Kevin Hawkins

Just Spell My Name Right

by Victor Lund on January 21, 2016

It’s a new year and you are, no doubt, plotting your communications strategy for 2016. We published an article about the top 10 posts of the year on Facebook recently that ignited deeper thought about communication strategies that work. Entertainment is certainly one of them. If the Disney family is the first family of Entertainment in American History, P.T. Barnum is certainly a cousin. Legend has it that he is also responsible for one of the most famous quotes in the PR business: “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right.” If you read the writings of Victor Lund, you know that I write fast and spell horridly. My mother, saint Stella, was kind enough to keep every report card from my school days and I assure you that I received an A in every English class throughout my education. I am not sure where I went off the track. In high school at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, I converted to word processing. I doubt that I submitted much written work at all after that. A reliance on spell check may be my downfall. Having a mother who was raised in the Alabama, growing up near Fargo, North Dakota, and a year of University in England are also likely contributors. The most likely candidate is my failure to proofread my prose. Thankfully, Kevin Hawkins leads WAV Group Communications. He is deliberate and careful with the message of every communication, including the title, length, paragraph, sentence structure, and the fastidious attention to the handling and the nurturing of every chosen word. In my experience, his only equal may be Rozlynn Crew from the Houston Association of REALTORS. If you allow for the Canadian influence, John Mosey of the Northstar MLS is in the same league. So let’s start the year remembering a few rules of our industry. RE/MAX is always capitalized. “Re/Max” is wrong. When referring to the NAR, REALTOR® is in all caps and includes the ®. After the initial use, REALTOR without the ® is fine. There is a whole bunch of information on the dos and don’ts of using the REALTOR mark on this page: http://www.realtor.org/letterlw.nsf/pages/trademarkmanual Communications began to replace advertising in 2006 when online publishing and email marketing began to show better results. Here we are, one decade later and so many real estate firms of all flavors are missing this opportunity to engage important […]

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Do you have a PR plan for 2016?

by Kevin Hawkins on January 21, 2016

Public relations may be one of the most underappreciated and misunderstood tools in the average real estate brokerage’s marketing arsenal. Yet, the more you understand public relations and how it can be fully integrated into your marketing plans and sales activities, the greater your ability will be to make both more effective. As we begin a new year, ask yourself this question: Do you have a PR plan for 2016? What is PR? It’s no wonder most people are confused when trying to describe what PR really is. Trying to find one universal definition is futile: there are dozens. Here are just a handful of definitions from PR practitioners that show you the breadth and depth of what PR actually is: “Public relations is the art and science of sharing genuine, credible, relevant news and information to grow, maintain and protect brand acceptance, awareness, reputation and sales, when appropriate. Public Relations creates measurable, fact- based conversations, events and activities conceived to generate positive, third party endorsements and target audience buy-in.” –Deborah Weinstein “Public relations is a highly strategic discipline that’s integrated with marketing to achieve business goals. It positions companies and spokespeople with key audiences, whether internal or external. Public relations complements an integrated marketing campaign with measurable results garnered through media relations, social media, thought leadership, industry analyst relations, investor relations and/or special events.” – Jayme Soulati “Public relations communicates the news, influences the news, receives the news, and responds to the news for a brand via the media. It’s the art and science of talking to the right audience in the right voice. PR is the communication hub of an organization. It influences and shapes a company’s image, reputation, brand perception and culture. PR connects a brand and its public via direct messages or editorial media including print, broadcast, radio, digital, video or social media.” –Lisa Buyer “PR is the process of making a heartfelt connection between a person or organization and the people who can truly benefit from and care about their message. It’s an awareness of what makes people tick, facilitated by a desire to build communities, engage and discuss, and give voice to worthy projects. PR isn’t mass messaging, spinning truths, or a barrier between the public and the person represented. PR should make genuine connections.” -Shennandoah Diaz What can PR do for your brokerage? Because PR has so many different components and uses every communication channel […]

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New Opportunities for Form Simplicity, Tech Helpline

by Kevin Hawkins on January 21, 2016

The big buzz in November at the National Association of REALTORS® Convention in San Diego was all about transaction management. The move by NAR to make one solution available as a member benefit was a major validation of the crucial business role that forms and transaction management technology play in streamlining the real estate process. Forms and Transaction Management must be universal to achieve the ubiquitous mission of paperless real estate transactions. For more than a decade, Florida’s state Realtor association, Florida Realtors®, has been providing technology solutions created by Realtors for Realtors. Nearly five years ago, the association launched its forms and transaction management software – Form Simplicity – as a member benefit funded by dues. The idea of technology developed by Realtors for Realtors was something the association accomplished nearly fifteen years ago when in 2001 it created another member benefit, Tech Helpline. Today, Tech Helpline not only provides support for Form Simplicity broker and agent users, but reaches well beyond the Sunshine State. In fact, Tech Helpline is real estate’s #1 tech help desk, serving about one-third of all Realtors across the U.S. and Canada. The service supports applications far beyond the Association offerings including things like Anti-Virus, mobile phone mail configuration, printer glitches and more. Looking ahead As we begin 2016, it’s important to note that Form Simplicity is pushing full steam ahead. Form Simplicity will not only continue to be a major member benefit for all Realtors in Florida, but will continue to expand its offering. Several new associations recently finalized contracts and others have either upgraded their Form Simplicity offer for its members by renewing contracts that continue the offering of their transaction management solution. Why wouldn’t these associations pick Form Simplicity instead of a free offering? Here are three things that associations or brokerages that will benefit Form Simplicity going forward: Need for choices Understanding “free” Value of brand identity Need for choices Independently minded sales professionals power the real estate industry because by and large, they are independent contractors. The ability to be self-determining is engrained in the minds of sales professionals. This is true of broker-owners as well as they too want to control their own destiny and that means choices. We all enjoy getting something for free. Heck, I have a few dozen free apps on my iPhone that I rarely use, but hey, they were free and someday I […]

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Is there a hidden downside to lead generation?

by Kevin Hawkins on December 16, 2015

Real estate lead generation research tells us only about 1 or 2 percent of all purchased online leads become transactions. Another way to say that is 98 out of 100 times, an agent fails to turn a lead into a client, or 98 times out of 100, they are being rejected. Yet, the conventional wisdom in real estate is that you only need to turn one lead into a transaction to pay for all the leads you’ve purchased this year many times over. But is there a problem with this logic? Is it looking at only one side of the equation, that is, the upside? But isn’t there a downside once one considers all the collective human capital that is expended to find that one needle in the proverbial lead generation haystack? Is lead generation also creating a tremendous waste of human intelligence? The cost of human rejection Most of us probably don’t think too much about the impact of the massive rejection that online lead generation is creating in real estate today. There is a reason we have robo-calls and don’t have door-to-door sales anymore: As humans, it’s tough to tolerate this kind of continuous rejection. It’s likely the main reason why sales call centers have incredibly high turnover rates. When someone hears “no” 99 times out of 100 calls, it has to be demoralizing. Is it really any different in real estate? A UCLA-lead team of psychologists found that two key areas of the brain appear to respond to the pain of rejection in the same way as physical pain. The study’s lead author, Naomi Eisenberger, told ScienceDaily, “There’s something about exclusion from others that is perceived as being as harmful to our survival as something that can physically hurt us, and our body automatically knows this.” We know rejection is painful, yet real estate subjects tens of thousands of hard-working real estate agents to this process all the time. Is it any surprise, taking these numbers into consideration, that real estate agents struggle in following up on all the leads their brokers give them? (See this WAV Group study.) One has to wonder if online lead generation isn’t contributing to weakening teams and agents. Breaking bad habits An argument can be made that the correct way to handle this type of lead generation is to use employees and agents who are independent contractors to handle these leads […]

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Advertising contrarian Bob Hoffman gave a talk at Matt Beall’s Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers’ Worthshop 5 conference last week, which is a wake up call to real estate agents and brokers everywhere. Why are we spending so much time, energy and money marketing to 18-34 year olds when the greatest, wealthiest, most powerful spending group in the world in nearly every major product category is 50+ years old? Remarkably, Bob helps us answer that question and a more important one: How should we be marketing to the over 50 crowd? Full disclosure up front: The majority of the marketing world hates Bob Hoffman and thinks he’s dead wrong. The only problem with this is that all the facts and research say he’s right. Why do we market to Millennials? Bob has researched this extensively and his findings are jarring. His overall conclusion is that most marketers have a herd instinct: They are marketing to Millennials because everyone else is and somewhere there must be someone who has the facts and knows “why the hell we are doing this?” Bob’s been looking for that someone and looking for the facts to support this movement, but has come up with contrary research at every step. He cites Nielson, saying: People over 50 are the most valuable generation in the history of marketing They are responsible for over half of consumer spending They outspend the average consumer in nearly every product category: food, household furnishings, entertainment, personal care, etc. They account for 55 percent of all package goods sales and dominate 94 percent of consumer package categories They outspend other adults online two-to-one, on a per capita basis They buy about 60 percent of all cars He also shared this nugget: “You know how you see all of those Millennials in car commercials? Well, people 75 to dead buy six times as many cars as people 18-24.” Then he dropped this statistical bombshell, met with gasps from the audience: People over 50 account for more than 70% of the wealth in the U.S. If they were their own country, they would be the third largest economy in the world – bigger than India, Japan and Germany. The biggest problem, says Bob, is this: People over 50 are the target of only 10% of all advertising in the U.S. Marketers are not over 50 Listening to Bob, you immediate start to ask yourself, […]

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Each year, the National Association of REALTORS releases a study of homebuyers and sellers, which is my favorite REALTOR research publication. The NAR Research Group publishes publishes excellent research  — including its superb daily Economists’ Outlook — but this one is especially chocked full of golden statistical nuggets, which is ideal for a data junkie like me. These are the kinds of facts I love to pull from research because these data points are what help tell a story, and that’s a great way to earn the attention of a reporter who covers our industry. Here are seven facts from this brand news report that you may or may not find surprising, but my guess is your clients would: Most home buyers have no kids at home. A full 63% of home buyers did not have a single child under the age of 18 living at home. What are we going to do with all these McMansions? Home buyers in the South are more diverse than those in the Northeast, or Midwest. Southern diversity (82% White) among home buyers significantly eclipses both the Midwest (93% White) and Northeast (90% White), and almost ties the West (81% White). We have a lot more work to do as an industry in this space. The Northeast by far had the most First-Time Buyers in the last year: As a percentage, 43% of all home buyers in the Northeast were First-Time Buyers, compared to 26% in the West, 30% in the South, and 38% in the Midwest. One would think the Midwest or the South, with lower price homes might be higher, but lower incomes clearly play a role. First-time home buyers have plummeted as a percentage of all buyers: First- time buyers only account for 32% of buyers, that’s down from 42% in 2001, a high of 50% in 2010 and was even down from last year (33%). Millennial research may provide more insight here. Only 1 percent of all buyers say “Tax Benefits” was a primary reason they purchased a home. Please don’t tell this to your Congressional leadership. Nearly one in four home buyers say they will never buy again: 23% of buyers say they are never moving, as they are in their forever home. Think how this could impact your lead nurturing strategy. Yard Signs are still cool. More than half of all homebuyers (51%) counted the Yard Sign among […]

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5 Hot Trends in 2016 to Look for at NAR

by Kevin Hawkins on November 11, 2015

This year’s REALTORS® Convention & Expo in San Diego traces its origins to the first Chicago meeting of the National Association of Real Estate Exchanges held May 12-14, 1908. One hundred and seven years later, some 20,000 real estate professionals will visit the San Diego Convention center where more than 400 organizations will display their offerings and pitch their products. 2016 promises to be a pivotal year of rapid adoption of sweeping innovations and the emergence of new powerhouses in the residential real estate matrix. Here are five hot trends to look for and listen at the workshops to learn about to get the most out of NAR to help you next year. Full disclosure: All of these trends identified here come from my own personal biases and prejudices, having delved deeply into these subjects over the last several months. Trend #1 – Marketing Automation It’s is a no-brainer that Marketing Automation will dominate the minds of broker owners in 2016. This is what solves the low adoption rates by agents of new technology offerings their firms provide. It’s also a huge boost for broker ROI as it removes agents from the quagmire of self-created marketing materials. Agents waste a huge amount of time creating marketing materials to promote a listing and themselves, and Marketing Automation allows them to focus instead on the things they are good at: Generating listings and closing sales. Take the agent out of the equation when it comes to creating, deploying and promoting listings by automating the marketing for them and you have 100% agent adoption and deliver zero wait time to promote properties for every seller. Bill Yaman, President of Imprev, a leader in this effort, has written extensively about this topic in his blog, here. Trend #2 – Mobile everything It’s go mobile or go home in 2016. It’s not just Google driving this accelerated change, it’s also your clients. Zillow is saying that 70 percent of its weekend search traffic is coming from mobile devices. Mobile First remains the best strategy and companies that understand the difference that this approach brings – versus the shortcut of building responsive websites or just mobile apps – are going to distance themselves from the competition when it comes to lead gen. At NAR, look for firms that really are committed to a Mobile First strategy. Trend #3 – Mobile Admin Speaking of mobile, forward-thinker Randall […]

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Millennials and Home Buying Revisited

by Kevin Hawkins on October 27, 2015

The great statistical debate continues on the impact of Millennials today on home buying. About a year ago, I wrote about the conflicting data (“Millennial Marketing Madness”) that argued Millennials were not going to drive the majority home sales in 2015 despite what marketers and self-interested parties were claiming. Fast-forward today, and it looks like the hardcore data was accurate and the marketers missed the mark. Today’s headlines have taken quite a turn from those we saw last year. Now those pundits who said Millennials would be driving today’s housing market are scrambling to explain why they are not or aggressively marketing to Millennials to tell them why they should buy. Among recent headlines: Millennials face tough obstacles to buying a home (Boston Globe) Whether They Want to Rent or Buy a Home, Millennials Are Basically Out of Luck (Slate) Why Millennials Are Having a Tough Time Buying A Home (The Street) 4 Reasons Millennials Still Aren’t Buying Houses (Forbes) Millennials better off buying a home than renting (Houston Chronicle) Why Millennials should buy a home today (Builder magazine) It’s Better for Millennials to Buy Than Rent—For Now (Bloomberg) If you want a dose of what is really going on, talk to mortgage loan officers who are in the trenches every day trying to help folks navigate the mortgage morass that exists today. They will most likely tell you top three things that are keeping most Millennials from buying homes are: DTI, DTI and DTI. I reached out to Matt Culp, whom I consult for and who owns Bainbridge Lending Group, a small, successful brokerage firm on Bainbridge Island, WA. In the articles (above) they often discuss DTI thresholds, credit score minimums, and interest rates, yet they fail to point out that these three things are interconnected. Matt, who grew up in the mortgage business and has a couple of decades of experience, reminded me these factors are much more like a matrix, with one impacting the other. You can’t just say that a Millennial who has a DTI of 43 percent and credit score of 620 is going to get a 30-year fixed rate loan with no points for 3.75%. A higher credit score is going to get you the better interest rate. To get the best rate, you need a credit score of at least 740 or higher today (most stories keep reporting 720; just not true in […]

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3 Ways to Leverage Your PR

by Kevin Hawkins on October 27, 2015

A potential client called recently to engage the services of WAV Group Communications. Typical to most initial conversations with many potential clients in the real estate industry is the misunderstanding of what public relations is. I assured him it was much more than simply writing a good news release and publishing it on a paid wire. That topic alone is another column. But the conversation reminds me of how little time PR people take to educate our industry about what PR is. To help in this effort, let’s explore a crucial area that shows how powerful strategic PR can be using leverage. 3 Ways to Leverage Your PR A major component of public relations is publicity. Once you successfully gain the attention of news media and they run a story about you, your firm or your new product, a lot of companies just sit back and move on to the seeking out the next reporter for the next story. Don’t do that, because once a story runs, you’ve just gotten started. This is where leverage plays a crucial role is strategy public relations. There are three crucial channels you must leverage: External, Internal and Influencers. External Leverage The entire reason you sought publicity in the first place was for a specific purpose, right? Perhaps to help raise awareness, drive sales, incrementally increase revenue, introduce a new product, create a buzz, build moment and interest – whatever your goal, you should take that coverage and leverage it. For example, imagine a story that runs in the NY Times that mentions your new product. Your first act of leverage is to socialize it. Share it through your social media channels: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram – focusing on the ones you use regularly, even if it is only one. Using popular hash tags are crucial to this act of leverage. Mastering these will exponentially increase your total audience reach. This is where most folks stop. What they forget is not only does your target audience love the NY Times, but so do the major TV news networks. And other newspapers, trade reporters, and bloggers who follow your industry. PR pros will use this story as leverage to gain the attention of other media outlets. The Times coverage not only legitimizes your news, it gives you the opportunity to find another angle to build on what they have reported, giving other media outlets a […]

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One thing that most executives are not trained for is talking to reporters. Some have a natural talent for it, but most learn the hard way. Having spent more than 25 years coaching executives on how to best work with reporters, here are the seven most important thing that all executives must know before they talk to the press. Getting ready The first thing to remember when a reporter calls is that most of them are writing on a deadline. Even though you may have sent them the material days ago, and they may have already contacted you with a couple of immediate questions, if they don’t file a story immediately and sit on it, they will be likely to call back. When they do call back, chances are they will be on a tight deadline and you need to be prepared. Rule 1: Take a breath and think after every question. You may know what you immediately want to say, but if you take a pause, it gives you time to reflect to make sure you phrase your answer the best way and prevent you from providing an answer from the gut. Rule 2: Speak slowly. One of the most common problems executives have during an interview is talking too fast or transitioning from one subject to another too quickly. Slow down. Some reporters might record you, but most won’t, which means they have to take notes. Slowing down your speech helps increase accuracy. Rule 3. Most important one – You do NOT have to answer every question a reporter asks. This is the biggest mistake that most executives make: They think they have to answer every question. You do not. But you must explain why you can’t answer the question. Example, “How much money did you earn last year.” Answer “As a private company we do not report earnings, but I can tell you that over the last decade, we have been a profitable company.” Rule 4. What to say if you don’t know the answer. Unless you are a highly skilled dancer, don’t dance around the question. This is often the second biggest mistake most executives make: They don’t get their facts right or make up an answer they think they should know. When you don’t know the answer say so and offer to get the information reporters need and circle back. Rule 5: Everything is on the […]

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The room was filled with brokers, eager to hear how the real estate industry is beginning to make great strides in wrangling Big Data to the benefits of everyone: Brokers, agents and consumers. The three panelists on stage represented a broad spectrum of the industry: Rainy Hake, a well respected brokerage leader who oversees the Technology, Marketing, Training and Strategy departments for Alain Pinel Realtors; Trent Gardner, the CEO of ListTrac, known as the “Google Analytics for Listings;” and Jeremy Crawford, the dynamic MLS leader who heads up RESO (Real Estate Standards Organization) and the chief evangelist for the Data Dictionary, real estate’s “Rosetta Stone.” Rainy shared a very telling observation during this session at San Francisco’s Real Estate Connect: How the self-reporting data does not match up well with their own tracking data. This comment has been haunting me ever since, because the two other panelists represent organizations – RESO and ListTrac – are about data standards, transparency and unbiased, accurate information. Standards are vital RESO has gained real traction and its trailblazing effort to standardize data fields for property information will be a welcome Godsend to real estate brokerages and technology firms. Back by the NAR mandate of adoption by MLS firms that are connected to NAR (which is almost all of them), come January 1, 2016, the industry will be taking a bold step forward toward fostering accelerated innovation and cost savings. For a brokerage in multiple markets that works with a dozen or more MLS firms, the RESO Data Dictionary is a huge step in standardization. For the newer startups, a company like TLCengine, they gain both development costs savings and a new ability to expand into more markets faster. During the panel’s session, the majority of questions from the brokers and agents in the audience were centered on property listing standards. It became very clear that agents and brokers are incredibly frustrated because of the lack of standards among MLS firms. In fact, Jeremy said that after the session, he answered questions off stage for another hour and had to take business cards for those who were still waiting to talk to him so he could follow up with them and not miss his next appointment. The need for transparency If there is a hunger in the real estate industry for data standards, there is an unquenchable thirst for transparency and unbiased information. At the […]

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Partners Trust Joins The Enterprise Network

by Victor Lund on September 28, 2015

Recently, Partners Trust launched a new fully mobile responsive site designed to dynamically change for over 250 different screen sizes. Along with the “mobile first” web site, they launched new mobile apps for android and iOS. The design was done by 1000watt Consulting in collaboration with Partners Trust and the proprietary technology is provided by Booj.  Booj (Be Original or Jealous) is the platform that powers The Enterprise Network. Booj is an interesting technology provider because they deliver a very good and well-supported solution that is exclusive to a single brokerage in a market place. I got to meet the team behind the technology last year when I was invited to take the stage and share my perspective on syndication at their annual conference. Many WAV Group broker clients are on the Booj platform and you can see the full list of brokers using their system here: http://www.independentre.com/members. 1000watt did a great job of focusing the site on sellers first – which was well executed by the development team across the entire consumer facing solution. Partners Trust’s communication strategy started with an internal rollout that included an all day Tech Summit at The W Hotel in Hollywood for the company and its agents. The campaign then moved to customers, media and then paid media at LA Times, Google, and Facebook to support the launch. Congratulations to Booj and Partners Trust on a great web site and solid communications strategy.  It’s a great reminder that communications is a key component to any technology launch.  By the way, it is our firm belief that technology always looks better when it is dressed in properties from Beverly Hills, CA. You can see the new site here: http://www.thepartnerstrust.com/ Check out the apps here: https://appsto.re/us/HxdS9.i ( iOS) https://play.google.com/store/ apps/details?id=com.activewebsite.partnerstrust ( Android)   All too often, companies communicating new solutions to agents forget to communicate the new solution to consumers. Be mindful that there is a consumer story in launching a new service even when the application is not a consumer application. Obviously, launching a product or service that will be a new consumer benefit needs to be communicated to consumers. You would be amazed at how often brokers or MLSs will launch a new platform for the consumer benefit and not send out a press release; not market the change or benefits in the local media including radio, TV, and print. WAV Group communications can help. Our […]

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Why Millennials won’t buy Boomer McMansions

by Kevin Hawkins on August 19, 2015

Self-confession: I love surveys. Data is my kryptonite. I got hooked in my grad school stats class and I’ve never looked back. At Great Western Bank, I created the Realty Confidence Index, which surveyed face-to-face broker-owners in 23 states. At Fannie Mae, I got to pitch to reporters nationwide the most comprehensive housing surveys of its day. At Imprev, I helped craft and launch the real estate industry’s first Thought Leader Survey and continue to spearhead that effort. This all means I know intimately what Mark Twain meant when he popularized the saying, “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” Two people can draw completely different conclusions from the exact same data. Which is why I am having problems with a few statistics about Millennials and their immediate impact on home buying: Zillow’s economist Stan Humphries says, “By the end of 2015, millennial buyers will represent the largest group of homebuyers.” The National Association of Realtors 2015 report on generational trends says that Millennials make up the largest share of homebuyers at 32 percent and comprises 68 percent of first-time buyers. A TD Bank survey says that 62 percent of potential first-time home buyers think that they will purchase a home within the next two years; among millennial survey respondents, the number rises to 67 percent. The problem I am trying to reconcile is that there are many other statistics that seem to contradict the notion that Millennials are going to drive the housing market, including the numbers below, from a blog (“Millennial Marketing Madness”) I wrote last November provided by economist Elliott Eisenberg: In 2010, households headed by Millennials had a median income of $37,600, now it’s just $35,300. 41.4% of Millennials have student loans, which is up from 33.6% in 2007 and 23.3% in 1998. Student loan balances are up from $10,000 in 1988 to $17,300 in 2013. Just 38.6% of Millennials hold equities, down from almost half in 2001. Median net worth for Millennials overall is a paltry $10,400. Add in these statistics from the TD Bank survey that touts how Millennials are going to “own” the housing market in the next two years: 70 percent of Millennial respondents said that they need to save for a down payment. 52 percent of Millennials said that they need to pay down debt. More than one-in-five consumers (22 percent) looking to purchase their first home said that they can’t […]

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Unintended Consequences That Cause Spectacular Results

by Kevin Hawkins on August 19, 2015

I just returned, as some 3,000 other folks have, from attending Inman’s Real Estate Connect in San Francisco. For many of the industry leaders whom I spoke with, it was one of the most successful Connects that they have attended and certainly the busiest. I found myself squarely in the same camp. I discovered something incredibly special about what I think makes Inman Connect unique: It fosters the creation of what I call “unintended consequences that cause spectacular results.” I have a few great examples from this most recent Connect to illustrate what I mean. Origins of Real Estate Connect In the spring of 1997 I left Fannie Mae, most recently as Director of Housing Impact for its highly successful Seattle Partnership office that I had opened, and forged out on my own. When Brad Inman heard the news, he asked me to meet with him. I had worked with Brad since the mid-1980s. He was a friend and I was a fan of his business acumen. I immediately said yes, as I wanted to talk to him about my new company. So I brought my “team,” which at the time consisted of my wife, Kyanne, who handled the financial side of the business, and my father-in-law, Keith Willis, a skilled businessman and savvy investor, to a restaurant near the Hyatt in Bellevue, WA where we met with Brad. My intended objective was to strike a content deal with Inman News for the company I had created that was going to help real estate agents more easily stay in touch with their customers. Brad had another objective. He wanted me to help Inman News launch a brand new conference. It would be a greater manifestation of an experiment he had tried a year earlier at his “retreat” in Sonoma wine country along the Russian River. Brad had invited a group of tech industry startup CEOs and a group of traditional real estate business leaders together for a face-to-face meeting in a setting designed to foster conversation and relationships. He dubbed it, brilliantly, “Real Estate Connect.” The unintended consequence of our meeting with Brad was that I would agree the next day to help him launch his first full-blown Real Estate Connect conference at the San Francisco Hilton. At the time, I thought he was nuts, charging a $495 registration fee, which made it one of the most expensive real estate […]

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Who’s incubating your eggs? I recently read an article about today’s modern poultry business. I was struck at the parallels between the real estate business and the poultry business and how both industries have changed with new technologies and automation. I was most fascinated to learn that the behavior of hens has changed with automated egg incubators: Hens have learned that they no longer need to lie on their eggs to incubate them, so they don’t. This means that the modern day value of the industrial hen has been reduced only to its ability to produce eggs, not to incubate them. Think about that for a minute and how it relates to real estate. Egg incubation has a lot in common with lead generation: Today both are being contracted out to third parties. Let me explain. Third party listings websites have become our “egg incubators.” Nearly every agent and broker in America depends on them. Third party sites offer efficiencies with marketing and lead generation so the agents and brokers no longer need to focus on that. But it wasn’t always that way: 25 years ago sales professionals kept their own contacts on a device called a Rolodex. For those too young to remember, a Rolodex was a circular business card holder separated by tabs and organized alphabetically. The Roledex was the agent’s book of business. This created significant value for sales professionals as they were often recruited because of their “Rolodex” – their contacts, their leads. Today the game has changed. With Third Party listing webstes, the “Rolodex” now resides with the portals, or whoever pays for portal leads. Even if the broker or agent no longer advertises on the portals, the customer record stays with portal. So, like industrial hens that no longer control the incubation of their own eggs, the value of the broker and sales professional becomes narrowed when their contacts are stored and controlled by someone else. What does this mean for today’s agent or broker? Sales professionals, especially independent contractors or who generate their own leads – or pay for them out of their own pocket – need to ask themselves a few questions before placing their “eggs” in someone else’s incubator:  Why am I advertising on portals?  Were these my “eggs” to begin with?  What happens to my “eggs” when I leave?  Are the “eggs” I’m generating being monetized by others?  Do I care? When […]

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Listing ownership: Whose grass is it anyways?

by Kevin Hawkins on July 23, 2015

“Who owns the listing?” appears to be a never-ending debate in real estate, despite a recent court case that certified the broker owns the listing and the MLS can protect it. Somehow there remains this belief among some incredibly intelligent people in the industry that real estate agents do the work, so they own the listing content. They do not. This has never been the case, and unless an agent becomes a broker/owner, it never will be. A listing was, is and will be owned by the broker/owner and not the agent. Whose grass is it? Think about your grass.  You hire a landscaper to come and cut your grass.  The landscaper takes care of your grass. He weeds your grass, he waters your grass, he fertilizes your grass, and then he cuts your grass and hauls away the clippings. Your landscaper does 100% of the maintenance and care of your grass. Real estate agents do exactly the same thing. Instead of grass, they cultivate ongoing relationships with clients that they often brought to the brokerage (watering, fertilizing and weeding) and secure the listing of these clients and close these deals (cutting the grass and hauling away the clippings). Both the landscaper and the real estate agent are independent contractors. But does anyone ever say that the landscaper owns the grass? The real estate agent may have done 100% of the care and feeding of their clients, but they do not own the listing that this relationship produces. The broker owns the grass Just like a landscaper can’t come in one day and start cutting your lawn into sections, dig it up and sell your lawn as sod to someone else, an agent can’t “take their listings with them” if they jump ship to another brokerage. A real estate listing is not transportable by an agent. An agent can’t transfer a listing from one brokerage to another without the listing broker’s permission. Otherwise, the listing remains with the originating brokerage, because the agent is an independent contractor (or an employee is some rare cases) and that work product is the brokerages, not the agents. Agents: It’s a good thing it’s not your grass The landscaper is pretty happy with the fact that they don’t own the grass, because if someone slips and falls on that wet grass and sues, he or she is going to sue the homeowner and not […]

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5 Ways Towards a More Perfect Panel

by Kevin Hawkins on June 25, 2015

The old cliché “You get one chance to make a first impression” still resonates with me, particularly when I attend a real estate conference and listen to panels and presentations Each speaker, moderator and panelist has the opportunity to make a powerful impression with the audience, but to do that right; most people can’t just wing it. Nearly everyone who speaks at a conference needs to take NFL Quarterback Russell Wilson’s advice: “The separation is in the preparation.”  You need to prepare, and not on the plane on the way to the conference. The hubris of so many executives thinking they can pull it off by preparing at the last minute and winging it is incredible because so few can ever pull that off. Recently, I witness a textbook example of how to prepare and present a panel the right way at the recent Real Estate Standards Organization or RESO Spring Conference in Chicago. Marilyn Wilson, founding partner of the WAV Group, organized for the first time a broker panel, How and Why Standards Help Brokers, to showcase that this conference was for more than just MLS geeks. It was a bold move by RESO to showcase this group, but RESO understands how vital brokers are to the success of industry standards adoptions, like the RESO Data Dictionary. The most important thing Marilyn did was to assemble an All-Star cast: Dan Troup of RE/MAX; Michael Garner of Keller Williams; David Grumpper of Michael Saunders; Alex Paine of Pacific Union and Tei Baishiki of NextHome. Now some people would have just let this panel take care of itself, considering the players involved. But if you’ve been doing this long enough, you realize there is a tremendous value in not winging it. So here is Marilyn Wilson’s formula to prepare and present a panel: Corral them all on a conference call BEFORE the event begins. This accomplishes several objectives: Panelist get to know one another, you can review format, discuss topics, run through potential controversial questions and issues, gauge everyone’s style and identify and resolve issues that might present obstacles. The goal is not to rehearse: That could have negative consequences, but to decide what to talk about to make sure there is a takeaway for the audience. Do your homework. It sounds trite, but this advice is vital. The conference call helps make everyone realize the responsibility they have to the […]

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Brokers & MLSs: Collaboration vs. Confrontation

by Kevin Hawkins on May 14, 2015

The real estate industry come a long way from the fall of 2013, when The Realty Alliance’s Craig Cheatham warned a crowd of MLS executives attending CMLS in Boise, “You’ve got 10 days.” That moment in time – described by blogger Notorious Rob as “the most interesting 30 minutes in the history of real estate conferences” — poignantly captured the mood of real estate brokerages towards the MLS industry. Fast-forward to NAR Midyear 2015, and confrontation has clearly turned into collaboration. This week, RESO or Real Estate Standards Organization, heralded the great strides the organization has made in fostering participation by America’s leading brokerage organizations. Once thought of as solely the province of the MLS, RESO recently added Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, the largest network of over 500 premier locally-branded firms responsible for more home sales than any other real estate network, to its membership roster. Importantly, Leading RE joins Cheatham’s The Realty Alliance, which is already a member of RESO and represents a network of North America’s elite real estate firms, whose members serve most every major market on the continent. Add to RESO’s key real estate brokerage membership ranks Realogy (Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate, CENTURY 21®, Coldwell Banker®, Coldwell Banker Commercial®, The Corcoran Group®, ERA®, and Sotheby’s International Realty®, and ZipRealty®), RE/MAX LLC, and other independent firms, such as Michael Saunders and Company, and you have literally the who’s who of real estate brokerage that now have a seat at the table and a voice in shaping future real estate industry standards are deployed. Kudos to Leading RE LeadingRE President/CEO Pam O’Connor points to the value of RESO to the brokerage community, including the industry’s adoption of its Data Dictionary, which is going to fuel new innovation, and generate more efficiencies. For brokerages, this will reduce costs and untether the ability of brokerage firms to grow and expand into new markets, as finally, all MLSs will talk the same language. Pam’s message is spot on and positive: “The RESO Data Dictionary and the other standards being implemented will help all of our members,” O’Connor says. RESO’s new Executive Director, Jeremy Crawford, a high respected MLS veteran, knows collaboration is the best way for his not-for-profit organization to succeed. “Collaboration is vital,” Crawford said., noting the long-term goal of RESO is highly pragmatic and much needed, “National data standards and industry collaboration across all aspects of real […]

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New Tracking Tool Shows Where Real Estate Agents Get Their Most Leads San Diego – May 8, 2015 – ListTrac, known as the “Google Analytics for real estate listings,” today announced that Rapattoni Corporation (Rapattoni), a leader in providing software and services for real estate associations and MLS organizations, is the first MLS system provider to offer ListTrac integration nationally for MLS customers who subscribe to the ListTrac analytics service. The move allows real estate agents and brokers using participating MLS systems powered by Rapattoni to track consumer engagement and measure online performance for properties listed across the Internet. With 100-plus MLS clients serving approximately 200,000 users nationally, Rapattoni is providing ListTrac integration for all MLS customers who subscribe to the ListTrac service. Each MLS will individually sign up with ListTrac to receive the analytics service, with the San Francisco Association of REALTORS® (SFAR) scheduled to be the first Rapattoni customer to roll ListTrac out to its members. ListTrac will provide SFAR member brokers and agents with a consolidated dashboard that provides deep metrics for all listings with statistics for every website upon which their listings are featured. According to Madeleine Talbot-Leighton, Product Manager at Rapattoni, this new service can be a major benefit to MLS firms as their member brokers and agents can now show sellers an enormous amount of buyer engagement occurring inside their own MLS system, as well as throughout their IDX broker and agent websites. “In real estate, information is power,” said Talbot-Leighton. “MLS firms can now provide powerful analytics to their members who in turn can share this information with their clients. The impact is two-fold: MLS firms can demonstrate the value they deliver to their members every day, while their members can quantify for sellers the value they receive through the broker and agents online marketing activities.” Trent Gardner, CEO of ListTrac, sees Rapattoni filling a vital role in helping MLS firms immediately deploy a broker- and agent-centric technology that will help them improve their members productivity. “As the first MLS system to offer ListTrac analytics nationally, Rapattoni is resetting the bar for the kind of information that agents and brokers need to compete in today’s digital universe,” Gardner says. Gardner explains that within a single dashboard, agents and brokers will know how often a listing is viewed on each site, the average time someone spends looking at a listing, and the number of leads they receive […]

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What should we look for at NAR Midyear?

by Kevin Hawkins on April 23, 2015

Real estate’s annual May pilgrimage begins in a couple of weeks. Its formal name is “REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo,” but I’ve never met anyone outside of NAR that doesn’t call it NAR Midyear. Even the url for the location on realtor.org labels it “midyear” (http://www.realtor.org/midyear.nsf). For several days – this year May 11-16 – local associations as well as state and regional associations leadership descend on Washington D.C. It’s a time largely filled with policy meetings, committee confabs and a full-court press for face-to-face meetings with legislative reps. Tucked in the middle of all this is a trade show that runs for just two days: Wednesday, May 13 and Thursday, May 14, from 10 am until 6 pm. This year more than 100 vendors will be vying for a few minutes of everyone’s time. After all, many have flown 1,000 miles or more, have invested thousands of dollars on their booths and travel expenses, all for just that 16-hour window. The scope of the Midyear Trade Show is nowhere near the size of the exposition at the NAR Annual so it doesn’t always feature the biggest players nor their mega-exhibits. On the contrary, the vendor list is often comprised of the most ardent NAR supporters of all sizes, providers of “official” NAR this or that, and many also are in someway, connected to the MLS industry, which is ever-present at Midyear. Yet every once in a while a new company, new business model or new technology use NAR Midyear for its coming out party. Sometimes these firms are exhibiting; sometimes they are just hosting a suite in a nearby hotel, or meeting with CEOs in the lobby of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel because they are bootstrapping it. Years ago, as the first Marketing Director for HomeGain, which at the time was a hot-new startup during Internet 1.0, the head of sales and I attended NAR Midyear with our pop-up HomeGain booth, tucked in the back of an annex that was added to accommodate last minute exhibitors like us. We didn’t make a lot of sales, but we generated a buzz and introduced ourselves, in person, to a lot of industry ‘thought leaders and influencers’ (whom we called ‘movers and shakers’ back then). This year, at Midyear, the WAV Group wants to know what should we be looking for? Is there a new business model, a hot new […]

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