Monthly Archives: January 2012

In Which I Clarify My Worries Over Syndication and IDX, And Connect The Dots

The average denizen of the cybercafe — that includes you, since you’re reading this on a blog — knows that the hot topic du jour is syndication. I wrote about it here and here already, but frankly, have been talking about this issue for quite some time. And influential bloggers like Jay Thompson and Kris Berg have weighed in, and Facebook groups are all over this issue.

And I’ve gotten a couple of phone calls, a number of emails, and Facebook messages and such debating my one critical issue with me. I wrote that the issue here isn’t syndication, which is more or less dead in its current form, but IDX. And that one cannot be against syndication but for IDX. Jay Thompson agreed, while Kris Berg (to take but one example) disagreed.

So I’d like to explore this connection more, to clarify why the distinction between syndication and IDX does not, and cannot, hold. And what that then means for the future of the industry, by connecting a couple of dots.

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The Fly in the Syndication Ointment…

Another brief update, before my day of continuous meetings begin….

Regarding my post yesterday on the syndication brouhaha brought on by Abbott Realty Group… first, you need to read Jay Thompson’s take on the subject. He takes longer to articulate the issue than I did, and I think more clearly than I have:

If you feel syndicators are harming consumers by making it difficult to contact listing agents, they you must, MUST, also keep  your listings out of IDX distribution. The exact same issue of not reaching the listing agent that seems to bother so many in syndication also exists in IDX.

Trust me, we get calls and emails – seven days a week – from people searching on this very site who think we are the listing agent for the property they are viewing. Every. Day.

Don’t get me wrong. I **LOVE** IDX. It’s the lifeblood of my prospect generation efforts. 6,742 IDX search registrations in 2011 is a great thing. But if one of your main arguments for pulling your listings out of syndication is because potential buyers are confused and can’t reach the listing agent, then you MUST also pull out of IDX. The same problem exists in both systems. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Pulling out of syndication but using IDX smacks of hypocrisy.

The “syndication debate” will not end with smacking down TruZiltor. It will ultimately end up being a debate about buyer agency, the purpose of the MLS, the purpose of data-sharing. I’ve been predicting we’ll be doing that by NAR Annual in November. Maybe it’ll happen sooner than that.

I think that’s a wonderful, needed debate within the industry. Bring it on, I say, and sooner the better.

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Syndication: Here We Go

I’ve been traveling — planes, taxis, automobiles — and blogging has been difficult. And I’m typing this out in a hotel lobby before my next meeting, so it can’t be my typical overlong post. But I had to comment and ask questions about the latest salvo in the 2012 Syndication Wars.

I predicted in my 2012 Predictions post that listing syndication would be the big issue this year. Sure enough, events do not disappoint. You have probably seen this announcement by Jim Abbot of Abbot Realty Group by now:

And by now, you’ve seen some industry reactions. For example, this post by Tara Steele over at AgentGenius (they go by AGBeat these days?). Or you can check out Inman News reporting on the story (premium content).

I only have a couple of brief comments and a couple of questions about this.

First, this sort of move by brokerages was entirely predictable… but did it have to be a brokerage named ARG that opens up the salvo in 2012? I suspect many people will be making that sound in the coming months.

Second, given the number of times that Mr. Abbott talks about how valuable the listing information is, just how important it is as “intellectual property”, and talks about how major publicly traded companies like Zillow and could not survive without that intellectual property… am I the only non-REALTOR out there listening to that and wondering, “Hey, so all that information about my house is that valuable eh? Should I get any piece of all that valuable intellectual property action?”

Third, am I the only one that found it interesting that Mr. Abbott draws a fairly clear distinction between “our clients” and buyers? Of course, he does mention several times that if you’re looking to buy a house, that you should call Abbot Realty Group. But in a few moments, he makes it pretty clear that his clients are the home sellers, not necessarily the home buyers. This becomes relevant because…

The fourth, and most important point… actually, let’s make that a question. Listen to the message behind his outrage in the middle there (around the 4 minute mark). Listen to the substance of the complaint. Listen to him talk about irresponsible agents who don’t know the neighborhood, the development, sometimes steers the buyer into a property/area they do know, etc. The issue boils down to this critical phrase: “If you want honest, accurate information about a property, talk to the source.” Someone explain to me how that critical phrase does not apply with 100% force to IDX, please?

This is not the end of the syndication issue, and I’m out of time. So I’ll end this here, some 1800 words short of my average. But if you’d like, take a crack at answering that question, please. Inquiring minds wanna know.


Imagine All The People…

Lawrence Yun, the Chief Economist of NAR and my doppelganger, has a new post up in which he discusses the growth in global population:

In regards to the United States, some have claimed that the large number of people retiring and an eventual dying off of the baby boomers will mean less housing demand in the future. This ignores one simple fact about the broader population and not just the baby boomers. Every year about 3 million additional people live in the U.S. The projection by the Census further calls for more people for the foreseeable future with the total tally rising to 436 million by 2050 from the current total of 311 million people. Such growth assures steady housing demand.

The stabilizing population, according to experts, is to be around 9 to 10 billion people. Hard to think about what all this means. Demand for real estate is automatically created. But how many by that time will be able to say that they own a property of their own?

He ends by saying, “So imagine a condition where you see twice as many people around your local town and spatial area. Is that too much or it that absorbable?”

I’d say I’m one of those who have claimed that the large number of Baby Boomers retiring and eventually going to join the great Drum Circle in the sky would mean less housing demand in the future. So I find Lawrence’s line of thinking very, very encouraging: 3 million more people live in the U.S. every year. Hence, housing demand will be robust.

Maybe. But three things come to mind here.

First, global population growth is not U.S. population growth.

Second, housing demand as a function of population growth clearly ignores the very troubling trends in the generation most likely to replace the Boomers in the United States: the Millennials (or Gen-Y).

Third, the issue for real estate industry isn’t so much generic “housing demand” but what kinds of housing demand we will see.

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Simple, Easy, and the Starbucks Index


Easy Is Not Simple

I would write a review of my week in New York City at the Inman Connect conference… except that I was in meetings pretty much all day long, and missed all but one session. I’ll direct you instead to people like Sean Carpenter for a recap.

But I did have a great series of #lobbycon sessions with new friends and old, typically over cocktails, and sometimes on street corners. That made me have one of those “a-ha” moments, which is either a flash of insight or complete idiocy. I figured you guys could tell me which it is.

Simple. Easy. The two are not the same thing. In fact, I think I could make a pretty strong argument that they are actually opposites of each other. That which is simple is rarely easy, and that which is easy is rarely simple.

I had the feeling last week that within real estate, all of the conversation, all of the energy, all of the innovation (to the extent that such is innovative at all) is around Easy. We rarely, if ever, talk about that which is Simple. Because for whatever reason, the Simple is hopelessly unrealistic in our industry.

Allow me to explain by way of introducing a new concept: The Starbucks Index.

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