Two Redfin Veterans Launch a New Brokerage Model…

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Truth be told, I get a ton of press releases and the like announcing some OMGASM! DISRUPTIVE NEW THINGAMABOB!!!BBQ!!11 from one real estate related company or another. I tend to ignore most of them because said AMAZING GAME-CHANGING DISRUPTION turns out to be a slight modification of some CRM platform. “Now you can put your listing on Instagram automatically” isn’t exactly disruptive, no matter how much the marketing folks and PR folks like to dress it up.

I’m making an exception in the case of Surefield, a brand new brokerage in Seattle, for a couple of reasons.

One, the people behind this new brokerage have a track record. The two main founders are David Eraker, the Founder and first CEO of Redfin, and Rob McGarty, who ran operations for Redfin’s brokerage side (and mortgages as well).

Two, Surefield is actually trying something new, which may or may not work, but at least it’s new and potentially disruptive, if it takes off. (I have some questions about the viability, but….)

Three, Surefield itself may or may not be the next big thing, but it seems to me that it is yet another entrant into space that are explicitly seeking to change the way that business is done in real estate. These tech-enabled brokerages are the front-wave of Real Estate 3.0 (yes, yes, I know such Web 3.0, Internet 4.0, and Human 2.0 type of stuff is just marketing-speak for the most part, but I do like the phrase to signify this next generation of attempts) and I think there’s something going on there.

Let’s get into it.

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It’s Time for a Grand Conversation on the MLS

I just got back from NAR New Orleans where I got to see old friends (not enough of y’all, because that event is so f’in huge) and meet some new friends. But I said that I would be watching for some things at the event. Turns out, there wasn’t much to watch. Not a lot of drama at all.

The CoX thing sailed through, but the result is that some workgroup will write up something. So we’ll wait to see what they come up with. The MLS stuff, with its very broad, general language, turned out to be important.

In fact, I think this vote approving the changes to the MLS is far more significant than most people seem to appreciate. The changes go right to the heart of what the MLS is and should be. And those changes may be really positive ones whose time has come.

For those reasons, I am now formally calling for a “Grand Conversation” about the MLS. If the industry is going to make these fundamental changes, then it ought to do so consciously, knowing what it wants to achieve, rather than making incremental changes here and there without realizing where it’s ended up.

Let’s get into it.

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Things to Watch for at NAR New Orleans

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This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for over a week now, except that work and life got in the way. Well, with my long drive to the Big Easy scheduled for tomorrow (by the way, I’ll be doing a fun and thought-provoking event with Stefan Swanepoel at the NAR Strategic Thinking Forum from 9AM to 11AM at the Hilton… /endselfpromo) I thought I’d spend a few minutes discussing something… intriguing.

Said something is the REALTOR(r) of the Future policy proposal that will be brought before the NAR Board of Directors in New Orleans. A faithful reader sent me a copy in PDF, which I’ve embedded below.

Read the whole thing; it’ll be interesting if you’re a real estate industry nerd like… well… me.

Since these are mere proposals, we’ll have a chance to delve into them deeper after the NAR Board acts on them. Changes may be made between now and the vote. But with that said, there are a few really intriguing things in this. We touch on those now.

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Raising the Bar and Lawsuits… A Thought

I know I haven’t been blogging, but hey… when you’re sitting on the beach in Aruba staring at gently lapping waves of turquoise waters, diving into the Interwebz isn’t real high on your list of priorities. Trust me on that. :)

In any event, saw an interesting little tidbit this morning on Inman News that got me thinking. The item is this: “Realtors are all talk when it comes to education” The embedded video is below.

I met Leigh Brown at HearItDirect/RETSO event in Atlanta, and thought she was energetic and not afraid to speak her mind (as you can see above).

But here’s the thing. Leigh equates more education with Raising the Bar (an ill-defined concept, I know, but one that most of us kinda ‘get’ in our guts). She asks what’s it gonna take.

What if the answer is something seemingly unrelated? What if the answer is a lawsuit currently making its way through the California court system? Let me explain.

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On Rupert Murdoch Buying Realtor.com (Part 2): Wherefore Hope?

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I meant to get this up days ago, but between travel, client engagements, other writings, and an upcoming vacation, I just couldn’t. But if you’ve missed Part 1, you can check it out here.

In a nutshell, part 1 worries about whether the acquisition would be allowed to proceed without the government requiring that ListHub be spun off or sold off. It also speculates on whether large brokerages and franchises would be happy about a NEWSTOR.com extending into mortgages and elsewhere.

Since that post, and in my travels and conversations, I’ve heard quite a lot of opinions from agents, brokers, MLS CEO’s, Association Execs, and others about how this acquisition is a total gamechanger. In fact, no less an august personage than Brad Inman himself, the publisher of Inman News, wrote the following with the headline “Do Not Underestimate Rupert Murdoch“:

For certain, News Corp’s acquisition of Move changes the chessboard of online real estate. Any hubris at Zillow headquarters in Seattle has suddenly been clipped. But it eases FTC approval of the Zillow-Trulia merger because suddenly there is formidable competition.

Most importantly, this move will spawn greater innovation for the consumer and better offers to agents and brokers. Some will argue it gives the real estate industry relief from a monolithic distribution partner, solving a vexing problem in one clean sweep. But the industry should still be on its toes: Murdoch and Zillow should never be underestimated.

I cite Brad Inman because he’s such a respected part of the industry who speaks so rarely that when he does speak, it gets people’s attention. I also cite it because I think his views here are echoed in the views of so many others I’ve spoken with about the News-Move deal.

The core idea expressed by those folks is something like, “Now that News Corp. is in the mix, Zillow had better watch out!” That idea, in turn, is supported by two assumptions:

  1. News Corp and REA have far superior management talent than does Move/NAR, and freed up from meddling by NAR, the new Realtor.com is going to get super-duperific.
  2. News Corp will leverage its immense media assets to drive traffic to Realtor.com like Black Friday drives shoppers to WalMart.

Both of those assumptions may turn out to be true. But from where I sit today, I think both assumptions are rather… optimistic… or overblown… or simply wrong. News Corp’s taking over Move may turn out to be a gamechanger, of course, but I see nothing yet that suggests any such conclusion.

Let’s dive into why.

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