Monthly Archives: January 2011

Tools May Be Great, But…

The most frequently pressed number in a voicemail system: "0" for Operator

Now that I am a consumer in the real estate market, having moved from New Jersey to Texas (like so many others) and therefore having placed my house in the hands of a Realtor, I get to have some cool experiences. I wanted to share one of them with you all, especially the real estate professionals, because it struck me that this is probably not a perspective you get often from your buyers or sellers.

Tools. They’re great. I know many of you use tons of them. But you are going to want to consider how the consumer on the receiving end might perceive them. I got an email today from my agent, Sue Adler — or more precisely, I did not get an email from my agent, Sue Adler — which triggered this post.

Done correctly, tools can and do help you work more efficiently, more effectively, stay in touch better, and improve customer service. But more often than not, tools can make you seem impersonal and distant, like you just don’t care. And that’s probably not a good thing in something like a real estate transaction.

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On Time Performance and Service Providers

There are a few things that we all put up with, which puzzle me. Why do we tolerate computer crashes from our mobile phones? Why do we put up with rude government workers? And finally, why do we accept as normal that service providers of all kinds would not show up on time?

Consider my experiences connected to the recent move.

I call up and order new cable & Internet for my new house in Houston. Comcast is decent with things like this, but even then, they give me a window of four hours for when the installer would arrive. And the installer, as usual, doesn’t arrive until the very last minute. In the past, I’ve had the installer completely blow the window and show up three hours late, or not at all, forcing me to call Customer Service numerous times to check on where the hell the installer is.

I order carpet installed in my New Jersey home. The appointment is made for Friday, and I’m given a time slot of “between noon and 1pm” — which shocked me with how precise it is. Well, with 10 minutes to go to noon, I call the installer to see where he is, and he tells me, “I won’t make it on time, but I can get there by 5pm.”  WTF? Why give me a time slot of between noon and 1pm, and then not bother to tell me you’re going to blow it bigtime? Did you not know that you weren’t finished with the prior job at say 11am?

I order U-Haul storage pods for moving. Dropoff is scheduled for Monday. Monday comes and goes, and in the afternoon, I call U-Haul to find out where the hell my pods are, since I need them to actually move things into them. “Oh, sorry, we had a glitch in the system and won’t be able to deliver them until tomorrow.”  Tomorrow comes… and starts to go…. It takes three phone calls before I finally get a hold of someone who finally decides to drop off the damn pods.  Once finished, I call and schedule a pickup for Tuesday. Tuesday comes and goes. Wednesday comes and goes. I call, I call, I call. Finally, I’m told that they’ll pick up on Friday.

Why do we put up with this? Are we not paying these people?

I have a few suggestions for the service provider industry, including one for real estate.

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Brief Thoughts on Google’s Retreat from Real Estate

Yes, brave Sir Google turned about / And gallantly he chickened out

As I’m sure you all have heard by now, Google has decided to beat a hasty retreat from real estate:

In part due to low usage, the proliferation of excellent property-search tools on real estate websites, and the infrastructure challenge posed by the impending retirement of the Google Base API (used by listing providers to submit listings), we’ve decided to discontinue the real estate feature within Google Maps on February 10, 2011.

That ain’t a lot of time to announce a pullback, so… either this decision has been brewing for a long time, or a new executive team somewhere in the Google hierarchy has decided to prune and trim all over the place.

Given that I’m one of those who thought Google’s Real Estate Place Pages was a big story, I suppose this retrenchment requires rethinking things. But I don’t know how much it changes things, really.

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Trulia, Syndication, Confusion

Sami Inkinen, co-founder of Trulia, has written a blogpost about the future of syndication where he raises some important questions about where the real estate industry is headed with distribution of listings:

Now that listing syndication has become a mainstream practice and “syndication sites” like Trulia have grown to serve millions of users, an old question has raised its head again, namely: Is syndication good or bad for me as a real estate broker?

In many recent conversations with brokers and industry leaders, it is clear to me that some people are frustrated and concerned with the direction of listing syndication. (Emphasis in original)

Sami goes on to make a number of points that ultimately fail to answer the question he posed, and further fails to support the conclusion he draws. Nonetheless, given the importance of Trulia to the industry, and the importance of Sami within the company, I think it’s worth reading the whole thing. (Note, you will need to skip over some of the more salesy aspect of the post and focus on the points Sami is making, rather than the promotion of Trulia and its products….) I’ll be here, after the jump.

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Four Random Reflections on Moving

Farewell, And Thanks for All the Fish!

So tomorrow is going to be my last day in New Jersey as a resident, unless something really dramatic happens and I get incarcerated here. I have a bunch of random, somewhat conflicted, thoughts going on and figured I’d share four of them here with you.

This got long, partly because I’ve gone through quite a bit, and partly because I’m going to be driving sixteen hours a day for the next three to four days. So blogging will be difficult, to say the least.

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