February 2016

Graceful Vendor Termination

by Victor Lund on February 29, 2016

System conversions are very difficult in real estate. If there is one eternal truth, agents will absolutely resist change no matter what. Even with MLS system conversions where the death of the application, vital to their business, is eminent; they hang on during the parallel period until the very end. Then there is a flood of complaints about failure to notify them or train them. It’s a way of life that extends beyond the MLS system to the brokerage system. More and more, brokers are providing end-to-end business systems to their agents. Over years, the company trains and supports the program. It becomes part of the culture of a company. Then one day, usually for sound business reasons, the broker decides to change vendors. Chaos ensues. Change is a recruiting opportunity When you see a competitor changing vendors, it is a great time to target your recruiting. License the system that your competitive broker is dumping and offer it for agents who want to come over and bring their system with them. The recruits can wear the old shoes of their last firm for as long as they like. Change is a retention opportunity If your brokerage is switching systems, negotiate a fee for those agents who do not want to switch. It will be a great strategy for keeping them on board and not rocking their world with a conversion that they will hate. Let them change on their terms. Negotiate your options upfront When you are negotiating with a vendor, negotiate the termination terms in advance. Knowing that some agents will insist on staying on the old system, give them the option of a slow migration so you don’t blow up your culture. Lets face it, if you are a broker, you care more about agents selling real estate than the tools they use to do it. If they are happy, don’t mess with them. You may also want to negotiate a market area exclusive. It would block competitors from using your technology provider against you. There is nothing worse than the same technology solution being offered by multiple leading brokers in the same marketplace. WAV Group not only supports brokerages with vendor selection, but we support them at developing the strategy and story that goes with the technology selection. We call it vendor relationship management. Take some time to think ahead before you move.

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    Back by popular demand!  WAV Group is excited to announce the 2016 WAVes of Change Educational Series.  The first of our four quarterly Webinar Events will be held on Thursday, March 24th. Each webinar follows a large industry conference such as NAR Midyear, CMLS and NAR Annual and is designed to empower Association, MLS and Broker professionals across North America to make well-informed decisions that help propel their organizations forward.  The series is intended to keep your team well-informed, without having to attend multiple events throughout the country. A great strategy to save money while navigating industry changes as well as optimizing time to focus on relationships and profitability. The WAVes of Change Educational Series provides your Board, staff and other invited industry guests with important information regarding: Breaking News and Its Implications Technology Trends WAV Group Research Industry Research Consumer Trends Broker Trends Threats and Opportunities Best Practices/Case Studies Participants are provided a unique opportunity to participate in a Webinar that encourages collaboration and sharing of relevant information.  As many Associations, Brokers and MLSs encounter similar challenges, questions posed by the audience help provide empowering ideas and insights. Each session is recorded. You will have full rights to share the recordings with others within your organization.  WAV Group can also provide you with the presentation materials to utilize for your own presentations or discussions. Some of the topics we will discuss in March are: RESO: Real World Standards for Success Ultimate Control: Broker Public Portal Upstream Launch: Data Roadmap And much MORE! Sign up today before the Series is sold out! Please email Marilyn@WAVGroup.com for more details.  

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HomeSpotter Revolutionizes MLS Mobile Access

by Victor Lund on February 24, 2016

If you have a newer iPhone, you have embraced fingerprint access. You put your finger on the home button which reads your print and opens your phone—or your bank account, or any other app that leverages fingerprint access versus password access. Depending on your MLS, typing in your username and password multiple times a day can be painful, especially on a mobile device. With HomeSpotter, it is just a touch away. HomeSpotter is a mobile MLS application. It provides the benefits of accessing the MLS through a mobile app rather than mobile web. An app provides formatting benefits that mobile web does not. It also leverages many of the phone’s features, like fingerprint access, location awareness, and many others, to optimize the MLS experience online. HomeSpotter may also have been the first mobile app provider to allow agents to edit listings, and upload and manage listing photos on a mobile app. HomeSpotter provides this deep integration functionality with CoreLogic Matrix™, FBS FlexMLS™, and Black Knight Financial’s Paragon™. Other leading mobile app providers for MLS include HomeSnap and GoMLS from CoreLogic. Each of these three competitors are dominating the MLS industry in terms of adoption. Stylistically, the three firms offer mostly the same functionality, but as you begin to use each of them, your preferences will gravitate in one direction or another. Clearly, offering a mobile app is a must have for every MLS. The app must allow for listing management. The app must allow agents to invite consumers to the customer servicing solution of the MLS (listing alerts, search, etc.).

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LeadingRE, Miami Beach and Marketing Automation

by Kevin Hawkins on February 24, 2016

The Fontainebleau in Miami Beach recently hosted LeadingRE. It’s always happens during what I like to think of as the real estate brokerage convention season. Keller Williams, with its Family Reunion, preceded it in New Orleans and RE/MAX R4 followed it in Las Vegas. If you really want to get a feel for the real estate market in America, these conferences are a great place to gauge what is really happening on the ground because the preponderance of attendees are broker-owners. Conferences that target industry leaders or tech companies or the intelligentsia of real estate are great for forward thinking, but there’s nothing like visiting the exhibit areas and listening to agents engage face-to-face with vendors that are trying to convince them that they have a solution to their pain points. It’s refreshing and it’s real. A LeadingRE conference, if you have not been to one, is packed with practical information and vendors that speak brokerage. LeadingRE has become a juggernaut for luxury real estate with growing global reach, comprising a group of brokerages that really are a cut above the competition: over 500 firms, 120,000 associates, 3,500 offices in 50 countries. In fact, 14 of the 25 top brokerage firms in the U.S. are part of LeadingRE. The Ideal Setting If you have never been to the Fontainebleau at 44th and Collins Avenue, sandwiched between the Intercostal Waterway and the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean warmed by the Gulf Stream just off shore, you need to. My late father was the head of the Service department (Bell staff, Doormen and valet) at the hotel in the 1970s and 80s. I worked there in high school and college, so I know the property – and its history — intimately. Originally built in 1954, it is where the film “The Bellboy” with Jerry Lewis was shot and golden girl in “Goldfinger” was found dead. It also could be seen in the Miami Vice TV show, as Don Johnson’s Sonny Crocket raced towards the Mural on the side of its old Spa building and in many other major films, from Scarface to The Bodyguard. It was also frequented by the biggest names in show business: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Bob Hope, Elvis, Ann Margaret, Raquel Welch, and more. It was even home one summer to Muhammad Ali, and in fact, one of the hotel’s bellman (Levi Forte) was his sparring partner. Something […]

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For those who are in the know in the MLS space, you are aware that Sandicor has always been one of the MLSs to watch. Led by Ray Ewing, President and CEO, they are early adopters of exciting new technologies often setting the pace for other MLSs around the country.  Sandicor follows their own path choosing the tools they believe are going to be the best for their members. Today’s announcement that Sandicor has selected CRS Data’s MLS Tax Suite is no exception. When I saw the overhauled interface for the CRS Data system about a year ago, I was blown away.  Unlike most of the tools available today that have user interfaces that are a bit “long in the tooth”.  The CRS product is clean, simple and very user friendly.  When I tested the product I felt as though I could easily access all of the core functionality. The product almost has a calming effect because of the simplicity of the design and the colors chosen.  I love to see core MLS products like CRS data upping their game and bringing these important systems into the 21st century without scaring agents who are change averse and somewhat afraid of technology. Here’s what Sandicor the San Diego County Regional Multiple Listing Service (owned by the three Associations of REALTORS® in San Diego County serving over 19,000 members) had to say about their decision: “We spent more than a year researching property tax data systems to find the right combination of timely and accurate data, cross platform usability and intuitive navigation,” said Ray Ewing, President and CEO of Sandicor, Inc. “Our members need the ability to access property tax data via their mobile device or desktop, and be able to create and utilize streamlined property reports with interactive features, such as parcel and topography map layers.”  CRS Data’s three-year agreement provides 19,000 Sandicor members with quick online access to a wide variety of property tax data and information. From customizable maps, neighborhood and comparables information to in-depth search capabilities and thoughtful prospecting features, CRS Data’s MLS Tax Suite delivers simple navigation and innovative usability. “Our ultimate decision to partner with CRS Data was based on their approach to tax record services and the ease with which our members will be able to fully utilize the CRS system whenever and on whatever device they use to access our MLS system,” said Ewing. He added, […]

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Is Growth Possible For You in 2016?

by Victor Lund on February 23, 2016

Economists are expecting 5% growth in 2016. Yet many of our clients are setting expectations above 25%. Goal setting is more than just putting numbers on a page and slapping your business in the rear, yelling “go get ‘em” while you stand there in the dust with your hands on your hips hoping for the best. Goal setting is about getting on the horse and leading the charge. Before you get on that horse, you had better know where you plan to go. In business school, they call this discovery. It is a process for understanding the possibilities for your organization. I wrote last week about the three economic requirements for growth – capital, labor, and productivity. Discovery involves taking a hard look at your financial position, the skills of your employees, and the productivity of how you do business today. A lot of great leadership also involves storytelling. When journalists are interviewing for a story, they are taught to ask who, what, when, where, why, and sometimes how. In business, this process is a bit different. The discovery process for consultants involves two types of research methodology. The first is to call a lot of people and interview them. Depending on the size of the organization, WAV Group talks to every business leader – CEO, CFO, CTO, Regional Managers, Trainers, Support, key business partners, some managers, some customers, and whoever else makes sense. The second type of research is to perform a survey. This allows us to collect data that informs the strengths and weaknesses of a business. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is the key to defining the possibilities for growth in any market. You identify what you will focus on and you fix it. But there is a risk. A client of mine reminds me that if Henry Ford had used this methodology, he would have focused his life on faster horses. Another client refers this to riding the lead horse in a merry-go-round. The key to driving unusual growth is gaining outside knowledge and perspective. Consultants are experts at delivering ideas for your business that you have not considered. We find that a lot of chief executives will find great ideas in the marketplace by talking to their peers and competitors, or attending conferences. They write a note to themselves about exploring an opportunity or possibility. When they return home, they survey their business to find someone to […]

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Three Drivers of Economic Growth

by Victor Lund on February 22, 2016

Sometimes, business owners fail to understand or focus on the basic elements of growing a business. As a consulting firm, we have a distance from the business that allows us to see things that business operators often miss. The funny thing is that we miss them in our own business. I remember talking to my Uncle Albert about this as a kid. He owned a house painting business that was very successful. It afforded him the opportunity to live on Plain Street in Historic Lewiston, NY. It is a charming street of grand, three-story homes with pillared center entrances. Because it is located in the historic district of town, each home was painted white. The only whimsy was the color of the trim. Most homes along the street choose the stately color of black for the trim. My uncle painted every home on the block except his own. Economic growth in your business is driven by the same three factors that drive the economic growth of our nation. Regardless of your enterprise, this does not change. Capital, Labor, and Productivity are the three primary economic drivers of growth. Capital Strategically, capital is a hard one to manage. Our government runs at a capital deficit of somewhere over $18 trillion dollars. The United Kingdom has about $2.2 trillion in debt. Zillow has $520 million in cash and $230 million in debt with a negative profit margin of 23%. My businesses have zero debt. I must be doing something wrong. Right? Do MLSs or Associations of REALTORS® carry debt? Probably not. Or if they do, it’s on a building where they have a favorable debt to equity ratio. Do brokerages carry debt? Some do, others don’t. Interest rates in America are at their historic lows. Using leverage, businesses have a rare economic opportunity to grow tremendously. Having a good capital strategy will allow you to fuel growth in your business. Labor Labor is pretty tricky. The best strategic philosophy on labor is to hire slow and fire fast. But labor is a key to successfully driving growth. If you labor pool has people operating above capacity, you are stifling your growth. If you want to grow 20%, you need to have the people in place ahead of the growth, not after the growth. I see this happen with technology companies over and over and over again. They invest in building a product, […]

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Why Agents Should Never Use Personal eMail

by Victor Lund on February 19, 2016

I saw a news article recently about why real estate agents should use their personal email addresses. The article talked about the 10,000 selfish reasons why it benefits the Realtor®. It was a grand display of the underbelly of self-centered real estate professionals. I am here to tell you that using a personal email for real estate business is STUPID and perhaps illegal. The communications between a real estate agent and a consumer are subject to the real estate laws in your state. They are communications that happen under the supervision of the agent’s real estate broker. They are covered by the insurances held by the real estate broker. They are subject to the Realtor® Code of Ethics® if you are a Realtor®. Last year, there were multiple instances of eMails getting hacked. In many cases, consumer information was compromised. In some cases, earnest money instructions were hijacked and in one case, $250,000 was stolen. Guess what? If you are a real estate agent who gets hacked or has earnest money stolen, you are in deep you-know-what. You probably violated the broker’s independent contractor policy that you signed. If you did, your broker does not need to help you. In fact, if your actions cause harm to the brokerage brand, you could be liable for those damages. So lets calculate the potential risks: You can get fired from the brokerage for not following policy. You pay for any and all expenses to take care of the consumer privacy breach. You are responsible for damages to the consumer. You may be responsible for damages to the broker. You may be subject to a Department of Real Estate investigation You may be subject to a Realtor® Association Ethics Violation. Is it worth it? Best Practice We understand that agents switch firms. As a professional, you should have an address book of all of your customers. A simple excel spreadsheet works great for this. You can use a service like Plaxo or simply send a bunch of emails to your clients of the new contact information. Mailers are also pretty effective. Staying connected on Social Media works too. Whatever you do, please stop using your personal email for business before you get attacked in a terrible online situation. It happens.

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Fox and Roach Broker Site Sets Bar Above Portals

by Victor Lund on February 18, 2016

Love them or hate them, property search sites like Zillow® have set the bar very high in terms of the information that is made available to the consumer. I choose Zillow because they have hung their hat on an Automated Valuation Model (AVM) that they call the Zestimate. Real Estate brokers have built their websites off of IDX data. That started to change with the launch of ZipRealty and Redfin, which display web pages for every parcel in America. In this way, they are like the portals. Recently, websites like Howard Hanna have begun to do the same. Joining them is Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®. Their key feature is that every property has information to satisfy the consumer, and it helps with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) too. Using public records data, Fox and Roach has caught the portals. But there is more! Fox and Roach pushes past the portals with some key features about off market properties. They call it the Home Valuation System™. Rather than a simple of display of the Zestimate, which is fraught with its issues of accuracies, Fox and Roach includes three AVMs. You gotta check this out: Visit http://www.foxroach.com Select the What Is Your Home Worth Tab Search 231 Chamoun (I intentionally did not complete the address because I want you to experience the smart search auto-fill) The first feature to look at is in the header. The application has adopted the header from the broker – full branding. There is a statement that confirms the property address and property facts along with a great lead generation tool to “subscribe to this property.” The second great feature is not one, but three valuations are included in the Home Valuation System™. I really like the inclusion of the Zestimate here because it discourages the consumer from going to Zillow to look it up. I also really like that the consumer sees the value ranges across multiple AVMs. It shows that algorithms do not price and sell homes. They are value range instruments that may be accurate or not accurate. I also like the use of the Google street view to show property images. Here we see that the range can be pretty significant, from $871,000 to a high of $967,882. Both the RPR™ and the Zestimate are free. Fox and Roach is a subscriber to the Collateral Analytics service. Other services are also available from sources […]

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Be a Part of the Change!

by Jenna Woodruff on February 18, 2016

WAV Group is a part of strategic plans very often for some of the largest MLSs and Associations in our industry. 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, the networking, and peer-to-peer learning. The CMLS conference and the AEI conference are two great opportunities for MLSs and Associations to get in touch. WAV Group offers 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 exciting online program allows every one of your Board members and department heads to keep in touch on the ever-changing trends in our business. This quarterly live webinar includes exclusive, early looks at WAV Group research as well as the ability to learn from industry experts about technology trends, consumer insights and broker and agent issues. We 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 WAVes of Change™ series also encourages participating organizations to share their best practices and breakthrough programs, enabling all of us to learn from the best! With our the inaugural first year of  the series a great success, we invite you to join us for the 2016 WAVes of Change™ Series – Kicking off March 24th! If you would like to learn more about this exciting program, email Jenna@wavgroup.com or Gaea@wavgroup.com to set up a meeting, today.  

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Union Fees and the National Association of Realtors

by Victor Lund on February 16, 2016

There is a lot more at stake at the voting polls this year than who will govern our nation. The President will appoint and the Senate will confirm the replacement of the Supreme Court Justice Scalia. Moreover, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is now 82 and is also quite frail. The candidates will be evaluated by the Department of Justice and they will appear before hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Teachers Union case One of the cases that may be material to real estate is the case of the Teachers Union. In the LA School district, they charge teachers $685 per year for dues. If you are a non-union teacher you pay $550. In early February, the Teacher’s Union voted to raise the dues to $1000. Rebecca Friedrichs, and elementary school teacher in Orange County, and nine other plaintiffs opted not to join their union, but were required to pay the $550. Friedrichs is challenging those fees, arguing that they force her to support an organization whose views she disagrees with – violating her right to freedom of speech. Moreover, Friedrichs complains about a policy of forcing non-union teachers to opt-out or automatically be enrolled in the Teachers Union. Friedrichs would prefer an opt-in policy. The justification for Friedrichs paying the $550 is based upon so-called fair-share fees because they benefit from representation in contract negotiations that determined salaries and benefits. These fees cannot be used to support Political activities. Scalia considered non-union folks like Friedrichs to be “free riders.” This case is about limiting the flow of money to unions. We have had similar cases in both Florida and California that allows licensed real estate agents to opt-out of joining the National Association of REALTORS®. In both circumstances, there is little distinction between the part of dues used to pay for services versus the portion of dues that are allocated to political and ancillary services. The real estate difference In real estate, separating the fees for services like MLS largely solved this. However, it has long been a policy of State Associations of REALTORS® to provide forms as a member benefit of the association. Now the National Association of REALTORS® is doing the same. By tying the forms access, RPR, AMP, and other services to the Association fees, they further solidify the so-called fair-share fees of Association of Realtor membership. Union membership has diminished over the last few decades from about […]

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Real estate brokers have a difficult time battling the challenges with reputation management. Brokers hire agents. Agents deliver services to the consumer. The consumer judges the brokerage on the service level of its agents. Brokers try to hire well to preserve their reputation. Around and around it goes. Many brokers to do not track their reputation as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). They track unit volume, agent count, broker dollar, and so many other things. Only a few firms use services like Quality Service Certified or Real Satisfied or Testimonial Tree to measure satisfaction. Those brokerages who are following best practices are seeing information everyday that both delights them and disgusts them. As it turns out, satisfaction is a mixed bag. Even for those brokerages that are measuring satisfaction and reputation, they are limiting themselves to consumer feedback. That is good in many ways, but these firms are failing to measure another KPI: What is the level of satisfaction that managers and agents have with the brokerage? Only a few WAV Group brokerage clients are studying the root of all reputation management – themselves. Brokerage operators do not contest the understanding that a bad manager or a bad agent can spoil an office. Negativity is a dark cloud that curses the performance of any business. It is curious to me that brokers do not measure agent satisfaction in underperforming offices. They do not benchmark agent satisfaction across multiple offices. Every time we are hired to fix a broken office, it is typically a problem with attitude. A negative person or a bad attitude erodes everything. Recruiting fails because agents talk to other agents about the manager, or a troublesome agent, who spoils the office. Sales fail because an agent who stops in the office to get ready for a listing presentation walks out with a hangover from a toxic office environment. Learning fails because agents do not want to come to the office for training. It is a downward spiral that leads to poor performance in everything that you do. The Bright Side Agent satisfaction research will help you diagnose the problems in your offices that are causing failure. Moreover, when you make the necessary adjustments you will find that the skies part and success pours in! Positivity is intoxicating. It turns everything around. Everyone is excited to jump out of bed and rush to the welcome arms of great, […]

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California Regionals Breaking Ranks

by Victor Lund on February 10, 2016

February is the month of love, but in the case of California Regional MLSs, it may be the month of divorce. There are regional MLSs in California that are in the midst of breaking up. On the surface, this looks like an asymmetrical strategy relative to the regionalization monster that is devouring MLSs across the nation. Perhaps below the surface, collapsing an existing regional may be the first step to creating a New World Order. When most regional MLSs were created, Associations of REALTORS® funded the companies. They are for-profit companies on paper, but typically build reserves then run the corporation at a financial break even. There are a few that pay dividends, but not many. More likely, the regional MLS has service center agreements (training, support, rules enforcement) with the Associations or will wholesale services to the Association. Either path provides a vehicle for Associations within a regional to financially benefit from the MLS with the services they offer. In the two counties in San Francisco’s East Bay, there are three MLS operations that share a contract with Black Knight Financial Services for a shared Paragon system. East Bay Regional Data, Inc. is owned by Oakland/Berkeley Association of REALTORS®, The Delta Association of REALTORS®, and the Alameda Association of REALTORS®. The three shareholders have reached a tentative agreement to restructure the corporation’s ownership. Oakland/Berkeley will remain the owner of EBRD solely. Alameda and Delta will be free to continue purchasing services from EBRD, to obtain MLS from the other two East Bay MLSs, or shop around. This also gives Alameda and Delta associations the opportunity to consider purchasing services from San Jose based MLSListings, or from Los Angeles based California Regional MLS. CRMLS has entered into a license agreement for a Paragon system from Black Knight, and MLSListings is in negotiations for a Paragon system as well – the same system used by EBRD and the other two MLS operations in the East Bay. Presumably, the members in Alameda or Delta could switch systems and the subscriber (agents) impact would be minimal. The Associations could also explore other options or contract directly with a vendor. Knowing what we know about pricing, CRMLS and MLSListings options may be the most handsome. Step 1 is to set the Associations free from the Regional. Step 2 is to shop for a better option. Step 3 would be to obtain a data sharing arrangement […]

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iPad Listing Presentations and Relationships

by Kevin Hawkins on February 8, 2016

WAV Group has been working with many companies on listing presentations. They are the Barnum & Bailey Circus of selling real estate. You know the drill, in this ring we have the home tour, in this ring we have comps, and in this ring we have why you should pick me. iPads deliver listing presentations with much higher impact than paper. It’s a great listing tool. There are a few tools that make the iPad sing that I really like. I think that Paperless Agent has put together a great series of education and applications that make the iPad a terrific selling tool. They call it the Digital Listing Presentation Power Pack – http://thepaperlessagent.com/products/digital-listing-presentation-power-pack/ For $67, you should just purchase it to see how they combine the training with the tools and bring them to life on the iPad. Another tool you cannot purchase, but should see if you are a Realty Alliance broker, is Pacific Union’s Digital Listing Presentation. Like so many things that are in the DNA of Pacific Union’s success, they built it themselves. The first version was better than any listing presentation around, but V2 is a combination of luxury refinement and simplicity. The Realty Alliance members share their techniques with other Realty Alliance firms – so that is the ticket to seeing this work of art. Cloud CMA and Touch CMA are also winners. Cloud CMA is in every MLS, but only smart agents have found it. Touch CMA has less adoption but bangs out some serious horsepower. Getting to ‘The Ask’ The reality is, the worst thing that a sales associate can do is show up to a listing presentation with the same presentation as another agent. Choosing the right real estate agent is akin to dating. The seller is looking for that right fit, and the confidence that the agent they choose is going to be the best. Putting aside the iPad and the presentation, the agent stands as a human being, and hopefully an expert. The real key is the bridge to establish a trusting relationship. The best way to build relationships is time. Let the seller know that when it comes down to evaluating offers, you will be their coach and consultant. But in order for you to coach them effectively, you need to raise their real estate IQ. Do this with a Seller’s buyer tour. Here is the language that […]

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Realtor.com Seeks to Win the Super Bowl

by Victor Lund on February 5, 2016

Last January, I visited Mr. Robert Thomson at the News Corp offices in Manhattan to discuss his plans for the Realtor.com. Joining the meeting were two senior leaders of News Corp: his chief of staff and his chief of sales. They laid out their targets for their new company. What follows is our report card for them. Clear Vision #1: News Corp will leverage its media assets including Dow Jones, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, MarketWatch, the New York Post, HarperCollins Publishers, and The Sun to drive consumers to Realtor.com. Successful Result: Thomson reports that Realtor.com average monthly unique users on the web and mobile sites for the quarter ending Dec. 31st grew by 37% to approximately 39 million monthly Unique Visitors. This does not include real estate related traffic numbers for content from his other media companies. Just Realtor.com. January traffic topped 50 million. Based on the results from the 87 The Realty Alliance and LeadingRE broker websites that WAV Group tracks, this is an enormous jump in consumer engagement from Realtor.com without dilution of lead quality. Realtor.com has always maintained an edge over other online publishers in the quality of its leads and conversion rates. It is worth noting here that consumer traffic to Zillow.com remains strong; lead generation at Zillow Group has also increased. However, lead quality has gone down significantly. Traffic and leads from Trulia has also declined. In 2014, WAV Group lead quality ranking for large brokerage firms was in this order: Realtor.com, Trulia, Homes.com, and Zillow. In 2015, lead quality ranking is now Realtor.com, Homes.com, Trulia, Zillow. Homes.com has passed Trulia. StreetEasy and HotPads do not generate enough lead volume across the broker sites we track to be included. Zillow brands may have hit a saturation point. It may well be that the declines at Trulia have benefited Realtor.com. Clear Vision #2 – News Corp will leverage its advertiser relationships to drive revenue. Successful Result: The idea here is that News Corp has owned the relationships with top advertisers for years. The expectation was that the News Corp advertising clients would welcome the availability of inventory on Realtor.com. Quarterly revenue for Realtor.com jumped from $65 Million to $87 Million. WAV Group does not think that this $22 Million bump came from real estate agents and brokers. Our brokerage online spending benchmark has Realtor.com even or down over a year ago. They charge by average […]

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Vendor Bonus Paid Forward

by Victor Lund on February 5, 2016

  I had the strangest experience in 2014. A client sent me a check out of the blue. It was a striking gesture. It came with a phone call saying that he appreciated everything we have done. His business had a great year. It floored me, and my family. Financially, it made a difference. The amount was significant. It was not trivial – like a tip. More like the kind of bonus that people get that work at companies for a job well done. Of course, I was thankful. But it was transformative. This year, I went through a list of companies that made a difference for us last year. You know – the suppliers and vendors that are always fair, great to work with, go out of their way at any time of day to help. I sent them a check. I sent a significant check. I made the same calls and said that I appreciated them, and that our companies had a great year and they were instrumental in that. Today, another check arrived from the same client. Again, it was accompanied by a phone call of thanks and the news that they had another great year. I was blown away again. You would think that I would be less surprised this year, but I was not. I was reinforced in my resolve to keep paying it forward. Catherine Ryan Hyde, the author of Pay It Forward lives in our county. I have had the urge to give her a call and take her for coffee. I would really like my 13 year old daughter to meet her, not only to learn about the inspiration for the book – but more for the introduction to a writer. There is something that touches each of us inside to give. The older you get, the more you learn that giving is much better than receiving. I take little pleasure in Birthday or Christmas gifts, but great pleasure in giving them. This client of mine made me think – we give plenty to our families, our employees, and our customers to recognize the value they represent in our lives, but what about our vendor? If your business had a good year, take stock of the vendors you worked with last year. You just sent out the 1099s, so it’s an easy list to get your hands on. Stroke a few more checks for the […]

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Is Old School Print Set to Rebound?

by Victor Lund on February 4, 2016

Print advertising and marketing has seen a striking decline. I love using the phrase that newspapers are like nursing homes. But that might be changing. Here are some thoughts. Years ago, I spent a few years working with a real estate magazine. We helped them expand into digital marketing – online portal, online advertising, agent and broker websites, etc. It was a good thing. We married their loyal customers to new services that escalated in revenue as print dropped off. The relationship remained the same, the revenue by product choice changed. One of the great boosts to the online marketing business was the comparative calculus of print vs. web pricing. Buying a page of advertising in a monthly real estate magazine with 25,000 to 50,000 magazines in circulation is about $500. More expensive in some areas where distribution outlets are paid. Less in rural areas where you can put a box on any corner you like for free. Heck, if agents spent $500 in online advertising today, they would be likely to reach 10x to 20x the number of people. That is why companies like Realtor.com, Homes.com, or Adwerx are so popular with REALTORS®. Online Losing Value A decade ago, the price per click for Google Adwords in real estate was between $1 and $5 for competitive keywords. Interestingly enough, the price per click has been steadily declining. Online advertising is losing value because the conversion rates are so bad. The leading reason why brokers and agents are vacating their adverting with the Zillow Group is not what you think. They are not abandoning them because they don’t like them. They are abandoning online advertising because the likelihood of converting one of those leads is remote. If you do convert a Zillow Group lead – its likely a year down the road. I remember doing research on a series of brand new real estate domain names around 2002. The new URL was in the Google sandbox and you could not find it on search. We also asked the agent not to advertise it anywhere. The only place we put the URL was in the Homes Magazine. The same day the magazine hit the stands, the agent website went from 0 visitors to 150 unique visitors a day. These were local people, picking up a real estate magazine, and going to the URL of the listing agent to see more information […]

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Will Zillow’s New Stripes Cause Stock to Decline

by Victor Lund on February 3, 2016

WAV Group does a lot of work on Wall Street. We work with leading analysts to deliver research and insights from Main Street about what is happening behind company shareholder reports. Z is making some significant strategic changes and it will be very interesting to see how the market reacts. It may be poised for incredible growth or the slide the stock has experienced may continue. Media Company vs. a Product Company Zillow Group® has been traditionally valued as a media company. Purchasing product companies like DotLoop change that. Expunging MarketLeader™ after buying DotLoop is asymmetrical. Marketing tools like MarketLeader™ are aligned with media companies supporting their clients. Do transaction tools? DotLoop is kind of like the Wall Street Journal purchasing an eCommerce company for its advertisers. The signal that the DotLoop purchase signaled to agents and brokers is that they plan to compete with the services normally offered by MLSs, Associations, or Brokerages. We look forward to watching the market react. So far, our clients are looking to create separation from DotLoop and companies like Instanet, ZipLogix, and DocuSign are filling in. The REESIO purchase by Move has not shown to be material yet. All of the balls are in the air. Where they fall will be interesting to observe. Sell to Agents vs. Selling to Brokers Last year, our research to the investor community was to look carefully at inventory. In what I believe is a good strategic move for Z, they changed up their broker and franchise program. They listened. Brokers want their brand and their listing agent clearly displayed on their listings. For brokers, that is now free today. There is one caveat – the listing broker and agent are not exclusive. If you want exclusive representation, you pay. And, you do not pay by listing, you pay by Zip Code. In some markets this has led to major price increases for brokers who were buying exclusive listings. The move pacified some brokers, but it had the benefit opening up Premier Agent inventory. Now, Zillow has a lot of new inventory to sell to Agents. Zillow now has an opportunity to gain many more dollars per listing than they ever did with the broker exclusive program. If they execute effectively and agents open their wallets, they have a good opportunity for driving revenue. Revenue Could Go WAY UP When you sell to the top 1000 brokerages and top […]

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When to Text and When to Email

by Victor Lund on February 2, 2016

I have a 13-year-old daughter. Her style of communication is very different than mine. In truth, I spend a lot of time talking to her along with my younger and older staff members about effective communications. I think that business leaders need to have this conversation with their flock to set expectations. Here are some questions to hydrate the conversation. When is it appropriate to pick up the phone? When is it appropriate to send a text message? When is it appropriate to send an eMail? When you look into the palm of your hand, you have a powerful communication tool that enables any of these activities. You have a choice. Are you and your team making the right choices?   Text Text messaging is effective – especially for overscheduled executives. They can be in a meeting and see/respond to a text message. But text messaging should be used delicately. It is not a communication resource for sales and marketing. It is for relaying timely and vital communications only. This is my fear of younger people entering the business world. They have been using text messaging for chatting with their friends. Literally having conversations over text. Older people hate this. If you are conveying something lengthy, send an email or pick up the phone. Only send a text to alert the person to read the email or call when available. In business, text is not for conversations. Phone Telephone calls should be necessary in business, not for fun. Call your mom if you want to have a chat. Do not make a business call unless you have agreed to have a conversation. Telemarketing is stale and antiquated, and you should never telemarket to a person’s cell phone. You know how annoying it is to get calls from people trying to sell you something – interrupting your life for their sales effort. It’s offensive. Calls should be arranged in advance, or used when there is a timely urgency to have a two-way conversation. Otherwise, send an email. Email Business people are crushed by email. Literally hundreds of emails pass into our inboxes every day and hundreds more into spam filters. I spend an hour a day hitting the delete key and the spam button on my inbox. Worse yet, I have staff members that live in my inbox to make sure that I am not missing something important. Do not spam […]

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Take A Board Seat With That Purchase

by Victor Lund on February 2, 2016

Centris is the MLS that provides services to 13,000 agents in Canadian Provence of Quebec. In an announcement today, they agreed to provide a new service to all of their members called Urbanimmersive. Urbanimmersive is a full suite of online marketing tools that includes photographers that create content to power videos, virtual tours, 3D Tours, aerial photographs, and other digital media. Normally, brokers and franchises would not appreciate the MLS delivering services like this, but Montreal is different. Organized real estate would be at risk in Quebec if the Association of REALTORS® and the MLS had not stepped up their game. FSBOs were taking over the market five years ago. Since then, Centris has worked with brokers and franchises to fight back. The cornerstone of this battle is “Realtor Education” and their MLS consumer facing website – centris.ca. Here is the link to the English version of the site that adheres to the fair display guidelines: http://www.centris.ca/en/. [ Disclaimer – WAV Group facilitated the development of this strategy with the Centris Board of Directors. ] It is a success story. Enhancing the digital footprint created for every community and every listing with rich media is the next step in their journey to differentiate the quality of working with a Realtor vs. going the FSBO route. Content is king! But there is another king maker here. There are 100,000 properties for sale in Quebec today. That is a lot of inventory that needs digital assets. Surely, this is a big market opportunity for Urbanimmersive. Centris just paved the way for Urbanimmersive to gain access to hundreds of thousands of photo shoots. Both Centris and Urbanimmersive will need to work closely to execute this program effectively. The agreement also stipulates that a representative of Centris® will join, without compensation, the Board of Directors of Urbanimmersive. Boom! There is nothing like a seat on the Board of Directors of your vendor to insure that the organization has the support and focus that will be required to serve 13,000 agents and 100,000 listings. If your MLS is making a major decision to work with a firm that does not have a lot of MLS experience, be sure to consider putting a board seat in your agreement. It will go a long way toward insuring success and understanding the health of the company you are contracting with. Need more creativity in vendor selection? Invite WAV Group to […]

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