the meantime, you can look at a variety of FREE and paid methods for accomplishing broader data access with data sharing efforts. I recently published a white paper on the topic entitled […]


Drones: A Game-Changer for Real Estate Marketing

by Victor Lund on September 27, 2016

Drone flying by house

For most real estate agents, marketing with aerial photography or video has been considered an extravagance reserved only for high-dollar properties and luxury homes. However, a new federal policy now permits Realtors to market properties at all price-points in ways that were cost-prohibitive in the past. The “Small Unmanned Aircraft Rule,” expands the possibility for commercial drone usage for the real estate industry—without the previous restrictions and complicated application process. With this new accessibility, aerial photography and video are shaping up to be the next evolution of transformative real estate marketing solutions. While video has already proven its value for Realtors, drone footage can now deliver a better value proposition. Currently, 70% of home buyers used video to tour the inside of a home. In addition, homes listed with video receive four times more inquiries than those without video. But, now that it is fairly simple to obtain a remote pilot certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a mere $150 by studying independently and taking a test on basic aeronautical rules and concepts. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand: With more people positioned to provide aerial footage of properties, the costs integrating it into an agent’s online marketing strategy will inevitably go down. In an increasingly competitive market landscape, drone photography and video offers a unique approach for differentiating an agent’s services. Aerial shots provide more depth and dimension than standard street level photography, telling a story about the home, neighborhood, and surrounding area while increasing the emotional connection of prospect. This added-value can create an upscale feel for even modest home listings. But, drone imagery not only makes a listing shine above the others, it also showcases an agent’s marketing thought leadership. Of course, as with any disruptive technology, early adopters of drone photography and videography will gain the most competitive advantage—until consumers come to expect it as a standard service offered by all agents. Research shows that there’s a first-mover advantage to technology adoption; pioneers are more likely to experience increased revenue and market share. Other Realtors will follow suit as the technology bears marketing results. As Will Caldwell, CEO of the real estate technology company Rivolix, predicts: “Aerial photography will become another line item under the photos and virtual tour column when marketing a listing. Consumers will begin to demand it, as there is no question more people will enjoy watching it.” Driving […]


Online Marketing

We’ve all been the unhappy recipients of unwanted junk mail and Internet advertisements, yet online marketing has been hailed as the Holy Grail among Realtors for turning up sales leads. However, statistics show that scattershot online marketing does not necessarily translate into sales strength. By hyper-focusing outreach efforts on online portals, agents are missing valuable opportunities to not just create leads but actually increase sales. Agents can optimize their reach and revenue by remembering the roots of marketing principles and embracing an integrated plan that engages more offline strategies. To be sure, the prospect of influence through online channels is enticing, especially when the cost is little or none. Websites are reasonably economical to maintain and Google Analytics is very accessible, with the basic services offered for free. Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter also have analytics tools that seem to deliver a sense of outreach impact. Yet the fact is that only 15 percent of sales are the result of online outreach across all channels, including social media. So, what do these analytics tools really tell Realtors about the sales effectiveness of any particular online marketing strategy? It turns out, not much. While the internet provides numerous marketing channels, online analytics tools cannot account for the funnel effect of offline marketing or overall strategy performance. Google Analytics, for instance, doesn’t reflect the root cause of a potential client’s interest in an agent’s online presence, like whether a lead viewed an agent’s Facebook page or website as a result of seeing a yard sign, meeting an agent at an open house, or following up on a recommendation from a friend. Effectively, online analytics blind agents to many of the offline opportunities and leads, which account for 85 percent of all sales overall. Each online channel delivers a different set of demographics, but also leaves some out entirely. According to the Pew Research Center, while each social media site is differentially popular amongst various ethnic groups, all are skewed demographically toward the younger generations or, in Realtor-speak, potential first-time buyers. Other market segments are hardly represented at all. For instance, almost 75 percent of seniors (age 65+) do not use social media. In light of additional facts that more than half of home buyers age 50+ owned their previous home and nearly two-thirds of sales are the result of repeat business or referrals, clearly, there’s a significant lead pool that […]


What’s the Real Value of Portal Marketing?

by Victor Lund on September 19, 2016

Graph Pie

A recent survey of over 120 broker-owners and senior leaders at some of the top real estate firms in the U.S. and Canada revealed an apparent disconnect between revenue goals and business strategies. According to the survey, 85% of brokerages focus their marketing investments on lead generation activities– despite the fact that nearly two-thirds of sales are the result of repeat clients and past client referrals. Clearly, agents and brokers are spending too much time and money marketing on portals when long-view strategies produce a better return-on-investment. While lead generation is an undeniably important tactic for targeting specific market segments, cultivating and fostering person-to-person relationships still offers the best value proposition for both brokerages and agents. Online lead generation can be influential for reaching first-time homebuyers, who are typically technology natives born after 1980. In fact, 95% of Millennials use the internet during their home search, according to a recent report from the National Association of REALTORS. From a broker or agent perspective, capturing this pool of potentials via online advertising and outreach seems like low-hanging fruit. However, while online marketing casts a wide net for connecting with younger first-time buyers, this strategy yields only 15% of closed sales transactions. That’s simply not enough to grow a real estate business year-over-year—unless, perhaps, relationships with this class of consumers are cultivated over the long term. Given that the highest percentage of sales are the result of referrals and repeat business, it makes better business sense for brokers and agents to spend the bulk of their marketing dollars maintaining consistent touch-points with clients throughout their consumer lifecycle. Yet, brokers are under-investing in growth-oriented technologies that can advance the most profitable customer-for-life relationships. While individual agents may pay out of their own pocket to access Customer Relationship Management (CRM) technologies, only 28% of brokerages provide this tool. So, instead of prioritizing marketing investments toward relationship-building, brokers are losing a valuable opportunity for increasing sales by gambling on lead generation through portal outreach. With the value of long-term client relationships so appreciable, agent retention is similarly key to driving revenue growth. Research by the WAV Group shows that the number of contacts an agent contributes to a CRM expands significantly as their career matures. In fact, the most accomplished agents have 500+ contacts and those with the largest sphere of influence have been with their firm for over seven years, positioning them to achieve […]

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Re-Inventing the Collection of Earnest Money – A Case Study

by Marilyn Wilson on September 15, 2016

Hands Exchanging Money

John Mosey, CEO of NorthstarMLS is known to be one of those leaders that when he finds a business challenge his brokers face, he will do his best to find a solution.  He is not afraid to go first. As such he has helped to bring to market many exciting new products that serve the greater good.  I had the pleasure of interviewing him about the latest gem he has brought to the market for his subscribers. It’s a company called TrustFunds. TrustFunds, led by Lynn Leegard, was inspired by challenges she faced when she was General Counsel for Edina Realty, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Many of you may know Edina Realty. They are the crown jewel of Home Services of America and they hire only the best and brightest. This exciting new service has helped automate one of the last elements of transactions that are not handled online – the delivery and deposit of earnest money. John told me that when he began to talk to his Executive Committee about how earnest money is handled, many became very sheepish. They readily admitted that earnest money is not handled as carefully or safely as it should be. Most transaction documents are processed, signed and distributed from secure online servers.  Earnest money, on the other hand is collected by hand. Many times earnest money checks end up in the front seat of an agent’s car or in the bottom of their purses while waiting to be deposited.  Earnest money is the last process in the real estate transaction that has not been brought online. Inefficient and Unsecure Process Overall the earnest money collection process is inefficient and unsecure at best. First, the buyer takes the check to their agent, and then the Buyer’s Agent delivers the check to the Listing Agent. Next the Listing Agent takes the check to the Designated Trust Account Holder (DTAH), which could be the listing broker or title company.  Fourth, the check gets deposited in a Trust Account. While all of these steps are going on nobody in the process knows the status of those checks.  Everybody in the transaction is waiting for the check to deposit and settle, yet they are all unaware of the status. Unsecure Process This process is fraught with a lack of security.  Copies, scans and faxes of the checks can end up in unknown hands.  Multiple parties including the agent, office assistant, admin, transaction […]

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News Release

Why does your news release meet with silence while your competitor makes headlines regularly? There could be more than one answer to that question, but the place to start is the quality of your news releases. Some basics: News releases differ from advertisements, where someone is paying for the time or space to say something, and blog posts, where you can also say pretty much what you want because it’s your website.  In both cases, readers know that they are reading an opinion that may be factual but lacks the credibility that comes from being published by a respected outlet as a news story. A news release is a first step towards getting a news outlet interested in covering something positive about your organization. Its end goal is to generate a news story, not to be used verbatim. Because they are usually well-written and well-researched, they are often used as stand-alone documents on blogs or in social media.  As noted above, news releases that end up as blogs have less credibility than those that end up as news stories. Journalists are looking for news that will interest their readers of information they can use in the jobs or personal lives.  They care about its quality, newsworthiness, legitimacy and appeal to their readers.  A good news release can be a journalist’s nest friend, but if your news release even suggests that it is not going to meet the outlet’s standards (and Every editor or report working for a medium-sized to major news site receives 25 to 500 news releases a day.   Perhaps one or two will be used.  The first thing a journalist does is scan the headline.  Then the first sentence of the release (called the ‘led’ but pronounced ‘lead’). If you have violated any of the following, your news release will end up in the high-tech version of a round file. Fail to proofread. Professionals who edit and write for news outlets and blogs for a living won’t take you very seriously if you don’t meet their high standards of grammar, spelling and style.  If work alone and don’t have a colleague to review your copy, get a good editing program. Lay off the hype. Hype is extravagant; judgemental language used to promote a person, thing or service. Superlatives like “best,” “most popular,” or “highest performer” are giveaways.  Avoid any word that makes a judgment without cold hard fact […]


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