IDX

3 Ways for MLSs to Frustrate and Alienate Brokers

by Marilyn Wilson on April 20, 2016

No!

SOLDS, VOWS and the RESO Data Dictionary are NOT Optional for MLSs Some MLSs are creating unnecessary and even illegal challenges for their brokers as well as for the technology suppliers that support their brokers, by not complying with NAR rules…some of which that have been in place for YEARS! I hear regularly from brokers and technology vendors that they run into roadblocks all the time when they try to access SOLDs for their IDX feed, a Virtual Office Website (VOW) data feed and most recently, the RESO Data Dictionary dataset. I’m going to start with a little history lesson to help MLSs understand there are three data programs that are part of the NAR family, that are NOT optional for MLSs. IDX feed including SOLDS Required Brokers from the Leading Real Estate Companies of the world fought hard for MLSs to provide the option for brokers to include SOLDs in their IDX data feed. Some brokers really like the idea of including SOLDs on their website. They believe it helps them to be more competitive with third party sites, it provides a better consumer experience as well as encouraging more traffic and engagement. To address these important broker needs, the NAR MLS Policy Committee approved a rule that requires an MLS to provide SOLDs in the IDX data feed as requested by a broker. The first rule was approved in late 2014, the language was then amended to address non-disclosure states more specifically in late 2015. Here’s the official language: “If “sold” information is publicly accessible, display of “sold” listings may not be prohibited.” Even though this rule was put in place almost two years ago there are still several MLSs and some technology vendors who do not offer this option to their brokers. NAR rules state that any approved IDX policy must be live in every MLS no later than 90 days after the ruling has been ratified. I’m not sure why an MLS thinks that limiting the data and ultimately the value they can deliver to their customers is a good idea, but there are several that still do. If you are one of these MLSs that has refused to comply with this regulation or is simply not aware of this requirement, it’s time to get on with it! If you are an IDX or website vendor that has not yet complied with this rule and does […]

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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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Technology Game Changers

by Victor Lund on April 17, 2014

There were two announcements made this week that I think will have some pretty significant impacts on real estate. Wolfnet announced that they are now fully live on the national IDX data feed for Canada. Moreover, every application that Wolfnet offers has now been tailored to the needs of Canadian real estate. Wolfnet has long been a leader in property search solutions in America, notably serving search solutions to every Keller Williams agent in addition to many other brands. Now Wolfnet’s Canadian customer will have access to the same benefits. The second announcement came from W&R Studios, makers of Cloud CMA. Cloud CMA became popular by MLSs who wanted to deliver a CMA solution to subscribers that is fast, easy, and mobile. It has resulted in a huge success reaching over 95,000 users. Now, Woolley and Robertson have focused on another clunky feature of many of today’s MLS systems – the automatic notification. They call it Cloud Streams. It allows agents to configure a search for their client(s) that will notify them whenever a new or updated listing matches their search criteria. Like Cloud CMA, it is fast, easy, and mobile. Kudos to both Wolfnet and W&R Studios for delivering applications that will make a difference in the way that real estate services the consumer. Both companies are friends and customers, and we are rooting for their success. W&R Studios is scheduling demonstrations of Cloud Streams for Midyear. Reach out to Greg Robertson if you want to be among the first to see this product.  

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Top 5 Broker Website Trends for 2014

by Victor Lund on December 11, 2013

There is a significant gap in the depth of information found on listing portals vs. broker websites today. Aside from marketing acumen and marketing investment, the quality of the experience is simply better on many portal sites. A few years ago, portals dominated brokerages with map search. As brokers got a handle on that, portals evolved with the single, Googlesque search bar. Most good broker sites have gotten a handle on that now too. But the bar continues to move in new directions. The biggest gap seems to be the information contained on the listing detail page. I had a chance to review and discuss this gap with some leading brokers this week and take their temperature on how they plan to address the information gap in 2014.  The responses were fascinating. To begin with, there is a legacy rule that is lingering on many MLS IDX rules regarding commingling MLS data with other data sources. Most of the progressive MLSs have stricken that rule. To all extents and purposes the rule only limited brokers from being competitive. With that rule out of the way, brokers are free to augment listing data with the data that consumers yearn for. Here is the top 5 countdown of features brokers plan to integrate into search or the listing detail pages in 2014. #5 – Drive Time – 21% of Brokers Plan to Integrate Drive Time Search – A new company called INRIX peeked into real estate this fall offering Drive Time data via API. This company collects commute times from cell phone data at a rate of a trillion bits per second or some crazy number like that. You have experienced this when you map something in your car’s GPS or on your phone and it estimates drive time and updates for traffic. Using the INRIX API, consumers or their agents can provide property search results on areas according to drive time. In most metropolitan areas, commute time to school and/or work play a significant role in selecting a neighborhood. #4 – School Zone Attendance Search – 29% of Brokers Plan to integrate this feature in 2014. School Zones have been a hot debate because of the legal implications. Brokers have legitimate concerns about liability if the data is not accurate. The good news is that the data is pretty darn accurate today and disclaimers help overcome the liability. Delta Media, Real Estate Digital, […]

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Pilgrims vs. Portals

by Victor Lund on September 20, 2013

History tells many stories of long ago that reflect on the conditions of today. I came across a story about the Pilgrims that made me think that in some way, it is similar to the real estate industry and portals. In 1630, a Pilgrim court dealt a nasty blow to one of its settlers. They ordered him to be incarcerated, burned his house, confiscated all of his goods, then ultimately exiled him from America. The Pilgrim’s name was Thomas Morton, and they said that he was a danger to society. Morton went to England and pleaded with the English court, which was the court of record for Pilgrim society. Morton had found a new way to trade with the Indians for furs. Rather than barter goods, he held parties. He picked a nice spot outside of town, brought some jugs of booze, and invited some of the town’s young ladies to join him. The Indians saw that they were having a good time and soon began flocking to his parties bringing furs as a gesture. Morton was getting richer by the day. The English court saw nothing illicit about Morton’s ways, and sent him back to America with the court ruling in hand. This is where my real estate industry and portals relationship analogy comes in. When you have a look at the top websites of our era, they are having a great party with listing information that pales to the stoic puritan society of real estate broker websites. They offer information on every home in the area, not just active listings or 7 years of recently sold MLS listings. They lift up the skirt of home values and show the legs of when homeowner purchased their home and what they paid. They even invite FSBO girls and Foreclosure girls and offer their frilly information to their guests. Things did not end well for Mr. Morton. Even with his English court papers. Upon returning to America he was jailed until he went mad. Somehow I do not think that today’s leading portals are going to loose their sanity anytime soon. Indeed, it would seem that the real estate industry is the crazy one. Perhaps we should turn our attention to supporting brokers in throwing parties of their own. When I do a gap analysis of the data on broker sites vs. the data on portal sites, the differences are plainly […]

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1 plus 1 Equals Video

by Victor Lund on August 1, 2013

Doing research like our 2013 Broker Website Effectiveness Study (BWES) helps WAV Group identify and measure a multitude of strategies that brokers may deploy to improve their online performance. One key trend today that is working very well is video. I am not sure how long video will help brokers gain an edge, but today it works. Some of the facts we gathered in the BWES included that Google is the #1 search engine by a significant margin, capturing 75% of all search traffic (see image) If you combine the predominance Google with an understanding of how search results are displayed, you recognize that for every keyword search, Google attempts to display a video search result above the page on the first page of results (see image insert). This has been a keynote strategy that we have long appreciated with virtual tours. Today, virtual tours by most vendors are automated. They rely on data feeds from the MLS or Listhub to acquire the data ingredients, including photos that are stitched together, price, description, etc. In many ways, the information found on a virtual tour webpage today is a comprehensive IDX display. Turn every virtual tour into a video and leverage it! Here are 4 tips for your virtual tour solution. Dynamically publish the tours to Facebook, Twitter, and to YouTube. Do not let your virtual tour provider syndicate Include the virtual tour link in your Listhub, Point2, or other broker listing feed to portals. Make sure that the URL of the virtual tour (both branded and unbranded) resolves on your domain name e.g.virtualtour.brokerdomain.com/brokername/agentname/property address rather than on the virtual tour provider’s domain name e.g.:realbiz360.com/MLSnumber (By the way, realbiz360 constructs the domain names correctly – do not infer anything from the example). New thinking: 1 plus 1 equals video If consumers like video and google indexes video, why aren’t brokers converting every MLS listing to video? A progressive IDX solution should display video rather than images – or both. Here is another hidden benefit. Video cannot be scraped. That means that a broker’s data would be protected. About the Author Victor Lund is a founding partner of WAV Group Consulting along with Marilyn Wilson and Mike Audet. WAV Group provides strategic business consulting services to enterprise real estate brokerages, Multiple Listing Service providers, REALTOR® Associations, and real estate technology companies. Victor Lund is also the Chief Executive Officer of RETechnology.com, the […]

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5 Ways to End the “MLS/Broker Stand-off”

by Marilyn Wilson on July 24, 2013

StandOff

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called the “Challenge for Positive Change” that highlighted many of the relationship dysfunctions we are experiencing in the industry today. At Inman Connect in San Francisco I was invited to be part of a panel called the MLS/Broker Stand-off.  It’s clear that there are many that are feeling as though our industry could be working together much better than it is at the moment. I’ve been thinking a lot about what is causing this stand-off and trying to find suggestions about ways to fix it. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far: 1.  Data Distribution is Out of Control Many brokers get VERY angry at their MLS when they find out that the MLS has taken responsibility to distribute the broker’s listings as they see fit. I just saw a note from one of our broker clients yesterday. They have chosen NOT to send their listings to third parties. The MLS in their region pushes all of the region’s listings to third parties, providing no option for a broker to opt-out, other than to opt-out of IDX along with listing syndication.  When the broker asked to remove their listings from the listing syndication data feed the answer simply was no.  Really?   The last time I checked a broker had the right to control where their listings were distributed and the ability to opt-out of IDX separately from any other listing syndication activity.  With today’s technology it is completely possible to allow every broker to opt-IN to every listing syndication channel they choose to, not make them proactively opt-OUT of every listing they submit. While the MLS does have responsibility to ensure that the listing submitted by the broker is accurate and compliant, they do NOT have the right to tell the broker where to market their listing.  I’m not sure why an MLS would put a policy in place that takes away online marketing control from the individual broker. Recommendations: Offer only Opt-in data policies – Every MLS needs to review their listing syndication policies to be sure that every channel they offer is opt-in, not opt-out.  Once these policies are changed, the MLS owes it to each and every one of their brokers to give them a call and let them know how and why the policy was changed so that each broker can make their own decision about where […]

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Roomkey

The concept of Listing Syndication is just as prevalent in marketing hotel rooms as it is with real estate inventory today.  There are many syndication sites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, Hotwire and hundreds more.  In theory, these sites were set up, in theory to HELP hotels, especially with last minute inventory to maximize their ability to sell room nights. Sound familiar?  The Theory failed. What actually happened though was that these sites have disintermediated consumers from corporate hotel sites like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and others. It changed the way consumers shop and eroded hotel price points. Moreover, it eroded the ability for hotels to property plan staffing by not knowing how much of a last minute booking bounce they would get. Many people book their hotels on third party sites now, reducing the traffic and relevance of the hotel chain’s websites and costing them booking commissions. We have all had experience where we can get a lower prices on a hotel room on TripAdvisor than at brand sites like Hilton.com. In a new effort, hotels are chasing the development of a Realtor.com for hotel chains. I was just looking for a hotel room this morning at Hilton.com and I was taken to a new site called Roomkey.com.   This site appears to be a collaboration among many of the largest hotel chains – Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, Wyndham and IHG(International Hotel Group).   According to its ABOUT US page, Roomkey.com aggregates rooms from the participating hotel chains, providing consumers a way to shop for a multitude of rooms directly from the corporate hotel chain sites.  It gives consumers an option to search for rooms in a particular market beyond just the corporate site they were searching on. For example, I went to the Hilton.com site while booking a room in Asheville. North Carolina. When I clicked on a listing detail page from the search, I was referred over to Roomkey.com to look at the entire available inventory in Asheville, NC for the date I was interested in. The hotel chains have, in effect, created their own mini-“IDX” system where cooperating companies offer their inventory on each other’s websites.  Seems a little late since the airline industry has cooperated like this for years. It would seem it could have moved to the hotel industry than it has. The real estate already has an aggregation strategy – it’s called IDX. There is one key difference between IDX and […]

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Imprev Roars with Mobile Marketing for Agents

by Victor Lund on June 25, 2013

Imprev has long been a behind the scenes type of company. Historically they partner with Giant franchises, Giant Brokers ,or Giant technology companies to deliver fully integrated and smart marketing solutions that agents access through their back office intranet. Imprev’s solution includes a full suite of print marketing like flyers and postcards; and a full digital marketing suite which includes digital flyers, online campaigns, listing presentations, virtual property tours, and lots of other features. Recently, they have been in the industry eye for the release of their new system (developed with help from 1000WattConsulting) and plunging headlong into mobile. Today, Imprev gives agents the flexibility to build, edit, and publish all of their real estate marketing pieces from any internet connected device. Moreover, because they have been around so long and worked with all of the Giant brands – they already have the brand creative on board along with the approved logos, fonts, and details like those pesky disclaimers. What is really cool is that they are now offering their service directly to agents. As of today, any agent can purchase Imprev directly with a 30 day money back guarantee. They are attending the Inman News conference – so that may be a good time to take a look at their product. They have lovely designs. Imprev is still clearly focused on enterprise level business where they enjoy market leadership. This effort allows them to reach a larger audience of agents are looking for solutions that smaller brokers are not offering in their product suite today. WAV Group also understands that they are rolling out solutions in partnership with MLSs and Mega board Associations. Here is the Imprev press release – scroll way down to see the new interface. iPad-Ready Imprev Marketing Center Now Available to Individual Real Estate Agents June 26, 2013– Bellevue, WA – Imprev today announced it has launched its all-new retail Marketing Center making its fully mobile marketing technology accessible for the first time to agents and brokers everywhere. The new Imprev Marketing Center is built on the industry’s most advanced and comprehensive marketing technology platform, providing real estate agents with multichannel connections to home sellers and buyers through mobile, social and a full array of online, digital and traditional marketing methods – all in one place. “One of the biggest requests from agents has been for fast, easy creation of marketing and advertising materials on their iPads to save […]

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Contact Sync

by Victor Lund on May 9, 2013

Over the past few years, we have seen a shift in professional technology solutions for real estate that has been mostly characterized by “the move to mobile.” Generally speaking, applications that do not work on mobile devices, either using a mobile browser or using a mobile app, are being cast aside. But there are secondary realities about the shift that many software companies seem to have neglected, namely, contact record sync. Everyone who has a mobile device understands that contact records that are created on any device need to be synchronized across all devices. Having some contacts in one location and not another is paralyzing to any professional who needs to communicate with anyone, anytime. Given the rapid changes in contact records, it is too difficult to manually keep records synchronized, so it is fully automated today. In the old Palm Pilot days, contact record sync was a challenging and broken experience. Now it happens easily by leveraging the cloud. Understanding this, one would imagine that companies offering software as a service would tap into contact record sync in every application that requires or manages contact records. Looking to real estate, there are plenty. Here is a list of solutions that should have contact record sync that are largely missing that basic functionality. Agent Ratings, Back Office, CMA, CRM, contracts/forms, digital signature, floor scheduling, IDX, listing presentation, mobile applications, Transaction management, etc. All of these applications are about sharing information between people, and sadly you must open up your contact data base and cut and paste contact information over and over and over, as a real estate agent. Not having contact management sync with Exchange, Gmail and other standards is a huge gap in today’s brokerage and MLS systems. It is astonishing that we have not solved this problem in our industry. While you are at it, sync the calendar too. It is astonishing that so many technology developers in our industry have been so short sighted for so long. If you are in a position to influence change in our industry – add contact and calendar sync to your basic requirements. Be sure to protect the privacy of those contact records while you are at it.  

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In Search Of A Perfect Broker VOW

by Victor Lund on April 29, 2013

WAV Group is conducting research to discover if there is any broker in the United States who has pulled out of IDX and only offers a Virtual Office Website to consumers. Presumably, it would be a large enough broker who would display their listings publicly without the need to register to the site. If consumers wanted to see other broker listings, they would need to register. No other broker would be able to display that brokers listings to the public. If you know of such a site here in America, please direct me to it and you will be handsomely rewarded. My loving relationship with Virtual Office Websites (VOW) dates back to about 2005 when MRED was called MLSNI. You see, the Chicago area had a local custom whereby brokers could elect to exclude some other brokers from obtaining and displaying their listings via Broker Reciprocity or IDX. To obtain access to all of the data, consumers would need to register to the brokers VOW.  Consumers gladly registered to access all of the listings, get more property information like sold listings, and lead generation rates for that area were far higher than other regions of the county. Around 2005, Listingbook launched their VOW solution in partnership with MLSs. One of the most popular posts ever published on the WAV Group website was titled “Listingbook is a must have for every MLS.” Even today, agents may have access to a VOW solution combined with email marketing, contact management, flyer program and  a host of other agent productivity tools for free. Listingbook was one of the early pioneers of Freemium Pricing for MLSs whereby some functionality of the solution is offered free with permission to publish advertising. Premium subscription has more features and removes advertising. VOWs have one thing in common, they allow all non-confidential MLS data to be displayed to the consumer online if they are registered to that agent’s website. In a way, I think that Listingbook stalled many technology companies from developing new, innovative VOW solutions for agents. Its hard to compete with a free product offered in partnership with the MLS. The ability to access all MLS data, including sold listings, days on market, and price changes over time make VOW solutions very appealing. It did not take long for some inspired brokerages like Zip Realty, Redfin and others to leverage VOW data in ways that enabled them to gain an online […]

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It is all about schools

by Victor Lund on April 23, 2013

New Realtor.com brand

The most active group of home buyers in sellers in America have one thing in common – school age children.  Traditionally, real estate has ducked the consumer by avoiding the laborious and somewhat liability producing task of informing consumers about schools. Our industry has largely taken the stance that if a consumer wants to know about schools, they will provide the phone number to the school district. Good luck with that. This is not true of all brokers or MLSs. Some have invested heavily in procuring the most accurate school data available. You will often find the information somewhere down below the fold on a listing detail page. Move Inc, the operators of Realtor.com just made a bold move (pun intended) to give consumers what they want – search by school. I just updated by Realtor.com mobile app and look forward to testing it out in my town to determine its accuracy. Accuracy has always been the issue. In some way, third party listing websites like Realtor.com, Trulia, and Zillow have an advantage at offering up some data types that licensed agents and brokers may not. They have no liability concerns with consumer transactions. Nevertheless, the data is getting better, making geo-fencing of school area boundaries possible. If you want to see a list of mapping solutions that support agents, brokers, or MLSs with this data, they are all sorted on RETechnology.com. Here are the details of the Realtor.com release. Realtor.com® First to Add School Search in Significant Update to Mobile App School is in session for realtor.com® as the online real estate leader rolls out a significant mobile update, pioneering search-by-school functionality in its successful iOS and Android apps SAN JOSE, Calif., April 23, 2013 – Realtor.com®, the leader in online real estate operated by Move, Inc. (NASDAQ: MOVE), today announced a substantial update to its realtor.com® mobile app for iOS and Android. In addition to being the first to allow home buyers to target listings based on schools and districts through its new school search functionality, the app now boasts an array of updated capabilities, including new, intuitive navigation elements and an enhanced map experience. With realtor.com’s search-by-schools, users can hone their home search based on school or district boundaries and discover valuable information on schools and districts of interest. Users can filter listings by public schools, districts and private schools in just one tap. “We understand that when searching for the perfect home […]

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While brokers have lots of technology tools at their fingertips today, a high impact website is still a critical tool driving success for any size real estate company.  Third parties continue to gain traction and traffic with consumers because they know what consumers are looking for and they deliver on their needs consistently!  If brokers want to become THE source for real estate consumers, they need to find ways to enhance and re-invent their own web presence. Brokers also need to learn about how to use their online presence to nurture new customer relationships for their agents. RED and RE Technology are working together to host a really interesting webinar to help brokers learn how to make their online presence work much harder for them and become the preferred choice of consumers online. In less than an hour, learn how you can start to drive more traffic to your site, improve your consumer experience and turn visitors into leads! Take advantage of this FREE webinar and learn how to make your online spending work much harder for you. Here’s just a few of the tips and tricks you will be learn in this action-packed hour: Don’t waste a consumer’s time…understand the top 5 behaviors! See the “Make or Break Page” Learn the key performance indicators for your site Opportunities in “Organic Search” Today’s SEO: Think Beyond the Link Understand what the user – the consumer – really wants Date:Monday,  November 5th Time: 11 am Pacific, 12 noon Mountain, 1pm Central and 2 pm Eastern Time   Speakers David Camp, RED Platform Expert Real Estate Digital Corey Quinn VP, Business Development The Search Agency, Inc.  

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October 3, 2012—The WAV Group today published the results of an independent study of 11 major markets that found local real estate brokerage websites give consumers the most complete, accurate and timely information about homes for sale. The study evaluated sites from three local brokerages with real estate agents who help consumers buy and sell homes, comparing listing search results to those found on two national portals, Trulia and Zillow, which operate almost exclusively online. In the markets analyzed, the study concluded: Local real estate brokerage sites display 100% of the agent-listed homes for sale compared to about 80% for the national portal sites. Local real estate brokerage sites show newly listed homes for sale seven to nine days earlier than national portals. Local real estate brokerage sites almost never show a home listing as active that has already sold; about 36% of listings that appear as active on national portals are no longer for sale. The WAV Group, a national consultancy specializing in real estate technology, conducted the study. Independent analysts verified the study data, record by record. Redfin, a technology-powered broker with more than $5 billion in home sales sponsored the study.  Listing data from the websites of Long & Foster, one of the largest independent real estate brokerages in the U.S. and Windermere, the largest regional real estate brokerage in the Western U.S., was also included in the study. “We analyzed a sample of more than 6,000 listings in 33 zip codes in 11 markets, comparing the data on various websites against 14 local Multiple Listing Services,” said WAV Group CEO Victor Lund. “The findings are clear: real estate brokerage websites showed by far the most homes for sale, recognized which homes were no longer for sale, and displayed new listings much earlier.” The source of brokers’ advantage is direct access to local real estate databases. In each U.S. city or area, all real estate brokers subscribe to a local association known as a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to share the listing data collected by their agents with consumers. Each MLS tracks locale-specific attributes about listings, noting for example which Seattle homes have waterfront access or which Virginia homes are historic. Only real estate brokers can be members of a local MLS. In contrast, national portals mostly rely on individual agents or real estate brokerages to re-post MLS listings on the portal websites, or the portals aggregate […]

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MLS Photo Fail

by Victor Lund on August 28, 2012

low resolution image

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is a rather famous old adage that refers to the notion that an idea with complex meaning can be conveyed in a single image. It allows the viewer to experience large amounts of information in a moment, and in doing so – often have an emotional reaction. In real estate, photos are the most powerful and compelling elements of a listing – they are the essence of meaning. Many suggest that without the substance of a photo, you fundamentally do not have a listing. The notion dates back to the days of  Aristotle, who suggested that imagery is the purest definition of that which is real. Imagery not only identifies an object, but eschews volumes about its property, or state of being. A plant is just a plant, but beheld more glorious in the spring of bloom than in the struggle of extinction. Today, even the worst camera on the crappiest cell phone takes glorious photos in high-definition with splendid resolution. Many agents extend great bounty for professional photography on their listing so that they might expose the beauty of a home. Technologists like virtual tour and print marketing companies have waited for years to take these raw, high quality photos and automate their conversion into artistry. Today is their day,  if they can only survive one foe, the MLS. The MLS is the villan to beauty, to artistry, to emotion. They take the loveliest and grandest of megapixels and process them into low resolution grainy oblivion. There was a time for this pragmatist, but his day is day has past. Long gone are the days of dial-up modems. Even mobile devices pass data at 3G or higher speeds. Even the lowliest of device screens displays in high resolution. Terabyte data storage drives are $20. Bandwidth costs are trending down each year. Why does the MLS still destroy the photo quality of the images it receives? If you want to raise the bar in real estate as an MLS, stop destroying high quality photography. Accept it. Embrace it. Push it out in your data feeds back to your brokers so they can drive their marketing efforts. Perhaps you don’t know this, but brokers and agents spend hours deleting the photos they get from you and reloading the originals to power their print and virtual tour marketing. They provide you with great photos and you destroy them and return garbage. Stop that! If your MLS has […]

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Brokers pulling out of IDX

by Victor Lund on July 25, 2012

Change-same

Game changers happen when businesses test radical strategies. When a company breaks from the pack they learn things that none of their competitors learn. They understand a strategy that nobody else as any experience with. They grow their business wisdom and often find new ways to edge out the competition. By studying the impacts of strategies like withdrawing from listing syndication; launching single listing websites or virtual tours; and, withdrawing from IDX, marketers can learn volumes about how these strategies impact their online strategy. Listing Syndication Strategies that work WAV Group has been studying listing syndication strategies for more than 7 years. The depth of the data that we have aggregated and the case studies that we have modeled has informed performance increases for brokerages nationwide. There are three strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness: Scarcity, Abundance, Data Variance. We have clients using every one of these and they all work. Using the correct strategy for your marketplace is key to success. How does the syndication strategy impact SEO This year, WAV Group is extending our research methodology to understand the impact that syndication strategy has on search engine optimization. The methodology is rather simple. Take a broker’s listing and check the first 4 pages of popular search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Record the website domains and the order in which they appear. Address search is known as “long tail search” and it is important for two reasons. First, the searcher is presumably more valuable because they are highly focused and already partially informed (they know the address). Secondly, the volume of these searches is immense. The findings are impressive. Once thing to remember is that many third party websites have every property in America on their website – active or off market. Why aren’t brokers doing this? Why aren’t MLSs helping? How do single listing websites and virtual tours impact SEO Nothing is more powerful for search engine optimization than purchasing the address domain name and launching a single listing website. Beyond that, a virtual tour done correctly does an excellent job of enhancing search engine optimization. Virtual Tours done right means that the tour is built in HTML, not flash. Virtual tours are dynamically created using MLS data on every listing and updated with IDX. Non-branded virtual tours are posted to the MLS and distributed through the IDX feed. All virtual tours are hosted on the broker […]

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Zillow brings battle to Listhub

by Victor Lund on July 3, 2012

ListingSyndicationsmall

Zillow launched a preemptive strike against Listhub yesterday by requesting IDX feeds from the nation’s MLS providers. Zillow Executive Bob Bemis sent an email to all MLS CEOs and Executives titled “Why two data feeds when one will do.” In the email, Bemis admits that Zillow.com is focused on improving data accuracy and timeliness. The note goes on to explain that Zillow’s IDX service, Diverse Solutions, already has the data, why not allow Zillow to use it for Zillow.com so Zillow can circumvent their reliance on Listhub data feeds. A battle ensued when Listhub got word that Zillow was calling them out on the frequency of listing updates.  The Bemis email stated: “Because of the multiple hands through which the data passes, it can sometimes be days before a revised listing reaches us for posting.” Listhub responded to the call out from Zillow in an email titled “Correcting Zillow’s recent communication regarding Listhub.” Listhub executive Luke Glass indicates that Listhub feeds data to Zillow every day, and moreover – Listhub has had a standing offer to send data feeds to Zillow every 6 hours, but Zillow refused. Glass goes on to talk about the disadvantages of sending listings directly to Zillow which include multiple broker syndication dashboards, increased complexity of brokers managing feed sources, customer support, and something about setting a precedent of using IDX for Syndication. Here is the deal. If Zillow or other publishers want to clean up their data, they can do so in two steps. First, they can only display data that comes from a broker (not franchise) combined with the Listhub or Point2 feed. Zillow is spoiling their data by accepting feeds from non-MLS sources as an action of their own will, including FSBO listings. Until they end this practice, their data will always be kludgy, Listhub aside. Secondly, any listing that has not been updated for a time certain (90 days?) could be purged from Zillow display. It would appear that some consumers have gotten wind that Zillow data is suspect. This represents a significant risk to the company’s long term success and reputation. I applaud them for trying to fix it. MLSs should take great care in their next steps. IDX is restricted for display on Participant and sometimes subscriber websites. Licensing broker data to a third party without the expressed consent of the broker is a serious matter. If you want to measure Zillow accuracy in your […]

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RE Technology Releases 2012 MLS Technology Guide

by Victor Lund on June 27, 2012

MLS Technology Guide

MLSs seeking to educate themselves and their members about technology, as well as discover sources of non-dues revenue, can leverage this easy-to-use guide. Arroyo Grande, CA (June 2012) – MLSs and real estate Associations face myriad challenges in today’s changing technology landscape. A new guide from leading real estate technology media site, RE Technology, aims to assist them in overcoming these challenges with descriptions of leading tech companies and products. Interested organizations can download the 2012 MLS Technology Guide for free at RETechnology.com. Information in the guide is presented in a clear, concise format. Product categories covered include agent ratings, CMAs, consulting, document management, transaction management, digital signatures, listing syndication, MLS data solutions, MLS systems and eCommerce, mobile, online marketing, showing solutions, and social media marketing. “MLSs and Associations are facing a loss of revenue from membership dues,” explains Victor Lund, RE Technology CEO. “One way that they can continue to thrive is to generate revenue through other means – such as offering technology products to their members. Our guide has been very popular with organizations seeking to do just this.” RE Technology is in a unique position to assist real estate organizations as they make decisions about real estate technology. Through integrations with over 70 MLSs nationwide, RE Technology.com serves as a source of education about real estate technology strategies, trends, and products. By forming close relationships with the vendor community, the company is able to facilitate communication and commerce between providers of technology solutions and MLSs seeking to bring those solutions to their members. “We’re happy to help however we can,” Mr. Lund explains. “We couldn’t continue to educate the real estate community without our MLS colleagues. They are instrumental to our success, and we’re constantly trying to play a role in theirs. The Technology Guide is just one way we do this.” About RE Technology, Inc. RE Technology, Inc., is a comprehensive real estate technology website, reaching over 700,000 real estate agents and brokers. By embedding directly into MLS systems across North America, RETechnology.com makes it easy for agents to access clear product descriptions, read product reviews, and stay current with technology trends. Providing a rich assortment of tutorials, how-to’s and technology training articles, RE Technology helps agents understand the benefits of technology and how to strategically implement technological tools. The RE Technology website is colored with user ratings and comments, creating a rich community of product feedback […]

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A Case of Concern Embedded Search and Display

by Victor Lund on May 14, 2012

facebook

There is some degree of discussion about the notion that the IDX rules may be expanded to support Embedded Search and Display on websites or displays not under the apparent control of the broker. I believe that this is too risky, too hard to control, and beyond the bounds of IDX as currently discussed. New thinking is needed and proposed herein. The foundation of new thinking is that MLSs may approve certain websites for embeddable display as a matter of local rule. Embedded Search and Display Defined Many real estate technology thinkers have discussed the suggestion of Embedded Search and Display. An embedded search and display is a technology solution that puts an application in a container, like an iFrame. Matt Cohen of Clareity Consulting has described the notion of an embedded search and display as a solution to putting listings on sites like Facebook. Cohen proposes that a Broker or Agent may embed an IDX compliant solution under their actual control on a site not under the Displaying Broker’s apparent control. Cohen suggests that this method is prudent to address the interest our industry recognizes for publishing listings on social media sites, like Facebook. Consultant and legal counselor Brian Larson recognizes that if an Embedded Search and Display were on Facebook, the IDX data would be in a tidy container under the broker’s control, not published on the Facebook website. This is a great thesis. This embeddable IDX display would solve the concern about a broker sending the IDX data to a third party, which is prohibited in the IDX rules. Here, Larson makes an important distinction that honors a core covenant of participant control outlined in todays IDX rules. Namely, if the embedded display is under the control of the broker and the data is not being provided to a third party, the data it is safe even when presented on a website not under the control of the IDX participant. Although this construct would keep the data safe, it does not go far enough. The genesis of intent in the IDX rules, in not allowing an IDX participant to provide data to a third party, was somewhat designed to address the notion that a broker may not “resell data,” or otherwise benefit from the data set at the expense other participant beyond usage on their own consumer website. While I do not believe that an embedded display […]

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CRMLS Partners With Homes.com for Full Offering

by Victor Lund on May 3, 2012

CRMLS Homes.com

Today’s real estate technology companies are partnering with MLSs at an unprecedented rate. This trend is brought about by natural gravity. The MLS is the primary source of fundamental technology for real estate professionals. WAV Group is beginning to see a number of MLSs pursuing a variety of strategies for offering non-core MLS services. Historically, MLSs only pursued site licenses for technology for their members, paying a price per member per month. This trend expanded as emerging products like Listhub, Property Panorama, and Listingbook began to offer Freemium services, where the MLS offered a free basic version of the product, but subscribers could opt into advanced features by paying a premium. Recently, Metrolist in Colorado; MRIS in the Mid-Atlantic States; and MLSListings.com in California launched retail stores for technology. Last week, the California Regional Multiple Listing Service announced a partnership with Homes.com to offer the complete Homes.com tool set as a member benefit – returning to the trend of site licenses. Homes.com has had a long-standing relationship with MLSs in California site licenses for a cross-MLS property search and CMA tool under the product name Mercado with the MLS Alliance search. The new relationship adds abundantly more product offerings that marry data to key agent resources beyond the Mercado marketing package. Agents will have access to the Homes Connect Marketing platform (Design Center) tied to the Homes.com Customer Relationship Management solution. This CRM solution recently added social prospecting features through Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter contact integration. Topping it all off, agents will receive IDX and VOW offerings included in the package along with agent facing and consumer facing mobile offerings and the Facebook Listing Application for Facebook business pages. (Kitchen sinks available if requested). But wait, there is more…… Participating brokers and agents will also have their listings displayed on Homes.com and their agent MyHomes profiles populated from the MLS roster on the site. CRMLS has purchased all of these products from Homes.com and will be offering them all as a member benefit. By my basic accounting, this includes every Homes.com product with exception of advertising enhancements on Homes.com (Homes Connect Plus and Homes Connect Pro). Some more observations: CRMLS offers multiple MLS systems: Matrix and Tempo/ Fusion. To some extent you could include REALTORS Property Resource and WyldFyre 7 to this list although they are not MLS systems (only MLS data search). CRMLS offers multiple IDX/VOW solutions: SmartDesk IDX […]

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