Strategic Planning

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In the advent of Inman Connect this week, these were three stories I found which piqued my interest this last week.

Will Amazon Uber-ize the Real Estate Industry?

Cisco and Juniper Networks stocks slipped last Friday on news from The Information that Amazon was entering the $14 billion data center equipment business. While searching for more news I stumbled upon investment firm, TwinRock Partners, article about Amazon and real estate.

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A Tech View on Consolidation

by David Gumpper on March 19, 2018

Puzzle piece - Consolidation of MLS's and Associations.

Consolidation of Associations and/or Multiple Listing Systems (MLS) at any level has its pros and cons. Consolidation can tip the scale in the way that it improves the business, the industry and most importantly, how it impacts all the stakeholders. This of course includes the consumer who is at the top of pyramid!

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Study Says Longer Tweets are Better

by Victor Lund on December 13, 2017

Twitter for real estate is a curious strategy. There was quite a bit of discussion about Twitter in some of the Facebook groups that I am in. #thatsfunny. In all seriousness, when WAV Group evaluates the effectiveness of social media marketing and advertising (those are two different things), the numbers prove out that Facebook is far more effective in every matrix of reporting. The data suggests that Facebook is core, Twitter is niche. If you do market on Twitter as part of your surround sound system, you likely already know that Twitter extended the number of characters from the old 140 to the new, abundant 280. A study published by SocialFlow outlines the following results from their research: Average Clicks – This is interesting. If your Twitter strategy is to get people to click though to your website – the number of characters in your post does not really matter. Their article publishing the research tells us that they evaluated 30,000 publisher tweets. I have no clue what the 94.46 means – but that is certainly not the click though rate! Suffice it to say that the click through rate does not seem to vary in relation to the longer or shorter tweets. Retweets did show a significant increase in engagement. Looks like the publishers in the study were doubling the number of retweets. This is great news for the ability to extend your messaging beyond your group of followers and reach their followers. Think “new business.” Average Likes – Who does not like to see the love from the followers you have on Twitter? The good news is that the more you say, the more your followers like you. Although not quite as significant as the enhanced performance found with retweets, the number of followers that will like your posts jumps up dramatically. To be sure – Twitter made a good decision in extending the number of characters from 140 to 280. Now your opportunity is to learn how to tweet in the extended format to improve your online effectiveness. Twitter is not for everyone, but plenty of people are into it – mostly media, marketing, and technology folks. We find this to be a particularly effective way to develop relationships with local journalists. Remind your PR folks! disclaimer – Facebook is a WAV Group client – Twitter is not. @victorlund

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The MLS 2020 Agenda Overview

by Victor Lund on September 7, 2017

MLS 2020 Agenda

Ahead of CMLS, “The MLS RoundTable” published the MLS 2020 Agenda. It is a paper that provides a series of one-page perspectives from industry executives about the Future of the MLS (hat tip to Saul Klein who I give credit for coining the term). It is not clear how the people were chosen to opine on the agenda for MLS. Although there are a solid number of enlightened MLS thinkers in the report, there are many other great MLS executives that are conspicuous by their absence. The report is a good primer for the conference. The Association Problem (and Governance) There is some conversation about the relationship between the Associations of REALTORS® that own MLSs and the operations of the MLS itself. Much of this has to do with Governance. Bad governance kills great companies every time. There is an assertion that the association-based decision-making model is disastrous for the MLS – but there is no description about how the decision-making fails. Plenty of Associations have excellent decision-making models. I look forward to hearing more about what bad association decision-making models are. I agree with the premise that Associations can be troublesome for MLSs, but on different grounds. Associations profit from the MLS – and that is the biggest retardant of all if they are not providing any value to the MLS.  Associations should not be able to mark up MLS services 100% for doing billing.  If they are providing training and support, they need to be held accountable for their deliverables, required to have the right equipment for managing support, etc. I am just completing a project for a large firm who was being denied sales data in 12 markets – all Association managed MLSs with fewer than 500 subscribers. For most of them, a phone call or two cleared up the misunderstanding. The last 4 have been an issue. Two of them do not have full time staff running the MLS or the Association. I had to chase down the agent who was the president, educate them on the MLS policy that they have in place (yes, their rules clearly allow for sold data), and help them connect with their MLS vendor to add sold data to the feed (he did not know who to contact or their phone number). As it turns out, our broker client will be the first in those markets to have a sold […]

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Pacific Union Delivers On International Reach

by Victor Lund on May 25, 2017

WAV Group has been studying broker website effectiveness for more than a decade. One area of interest is global reach. When we look at Google Analytics, we study traffic to understand the level of visibility that brokers are achieving for their websites internationally. Over the past 12 months, Pacific Union International has been living up to their name by expanding their international reach. Driving International Reach International reach has largely been a listing tool in real estate. Even in global cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, we see that 85% of buyers come from the immediate region. 10% come from other areas within the United States. Only 5% come from international buyers. Despite the real data, sellers continue to believe the media that buyers come from China and Russia. For many brokerages, the seller’s demand for international reach is colored in though franchise or network relationships. There is good news for brokerages that are not affiliated with franchises or networks. Over the past year, Pacific Union International has been focused on reaching high net-worth individuals, increasing their reach in the U.K. by 360%, and over 500% in China. Their targeting has resulted in 900% increased traffic in India and a staggering 2190% increase in Brazil. It is a 6 figure investment, but far more effective than the delivery of international buyers from networks or franchises. Pacific Union’s traffic, leads, and transactions have grown enormously with this proactive approach. Building International Relationships In addition to international marketing, Pacific Union understands that the true success of any international effort is developing relationships with leading brokerage firms across the globe. The distinction here is that they are not building a list. The relationships that they have built for decades are sincere and personal.  Their commitment to these relationships ensures that Pacific Union clients buying abroad get the same level of service that they get at home. Moreover, Pacific Union delivers concierge service to international clients here in America in return. The countries on this map represent the nations where Pacific Union holds these personal trust relationships with foreign brokerage firms. The Pacific Union executive team travels to many of these locations each year to bond with partners, and welcomes inbound partner visits in the best possible way. Communication to Agents and Consumers Performing at this high level is nothing new for Pacific Union. They operate in the most competitive […]

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How Will You Expand in 2017?

by Victor Lund on January 3, 2017

Businesses have a simple strategy – MORE! If you are brokerage, you want more revenue. To get more revenue you need more transactions. If you want more transactions, you need more productivity per agent, or more agents. If you are an MLS or a technology company, you want more subscribers. More, More, More. The problem with more is that it typically does not involve listening to your current customers. In real estate, that means listening to customers. WAV Group is always astounded at the lack of focus groups and customer surveys in our industry. To our knowledge, we are the only consulting firm that specializes in customer research. On any given month, we are running about 10 research projects. That seems like a lot, but given that there are hundreds of MLSs, hundreds of technology vendors, and hundreds of brokers – we arrive at the consensus that the real estate industry is not listening to its customers very well. The McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish A classic business story comes from McDonalds. They are a huge research company. They never guess and do not make decisions without asking customers and testing their food. Makes sense right? They are an example of how to listen. Back in the 1960s, McDonalds noticed sales numbers went down on Fridays. They talked to their customers and quickly learned that Catholics eat fish on Fridays – so McDonalds was a hook with no bait on Fridays. They decided to sell the Filet-o-Fish on Fridays and as you know – it remains on the menu today as a result of the success. Survey and Focus Group Research Survey and focus group research should be part of your annual budget. It is something that you can do yourself, but if you do not have the skills to know how to build surveys, test surveys, and build survey reports – you may have less success than you expect. The same is true of Focus Groups. These disciplines are sciences. A number of companies will hire a firm like WAV Group to do the work the first time, and rinse and repeat in successive years to benchmark improvements. The important thing here is that you know your limitations and seek support if research is not your people’s strength.  Incidentally, be mindful that your customers will tell independent researchers things that they do not want to tell you directly. Truly great leaders are […]

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Strategic Planning – More Critical Than Ever Now!

by Marilyn Wilson on November 17, 2016

Strat Planning

Never before has our industry been moving more quickly.  Industry initiatives like UpstreamRE, Broker Public Portal and AMP are coming are way.  Consumers are looking for more and more transparency.   Agents must learn how to use technologies effectively if they are going to survive working with Millenials. What is YOUR organization doing to adapt and adjust to the fundamental changes that are upon us? WAV Group conducts strategic planning sessions regularly for MLSs, Associations, Brokerages and Technology companies. There are five fundamental questions that every organization needs to ask itself today. What’s our organization’s TRUE value?  If your organization was going to market today, would it be viable?  Would it have unique value to its customers?  Would it have what it takes to attract customers of all shapes and sizes?   Would you be able to secure funding?   How would you quantify that it has value? If the answer is no, then its time to do some thinking about what your customers really need and how you are going to provide vital solutions for them. How good are we at telling our story?  Getting Adoption? While most organizations that we work with offer an amazing collection of services and support, I have never worked with ANY organization that is satisfied with the level of engagement, adoption and usage they have achieved.  Organizations sometimes fall into the trap of “checking it off the list”.  They say to themselves, “yes, I offer a really powerful suite of technologies” or “my customer support is available 24/7” or “my training programs are diverse and helpful”. While all of these statements are probably true, it’s not enough just to offer great programs.  It takes a commitment to on-going promotion of all of the services that you offer and a vigilant monitoring or adoption, usage and satisfaction. We hear stories all the time about how an agent switched from one brokerage to the other because they were offered free Zillow advertising or some other “shiny object”.   We also talk to agents and brokers who spend money unnecessarily on programs that are ALREADY offered by their MLS or brokerage because they’re not aware its available to them as part of their regular MLS subscription. If you don’t effectively promote your services, there’s no way you’re going to get credit for them.  If you don’t effectively promote your services, you’re wasting money and you’re not building your value proposition. […]

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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. […]

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Is Real Estate Still in a Slump?

by Victor Lund on March 28, 2016

Real Estate Slump

After the crash in the housing market, real estate was hit by the worst recession in our nation’s history. Frankly, brokers took a beating and operated at a loss for a number of years. Since the low point, things have been steadily been improving. There was a lot of speculation that the foreclosure volume in the hardest hit markets were clogging up the supply side. As we turned the corner, these distressed properties were slowly released into the marketplace and they are mostly absorbed. There was a two to three year heyday for brokers and agents who specialized in REO properties. Looking at the production of many of the REO specialists, that business has largely fallen back to normalized levels. CoreLogic reports that the volume of “underwater” mortgages has been on a steep decline and is also returning to normal levels. That is pretty good news. It allows homeowners to trade homes without taking a loss. However, this is not opening up inventory levels for most areas of the nation. For many, inventory is still very low and that is having an impact on pricing. Home values have seen double digit increases, as supply has been so limited. That is expected to flatten out this year, largely because of affordability. Wages have not increased in line with housing values. The biggest slump we see in the market is driven by expansion. The demand for homes is outpacing supply by double digits in many areas like the San Francisco Bay Area. People cannot find housing and there is not enough new inventory being built. Pacific Union held a housing summit in November of 2015 that looked at the three year forecast for housing in the Bay Area – this was my chief takeaway. See more here: http://www.pacificunion.com/jazz. The slump has been caused by a shortage of builders. Many of the top analysts that cover the new home market estimate that even with new construction starts hedging up 10 percent, they have only recovered 64 percent since the bottom. That leaves a lag or shortage of 34 percent behind the normalized demand for new homes. An interesting nuance to the builder story is that multifamily is up 11 percent, and is running about 250 percent ahead of the trough and actually 1 percent above the norm. This is a huge bounce that represents a shift from home ownership to renting. Some Things […]

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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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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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1000watt nails large broker IDX strategy

by Victor Lund on August 14, 2015

Dum IDX

1000Watt Consulting wrote a post this week that is a must read. View it here – http://1000watt.net/2015/08/friday-flash-the-broken-down-lead-machine/# Brian Boero’s point is clear: “If you are a large firm with more than 10% market share – ditch IDX.” Reasons to Act This Way compromised presentation of properties raft of local competitors drafting on your listings paper brokers leverage your data with impunity relatively small number of leads that agents will probably drop the ball on. I am not going to recant the entire article. Please go and read it. But I do want to reinforce one point and add another. Reinforcement – We studied response time to IDX leads. 50% of inquiries get no response, and those that do respond usually do a bad job. Here is a whole white paper on the research. Its real. http://waves.wavgroup.com/2014/01/13/agent-responsiveness-study-reveals-critical-flaws-in-real-estate-lead-response/ New Point – Consider and IDX/VOW combination website. When a broker opts out of IDX, they cannot display other broker listings except when the consumer registers! Once a consumer registers, your broker website becomes more of a buyer client servicing platform. Not only can you display all of the IDX listings, but you can display 100% of all information in the MLS other than confidential fields like commission and agent-to-agent comments. Most consumers are driven to a broker website organically – 68% type in the URL. Again, we studied 1 million consumers using broker websites. There is a full paper on it here http://waves.wavgroup.com/2013/07/25/wav-group-releases-2013-broker-website-effectiveness-study/ Consumers are looking for the broker’s listings. Many brokers have dropped the “Our Listings” tab on their website, which is a mistake in my opinion. Lead with your inventory! “We represent 58 listings that match your search criteria, view them now or register to see all 486 area listings that match your search criteria.” This is not a new schema. This was developed by Wolfnet for the Chicago marketplace years ago when brokers would select who could display their listings and who could not (the DOJ terminated this practice). Believe it or not, lead capture was 20% higher when an IDX/VOW combination site than just an IDX site by itself. Better yet, if the top 5 firms in an MLS followed suit, it would devastate the raft of competitors using your another firm’s data to grow their business. I am with 1000watt on this point 100%. If you are a big broker, opt out of IDX and install a VOW property search for registered […]

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Change and Balance

by Victor Lund on June 16, 2015

WAV Group holds a quarterly webinar called the WAVes of Change. It allows companies and senior executives to get a one-hour overview of change that is happening in our industry. We wear a lot of hats in our capacity as industry researchers, investors, capital markets advisors, consultants, RE Technology publishers, and though our newest endeavor – WAV Group Communications. WAVes of Change webinars aim to pack all of this into a big ball and throw it your way so you can hit it out of the park in your business. Another way to look at change is innovation. Some call it rethinking. It is a process whereby you try to summarize external and internal forces that impact your mission and adapt in a way that improves your success. WAVes of Change helps with finding the right innovation by providing an overview of both external and internal trends. Externally, WAV Group research looks at consumer expectations and agent expectations to measure attitudes about our industry (consumer and agent satisfaction research). We look at how companies in different segments in the marketplace are changing to become more competitive (like publishers and franchises). We remark about the need for new technology (like agent safety) that may now find light. We watch the regulatory process (Dodd Frank) and stay close to the pulse of industry structural changes (RESO, Upstream, AMP, Partner InfoNet, Data Sharing, business consolidation). Internally we reflect on trends in business decision-making (like syndication and data management). We talk about problems in operations (lead responsiveness, business intelligence). We endeavor to understand why companies are growing or declining; the impact of leadership changes, and changes to alliances between organizations. My dad was a boat builder. He put everything he could into manufacturing the best possible product on the market. But he taught me more about business psychology than anything else. Honestly, I do not know anything about building a boat but have dedicated my life to business building. From him, I learned that people run businesses on emotion and justify their decisions with logic. His teaching was to ask more questions about WHY something is happening than following WHAT is happening. WAVes of Changes was created by Marilyn Wilson to look at the WHAT in an effort to understand the WHY. I don’t like change very much. It disturbs the balance of a company internally and externally. But I love innovation. Innovation is […]

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Are You International?

by Victor Lund on April 27, 2015

Sophisticated real estate companies in metropolitan areas do a lot of international business, or at least aim to do international business. To facilitate international business they belong to networks like Christies, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, Luxury Real Estate, or international franchise organizations. International is also a significant strategic development initiative for brokerage firms with strong relocation departments. The trigger to securing inbound referrals from abroad is relationship building. If you are not reaching out to international corporations with locations in your area, or taking trips to develop referral relationships with feeder markets, you are not likely to have much success. Some firms even open offices in foreign cities. The goal is to get in front of international buyers and sellers and deliver a compelling presentation that assures the perspective client that you have experience handling international transactions. Here is a checklist of a few convincing details that may support your goal of handling international transactions. Line up translations services. Find firms that can take your communications and translate them into foreign languages. All of your materials communicating to international customers will be in English – that is the international language. However, providing a copy of the materials in their native tongue demonstrates your experience and dedication. Do not rely on Google Translate International Property Search – works with service providers like Immobel or Proxio to deliver an property search in their native language. Skype – Skype dominates international communications. Have a skype account and include your Skype id on your business cards and marketing materials. Format your phone number for international dialing – this is a simple thing, but it speaks volumes to project your attention to international customers add the +011 before the area code and local dialing number Have other ideas for demonstrating your focus on international business – leave a comment below.

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Trend MLS Case Study On Excellence

by Victor Lund on April 23, 2015

I was at the Swanepoel T3 summit a week ago and battled the misanthropic attitude toward MLS that bubbles up from agents and brokers. My commentary was specific. Not all MLSs are alike. Most MLSs with more than 5000 subscribers are excellent. Some MLSs with more than 10,000 subscribers are constantly improving their service levels to brokers and agents. One of those MLSs is Trend MLS. Case in point – Mobile image uploader Mobile image uploading is no simple task. That is why so few MLSs have this service available today. There are plenty that offer the ability to add or edit a listing using a mobile device. When adding a new listing from a mobile device, often the listing is saved and suspended as an incomplete listing until the agent can complete the listing using a desktop browser. Mostly, it is the images that are missing. Advances in the quality of images that can be taken from a phone or tablet allow those devices to be legitimate tools for taking property photos. They are high enough in resolution to support Internet display and print quality. Due to the storage limitations on mobile devices, most real estate professionals take photos that are synchronized to cloud storage like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. Trend adopted a connection using the API of these cloud solutions to allow the agent to connect to the cloud and add or remove multiple photos at once. But wait, there is more. As part of the development, Trend MLS when even further. They added the ability to edit the photos with tools for cropping, rotating, adjusting contrast and brightness. They even support the ability to add a caption to the image. If you are an MLS who would like to see what they have done, feel free to view this announcement to their subscribers http://www.trendmls.com/Guest/News/ShowDoc.aspx?id=7516#.VTEitM6flp8 Trend MLS is a shining example of an MLS that is responsive to the evolution of technology and the delivery of modern applications that support the needs of their subscribers. They are unique in that they have programmers to make quick work of closing technology gaps that impede the work of tech savvy agents. To be clear – they wrote the code themselves. Great Job Trend MLS! Anyone with designs on “disrupting the MLS” will have a pretty hard time competing with your service excellence.

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Enabling an Ecosystem of Innovation for Real Estate

by Marilyn Wilson on April 23, 2015

The MLS technology model has been relatively flat-footed for some time now. Many MLSs offer one MLS system, one Public Records system and other services like showing appointment software, document management, and they call it a day. In Part IV of his blog series last Thursday, Bob Bemis outlined a vision of a brand new way for MLS platforms to operate. A new program called AMP™ or Advanced Multi-List Platform™ that would leverage RPR is a very interesting and even scary concept to some. In its simplest definition, AMP would be the “back end” of an MLS. It would provide the database that all listings, solds and other real estate information are fed into and stored in right now. In today’s model, the database of listing information is inextricably linked to the rest of the MLS system in most markets. In this approach, the database would be separated from the agent-facing portion of an MLS system, where functionality like add/edit, CMA, reports, and prospecting live. As Bob Bemis highlighted in his series of articles, there are many weaknesses with this traditional MLS model. The three largest, in my view: It does not consider the needs for brokers to differentiate themselves from one another. It creates cost and duplication of effort for an industry that already suffers from tight margins and a lack of technology adeptness. It does not allow agents and brokers any choice in the tools offered by the MLS and in many cases forces agents to pay for tools they don’t want, don’t need, and don’t use. How long have these problems existed? For as long as I can remember. When I first began consulting in the real estate industry more than 10 years ago, I remember my then business partner, Mike Audet, talk about the need for a “plug n’ play” MLS. He had several blog posts and white papers published back then that talked about the need to de-couple every module within an MLS system to allow each organization to pick their own custom collection of tools that would best serve the needs of their organization. Unfortunately, at that time there was no appetite from MLS technology providers to try this practical but revolutionary approach. Bob mentions in his article that some progressive MLS leaders today are trying to push the envelope, asking fundamental questions about smart ways to re-invent the MLS. One of those leaders […]

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Size Matters

by Kevin Hawkins on April 23, 2015

Bigger is better. At least that’s what Apple discovered when it unveiled larger iPhones. The sales numbers stunned everyone: 74.5 million iPhones in the first quarter of release. That’s more than 34,000 phones an hour, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even Tim Cook was taken aback, telling analysts the “Demand for iPhone was staggering,” adding, “This volume is hard to comprehend.” Every major smartphone vendor has discovered that when it comes to consumer preferences, they are turning to larger screens. The bigger story But what is happening here goes beyond record sales numbers for Apple, Samsung, Google, LG or HTC. What the dominance of bigger screen smartphones in the marketplace is doing is accelerating the dominance of mobile in every aspect of our lives. Mobile growth has exploded with 71% U.S. market penetration, but I think we’ve just scratched the surface of what’s coming and coming on fast. This is what real estate professionals need to pay attention to. It’s more than just about market share of smartphones. It’s the behavior change that these big screens are creating. Just take a look around you every day and what are you seeing? I am seeing large screen smartphones everywhere I look. I was on a flight from Atlanta to Seattle and as I walked through the aisles, nearly everyone was in the prayer position: Head lowered, hands clutched, holding a large screen smartphone. On the ferry ride home, I saw the exact same thing, from every demographic group, young and old. If my wife’s parents, who are in their 70s, are a bellwether for how smartphones appeal to an older demographics, we going to see even strong sales – and greater behavioral changes. For years my in-laws held out getting a smartphone, coveting their pocket flip-phones. But this winter, they made the switch and got matching large screen smartphones. They said they could see everything so much better on their big screen phones. But what is most fascinating to me is how they too now whip out their smartphones when we are on the ferry, heading into Seattle. They used to give our teenage sons a hard time about “always being on their phones,” but now they too have the bug. They’ve also discovered the Zero Moment of Truth – the ability to Google search anything for an immediate answer during a purchase decision – and that is […]

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Association MLS Service Provider Controversy

by Marilyn Wilson on March 26, 2015

WAV Group is a leading provider of satisfaction research to a large number of MLSs in the United States and Canada. This type of research is often performed annually by mid-sized MLSs and quarterly by large MLSs. Our satisfaction research is unique in that we support MLSs to benchmark off of their prior performance along with benchmarks against their peer group. WAV Group does not ever share another MLS’s data with any other MLS. But we do extract observations about what strategies are most effective at improving satisfaction in areas where MLSs are weak. As we have voiced on many occasions, the number one way to crush subscriber satisfaction with MLS services is to change MLS systems. Circumstances being what they are, switching MLS systems is a necessary tactic to serve the long term needs of agents and brokers. CoreLogic’s sunset of the MLXchange system has caused an enormous number of conversions. Since change of any type (for better or worse) causes a reduction in customer satisfaction, there is very little that any MLS can do about it. However, we have seen some do better than others. MLSs that have the most successful conversions tend to be those who have full-time training, a full-time help desk, and direct contact with the subscriber. MLSs that have the least successful conversions tend to be those who outsource training, the help desk, and direct contact with the subscriber to Associations of REALTORS®. Before you have a heart attack, please appreciate that I am speaking in broad-brush strokes here. There are plenty of AORs which support system conversions, as well, and even better than some MLSs. This is not a condemnation of all Associations. But the customer satisfaction surveys say that the model of Associations providing MLS service centers is generally less effective than the model of MLS service centers. To understand this trend, WAV Group looks carefully at individual Associations in regional MLSs that have Association service centers. We can rank the performance of service centers by indexing the customer satisfaction survey by Association. Some Associations perform better than others. The number one influencer of performance is tied to dedicated trainers and dedicated customer support staff. This issue of dedicated resources is the root of the service provider controversy. There is rarely a minimum requirement or standard for an Association to be measured against as a service provider for the MLS. The only […]

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Struggling with your Direct Feeds?

by Jenna Woodruff on March 17, 2015

Direct to portals, syndication platforms, virtual tour companies, online marketing products…the options for brokers to distribute listings seem endless. They all offer varying features, benefits and service levels, making it hard to determine what will give their businesses a competitive edge. Many brokers are at the mercy of agents using services that distribute listings without their knowledge; creating inaccuracies and liabilities, and eroding their brands. MLSs are in the unique position to offer brokers unmatched listing distribution services through strong data licensing agreements. A key benefit that only MLSs can offer is faster listing updates. When listings are not delivered and updated quickly, the risk of error increases along with the liability for inaccuracies, loss of quality leads and negative customer experiences that harm your members’ brands. Today, more tech savvy brokerages are experimenting with direct-to-portal data feeds, while more traditional firms are turning to their MLSs to help them compete. Direct feeds ensure the accuracy of data and are the fastest way to deal with the urgent need to get listings in front of consumers first. Join WAV Group partner Marilyn Wilson as she moderators this RE Techinar™ on what the best path for achieving this is. You’ll hear the perspectives of 4 industry experts with over 70 years of combined experience in a wide variety of roles. Special guests include: Kipp Cooper, CEO of The Huntsville Area Association of Realtors and the North Alabama MLS Dave Garland, Manager for Rainmakers Consulting Group and Principal at Pacific States Capital Alon Chaver, VP of Industry Services, Trulia John Whitney, Director of MLS Business Development, Trulia Moderator: Marilyn Wilson, WAV Group and RE Technology Register now to join the discussion!

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I had the honor of working with the Greater Albuquerque Association of REALTORS® today. They hosted a Town Hall asking for input on whether or not their brokers would like them to negotiate a Direct Feed from the Zillow Group on their behalf.  Michael Bustamante did a great job of framing the issues that need to be discussed and ultimately decided upon. While the issue is anything, but clear cut, there were interesting questions posed that may be helpful for you to use in your market as you try to think your way through your market’s decision about direct feeds. 1.     Potential Need/Impact – What percentage of your market’s listings are already being syndicated through franchises?  In this market, more than half of the listings were being syndicated through about 7 franchises.  You may want to check and see how many of your franchises already have a direct feed in place. This will help you understand what percentage of your listings are actually affected by a direct feed coming from the MLS. 2.     How many are participating?  If you currently have Listhub in your marketplace, you can get a sense of how many of your listings are currently being syndicated to Zillow and Trulia. 3.     What are the trade-offs?   The Zillow Group is offering priority placement for Listing Agents, prominent MLS attribution and a few other goodies.  Ask your members how important these trade-offs are for them.    Each MLS will likely negotiate their own terms, but you can begin with the program that has been outlined publicly. 4.     How committed are your brokers?  How important is Zillow and Trulia to your broker’s success?  There are a lot of schools of thought are the role and importance of third party sites in broker success.  Poll your brokers and find out where they come out on this topic.  If they believe these sites are an important part of their marketing mix then the next question is whether they want the MLS to negotiate a program on their behalf or if they would prefer to go it alone. 5.     Longer Term implications – While many brokers believe that Zillow and Trulia help them secure listings, some are worried about the long-term impact of such a fundamental partnership.  Ask them what their longer-term concerns are. What happens when third party sites have data that is high quality as broker sites?  What could happen to […]

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