Listing Syndication: The ‘Dirty’ Industry Secret In the SpotLight

Listing Syndication: The ‘Dirty’ Industry Secret In the SpotLight

Wow. I don’t believe I have seen drama at this level in the real estate industry since, well – a few days ago with the approval of the Zillow Group formation, or with the Samuelson Memo.  Then there is Move Corp and it’s Heavy-Weight match about to happen in the US Courts.  The drama only exists within the industry and because people WANT it to exist. Stop, everyone take a breathe – this doesn’t matter to your business if you are “doing it right” – this only matters to a very small segment of our industry, and in that case it is a painful lesson in diversification.

Listing Syndication Doesn't Matter to a Consumer a REALTOR DoesIf you took a poll of 1,000 consumers asking them what ListHub is, what this all means, they would have no idea and probably not notice a thing.  Why would they notice anything?  If a REALTOR is doing their job well, then a client would never know, a consumer won’t know either but a consumer might not find you if you spend a lot of your marketing monies nested over with only Zillow or Trulia.  This is a reason that marketing diversity is a very wise idea.

The True Effect on REALTORS
There really should be none.  In 2015 most agents have their own websites, many have a product that offer “Broker Reciprocity” feeds via their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  For example, I belong to TrendMLS in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, through my IDX provider I have completed paperwork, and received Broker approval to get a direct feed from the MLS for my website with my Market Listings.  I did have three such websites at one point, but today I only have one.

The Point: ListHub Dropping the Feed Won’t be Noticed by Consumer
Or it won’t be noticed by most consumers.  What I think the problem is that Trulia had a legitimate feed, and that might have been part of the value of Trulia to Zillow, or maybe not.  Don’t forget Market Leader with RealEstate.com, this is more about PR than anything else in my opinion.   I never understood WHY ListHub was providing data to a competitor, in 2013 in Orlando I asked that question directly of some folks at the Move VIP party, when I was told that the competitors were to be at a ListHub party and event – “They are our customers and pay us for the data, there isn’t really competition” the conversation went on to cover the benefit of the business relationship.

I will add that one of the people at the table for a portion of the conversation was Errol Samuelson, and I will say Errol never said a bad word about anyone ever when I spoke to him, he was always positive and believed that competition led to improvements in the industry and offerings.   Errol was very pro-Move and Realtor.com in my opinion and experience, so the news of his “defection” to Zillow was a total shock to me.

Anyone else notice the Starbucks location PR blitz via Spencer Rascoff?  It grew some nice media legs, and a few other things in the last week, in the run up to the approval of the merger you had the media blitz of the book, then a few other small and intriguing concepts like the Starbucks relation to property value, which in my opinion was a purely a PR move to get more traction – that’s what a business does to promote itself right?  This might be another move for traction, but so far the public opinion I have seen has NOT been terribly supportive, nor positive.  Don’t discount Rascoff, he is a brilliant individual and business person, his track record speaks for itself beginning with Expedia.

What REALTORS Should REALLY be Upset About
You spend your time building your real estate business, you work hard for your Seller clients and spend time and money preparing listings for market. You spend even more time managing the listings, posting them, sharing them, marketing them, and if they don’t sell – you don’t make any money.  Lots of other people do make money from your listings, but no one asks about that.

We pay to get an IDX feed from our own MLS’s, which we also pay to be members of, and then in turn that data is moved through various systems and channels to become syndicated and shared to multiple media websites focused on attracting consumers, selling advertising to real estate professionals and selling the listing leads back to us.  This isn’t the case with EVERY MLS or Association, but the practice is a common one.  I could rant on for pages, but the MLS/Big Data topic is another blog post coming soon.

The Data is the Power
The Data is where the power is, in all industries, the more reliable and accurate it is  the better the reputation of the provider.  That is really what this entire conversation is about.  The reliable data feed that ListHub provides is the basis for the value of a media site that serves consumers real estate listings, if the data isn’t accurate then the consumer will go elsewhere, without the consumers then the REALTORS won’t pay to advertise.  You go where the business is, or should.

Agents do not understand how this business really works, it’s not about your sales and the portion of the commission, it’s about the peripheral services – the title policies, escrow companies, mortgage lenders, and so on – included in this is listing syndication, training and coaching programs, partnerships with other organizations, each and every thing your Big Broker sells you have a percentage that is most likely going right into the Brokers pocket.

That’s where the money is made in the real estate business, strategic partnerships and alignments, not in determining which website the consumers will find the data on.    ListHub saying it doesn’t want to share is fine by me, they are aligned with Realtor.com and therefore REALTOR.org and NAR, so it’s about time someone stood up for us – since we won’t do it for ourselves.

There is one other factor, the question of the idea of a National MLS – is that coming?  I believe that it is, but real estate is an ancient business with many archaic business models, it’s difficult to break the mold and truly innovate, or is it?  Behind the scenes there is an amazing tool that is available to all of us, it’s our NAR member benefit known as REALTORS Property Resource aka RPR.  The power of RPR is rather remarkable, I believe it is a preview of what we COULD have available at a National level, but that isn’t what it is about – it is about serving the needs of the REALTOR Member with a lot of AMAZING data, more amazing than any public, and many premium, websites I have seen.  Why are some MLS’s resistant to join and share the data WE provide them with our PARENT organization?  That’s a pretty good question, maybe a more important one to ask than getting involved in the ListHub/Zillow Group conversation.

Why not just work with what we have – I think a public facing side of RPR partnered with Realtor.com – combining the marketing power, and the lobby of the RPAC – consumers would have the best and most reliable quality of data EVER. Right?  What do you think?

 

 

 

Expert Answers: Why Can’t I Look at a House with Stucco?

Expert Answers: Why Can’t I Look at a House with Stucco?

A question was submitted by a Consumer in Pennsylvania recently, asking a very interesting question.

“We are relocating to Pennsylvania from California. We found a few beautiful houses we really like, and want to see. We were told that our Relocation benefits would not apply to these properties because the houses had stucco on their exterior. We investigated further and were told that some of the properties we like with Stucco have had stucco inspections and even some repairs if there were problems found. Why would we lose our relocation benefits and why are we being restricted in what properties we can purchase?”

This has been an ongoing problem with Relocation clients in this part of the Country since as early as 2009, and more prominent into 2011 and beyond. It is a valid question and one that needs to be revisited.

PA House with Good Stucco

A Home for Sale in Chester County PA has stucco but has been inspected and repairs made, yet relocation companies exclude it from their buyers options. Why?

I am not a stucco expert, a home inspector, or a builder, but I have sold enough properties with Stucco, and those with known and even unknown stucco problems. Prior to 2004 the method in which Stucco was applied to many of these homes was a manner that did not permit enough air flow behind the stucco so that when moisture built up the risk for damage to the boarding or wood behind the stucco was severe. The Stucco was being applied from at, or below, the soil line which is one of the methods modified after the discovery of many of the problems with the stucco application.

The biggest problem with stucco applications of that era were really related to the way in which windows were installed, as well as where a roof line met a stucco surface. If “kick out” flashing was not properly installed water would then run directly into the stucco and over time – since Stucco is porous, the water would get behind the stucco and damage wood – or OSB boards – beneath the stucco. Where the windows meet the house, similar infiltration would occur.

In 2006 I had clients purchase a property with Stucco. During the home inspection an area where a roof line met a stucco wall had “discoloration” which was believed to be “dirt” or in some cases “moss” because the area did not get enough sun light to completely dry out the area. In 2008 that same property was then resold and that same area of discoloration was actually discovered to have extensive damage to the wall beneath the stucco, in fact a large portion of the wall was completely rotted out, and infested with a fungal growth. What was “just dirt” in 2006 turned out to be approximately $30,000 in damages, which is a relatively low amount in the world of “stucco problems”.

Most properties built after 2003 or 2004 with Stucco were done differently, with the stucco being started well above the soil line, and with ventilation strips to permit airflow beneath the stucco. Most problems were also discovered to be directly related to inadequate “kick out” flashing installation, which is relatively easy to correct.

Yet a lot of Relocation companies – those that administer relocation benefit packages on behalf of employers, include clauses in their documents for purchases and sales that completely exclude any stucco properties from consideration of the person receiving the relocation benefit. This is archaic, in my opinion, since many properties have no either been inspected, had corrective measure taken, or built after the era in question, but people – like yourself – are being told they can’t purchase a property with Stucco without risking all, or part, of your relocation benefits.

I began to ask all my Seller clients – as early as 2007 – to do stucco inspections prior to listing a property, and complete any needed repairs. I continue this practice to this day, yet my Seller clients don’t get the exposure they deserve, and the Buyers are being restricted in their purchase choices.

You can get a sense of whether an inspection might be warranted by looking at a stucco property from the distance. If you see obvious discoloration under the windows, in the area where water would flow from the window in a driving rain, or where a roof line meets another surface – then you might have an indicator that a problem could exist. Note I said COULD. The only person to determine this with definitive certainty is a qualified Stucco inspector. Stucco inspections can be intrusive, including drilling into walls to get a core sample and expose the areas beneath the stucco exterior.

I would suggest that you contact your employer directly to discuss the question of “stucco” as it is addressed by the administering Relocation provider. The employer can review the package that is offered and work with the Relocation company to address any concerns you have, and even eliminate the restriction all together.

This out of date mindset has definitely stigmatized the sector of luxury homes with Stucco finish, and many unjustly so. I still recommend a stucco inspection be completely, which can be costly depending on how in depth it might need to be, but a $1500 Stucco inspection can prevent a Buyer from ending up with a $100,000 Stucco repair which many insurers will not cover.

It’s All About The Tweet, Says Google

It’s All About The Tweet, Says Google

With the announcement of an agreement between Twitter and Google as written up on VentureBeat, there is some satisfaction at many levels, and a personal one as well, that those of us who have always been staunch supporters of the business use, and value, of Twitter can celebrate with the quiet confidence that “I told you so” isn’t needed to be said, but it obvious in the outcome – this landmark agreement between two technology giants.

Twitter Opens Fire Hose Feed to Google

The Official Twitter Bird Logo

The Value of Twitter for Real Estate
I have been a huge supporter of Twitter, and it’s power for search engine optimization in real time, since I began using the service in 2008. I spent a great deal of time educating the real estate industry on the benefits and value, the pure elegant power that is Twitter. Some would dismiss it, call it a waste of time, but those that “get it” have always seen the power.

Social networks move in and out of vogue with a near constant ebb and flow, but Twitter has remained mostly consistent in what it does, how it does it and the value proposition it has – wide open for use and interpretation. I have been asked many times, in interviews, at conferences, in meetings, while on stage talking about the power of Twitter, what my favorite social network is, it has always been – and still is Twitter.

It’s Always Been “Cool”
Although there have been times when people turned their noses down at my response, and moments when it was not “fashionable” to like Twitter, I have been steadfast in my belief, and my dedication to Twitter and the value it brings the world. The real time citizen reporter power has proven itself time and time again. The mainstream media accepts it, and recognizes the value of the live and real time conversation.

Twitter chats (using tools like Nurph) have become more and more popular ways to communicate ideas, and bring master mind resources together to brainstorm, share and evolve ideas and uses of the platform, of business use cases, and of customer service.  Look for a new Twitter for Real Estate Chat beginning on February 17, 2015 from EstateSocial.com and @mayaREguru.

The Great Twitter “Told You So”
Quietly Twitter has grown it’s business model, and the power of the data it aggregates. Now, in 2015 Google – the powerhouse of search engine optimized data – acknowledges that Twitter has what it has never been able to build – a truly successful, reliable (no more Fail Whale – mostly) and desirable social network. There is quiet satisfaction in this for Twitter, who does a lot of great things (check out their #Transparency initiatives, to see how pro-user they have always been).

I have always deemed Twitter to be the “One Ring” of social media, to connect them all, and I truly believe this proves that point even more. The true value of Twitter is that it is a totally indexable and open network, unlike Facebook which requires login and access to view, engage and post messages, Tweets are immediately available to be indexed by any spider client of whichever search mechanism.

With the agreement between Google and Twitter to open the “fire hose” feed directly to Google those Tweets will be immediately indexable, therefore the value – and therefore power – of your Tweet and Twitter account has grown exponentially.  Even InmanNews offered an interesting take on what it means to real estate.

To be clear, this is not the beginning of the indexing of Twitter – it is merely a more efficient and expeditious way for that indexing to happen.  To put it simply – the indexing of Twitter isn’t new, just the means by which it will be indexed – the speed, the efficiency, and the availability will all improve.

With that, I am going to start republishing – as well as rewriting – much of my content directed at the use of Twitter for the real estate industry, best practices, how to get the return on your time invested, and the “how to” of Twitter for Real Estate (and beyond). It’s the return of @mayaREguru and my pro-Twitter message, it’s all about positioning yourself for success in social media for real estate professionals – it’s not rocket science, it’s pretty basic and it’s really all about Twitter as the method to share the information.

As the thought leader, Twitter proponent and connector of all things Twitter – Clint Miller said it best, and a LONG time ago “Twitter is a Cocktail Party” – that’s the simplest way to understand the value and power, true social networking. Clint is posthumously proven to be a true innovator, which many of us already knew.  I know he is chuckling down on us all from somewhere in Heaven.

I have told clients, classes, publishers, publications and organizations for a long time how valuable Twitter is to their business growth and development. I think the agreement between Google and Twitter is the perfect way to validate the true quantitative value of Twitter for all those naysayers who always asked “Show me the proof” as they dismissed many of us – it has always been there, if you were willing to see it.

Welcome to 2015, the (deferred since 2007) officially endorsed by Google Year of “The Twitter” for Real Estate.

How are you already using Twitter, or have you abandoned your Twitter account? What are your biggest challenges in embracing and using Twitter? Tell me below in your comments, ask questions, if you need help I will try to offer my expertise.