Monthly Archives: May 2012

Description is Not Prescription: A Response to Brian Larson on IDX


Just because I say that smoking will lead to cancer doesn't mean I want you to get cancer, okay?

One of the guys I respect most in this business — indeed, one of the guys I learned the most from just by reading his excellent blog, MLS Tesseract — is Brian Larson of Larson, Sobotka. Brian was a key player in the creating of IDX back in the late 90’s and probably has forgotten more about the subject than I ever knew.

So when Brian takes me to task on a set of views related to IDX… well, I have little choice but the perk up the old ears, pay attention, and see where I might have gone wrong. He writes:

Rob Hahn has said there is no meaningful difference between IDX and syndication and that he thinks brokers pulling out of syndication are a harbinger of IDX’s demise; but I think he’s dead wrong. I’ll try to make my point here in a post considerably shorter than one of Rob’s Notoriously long ones 😉 You can see Rob’s post claiming (erroneously, I think) the equivalence of IDX to syndication here; regarding the Austin “kerfuffle” as evidence of the impending demise of IDX here; and offering further comments about Austin and IDX here.

He goes on to point out a few things where he disagrees with me. For example, he writes:

But Rob has suggested that VOWs are just as good. I disagree: VOWs are not a satisfactory substitute (so far) for IDX.

Upon further review, I don’t believe we have any disagreement here. What we might have is a failure to communicate — namely, the difference between describing something vs. advocating for something. There are a few errors of interpretation on Brian’s part — such as the statement above about IDX being just as good as VOW — which I am happy to correct.

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In Which I Solve the Syndication Problem, Once And For All


Solved! Once And For All...?

Let’s suppose that you’re some graduate student at Beijing University and you want to write a paper on the major issues confronting the American real estate industry. So you start googling and going to blogs (like this one maybe) and open groups on Facebook and whatnot to find out what critical issues are top of mind for brokers and agents in the United States. Given that you hail from a country that doesn’t allow private ownership in land, you figure that the Americans are way ahead of you in terms of dealing with important issues that might come up as China liberalizes its real estate policies. Plus, you’ve read the news, you keep up with what’s going on.

Would the major issues be the precarious state of housing finance? Maybe American real estate professionals are all about Qualified Residential Mortgage rule. Maybe it’s dealing with the advances in Big Data. Maybe it’s trying to figure out how advances in artificial intelligence would impact things.

No, actually, our Chinese graduate student would likely find that the #1 issue on the minds of American brokers and agents is syndication. Quite literally, hundreds of thousands of brokers, agents, consultants, MLS executives, Association leaders, and vendors are talking about, debating, and getting riled up about basic questions such as, “Should I send my listings to Zillow?”

I believe it is well past high time to get over syndication. It simply is not and should not be an issue of import. There are more important things to discuss as an industry.

Therefore, in the spirit of public service, I will draw together the many strands of thinking on syndication and show that the problem has been solved. Most of this appears elsewhere on this blog or in public speeches I’ve given, but let’s see if we can’t put it all in one place for easy consumption.

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Austin’s IDX Kerfuffle and Antitrust Issues


You know who doesn't have an opinion on IDX? These guys.

So that whole Austin IDX kerfuffle is back in the news again, courtesy of Inman:

A contingent of Austin Realtors say listing agents should be clearly identified when brokers and agents publicize each other’s listings on their websites.

With two of the city’s prominent luxury brokers leading the charge, they’ve asked the Austin Board of Realtors (ABoR) to change current policies governing the display of Internet Data Exchange (IDX) listings.

An equally vocal group of ABoR members contends that promoting other brokers’ listings on their websites is one thing, but promoting their agents is quite another. They object to a proposed IDX rule change that would require them to identify listing agents on the properties they showcase on their sites.

I wrote about the Austin IDX issue a while back, but this Inman article introduces a new element to the story:

Some listing brokers and agents who are pushing for rule changes also want sellers to have the ability to opt out of having their listings included in feeds of shared listing data, without giving up their right to advertise their home on the listing broker’s website.

A selective, listing-by-listing “opt out” of IDX listing feeds is frowned upon by antitrust regulators. Model rules drawn up by the National Association of Realtors and adopted by most multiple listing services (MLSs) require that brokers take an “all-in” or “all-out” approach. (Emphasis added)

Izzatso? Since I covered most of the issues in the Austin IDX Kerfuffle in a previous post on the subject, I want to focus on this one aspect of antitrust and IDX.

I must now solemnly warn you that I am not licensed to practice law in the State of Texas, and that anything you read in here is just my opinion and does not constitute a legal opinion. Please consult your own attorney for actual legal advice. And so on and so forth.

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An Interview with Matt Dollinger, Head of Industry Relations, Trulia

New Head of Industry Relations, Trulia

As many of my readers know, Matthew Dollinger is one of my closest friends in the industry. Some folks, including Matt’s wife, have called our relationship a full-blown bromance. (It’s the hair, really….) But fact is, Matt has been one of the driving forces behind the innovations at @Properties — the largest brokerage in the Chicagoland market, whom I have profiled as an example of a viable brokerage business model. The man knows what agents want and need, and what concerns and challenges a broker has.

So I was happy for Matt when Trulia tapped him to be the new Head of Industry Relations. I rather thought Trulia managed to pull off a coup on that hire, and I’m somewhat eager to see what Matt would bring to the table as he shifts from the brokerage side of the industry to the technology side.

I thought it would be fun to conduct an interview with Matt and bring it to my loyal (if silent) readers. It starts after the fold.

(Full Disclosure: Trulia is not a client. However, I have provided unpaid advice to Trulia on certain strategic matters in the past, and may again in the future.)

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The REALTOR Rally and the Desperate Need For A New Political Action Paradigm

Rally to Protect The American Dream on May 17th

This is a tough post to write. I’m actually debating for the first time while typing this into the little WordPress window whether I would actually hit “Publish” at the end of it. If you’re reading this, it means that I’ve overcome whatever hesitation I’ve had, but I want you to understand how hard it was to do that. Why?

Because the Rally to Protect the American Dream (aka, REALTOR Rally) that just took place on Thursday is something many, many of my friends are justifiably excited about. That rally is said to be the largest in-person gathering of REALTORS in one place (although, I’m under the impression that NAR Annual Convention draws more people than that… but I guess it depends on what you mean by “one place”). NAR says that about 13,500 REALTORS showed up in person, and an additional 13,576 REALTORS joined in virtually. The organizers should be proud of what they accomplished, on fairly short notice as I understand things from conversations.

Getting strong statements of support from Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a REALTOR himself, as well as Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for NAR’s policy programs is a win for the rally organizers as well:

“I commend the National Association of Realtors® for keeping the issue of homeownership at the forefront when we talk about our economic recovery,” said Rep. Hoyer. “Stabilizing the housing market remains a central issue for Democrats, who understand we will not have robust economic growth without a vibrant housing market and that access to homeownership remains a critical component of the American Dream.”

Sen. Isakson said, “Homeownership always has been, and remains to this day, a part of the American dream. It is the biggest and most important investment that the average American family makes, and that’s why we should remain focused on the value of the housing market and the important role it plays in our country. It is my hope that this rally encourages Congress and the president to move forward with policies that are supportive of housing, which is vital to job creation and the recovery of our economy.”

So that’s all very very good. On almost all of the traditional metrics, the Rally to Protect the American Dream can be called a smashing success. I want nothing more than to join in with friends like Chris Nichols and Nobu Hata and Brian Copeland in being thrilled with the event.

Yet… to me, the Rally and what quick-and-dirty aftermath I’m seeing suggest that it is high time for NAR to embrace a new paradigm for political action. Yes, this is a continuation of, and a confirmation of, my posts to date on the Leaner and Meaner Association. Yes, I expect Bill Lublin to weigh in shortly. :)

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