And so it goes. Move, the operators of the National Associaton of REALTORS portal called Realtor.com have agreed to sell the company to News Corp in an all-cash deal valued at $950 million. MOVE’s board of directors were swift to approve the offer, representing a 36% bump in the value of the company. News Corp owns other real estate assets including The Wall Street Journal (popular spot for luxury property advertising) and Australian real estate portal – realestate.com.au (part of the REA Group). REA Group will apparently pay for 20% of MOVE, and News Corp will pay the rest. This is a pretty bullish acquisition. It demonstrates the belief that there is a lot of growth on the horizon for portals in the US Market. To me the future looks pretty competitive with lots of well funded competitors dueling it out. MOVE has made a number of acquisitions over the years to diversify revenue away from the portal offering. Aside from Realtor.com, Top Producer is a solid contributor to the company’s success and revenue. I wonder if the new owners will shed some of those assets and focus purely on MOVE.com and Realtor.com. I also imagine that News Corp will be a little more aggressive in wielding the leverage it has with ListHub in a couple of ways – more international expansion and tighter agreements with publishers. Or not. They say that they have shared vision and shared values. Congratulations to the MOVE shareholders and executives. Nice win. My hope is that Joe Hanauer will be retained to continue is spectacular mission to support Realtor.com. Below are three clippings – letter from NAR to the membership – letter from MOVE to industry leaders – and the press release – all in one place for your pleasure. By the way – does anyone know how much stock News Corp and REA Group have invested in Zillow and Trulia – I think they are partners in all of these firms now. Pretty cool strategic investment strategy. Letter from NAR to the Membership Dear NAR Member, Today marks an extraordinary turning point in the history of realtor.com®.
The website pioneered online real estate and was No. 1 in that space for 15 years. In recent years, even as realtor.com®’s traffic grew, deep-pocketed Internet startups succeeded in eroding the site’s consumer mind share. One year ago, the National Association of REALTORS® altered its operating […]
Jeremy Conaway, Dale Stinton, and Bob Moline used the Swanepoel Trends report to push the real estate elephant into the spotlight in America. There are simply too many REALTOR® Associations not providing adequate service and support to their members. Today, 1100 of the 1400 REALTOR® Associations in America have fewer than 300 members. Many of these smaller organizations have a difficult time delivering the depth of services and training REALTORS® need to effectively serve the needs of their clients and stay relevant with all of the technology options available to today’s demanding consumers. At the end of the day real estate aren’t associations supposed to exist to help their members be successful, while nurturing a thriving community and real estate market? It is time for us as an industry to try to figure out how to get every REALTOR® member a comprehensive and relevant suite of services and support no matter what local association they belong to. These issues and struggles are not limited to the United States.. The Quebec Boards of REALTORS® separated from the Canadian Real Estate Association in absolute protest of some of CREA’s policies that they did not believe were in the best interest of their members. The revolution took courage, but these Canadian boards were able to live up to the challenge and make it happen. The good news…. the revolution created positive change, and now CREA and the Quebec Boards of REALTORS® have new terms in their relationship. Conaway mentions in his contribution to the Trends Report that “what one won’t find at the annual (NAR) meeting are demonstrators, protesters, dissenters, revolutionaries, or counter culture types…” It shouldn’t necessarily have to come to this, but I think we’re all growing weary of little progress being made about an obvious problem in our industry. It’s too easy to ignore the need for change without a crisis or critical event to bring it to our attention. I fear blanket condemnation of small boards. There are some boards that deliver an amazing suite of services and demonstrate total member-centricity. There are some larger boards that are much less responsive to their member’s needs than smaller boards. They bring an arrogance to the table that is not at all welcome with their members. Some have staff leadership that has been in place WAY too long and has grown completely complacent. My personal experience has taught me that just […]
2014 may well be the year of the broker, or as they are referred to in MLS speak, the year of the Participant. If your MLS has adopted the National Association of REALTORS® template for MLS Rules and Regulations, you will find that brokers are Participants and agents are Subscribers. As a Participant in the MLS, brokers accept full responsibility to adhere to MLS rules and regulations. The MLS does a pretty good job of enforcing those rules. But who among you is making sure that the MLS is not running afoul? WAV Group MLS clients are traditionally the largest MLSs in the nation. If the MLS has a member count of less than 2000, it is unlikely that WAV Group has ever facilitated a strategic plan for your MLS. From this perspective, WAV Group has learned that large MLSs rarely run afoul of staying current. The place to spend time auditing your MLS is the small MLS. These MLSs are unlikely to attend NAR’s National or Mid-year meetings where MLS policy evolves. They rely on NAR emails to stay current. Moreover, the MLS board of directors is also unlikely to stay current with MLS policy, which erodes their appreciation and ability to make informed policy decisions. Beyond NAR, there is also the Council of MLS or CMLS. This is the industry trade group for MLS executives that has regular meetings to discuss best practices of operating an MLS. Ask your MLS if they attend NAR Annual, Midyear, and CMLS meetings. The goal of this post is not to pick on small MLSs. The reality is that they do not have the resources to participate in all of these things. Where WAV Group discovers small MLSs that have fallen behind is when we audit large brokers for rules compliance. Large brokers proactively engage in an audit each year to make sure that all of their systems are in compliance with local rules and regulations. This process is as much a vendor audit as it is a broker audit. MLSs often change rules and the broker or vendor miss the memo on the rules change. Alternatively, the NAR rules change and the MLS does not revise their rules to keep current. Either way, the broker is out of compliance, and is liable for fines and other disciplinary action. WAV Group gathers the rules and regulations from each MLS then review all […]
Real estate business consulting firms wear a lot of hats. When we are hired, our goal is to serve our clients goals as master – never our own goals. It’s a unique mindset. National Association of REALTORS® annual conventions are a keen reminder of this paradigm. In a single day, it was commonplace to speak strategy with technology companies; brokers; Associations of REALTORS® (National, State, Megaboard); Association governed MLS, broker governed MLS, broker owned and governed MLS. Perhaps the only oddity is that there is no example of a broker owned, Association governed MLS. Same Issue, Different Rights I think that often there is a tendency to try to lump disparate groups together in ways that are naive in our industry. Uninformed people may talk about strategic issues without regard for the nature of things in local markets. For example, a broker owned MLS consumer website appeals to many brokers whereby an Association owned MLS consumer website may not. REALTORS® may appreciate Association owned consumer websites, but brokers may object. There is no right or wrong. There are many rights and many wrongs. Choice is a matter of local consideration and proper execution. The Right Balance is Never Static Regardless of the chosen strategic paradigm in a market place, there will always be critics. Given a choice, groups form that favor or do not favor an initiative. Perfect alignment on any given issue involving hundreds or even thousands of people is unrealistic. We are a society of compromises that understands that you may be on the right side of some issues while your peers may sometimes be on the other side. There are Lots of Rights Remember that strategy is more of an array of strategies than a single strategy. With any enterprise organization there are many issues that form policy and policy forms strategy. You win some, and you will never win them all. But you keep fighting for your version of right. Being Two-Faced At the NAR convention, I had an encounter whereby someone remarked that WAV Group was supporting one issue over another. I had to explain that WAV Group does not support any issue. We support them all. WAV Group is not a policymaker; we are a research company that leverages information to help clients form and execute their strategy. Our only goal is for the client to succeed with the strategy that is chosen by […]
AgentMatch from realtor.com was a solution that was tested in two real estate markets – Boulder, CO and Las Vegas, TX. The pilot program was developed as a service to connect consumers with agents based on performance, interests and recommendation data. Putting aside the debate about the strengths or weaknesses of this form of rating an agent, there is plenty to learn from how it was rolled out, how feedback was generated, and how the company reacted to the feedback. Pre-roll Out Decisions With any new service, the first question should be opt-in or opt-out. WAV Group has always recommended that the default on any consumer facing solution should be opt-in unless there are powerful mitigating reasons that support opt-out. In this test, realtor.com worked closely with both MLSs to be sure all were in agreement with how the data would be displayed. Pre-roll Out Communication Some companies have mandated classes on product roll-outs. WAV Group is not a big fan of this. Rather, offer the class or training online. Record it. Do not enable the service until the broker has either waived or attended the training. Getting the acknowledgement is really important. It is absurd to think that you will be able to reasonably solicit some form of acknowledgement from every broker – but make sure you get acknowledgement from most brokers. Schedule meetings face to face with your 10 largest brokers and phone conferences with 11-50. Again here, I applaud realtor.com for organizing local, executive and broker advisory boards during the development of this pilot. Pilot Testing New product roll-outs are never perfect. Indeed, the mantra for innovation is “fail fast and fail often.” What RDC did by putting the product out into the wild was aggressive. I know they worked closely with, and solicited feedback from, agents before AgentMatch was publically displayed. But they still got a pile of new feedback in the early days of the pilot. React to Feedback AgentMatch was taken offline today. In a statement, realtor.com President, Errol Samuelson said “The AgentMatch pilot has concluded, but the larger project remains: We intend to create the most accurate and complete resource for consumers looking for a Realtor online, and to continue moving the industry forward with innovative solutions.” What makes the company stronger in the eyes of their customers is that they were comfortable with embracing feedback and taking action to resolve important issues […]
How to Lose a Listing My neighbors really like their original real estate agent, Agent One. They wanted to work with her again. But they tell me that they probably won’t choose her to list their home. This is pretty catastrophic for her, whether she knows it or not, because repeat and referral business is a real estate agent’s bread and butter. 4 NAR ® Member Benefits You Should Be Using The REALTOR® Benefits Program brings members of NAR discounts and special offers on real estate products and services. The value of the Program isn’t just the financial savings; it also ensures that the prodcuts offered are carefully selected to meet the needs of real estate professionals like you. It’s about receiving a quality product for a quality price. Buying a New Tech Tool? The First Question to Ask I consider myself a very open-minded person, but try to convince me to switch from Mac to PC, for example, and I’m going to dig in my heels. I’m not alone; most of the people you meet are committed to their marriages, their families, their careers, and their operating system. So when you’re choosing any technology product, your first question needs to be whether or not it will work with your OS. Every Listing is Worth a Million Dollars Okay, perhaps not literally. Some of your listings will sell for much less while others may sell for even more – and everywhere in between. But your attitude should always be the same. You should treat each listing and each client as if they are the most valuable you’ve ever represented. Your 2013 Holiday Blogging Plan With the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s easy to let your blogging habits fall by the wayside. The festive season presents a wealth of easy post ideas, however, so make sure sure you’re not neglecting your blog! We’ve rounded up a few topics that will help you connect to consumers by providing useful information.
Anybody that runs a company wants to believe that consumers LOVE their brand – after all we love our brands don’t we? While that’s a great goal, it’s a lot harder than it looks to create a strong emotional connection with your customer base. Apco Worldwide, a public relations firm recently fielded a global survey. Here’s the list of the Top 100 Most Lived brands. According to Apco’s press release, here’s what it takes to rank as a loved brand: “APCO’s proprietary Emotional LinkingSM model served as the basis for evaluating the companies by measuring consumers’ emotional attachment to brands along eight dimensions, providing companies with a roadmap to understanding consumer expectations in an actionable way. Technology companies were the largest industry represented in the top 10 with Apple coming in at ninth on the list. “The best brands are those that build a strong, enduring emotional attachment with consumers,” said Bryan Dumont, president, APCO Insight. “In addition to acting as a highly predictive tool for consumers’ purchase choices, the Emotional Linking model has proven to be an excellent way to help companies retool their campaigns to build stronger emotional attachments between their key audiences and their brands.” The rankings are the result of a decade-long research project including a global survey of more than 600 of the world’s largest corporate brands among more than 70,000 individuals in 15 key markets around the world. The Emotional Linking model identified eight emotions that are critical to effective brand communication. These eight critical emotions are: Understanding, Approachability, Relevance, Admiration, Curiosity, Identification, Empowerment and Pride.” This methodology is very interesting and seems to have found a way to quantify emotional connections to brands. So what can real estate brands learn from this research about how to create stronger brand loyalty and connections to their customers? Understanding In the real estate industry we are notoriously bad about engaging consumers in dialog to truly understand their wants, and emotional desires. We cannot expect to create a meaningful connection if we don’t even know what really drives them? As I have written about many times, it’s time for our industry to embrace the consumer and engage in regular dialog with them. Companies like the Houston Association of REALTORS® as well as Trulia and others regularly engage in conversation. Approachability Do we make it easy for potential customers to approach us? In many cases, consumers are afraid […]
There’s a fundamental problem in the real estate business today. Since time immemorial real estate ‘searches’ have utilized a property-centric approach that ignores the other 50 percent of the business: the buyers. In the real estate industry, we focus so much on displaying listings hoping to attract a buyer without spending nearly enough time and resources to analyze and understand the market segment that are the drivers of the purchase. This is also symptomatic of the industry’s fundamental focus on the needs of agents, not consumers. Doesn’t it make more sense to focus on the needs of the consumer? The marketplace has made a plethora of search tools available just about everywhere for consumers. In fact, 96 percent of buyers search multiple websites before contacting an agent, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Fundamentally, this is why the process is called “house hunting”–buyers are forced to search, filter and pull properties “off the rack.” Property search provides a shotgun approach to exposure. It may sound good in a listing presentation to say, “I’m placing this on 300 websites,” but how does this process in any way help match agents with new, active and revised listings with “real” buyers that are Willing, Able and Ready (WAR)? This approach seems fundamentally wrong. Click here to download the complete white paper that fleshes out a whole new way to look at search. Drowning in a Tidal Wave of Internet Leads According to the public statements of leading consumer real estate portals, there are over 50 million consumers that simply like to search property sites each month to see what their next door neighbor’s house may be worth, dream about retirement or a move to a bigger home, or to simply look for home improvement ideas. These “voyeurs” have no intention of buying a home anytime soon, yet via lead management systems, they contact agents and soak up productive time best invested in working with “WAR” leads. All of this leads to a VERY unproductive Internet lead conversion rate. Numerous industry studies show that 95 percent to 99 percent of the “leads” generated online will never close. According to evaluations we have done on behalf of some of our clients, most homes are getting less than one click-through per month and even fewer legitimate property inquiries. Is property search, as we know it, dead? The 2009 Swanepoel Trends Report addressed this same question […]
Before REALTORS® Property Resource (RPR) was conceived, the National Association of REALTORS® was working with their realtor.com partner, Move, Inc. to develop a library of information on every property in America. NAR selected another vendor and developed what we know as RPR today. MOVE took their prototype and developed a free product called FINDSM. FIND is proprietary software for MLSs that provides property centric data on more than 100 million real estate parcels in the United States, and offers agents and brokers access to timely, accurate and reliable listing information across MLS boundaries. Available as a link or a tool bar that resides in MLS systems, it provides a depth of property information to enhance the MLS listing. The data accessible is a laundry list that includes fly over zones, flood maps, neighborhood demographics, and so on. FINDis free to any MLS. Over the past three years, about 60 MLS have launched the FIND program to as many as 450,000 agents. To participate in FIND, the MLS need only contract directly with Move for property data, and allow Move to display sold listings on realtor.com. Before FIND, realtor.com only received active listing data to display. Since Trulia and Zillow and others were actively working to collect and display sold data, FIND allowed realtor.com to compete. With FIND, realtor.com can once again occupy the leading position in real estate. The news here is not that REALTORS® have been able to access all data on realtor.com through FIND. Now, to support reciprocal data sharing, the agent in FIND can have direct access to other MLS systems through something called Deep Linking. The first reciprocal data sharing solution using FIND is between iTech MLS in Los Angeles and MetroList Services, Inc. in Sacramento. Those MLSs have an agreement between them to allow access to each others’ systems, and offers of compensation. Since FIND is powered by single sign-on (SSO), agents do not need to remember their password credentials to get into the other system. They simply search on FIND, and if they want to view the MLS listing details, they click the MLS link in FIND and they are ported right in. Where MLSs have a relationship for cooperation and compensation, when an agent looks at a record from another MLS, it will allow that agent to launch into the reciprocal MLS. Today, Rapattoni is the only MLS system that has deployed this. […]
BombBomb is a video mail program. You can record yourself talking on your computer or mobile device and send that recording as an email. It is a streaming email, so you are not sending a large file. Beyond vMail, BombBomb allows you to vLog or video blog. You can publish the recordings you make in newsletters, on your blog, website, or social media page. Suffice it to say, once the video is created, you can ship it anywhere. Using BombBomb for the first time was quick and easy. I entered a little bit of profile information and was off creating my first video within less than a minute. However, there are a few areas where I believe there could be improvement. The good news is that they are all very fixable. Suggestion 1: Don’t Change My Password – When I registered it asked me for my password. In the registration email confirmation, there was a password which was system generated that I did not set up. Suggestion 2. Promote the Mobile App – I feel like vMail is something that is more impactful and more efficient on mobile. I would rather talk into my phone than try to type – especially when I am on the go. None of the registration pages or confirmation emails mentioned anything about support for iPhone, Android, or Windows Mobile. Fixing this is a simple matter of dropping in some icons and linking those icons to the application stores. Suggestion 3. Contact Sync – Once I set up my account, I would expect to be taken directly to add contacts. They do support uploading a CSV file – but agents will not do that unless they have a burning desire to adopt vMail or vlogging. Even those that do will be constantly challenged to keep contact records in both places. As a company that consults with enterprise business, I would tell you that without Gmail Contact Sync and Microsoft Exchange Sync, it would not be licensed for all agents. Again, this is not heavy lifting for any skilled development team, so I would expect that BombBomb may be able to add this functionality inside of a month or two. My guess about the reason that they do not do contact sync is because they bill by the number of contacts you add, which I believe is a mistake. I would counsel them to bill on […]
CHICAGO (July 24, 2013) – The National Association of Realtors® Board of Directors today reaffirmed NAR’s commitment to making realtor.com® the first, best online destination for home buyers and sellers. The board voted in favor of recommendations to modify an existing operating agreement that will help the site compete more effectively in an evolving online marketplace. “Over the years, Realtors® have invested a lot of time and millions of dollars in building information technology to give consumers online access to real estate information, and we know that consumer demand for all things ‘home’ has never been greater,” said NAR President Gary Thomas, broker-owner of Evergreen Realty in Villa Park, Calif. “As the most trusted resources for real estate information, Realtors® want realtor.com® to have the resources and flexibility it needs to give consumers what they want while ensuring that today’s buyers and sellers can continue to rely on Realtors® for the most accurate, credible market data. We think the proposed changes achieve both goals.” The operating agreement is between NAR subsidiary Realtors® Information Network and Move, Inc. subsidiary RealSelect, Inc. The RIN board sought advice from NAR’s BOD because any changes to realtor.com could have a substantial impact on NAR’s members. The RIN board met immediately after the NAR BOD meeting, and approved the final recommendations. “When today’s consumer is searching for their dream home, they are utilizing more tools and information than ever before,” said realtor.com® President Errol Samuelson, Chief Strategy Officer for Move, Inc. “Today’s historic and collaborative recommendation from the NAR board members empowers us to further expand and enrich the consumer experience on www.realtor.com and its mobile applications with greater breadth of content, and to do so with our continuing commitment to the highest level of quality and accuracy for both the real estate community and consumers.” The proposal recommended by NAR’s BOD gives realtor.com® more flexibility to identify listings from sources beyond those provided by Realtors®. That includes additional new homes and rental properties. At the same time, the site will reinforce the value of using a Realtor® when buying, selling or investing in real estate, and will give consumers tools to differentiate between Realtors® and real estate agents who are not Realtors®. “We want consumers to be able to envision their American dreams of homeownership online and then make those dreams a reality in the offline world,” said Thomas. “Working together, realtor.com® and Realtors® […]
MLS and Association leadership brings forth an unusual ‘changing of friends’ on an annual basis. It is in the spring of each year that we begin to see these friendships take hold as CEOs arrive at NAR Midyear with their new Board Chairman in tow. It is all part of an important synthesis that takes place in our industry – one that often goes unappreciated. For five or more weeks each year, CEOs are on the road with their Chairman, building a friendship that is pivotal to a successful year, and in some cases, lasting a lifetime. WAV Group strategic planning appreciates the culture of leadership in real estate. We recognize that each year, the Board Chairman takes aim at challenges for the organization, balancing goals for the year with long range planning. The National Association of REALTORS® is even more specific about this paradigm. Each year, the NAR leader is explicit about their charge. In many ways, success comes from energizing the State leaders and local leaders to adopt the mission. Adoption by the nation’s Mega Boards plays a significant role in that success. Similar extension happens on MLS boards also. Continuity plays a key role in the long-term success of any MLS or Association. If the company were to dramatically change course each year with the churn of the Chairman of the Board of Directors, the disruption would erode the effectiveness of the company and undermine the services offered to the members. It is more common for the Chairman to pick a cause each year, but also play a sustaining role in moving along the long-range goals of the company. Great CEOs of Associations and MLSs recognize this. It is critical that they bring the past chairman, chairman elect, and standing chairman to industry conferences. Conferences are important conveyors of business strategy for these companies. These conferences provide two key references. One is the conference content itself, offering sessions about the topics of our day. The sessions also allow similar organizations to share strategic information and case studies about how they are moving their business forward. The second key reference is more informal. It is the conference behind the conference – the coffee breaks, and meals with peers where fellow chairman and executives commune with their peers about the goals of their organizations. When you add up the conferences that shape the direction of our industry, you recognize […]
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 […]
At WAV Group we work with leading associations and MLSs around the country helping them to find world class talent to continue an organization’s growth and evolution. We are lucky enough to be able to observe board dynamics, internal operations and CEO-led initiatives. As an industry, we are blessed with loyal leaders and followers who value the tradition of real estate and the process of governing the industry as well. They clearly understand the unique needs of REALTORS® and are passionate about nurturing the real estate industry. Many of them have long-standing personal relationships with many of their members and regularly “go to the mat” to help one of their colleagues succeed. This longevity leads to continuity, solid community and effective methods for communicating key issues and advocacy. There is a potential downside, though, in our view. Many Associations have had the same leader and in some cases, many of the same people on the Board of Directors for many years. While the continuity of thought can be very valuable, it can also lead to staleness and complacency. Without a continuous focus on the ever-changing needs of members and the clients they serve, Associations are in danger of becoming irrelevant and in the worst case, extinct. If you’re in a board meeting and you find yourself saying or even thinking things like “we tried that 5 years ago and it didn’t work” or “we don’t need to look at that” or “that would never happen here”, you may in danger of stagnation. While we can all learn from experience, if we get jaded by experience we may miss out on exciting opportunities to renew the value and relevance of organizations. Historically our industry has valued long-term leadership – many of today’s leaders have been in the same seat for 20 or more years. Some would prefer to move on to a new position with a new set of challenges, but it can be frowned upon. Some real estate associations believe that the AE should sit in the seat for as long as they possibly can because they “owe” it to their constituency to do so. I would suggest that it may make sense to re-think this mindset. While it doesn’t make sense to turn over Association Executives too quickly, the thought of bringing in fresh perspectives to critically evaluate the local real estate economy, programs, services and community relationships […]