Steve Berkowitz, CEO, Move, Inc.
It’s now been a couple of days, and Errol Samuelson’s defection from Realtor.com to Zillow remains the top story in the world of real estate. I posted two questions about the move yesterday (and had one answered very quickly), and reached out to both Errol and to Move for comments.
As of this writing, I haven’t heard from Errol, but I did manage to speak with Steve Berkowitz, the CEO of Move, and Errol’s immediate boss until earlier this week. I didn’t record the conversation, so I’m going from memory and my notes here.
Bottom line: If Berkowitz knew the answer to my first question — why no notice? — then he put on an Academy Award worthy performance. I think he was still very much in shock at what happened. Furthermore, this event injects an element of animosity into a business rivalry that may have far reaching consequences for everyone involved.
Without further ado…
I had this long amazing post about the future of the MLS in the works… when Godzilla came onshore, thereby obliterating the real estate industry news cycle. Errol Samuelson, Chief Strategy Officer of Move and President of Realtor.com, is now the new Chief Industry Development Officer at Zillow.
The whole industry is abuzz, and our very own Notorious B.O.B. with his unique insight into that role at Zillow has already posted an excellent read on the overall topic. I’m still trying to gather some information, so this one will be brief and be limited to two questions. Because no matter how much I chew on this thing in my head, these two things just won’t go away, and can’t be answered.
Well, if you haven’t seen the late afternoon news wires yet, let me be the first to tell you Zillow just hired Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com and chief strategy officer for parent company Move, Inc. Errol will take on the role of Chief Industry Development Officer and will report to Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff.
A Mask Sounds the Death Knell, to Edgar Poe 1882
Some of you may recall that I once held a similar industry relations position at Zillow. Some of you may recall that I was charged with improving the business to business ties between MLSs and Zillow, particularly the effort to secure direct data feeds from MLSs to improve the quality and timeliness of the listing content on Zillow. Still others may reflect on the disappointment I expressed in being unable to accomplish that mission when I left last summer. So now some of you are likely drooling in anticipation of my advice to Errol upon taking up a similar charge. Dream on, dreamers. The road ahead will still be challenging, and will still require compromises from both sides of the MLS/Data/Zillow equation. But there isn’t a smarter strategist in the industry than Errol Samuelson. If anyone can navigate those treacherous waters, he can. And I wish him nothing but success in his efforts. (And my compliments to Spencer Rascoff and Greg Schwartz at Zillow for pulling off this coup. Well played, gentlemen. Well played.)
If this executive switch doesn’t sound the death knell for Realtor.com, I can’t imagine what it would take. Rcom has been slipping in the traffic totals for months and in some measurement services is now fourth behind Zillow, Trulia, and Homes. But traffic isn’t the problem at Realtor.com. It’s politics. Errol has been an ardent champion and exemplary spokesperson for the Rcom effort. Errol has now seen the light and made the decision to change allegiances. That cannot portend well for Move’s chances for success if it stays on the current path with the current fence-straddling strategies guided by mother NAR.
As I pointed out in a previous post back in December, it really is time for both Move and NAR to reconsider the purpose of Realtor.com and the ongoing strained relationship between the two. If NAR isn’t ready to take back Rcom and operate it as a member service and public relations website supporting its political activities, then maybe Move should force the decision by just giving the website back to NAR and going its own way with Move.com as the lead URL and without all the continuing restraints that keep it from being truly competitive with the top players.
I’ve got a few other thoughts on some things Move might try. But I think I’ll keep them in reserve just in case Steve Berkowitz calls and wants to invite me in for a chat.
This post also appears on Procuring-Cause.com.
The CLAW/TheMLS saga gets more interesting. For background, read this Inman News article by Andrea Brambila, who does consistently decent reporting on these arcane issues for our industry.
Basically, CLAW decided to delay syndication feeds via ListHub by 48 hours. Chaos ensued. I’m trying to find out some more stuff about it, but the latest turn is… interesting to say the least.
It appears that Art Carter, the CEO of CRMLS, the largest MLS in the country and a neighboring MLS to CLAW, issued a letter to subscribers of CRMLS a few days ago to respond to a few points that Annie Ives, the CEO of CLAW, sent to her subscribers.
I was sent both letters by someone who belongs to both MLSs, and thought the exchange raises some… interesting points and questions. Suffice to say that the title of this post is not much of a hyperbole. Art does in fact administer the verbal equivalent of a beatdown.
[DISCLOSURE: CRMLS is a past client of mine at 7DS Associates. But I did not receive the emails from Art Carter, or from CRMLS, and had no communication with them about this post. I thought I should disclose the past business relationship, however.]
NAR’s First Board of Directors, 1909. That tall gentleman in the middle of the front row is most definitely NOT Dale Stinton, despite the striking resemblance.
Just saw on Facebook that NAR has renamed the “Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo” — its annual meeting in Washington DC — to “REALTOR Party Convention & Trade Expo“. Seeing as how I’ve been preachin’ (to the choir, mostly) for quite some time that the REALTOR Association needs to focus on its core competency of advocacy, I think this is a good step forward.
Coincidentally, just minutes before I saw that announcement, I read this post on Medium called “Re-Thinking RPAC“. The writer, Michael Oppler, is a young REALTOR whose father, Charlie Oppler, was the former Director of REALTOR® Party Activities. Again, what he writes is worth reading in full. Key paragraph:
Just as the Republican and Democratic parties must pay heed to a Darwinian like imperative to sustain their entities… so to our organization must be equally vigilant when it comes to managing our own evolution. To this end, I can think of no other function that we as members can help to become better funded and more functional, than when we support the advocacy of our own interests…and not for selfish reasons.
And over the past year or so, I have had numerous conversations with AE’s, elected leadership, NAR people, REALTORS, and others about the topic of advocacy by the Association. The winds are definitely blowing towards greater emphasis on political action and advocacy, which is a positive development.
Having said all that, there are two major strategic crossroads coming up soon-ish (or later-ish) for organized real estate. I think it’s worth thinking about for anyone involved with organized real estate, whether Association, MLS, or something else.