Monthly Archives: April 2011

Do REALTORS Have A Duty to Report A Client’s Fraud?

Had a most interesting discussion with a REALTOR friend last night over dinner about professional ethics, and came across an interesting question. We didn’t know the answer, so I figured I’d blog about it and ask you all.

The question is whether a REALTOR has a duty to disclose bad acts by a client, or more importantly, by an ex-client, if she knows that what the client is planning on doing is (a) illegal, (b) unethical, and/or (c) fraudulent.

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Why IDX At All?

Inman News is reporting on an upcoming issue with IDX: whether IDX should be distributed “via RSS”. [Since I'm on an iPad, I won't be copying and pasting text from the story. Go read it in full, though.]

Basically, the issue is that some people want to put IDX listings on Facebook, Twitter, and various mobile apps. The proponents say, “What’s the big deal anyhow? It’s not like listings aren’t everywhere anyhow.” The opponents, the most prominent of which is quoted in the story as being Realty Alliance, say that this would lead to chaos, the listing agents violating their duties to clients, as well as MLS IDX rules.

All of this, of course, is very interesting — and should make NAR Mid-Year even more interesting than usual. But coming on the heels of the syndication debate, the Franchise IDX debate, this makes me wonder, “Why IDX at all?”

A couple of years ago, at Inman NY, I remember speaking with a bunch of really smart real estate tech guys and suggesting that IDX might have outlived its usefulness with how dominant Google has become. And IDX blew up to be a mainstay of real estate tech. But the central issue I was worried about then has not been resolved. If anything, these conflicts suggest to me that we’re headed towards a showdown.

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A TED Talk, and an Experiment

I’ve watched the above video three times now. It’s Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker who made a number of documentaries, the most widely known of which is Supersize Me, talking about his new project: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold. It’s a look at the world of sponsorship, branding, and advertising.

Watch the whole video. The TED talk is really funny, it’s a great presentation, and the message is not lost. Spurlock thinks there isn’t enough transparency in business practices.  Transparency is scary, unpredictable, and risky for businesses. Yet, he believes it might be the way for companies and organizations to rise above the sea of carefully constructed brand narratives, massaged public relations messaging, and the like.

Well, I was inspired enough to try something: sell transparent sponsorship to one of my own “media activities” that is coming up.

I will be attending the NAR Mid-Year Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo this year. This will be the first one I will be attending with a “Press” badge. That means, in my mind, that I’m not attending merely as another vendor slut whore trying to drum up business from important people I’ll be meeting. To be sure, I’ll be trying to do just that, of course. But attending on a Press badget suggests to me that this year, I should actually do something related to y’know ‘journalistic-type’ of activities. Reporting on what I’m seeing and hearing. Reporting on the big Board of Directors vote on REALTOR Party Political Survival Initiative. Maybe even actually walking through the Trade Expo and reporting on new innovations, or lack thereof. This could be fun and interesting.

But of course, I’m not employed by any news organization to do these things. I’m paying for all of this out of pocket.

After watching Morgan Spurlock, I figured… hey, why not forthrightly sell the sponsorship rights to my NAR Mid-Year “Reporting”? (I put that in quotes since my reporting is likely to be filled with opinions and possible snark, and will feature the same level of fact-checking as say the New York Times, which is to say little to none.)

Therefore… presenting, Sponsor My NAR Mid-Year Reporting auction on Ebay!

I’d like to thank Jeff Turner (@respres) for being the first — and hopefully not the last — bidder for this once-in-a-lifetime-year opportunity. I mean, c’mon, if Jeff Turner — the most respected man in the RE.net — is willing to sponsor me, surely I’m on to something, right? So if you have a product or service you’d like to put in front of thousands of industry leaders, company CEO’s, and thought shapers who frequent this blog (and my 7DS blog), you should follow Jeff’s lead and start bidding up the sponsorship. Details are contained in the Ebay posting.

For the sake of transparency, which is the point of this exercise, I must inform you that my enthusiasm for reporting on the various goings-on at NAR Mid-Year is very likely to correlate inversely to the gap between my out of pocket expenses for doing so and the sponsorship dollars generated by this effort: smaller that gap, more enthusiastic I become as an amateur journalist/op-ed writer, and more stuff I’m like to cover. If the gap disappears altogether, or I actually make money from this, I might find a way to hunt down Lawrence Yun and take a photo with him side-by-side so as to dispel the myth that we are, in fact, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of real estate. (Lawrence and I have never been seen in the same place at the same time, you know… a fact that should make you wonder.)

And of course, at the conclusion of this experiment, I hope to have some thoughts on transparency, sponsorship, and the “media” in our industry. So join me, join Jeff, in this adventure.

Thank you

-rsh

This semi-shameless promotional message brought to you by The Hahn Foundation for Children: Advancing the educational opportunities of two specific American kids every day!

The Mundane Magic of the Church Choir

Don't look particularly magical, do they?

I just went to Easter services — the one worship service I make a point of not missing, even though I’m a terrible, terrible Christian in so many ways — at a local church here in Houston. Given that we haven’t yet found a home church, which likely will need to wait until we find a, y’know, a permanent home… it was really quite nice to be just a guest.

But at this service, the absolutely mundane yet absolutely amazing fact of the church choir just struck me. I thought I’d share that with you all.

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Turns Out, the iPhone IS the Perfect Phone for REALTORS

Not just a great phone, but a bug approved by the CIA!

Well, at least if you’re the manager of an office, or the broker in charge. It appears the iPhone doubles as a time-stamped tracking device:

Alasdair Allan and Pete Warden, a pair of security researchers, recently discovered that iPhones — as well as 3G-enabled iPads — running iOS 4 constantly record and store their users’ locations in unencrypted files. These files are basically very long lists of latitude-longitude coordinates and timestamps, and they can be found on the devices themselves as well as within the software backups saved on users’ computers.

Whee!

So let’s say you’re the broker or manager, and you have a team of agents who are supposedly hard at work at listing appointments, showing houses, meeting with prospects, and the like. If they own a Blackberry or an Android phone, then you’ll just have to trust that they’re in fact out doing productive things, instead of just improving their golf handicap or something. But if they own an iPhone, then you can install this handy little iPhone Tracker on your computer, ask them for the phone, plug it in, and voila! Confirmation of where they were and at what time.

Yes, this is creepy. Yes, real estate agents are independent contractors, at least in theory, and can set their own schedule. But if you suspect any one of goofing off, or not doing what she told you she was doing that afternoon, then you can check out the story very easily.

So, brokers, buy your agent an iPhone 4 today! They’ll love you for it, and you can track their movements. :D

-rsh

PS: In case you were wondering, yes, this is very much tongue-in-cheek. I know it’s hard to tell sometimes…