Author Archives: Rob Hahn

Brokerages and Customer Service: Show Me the Money

T3-photo

Some of the most powerful men and women in real estate at T3 Summit.

This will be brief, as I am in Las Vegas and both the dinner reservation and the craps table are calling me. But if I don’t write this now, I’m afraid it’ll never see the light of day.

At Stefan Swanepoel’s T3 Summit event that just finished yesterday (a wonderful couple of days of really high-level conversations), I got up to ask a question to a panel discussing consumer experience. The panelists were Grier Allen of Boomtown, Austin Allison of Dotloop, Steve Berkowitz of Move, Lawrence Flick of BHHS Fox & Roach, Steve Ozonian of Carrington, and Phil Soper of Royal LePage. In other words, heavy hitters, big time decision makers at big time companies. Of course, in the audience were CEO’s of practically every major franchise company and numerous bigtime brokerages.

The panel ran out of time before I could ask the question, but… it so happens that I write a blog that many of the people I want to reach read… so…

The issue the panelists were discussing was the importance of delivering consummate consumer experience, coupled to the difficulty of having a group of independent contractors deliver that awesome customer service experience. There was much talk of technology platforms that can help, training that can be delivered to these independent agents, etc. and so on.

My question was, and is, this:

For the brokerage leaders on the panel, I understand the difficulty of trying to get your agents to do anything, whether undergoing training or implementing customer service technology platforms. But here’s what I’m curious about. Are your office managers compensated on the basis of customer service, or on the basis of recruiting and driving affiliated business leads?

Because if it’s the latter… what the hell are we talking about here?

This is obviously a rhetorical question. So here’s what I’d like to recommend to every brokerage CEO, every brand President, and every person in a position of leadership in a real estate organization who wants to talk the talk about customer service.

Show me the money — bonus your office managers based on customer service.

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Association, MLS, RPAC: An Idea for Political Domination

Tywin_Lannister_2

Tywin Lannister, Chair of Casterly Rock Association of REALTORS

File this one under: “There Is No Box” kind of thinking. The reason why this isn’t a Black Paper (yet) is that I haven’t checked with enough lawyers to see all of the possible pitfalls, but that might happen sooner rather than later.

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was having an email exchange with a couple of lawyers from NAR’s Legal team that was sending electric tingles of excitement down my legs. The reason is that so far, on a preliminary basis, while requiring further research, and a dozen other caveats — very typical for smart lawyers, since one never knows for sure until the Supreme Court rules, and even then, things can be overturned and so on and so forth — it appears that it’s possible to….

Okay, just in case you haven’t had enough of the caveats and maybes and warnings, let’s say that you should check with your own legal counsel in your state. But here’s the rough outline.

It appears that it is perfectly legal under federal law for the Association of REALTORS to transfer its ownership in the MLS to the PAC. The result would be total domination at the local and probably state levels in terms of political contributions.

Say what? Let’s delve in.

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Will CLAW Be the Waterloo for Anti-Syndication Forces?

La Battaile de Waterloo

La Battaile de Waterloo

[This post was written to be posted almost a month ago, when the Errol Samuelson news broke, wiping the media calendar clean. And then I went on the road. Nonetheless, the issues raised here and the access to Zillow and to Annie Ives are important enough and I think still relevant, so I figured I'd post it. Even if a bit later than I had hoped.] 

The CLAW/TheMLS 48-hour delay saga enters a new chapter, as I have some new data and some new information in my possession. For those not familiar with what’s going on, this Inman story by Andrea Brambila is an excellent place to start. And of course, I’ve already written about the tension between CLAW and CRMLS.

I have been working on trying to get a bit more information on some facts surrounding the brouhaha, and I managed to get a senior Zillow executive on the phone to get their side of the story. What I’ve learned makes me re-evaluate l’affaire de CLAW in a new light. This might be a seminal event in the evolution of real estate, a Waterloo for the anti-syndication forces within the MLS industry.

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NAR Acquires Ashley Madison, Plans New Consumer Ad Strategy

AshleyMadison

CHICAGO (April 1, 2014) – The National Association of Realtors® has agreed to acquire the online relationship website Ashley Madison (www.ashleymadison.com) from Avid Life Media for an undisclosed sum. Ashley Madison encourages extramarital relationships, with the tagline, “Life is short. Have an affair.”

As part of the acquisition, Darren Morgenstern, Operations Director for AshleyMadison.com, will join NAR as the SVP of Special Media Unit Team, reporting directly to CEO Dale Stinton. A spokesperson for NAR called the acquisition “strategic in nature” and that NAR plans to utilize Ashley Madison as the centerpiece for a new consumer-facing advertising campaign starting in 2015 tentatively called, “It’s Not Worth Saving”.

“We are thrilled to have Ashley Madison join the NAR team,” said Stinton. “We believe that the acquisition will really help accelerate the recovery in the real estate market over the medium and long term. The acquisition, and the new consumer advertising campaign, will help us deliver on the promise to our members to help drive their business forward during challenging times.”

“We were actually a bit surprised when NAR approached us,” said Noel Biderman, CEO of Avid Life Media. “We didn’t really think that our niche online dating properties had much to do with a real estate association. But once NAR explained the linkage between divorce and home sale transactions, we saw the light.”

Avid Life Media will retain its other web properties, but members of NAR will receive 25% discounts on all of its properties for the next 10 years. “Given the demographics of the average REALTOR, we thought the discount policy, especially to CougarLife.com, made perfect sense,” explained Biderman.

“Most people understand that household formation is key to the real estate market,” said Bob Goldberg, SVP of NAR who oversaw the acquisition. “But most people only think of marriages when thinking about household formation. Since Gen-Y is simply not marrying at the rate we need for a robust first-time homebuyer market, burdened as they are with student debt, a terrible job market, and odd dating market dynamics, we knew that the real estate market was in trouble over the next decade or so if we just rely on these twentysomethings to get married and have kids. What people don’t realize is that divorce also creates households — in fact, it creates two households from one. We aim to encourage household formation, one way or another.”

NAR’s strategy is to promote Ashley Madison to all of its one million members, on the popular consumer website Realtor.com operated by Move, Inc., and to all consumers through its members as well as local and national advertising. By encouraging consumers to use Ashley Madison, NAR believes that will increase the number of divorces throughout the country, particularly in the high-income urban and suburban markets that suffer from low inventory. NAR says that divorce is a major factor in driving inventory of for-sale listings, as the couple usually has to sell the house they have shared as part of the divorce proceedings. Furthermore, each former spouse usually ends up renting or buying his and her own residences, resulting in as many of three separate home sale transactions per divorce.

“If we can increase the number of divorces in the U.S. by 500,000, we estimate that will result in an additional 1.1 million existing home sales transactions,” said Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist of NAR. “By taking annual home sales from the 4.6 million rate we saw in February to 5.7 million we think we can achieve with this campaign, our REALTOR members should see a permanently elevated level of business for the foreseeable future.”

While conservative Christian groups were quick to condemn the acquisition, the deal has garnered praise from a wide variety of organizations, including the American Bar Association, National Association of Apartment Managers, and the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries, as well as online dating.

CRMLS Makes Like Lewis & Clark

872px-Lewis_and_Clark_Expedition

I’m still on the road, and overly occupied, but the latest news about CRMLS (a former client) is exciting and deserves at least a couple of comments. From Andrea Brambila’s report:

Brokers who belong to the nation’s largest multiple listing service will soon get a capability they’ve long clamored for: the option to upload listing data directly from their own back-end office systems to the MLS.

“We have some very large brokers that would love to have their agents input their listing information into the broker’s system” and then upload it to the MLS, CRMLS CEO Art Carter told Inman News.

Currently, agents must log into the MLS and key in the same listing information separately. Or they can enter listing data into their MLS system first, and the MLS will feed the information back to their broker’s back-end office system.

Yep. While the technology to do this two-way flow has been around for years, CRMLS is making like Lewis & Clark and exploring the wild unknowns here. The rest of the industry will benefit from watching how things unfold. Kudos to Art, his team, and to the CRMLS Board for taking this important step.

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