Category Archives: Management

IDX, Syndication, and Vindication: Oh, That Crazy Rob Hahn Edition

Vindication-Vineyards-Viognier

This is a brief post, since I just got off nearly three weeks straight of being on the road. The latest stop was at Stefan Swanepoel’s T3 Summit where I spoke on a panel and had a great time bantering with Brian Boero of 1000watt about hot topics in the industry. I may do a fuller review of the event and some of the issues raised, but… this post is almost 95% personal. :)

For the past few years, I’ve been arguing that there is no reasonable difference between syndication and IDX, and that the fervor against syndication must and will result in the death of IDX. I put it formally on “paper” (on this blog) in January of 2012 with my Seven Predictions for 2012 post when I named the Start of the End of IDX as one of the predictions.

As longtime readers know, the response from the industry has been… well… let’s say that it ranged from well-constructed arguments on why the two are different, to bemused dismissal, to “Oh, that crazy Rob Hahn!”

Here are a few examples of the more rational, well-constructed arguments:

Kris Berg:

“Both Rob Hahn and Jay Thompson pointed out that Internet Data Exchange (IDX) sites like yours, mine, and the sites of every brokerage in the country, are no different than the Troika sites. I don’t agree. The data accuracy issue becomes a relative non-issue where IDX is concerned save the MLS input errors. Even then, the MLS’s have procedures in place for policing and ultimately ensuring compliance. More importantly, IDX sites lack the resale component of the troika sites. While an inquiry on my listing may in fact go the agent-owner of another IDX site – and often does – consumers are generally clear on the fact that they are on a particular broker’s or agent’s site. And while some ambiguity may still exist where an IDX site is concerned, they are not simply trying to sell the customer to the highest bidder.”

Brian Larson:

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.

And we can go on, but in the interests of space, let’s curtail it. Suffice to say that for as long as I can remember, people have been pointing at various reasons why IDX != Syndication, and why the same people yelling about “My listings, my leads” when it comes to Zillow are as quiet as the grave when it comes to same listing on a website of an agent 75 miles away.

Well, on my MLS panel, Ken Jenny of tranCen, whose clients include some of the largest brokerages and national franchises, said many things from a very broker-centric perspective, and one of them was that brokers are starting to question IDX. I was sitting on the panel, so I didn’t write down his comments word for word, but to the best of my memory, Ken likened IDX to the practice of planting your yard sign on someone else’s listings, which “we would never allow in any other situation”.

I about fell out of my chair.

That argument, about yard signs on someone else’s listings, is exactly the same one made by people like Jim Abbott of ARG against syndication. It was one of the foundational reasons why I thought syndication = IDX, and that all the hoopla over Zillow would spill over into the thousands and thousands of broker and agent websites that rely on IDX to generate leads… off of someone else’s listings.

Look, Ken Jenny mentioned a lot of other issues, including bombs like “brokers are wondering about mandatory cooperation and compensation”, but I’m marking down April 9, 2015 as one Day of Vindication for yours truly. :)

I might be crazy. I might be a couple of years ahead of my time. Or both. To be fair, many of you were among the first to recognize the logic, so here’s a tip o’ the cap to you! #bestreadersintheindustry

-rsh

Constituents, Customers, Competition: The Root of All Issues of the MLS

constituents

Our UI suxxorz!

 

In the comments to my previous post about MLS making money, Carol Van Gorp wrote something that really made some things click for me. Here’s her comment:

The larger issues is where the profits come from. If an MLS’s profit is out of the pockets of the constituents it serves, then that is wrong. If the profit comes from selling products and services to other people/associations, then that is a different story! (Emphasis mine)

Ladies and gentlemen, we may have isolated the root of all the problems of the MLS. I’ve kind of thought similar things for the past few years, but that word “constituent” brought things into focus. Seriously, I have the best readers in the industry.

Let me lay out the case.

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On NRT’s New HomesForSale.com (Which Most Folks Are Misunderstanding)

Making Sense I know some folks think I’m a Realogy homer. Well, given that’s where I got my start in the industry, maybe I’m a little bit guilty of that whole “cut me and I bleed blue” thing. But I think I’m actually calling things as I see them; I’ve been plenty critical of Realogy when they’ve done something deserving of criticism, and I’m complimentary when they’ve done something right.

The newest Realogy initiative that’s making waves is HomesForSale.com, a “national” portal for the NRT, Realogy’s company-owned brokerage operations. I mentioned it and some screenshots yesterday, when I was really talking about some issues that the MLS probably needs to address. Since then I’ve seen all sorts of discussion about HomesForSale, about NRT, etc. etc. both publicly and privately.

Almost all of the commentary thus far has been negative. The main thrust of such criticism is something like this:

If this is the best that Realogy can do to compete against Zillow and Trulia and Realtor.com, it’s farcical. There’s nothing innovative or new here, and the site isn’t even mobile responsive, and the color scheme sucks too!

Or something along those lines.

Thing is, I think this line of criticism is almost wholly unwarranted, because it is based on a misunderstanding of the strategy behind HomesForSale. I actually think HomesForSale is a nice move, one that could fail of course like any initiative, but it’s solidly grounded in strategy.

Let’s get into it.

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Tell Me Again How the MLS is the “Gold Standard” of Data Accuracy?

Homes_For_Sale__Real_Estate_Listings____MLS_Search___HomesForSale_com

I’ll have some thoughts on Realogy/NRT’s new HomesForSale.com later, but I couldn’t resist this brief observation.

I kinda knew the problem existed, but until this splashy website came along, we did not have the visual impact/evidence. If HomesForSale.com accomplishes nothing else, it really ought to wake up the industry (particularly the MLS) about the problem with data in the MLS.

Let me explain, with pictures.

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Who’s Down With BPP? Yeah You Know Me!

I figured that my post on the Broker Public Portal would create some conversation, and I didn’t figure wrong.

Brian Boero of 1000Watt discussed the BPP on their “Friday Flash” email newsletter, saying:

If you want to know all the reasons why a broker-controlled national listing site might not work, read this post from Rob Hahn. I don’t share his bleak perspective on this project, but I do admire his deep exploration of the matter.

And Drew Meyers over at GeekEstate wrote a post which was then copyright-violated across the Interwebz, saying:

As you can tell, I’m a skeptic. Brian at 1000Watt penned some thoughts on the broker portal project today as well. His were not as bleak as the opinion of Rob’s and mine. If someone involved wants to hear my thoughts on how to actually make this work, send me an email.

Thanks for the mention and the links, fellas, but um, let me correct the record in one small respect. I’m not bleak about the BPP. Nor did I post all of the reasons why the BPP wouldn’t work. I wrote one concrete suggestion (“buy, don’t build”) and two concerns based on my knowledge and experience of the organizational side of the industry.

Those concerns, which are almost entirely about governance and ownership issues, turn out to be on point with people directly involved with the BPP project. I’ve heard from enough of them to know they agree that governance and ownership are two difficult thorny issues they need to work through.

IF ownership issues can be resolved, IF clear mission objectives can be established, and IF the governance issues are handled… then now is a great time for BPP. Move is now a small part of a global media behemoth. The FTC approved Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia; the deal will close next week. Now would be a great time for a serious competitor to Zillow and News Corp to emerge.

For the record, I think I’m probably closer to Brian’s side of the Bleakness Divide than to Drew’s side, since I totally understand why the brokerages want to make Fair Display Guidelines the norm. But I don’t see my role as an advisor and industry observer to act as a cheerleader blowing sunshine up the valley of darkness.

Having said that, there are a couple of interesting things from both Brian’s post and from Drew’s post that are worth discussing further. Let’s get into it.

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