houston association of realtors

Third Party Site or MLS? Why not both?

by Marilyn Wilson on May 7, 2014

MLSs, with their consumer-facing websites, long to find ways to make their sites more engaging, attracting more visitors and ultimately more exposure to their member’s listings. The Houston Association of REALTORS®, arguably one of the most progressive and gutsy Associations in America today, has done it again.  They have become the first MLS consumer site in America to allow listings from brokers around the state of Texas via Listhub. Listing syndicator ListHub will feed listings to public-facing websites operated by multiple listing services, and the Houston Association of Realtors is the first to sign up for the new program, which will expand HAR.com’s coverage area to the entire state of Texas. ListHub is the leading provider of listing syndication services to MLSs today, syndicating listings for more than 450 MLSs around the country. What inspired the idea? In 2013, WAV Group conducted research for HAR, revealing that 98% of their membership valued HAR.com as the organization’s most valuable tool. Understanding the importance of this offering, HAR set out to find new ways to make the site more powerful and profitable for its members. The highly competitive online marketing environment had a large impact, as well. In February 2013, HAR.com was #1 real estate website in Texas with 9% market share. Just 12 months later, in February 2014, HAR.com had a 9% market share and Zillow had a 12% market share, becoming the number one real estate site in the state of Texas. HAR.com quickly figured out that they needed to have as much data as other third party sites have, allowing brokers throughout the state of Texas to add their listings to HAR.com. Last year, they met with Corpus Christi, Midland, Tyler and others, asking HAR.com how they could work together. Together they came up with the answer – let’s pool our resources and create one powerful site for the entire state. Interest in a statewide portal came also from brokers who would regularly contact HAR.com asking if they could add their listings to the site. Listening to the needs of brokers and their fellow Texas associations, HAR.com worked with Listhub to develop an easy way for brokers and MLSs to add their listings to HAR.com. What did it take to transition from local to statewide? HAR.com was already a robust site but there were several adjustments that were needed to make the site appropriate for statewide listing exposure. The […]

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Value of Buyers Agent Diminishing, Study Reveals

by Marilyn Wilson on April 25, 2014

WAV Group has had the pleasure of working with the Houston Association of REALTOR®’s Consumer Research Panel for over a year now. The panel has helped the organization uncover many meaningful insights that have helped share technology strategies, advocacy efforts and educational efforts. Today, the Houston Association of REALTORS® released the findings of their “DIY: Do It Yourself” consumer research panel study. The purpose of the study was to gauge how important Houston area consumers feel agents are to the transaction.  The survey, which was fielded to the 7,000 consumers that are now a part of the industry’s largest consumer panel, highlights the differences between those that are in the buying process versus selling process, as well the differences between generations. Here are some key findings: Consumers value the need for a REALTOR® when they are selling their home versus when they are buying a home. 66% of those surveyed believe they can find a home without an agent. When it comes to the logistics of executing a transaction, however, consumers still want to turn to an agent for guidance and advice. Today, third party sites like HAR.com, Zillow, Trulia and others are used by just about EVERY demographic except those born in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  These sites have transcended all ages. Only 4% of all respondents will find an agent first before beginning the search for a home. Home buying criteria differs by generation. Neighborhood and affordability are key factors for Millennials, but older respondents emphasize first finding the right home and then looking at affordability. HAR’s most recent consumer research panel affirms that sellers are more reliant on agents in the total process than buyers. Nearly ¾ of the respondents feel it would take longer to sell their home with out the assistance of an agent.   They believe the ability to tap into the agent’s network of contacts and exposure to all agents within the local MLS is crucial to the sales process along with the agent’s ability to negotiate the right price for them. Comparable and market analysis completed by the agent is crucial to the selling process, according to the respondents. Every MLS and every broker should offer their agents an easy way to provide easy to understand and graphically rich market stats. REALTORS® have an opportunity to engage with consumers before they list their home since 58% consult their agent about repairs that need […]

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Listhub Offers New Terms HAR Agreement

by Marilyn Wilson on October 9, 2013

Listhub has finally enrolled the Houston Association of REALTORS® in its listings distribution platform by matching the terms of HAR’s unique needs for listing syndication. Historically HAR has entered into direct agreements with major portals. Houston CEO, Bob Hale spoke briefly about the organization’s strategic shift toward Listhub during our discussion at the Council of MLS meetings in Boise, Idaho. “We track everything so our brokers can maximize their success in online marketing,” said Hale. The Houston Association of REALTORS® pioneered the STAR reports that have long provided their members with detailed reports on listings and leads displayed on HAR.com. What was missing was a federated report that shows how HAR.com stacks up against the leading portals.” Historically, Listhub has offered its listing syndication services for free to MLSs, in exchange for the opportunity to market “premium” reports to brokers and agents. HAR wanted to acquire customized weekly listing metrics reports for their members. When the system goes live, brokers and agents who have active listings will receive reports that show how well their listings a performing on HAR.com and other sites where brokers choose to publish their listings. HAR is installing the Listhub tracking codes on HAR.com. Brokers and agents may still choose to subscribe to other premium reports. REALTOR.com President, Errol Samuelson remarked “with our partnership in Houston, Listhub has now eclipsed the aggregation of 90% of listings in the United States, a landmark accomplishment.” There are a couple of interesting best practices that emerged in this agreement that are worth noting. In some instances HAR may maintain their practice of contracting directly with a publisher and not rely solely on the agreement between Listhub and the publisher. REALTOR.com listing views and leads will be included in the HAR Listhub reports. HAR is not truncating the data feed at this time. Some MLSs like Sandicor have also implemented a Syndication Remarks field into the MLS that allows agents to promote themselves differently for syndication than the remarks intended for IDX. HAR stopped short of a few opportunities that WAV Group has identified for listing syndication. No MLS has successfully implemented tracking codes into the MLS system. This is a strategy identified by MRED MLS that was attempted with Onboard Informatics but the pilot program was not implemented into full production. It would also be very interesting for an MLS to require every agent and broker website vendor to install tracking codes. WAV […]

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Top 5 Ways to Become More Relevant with Consumer Research

by Marilyn Wilson on August 16, 2013

The real estate industry suffers from what I call the “lowest common denominator” phenomenon. Every one of the business models in the industry – associations, MLSs and brokerages are built on attracting and retaining as many agents as possible.   Many real estate entities collect monies every month from every participant – regardless of their productivity.  While these models each have their own reasons to exist, they have created a major problem in my view.  Real estate organizations are so busy attracting sales professionals that many ignore the needs of the most important group – the customer. It’s no wonder that the real estate industry focuses mainly on the needs of agents – every business model depends on them.  The problem is this focus has distracted us away from paying attention to the real drivers of the industry – consumers. We forget that without them we will have no business.   They decide what inventory levels will be available in a market. They decide when supply will exceed demand and when prices will increase because of a buying frenzy.  The economy sets the stage for buying behaviors, but consumers ultimately decide how healthy the real estate market is going to be. I believe it’s time for our industry to expand its focus beyond agents and start thinking about the needs of consumers.   When I say this in meetings, some people respond to me politely and say, “Yes, I get that the consumer is important, but ultimately my business depends on agents. I need to consider their needs first and foremost. If I don’t I will lose them and they will move to a different brokerage or they switch to a new association or worse yet, they may leave the REALTOR® family completely.” I really believe it’s time for us to get over this outdated perspective. Let’s look at what our ignorance of consumer needs has gotten us so far…..anybody remember the Zestimate?   The industry refused to share AVM’s with consumers so they found their solution somewhere else.   How about sold data? There are many MLSs today that refuse to share solds via their IDX feed because agents do not want them to. How crazy is that when solds are available on literally thousands of third party sites today? So how do we avoid the next major faux pas that opens up even more opportunities for every company EXCEPT those in organized real […]

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customer-centric

I can’t tell you the number of times I have had a conversation with someone in the real estate industry where they tell me that the consumer is NOT their client.  We prefer to think of the agent as the primary audience and simply ignore the fact that agents do not provide the checks. As the saying goes…follow the money…If you want to succeed in real estate, you have to address the needs of those that secure mortgages to buy and sell homes, not simply those that get a commission check from the sale. That seems like a simple concept, doesn’t it?  But a consumer focus simply eludes us in real estate.  Every business model in the industry helps us justify the fact that it is all about the agent.  Associations need members for advocacy so they focus on agents. MLSs need agents to fuel investment in technology so they focus on agents.  Brokers need sales associates and technology fees so they focus their energies on recruiting agents. Is it any wonder that the industry’s reputation with consumers is not as stellar as it could be when we focus more on our own needs than theirs? As many of you know I come from the world of consumer products and I am passionate about trying to change this very dangerous and potentially lethal belief system we cling to. It’s more than time for us to open up our eyes and realize that when you ignore the needs of the buying public, it’s only a matter of time before you get replaced….Oh wait, isn’t that already happening?  When you ask consumers what brand they think of when you say real estate they say Zillow.  When you ask consumers where to find an agent they tell you Yelp. We’re already losing a ton of ground because we refuse to believe that the needs of the consumer have to be considered and responded to, even when their requests are uncomfortable to us. Why does Zillow exist? Because the industry refused to provide AVM’s. Why does Yelp exist?  Because we believe consumers are not well-equipped to provide feedback on the transaction so why give them any transparency into customer feedback from past transactions? So what do we do to change this life-threatening trend? Well here’s one small step that brokerages, associations and MLSs can take on to begin to stem the tide of this […]

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HAR.com Keeps on Rolling

by Victor Lund on May 8, 2013

har-logo

The Houston Association of REALTORS (HAR) hit a significant milestone this month. They supported their brokers and agents in eclipsing the mark of 1 million transactions representing $190 Billion in real estate sales. I really appreciate the way HAR keeps track of everything, with clear focus on where they started and the progress that they have made on behalf of their members over time. WAV Group partner, Victor Lund discussed this success with Houston Board Chairman, Danny Frank. To begin with, Danny Frank is one of the most genuine, humble, and sincere leaders of any large real estate organization that I have met. Simply stated, he is a great guy. Nevertheless, he takes his role seriously in both his time commitment and his stewardship of the organization, and its professional staff. Like those who preceded him, he shares the vision that the Houston Association of REALTORS can be very best in the world, but it takes a lot of hard work. There are many pundits around the nation that are critical of the successful website operated by the Houston Association of REALTORS – HAR.com. The site has such outstanding success that no other website can compete with reaching the online consumer in any meaningful way. To be sure, some brokers are not very happy about it. They would prefer to have their broker website in the position of being number one. I empathize with those preferences, but they are not very realistic. HAR.com delivers one of the most outstanding value added benefits to its members found anywhere in the nation. Consider the following. Mr. Frank provided me with some of the criteria that they consider as it relates to their continued strategic and financial support of operating HAR.com: “The advertising revenue generated on the website offsets the operational costs.” The site defers online costs that brokers and agents would shoulder if HAR.com did not exist. “The site keeps the HAR agent and brokers at the center of online real estate search by consumers.” Consumers enjoy unfettered access to the most comprehensive, timely, and accurate listing information in the region with direct, unfettered connections to the agents and brokerages that can answer their real estate questions. Those are some great criteria. If you look at agent and broker advertising costs in cities comparable to Houston, you find that brokers and agents are spending somewhere between $20 and $50 per lead. From […]

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RENTAL CYCLE

If you visit any of the large third party property search sites today you will see a significant focus on the rental market. In most cases, rentals are now getting just as much focus as residential sales.  A few months ago Zillow purchased Rentjuice again underlines the growing importance of the rental market. They paid $16mm for the company to take advantage of its younger, renter focused 2.8 million viewers. Zillow, once again, is closely watching what real estate consumers are looking for.  They are addressing their needs with an aggressive push into the rentals space and are WAY ahead of brokers and MLSs in the rental space. MLSs and Brokers historically have not paid that much attention to rentals because the commission rates are much lower and the offers for cooperation and compensation are much more muddy.  That’s starting to change among the most progressive MLSs, however. Utahrealestate.com, for example, has launched their own rental site, Propertypond.com. The Houston Association of REALTORS® recently completed a study that clearly demonstrates the need for every Association and MLS to quickly embrace the rental market to help their subscribers take advantage of this important consumer trend. Through the industry’s first dedicated consumer research panel, made up local Houston residents, HAR conducted a study to find out more about the rental phenomenon in their market. The study revealed some astounding results. Historically, the real estate industry has thought of rentals as a separate process and a separate set of customers from homebuyers.  According to the study, this is simply not true. Nearly 40% of the respondents to the survey said they had previously owned a home. Second it is clear that a portion of those that were historically committed to home ownership are now moving to rentals because they believe it is more affordable or requires less maintenance and hassle. It appears as though the prestige of homeownership is being eroded at least to some level. Third, conventional wisdom would suggest that renters are generally young people who cannot yet afford to buy a home. While renters do skew younger overall than residential homebuyers, there is a significant portion of renters that are over 45 as well.               Renting is part of a family’s life cycle.  When we’re young and just starting we rent, then we purchase a home to raise a family.  When children grow up […]

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Nielsen credits HAR and Zillow among others

by Victor Lund on November 7, 2011

Agent Ratings

When it comes to measuring marketing effectiveness, there is little argument that Nielsen is the leader. Nielsen believes that providing clients with a precise understanding of the consumer is the key to making the right decisions — decisions that can lead to profitable growth. At Nielsen, they are always innovating to keep pace with emerging market trends and the increasingly diverse, demanding and connected consumer. Joining Nielsen is the Houston Association of REALTORS, Zillow, a few dozen brokerages, and about 500 of the more than 1 Million REALTORS in America today. These REALTORS are the bold, the true, the transparant, the honest – those that submit themselves to a professional rating by the consumers that entrusted them in a home transaction. Agent Ratings.

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