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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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How MLSs and MLS vendors are failing brokers

by Victor Lund on October 31, 2012

Business Intelligence

Let me begin by saying that the remarks that follow do not apply to all MLSs. There are many that do an excellent job at servicing the data needs of brokers. The focus of this article is to talk about some of the common failures seen by WAV Group consultants trying to help brokers fix complex data problems. There is a fundamental understanding of the MLS which has been lost. Although MLS systems provide excellent services through the MLS software, many are failing at providing data services to the brokers and agents to power the many applications that live outside the MLS system. This failure needs to be addressed across the industry. At the heart of the failure is the resistance to adopt the most current version of RETS. The systems that power a brokerage probably will work fine with whatever RETS standard or FTP standard you offer if that brokerage is only in 1 MLS. If the brokerage belongs to more than 1 MLS, chaos ensues. Enterprise brokerages will be defined by brokerages that participate in more than one MLS. Most enterprise brokerages have a laundry list of technology applications that rely on MLS data from a variety of technology vendors. The brokerage goal is to apply a layer of consumer, agent, and business services that rides on top of multiple MLS. The current broker technology ecosystem was outlined perfectly by WAV Group partner Michael Audet in a paper he authored called “The Shift in Real Estate Technology.” You can review the webinar on this topic here, and download slides from the webinar. You can download the whitepaper here. This image shows the architecure of an enterprise brokerage. At the heart of making all of this work is a persistant data, delivered using the RETS standard. Technology consultant Matt Cohen of Clareity Consulting outlined the core problem facing MLSs with RETS adoption. It is not in the contract with the vendor! He writes “…new versions of RETS are always becoming available and each new version has capabilities that the MLS and its members can leverage. For example, RETS now has fairly robust capabilities allowing listings to be input via other front ends – for example broker systems, or forms software, and ensuring that these front ends follow the MLSs business rules. But most MLSs don’t offer their brokers this capability. Why? Because it’s not in the contract. When a […]

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ListHub’s API and Golden Ruler Report Helps a Broker

by Victor Lund on October 5, 2012

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There are all kinds of reasons why a company wants analytics on the performance of their online marketing. Listhub provides this service to brokerages that use their syndication services. The fee for the service is typically just a few dollars per month per agent, but it will track where your listings appear online – for better or for worse. WAV Group has gained an appreciation for the reporting by reviewing MLS level reports that show a federated view of all listings syndicated in the market through Listhub. I will be using these reports in my upcoming talk at the Colorado Association of REALTORS® meetings. They are far more valuable than the small fee charged by Listhub. They inform great decisions about where to send your data, and the effects of online marketing (if any). Listhub offers their syndication services through Franchises – REALOGY, Keller Williams and others have deployed the service. Brookfield uses reDataVault from Real Estate Digital (RED). The Canadian Association of REALTORS® or CREA uses Point2. Here is what I have noticed. For brokers who are part of a Franchise, there are usually preferences to the way that a broker’s listing is displayed. For example, Century 21 Brokers syndicating through the franchise program benefit from not having competitors displayed on their listings, among other privileges like discounts on enhanced listings. For Century 21 Brokers, the Golden Ruler Report is free. Unfortunately, none of these solutions track listings everywhere. For example, the report does not include the number of times a listing was viewed in the MLS, or on another broker’s website, or on the newspaper’s website, or even on the broker’s own website. Listhub and others like Onboard 360 are offering APIs that can be installed on any website. Century 21 Hometown Realty wanted to make the Golden Ruler Report better, so they installed the Listhub API on their Wolfnet website. It is not easy to get a company to put someone else’s code into their product. The Listhub API is a little code snippet that works a little bit like Google Analytics. Every time you ask a website to do something, it adds one more task that slows a website down. Furthermore, there is some remote chance that they can bring the site or even the server down. Let;s just say that Wolfnet did a lot of diligence and testing before they put the Listhub API on […]

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Edina Realty and Broker Syndication Choices

by Victor Lund on May 25, 2012

Edina Realty

The news of Edina Realty pulling their listing from Realtor.com have been rippling through the industry since announced. There are probably a small handful of brokers who have done the same, but that is about it. This became newsworthy because Edina Realty is a big broker – really big. Moreover, the parent company, Home Services of America is second only to NRT in terms of being the largest brokerage in America. NRT has about 750 offices and 250,000 sides. Home Services have about 300 offices and does about 125,000 sides. There is a lot at stake for syndication and online advertising if Edina realizes business growth as a result of their decision. Edina Realty is a smart company. This was not an emotional decision, but the result of intense and calculated strategic development. They have researched the opportunities and risks carefully and will measure impact to many facets of their business. The Home Seller Clearly, Edina Realty needs to not only promise great marketing on a seller’s property, but they must deliver. One measure of this will be Days on Market. Edina (and their competitors) will know if their marketing strategy lengthens or shortens days on market. The second measure will be List Price to Sales Price Ratio. Edina will measure the variation from their historic or competitive benchmarks for list to sale price. Edina agents use this information in their listing presentations today. The Real Estate Agent For agent recruiting and retention, Edina Realty will need to demonstrate and build confidence in their new marketing strategy. Their leadership has been to every office and explained the decision, arming agents with information that justifies the initiative. Today, Edina Realty agents support the decision. But that could change. Agents expect their brokerage to give them the best opportunity to be successful. In Edina’s case, there is instant street credibility to an agent who works for Edina. They have earned the respect of the customers they serve over decades of delivering satisfaction. The brand means something. But agents also expect tools for managing their business and marketing their services. Syndication is only a piece of that. Edina does a lot more and their agents know it. However, at the end of the day, the agents expect their brokerage to deliver leads. Today, Edina knows exactly how many leads they generate from every syndication channel. They also know exactly what happens when they […]

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Real Estate Digital to build new MLSLI Consumer Website

by Victor Lund on January 11, 2012

Real Estate Digital

Although Real Estate Digital is a new brand in the real estate industry, the management and owners of the company are industry vetrans whose consumer website prowess dates back to the first consumer property search solutions. Real Estate Digital was formed when former LPS company executives formed the new company with assets acquired from LPS early in the fourth quarter of 2011. Since Real Estate Digital began standing on its own, they have shown a remarkable, albeit somewhat predictable ability to transition customers over to the new company and continue the growth of the products under their new brand (THINK FIDELITY TO FNIS TO FNRES TO CYBERHOMES TO LPSVCS to Real Estate Digital = LOTS OF EXPERIENCE CHANGING BRANDS BRANDS). Earlier this year they announced an expansion of an agreement to provide MLS Consumer web services to CRMLS; the nation’s largest MLS with an estimated 70,0000+ members. The new website lives under the homeseekers.com domain name. Today, Real Estate Digital announced that they will be building a new MLS consumer website for the Long Island Board of REALTORS and Multiple Listing Service. The strategic positioning behind an MLS consumer facing website is to provide REALTORS and brokers with a direct connection to the consumer beyond their own websites. Many MLSs believe that publishing listing on the MLS website is the purest form of listing syndication beyond member websites. MLSLI is among the three largest Boards of REALTORS in the United States – this is another big win for Real Estate Digital – congratulations! At the core of their succes seems to be the combination of a website with the REALM advertising platform. This winning combination allows MLSs to offer a consumer facing website that provides revenue back to the MLS to fund other MLS member benefits or reduce member dues. Our understanding is that only MLS Listings in California’s Silicon Valley has a competitive offering to REALM today. Jim Harrison, CEO of MLS Listings says ,”we built our own ad network in 2011 and plan to partner with other MLSs to expand the network in 2012.” WAV Group has recently published a paper for .MLS Domain regarding consumer interest in MLS consumer facing websites, adding to this long list of mls consumer website articles and reports. Here is a complete list of Real Estate Digital products courtesy of RE Technology. Here is Contact Information to Real Estate Digital courtesy of RE Technology. […]

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The Bigger LPS Paragon 5 Story

by Victor Lund on December 1, 2011

LPSParagon

LPS, developers of the Paragon MLS system, announced that they have secured an agreement to replace a competitors’ MLS system with Paragon 5. This only happens about 12 times each year. The news is less about just getting a win, but tells a larger story about the future of MLS and how one MLS vendor is positioning for long term success. WAV Group performs upwards of 40 MLS customer satisfaction surveys each year to help MLSs understand what agents and brokers expect from their MLS. The number one complaint is Apple compatibility and Mobile compatibility. LPS knew this many years ago (when they were called FNIS or FNRES), and had the guts to invest more than $1Million into rewriting their entire application to meet customer demand. Taking on such a project is not for the faint of heart. It requires developing new software that feels the same as legacy software – like making a new car feel like the old car they know in love. Many things are in the same place – the lights, the breaks, the radio, etc – everything is where long-term Paragon users expect them to be. It was this thoughtful reconstruction that allowed more than 200 MLSs to move seamlessly from Paragon 4 to Paragon 5. Typically, any conversion – including from same system to same system causes an uprising. But in this unique case, MLSs heard more thank yous than hate yous.

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Great Vendors Embrace Rules

by Victor Lund on November 22, 2011

ListingSyndicationsmall

There has been a lot of conversational concern about companies that enter into new verticals of data management and service offerings. Four such instances were announced this year. REALTORS® Property Resource contracts with LPS for data services and LPS subcontracts to Real Estate Digital. Zillow purchased an IDX vendor, Diverse Solutions. MOVE purchased Threewide, the providers of the popular Listhub syndication service. CoreLogic launched a new appraisal tool leveraging MLS data. In every case, the vendor has been virtuous and adhered to contracts and data use rules. In each of these cases, many feared that data could be misused or abused. But, thus far, there have not been any discoveries of inappropriate behavior.

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Safe Syndicaiton and RED

Today, October 4th, 2011 two vendors announce separate but complementary solutions leading up to the Council of MLS conference: CMLS. Both companies issued press releases of software that effectively works together to handle data syndication. Safe Syndication is a new product launch and reDataVault is a 2.0 release. Both reDataVault and Safe syndication have similar goals in mind – they both seek to support MLSs in managing data outside the walls of the MLS. reDataVault actually distributes data, Safe Syndication does not..  reDataVault goes a bit further by automating the process of managing RETS/IDX/VOW/DataLicense agreements. Safe Syndication has a document repository, but is not a transaction management solution for applying for the agreement. Both systems have some billing integration.

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WAV Group Week in Review September 18 2011

by Victor Lund on September 18, 2011

WAV Group Week in Review

The predominant buzz in real estate this week was focused on successful and unsuccessful buyouts. On the successful side of buyouts, a talented team of managing executives from LPS was able to complete a buyout of non-MLS products and form a new company called RED, an acronym for Real Estate Digital. In a more straightforward buyout, CoreLogic purchased MLS provider Tarasoft, rolling that system under their Marketlinx brand. On the unsuccessful side of buyouts, the Arizona State Association of REALTORS was unsuccessful in its bid to purchase the shares of ARMLS, its first leg in a course to develop a statewide MLS. Although it may be a stretch of the imagination, there is a synthesis among these transactions. We see that there are three ideological philosophies that are becoming more defined in real estate, each represented by one of these buyouts: The Broker/MLS-centric ideology; The MLS-centric ideaology; the State Association-Centric ideaology.

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RPR is in good hands with LPS and RED

by Victor Lund on September 15, 2011

RPR Logo

It would seem that some MLSs were a bit concerned about the bifurcation of service being provided to RPR by LPS. According to the announcement, Real Estate Digital, or RED will be continuing to do what that group has always done in terms of data aggregation. Only now, RED will be a subcontractor to LPS. In a letter today, RPR CEO Dale Ross submitted the following: This e-mail is a courtesy message from RPR about the press release issued yesterday from Real Estate Digital (RED), announcing a management buy-out of select assets of LPS Real Estate Group and the formation of a new company. As you may be aware, RPR contracts data aggregation services for the RPR website from LPS. Under this new structure, RPR’s service will continue to be contracted through LPS, which will have an agreement with RED to fulfill LPS’s obligations to RPR. RPR does not have any direct relationship with the new company.

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LPS issues announcement on MLS Services division

by Victor Lund on September 14, 2011

LPS

  Transfers Products to Newly-Formed Real Estate Digital (RED), and Enters into a Joint Marketing Agreement with RED. In an effort to expand its commitment to and focus on the MLS market, LPS has merged its MLS business unit into LPS Applied Analytics and has sold a number of its real estate products to Real Estate Digital, LLC (RED), with whom LPS entered into a joint marketing agreement.  This new alignment will enable LPS MLS Solutions to expand and streamline its current offerings to enhance MLS solutions and better serve our customers and their clients. “Our assimilation into LPS Applied Analytics is great news for our customers and their members,” said Rich Lull, SVP, LPS MLS Solutions. “First, we have opened up our MLS systems to rapidly deploy innovative technology and services for our MLS members, as demonstrated with the recent version 5 release of our Paragon MLS System. Second, there is no greater demand from MLS’s, their stakeholders, and their members than for insightful intelligence into the value and risks of a real estate transaction to ensure the agent is ‘relevant and valuable’, hence our excitement to leverage the data and analytic assets of LPS Applied Analytics. Lastly, MLS’s need to augment their membership-based revenue model with programs to generate non-dues revenue, for which we will leverage the Applied Analytics products, as well as the products provided through our agreement with RED and other industry-leading third parties,” said Lull.

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Real Estate Digital Spins Out of LPS Real Estate Group

by Victor Lund on September 14, 2011

Real Estate Digital

Real Estate Digital (or RED), announced a management buy-out of select assets of LPS Real Estate Group and the formation of the new company. RED, the new privately-held corporation, will focus on the support of 12 core technology products offered to the real estate industry today: rDesk® Websites, rDesk®  CRM, rDesk®  CMA, rDesk®  IDX, Real Estate & Living Media®, reDataVault, TransactionPoint®, DocCentral, FormCentral, Data Aggregation System, Neighborhood and School Reports and MLS Portal. Executive leadership of the company includes current LPS Real Estate Group President Jay Gaskill, CTO John Hensley, CSO Prem Luthra, and CFO Mike Kovar. The company expects to extend its line of services to real estate professionals, brokers, and Associations. “As a result of this management buyout, the company believes that it will be able to provide a more innovative, personalized, and higher-quality service to its customers,” said Prem Luthra. “We expect to be more nimble and have greater latitude to expand our product offerings to this core audience.” According to Luthra, new products will initially focus on expanding the broker platform to be a platform that allows for easy integration with third party companies, mobile real estate automation, and developing additional revenue streams for clients. A “splash page” of the new website will be launched at http://realestatedigital.com. For those of you familiar with LPS Real Estate Group today, it may help you to understand the company division by appreciating that the majority of Olathe, KS people are staying with LPS and the Irvine, CA team will be joining Real Estate Digital, RED. This is not a perfect division, but a nice mental summary. RED will continue to be a leader in Data Aggregation services under their Data Aggregation and RE DataVault platforms, and will be a subcontractor to LPS for Data Aggregation Services provided to RPR (REALTORS® Property Resource). LPS will remain responsible for licensing RPR data to third parties like financial institutions, GSE, insurance, Government, and others. In speaking to the management team, it would seem that RED will be off to a great start.  They are launching the company with mature, stable, well-adopted products; one of the strongest and most experienced management teams in real estate technology; and long-standing and well-developed customer relationships. The company reports that will be immediately profitable. This transaction was a classic management buyout and no underwriting details were made public. What happens to LPS? LPS is a huge and […]

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