Category Archives: Management

In Which I Speak to Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move, Inc.

Steve Berkowitz, CEO, Move, Inc.

It’s now been a couple of days, and Errol Samuelson’s defection from Realtor.com to Zillow remains the top story in the world of real estate. I posted two questions about the move yesterday (and had one answered very quickly), and reached out to both Errol and to Move for comments.

As of this writing, I haven’t heard from Errol, but I did manage to speak with Steve Berkowitz, the CEO of Move, and Errol’s immediate boss until earlier this week. I didn’t record the conversation, so I’m going from memory and my notes here.

Bottom line: If Berkowitz knew the answer to my first question — why no notice? — then he put on an Academy Award worthy performance. I think he was still very much in shock at what happened. Furthermore, this event injects an element of animosity into a business rivalry that may have far reaching consequences for everyone involved.

Without further ado…

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The CLAW Saga Gets More Interesting: Art Carter Administers A Beatdown on Annie Ives

UFC 100

The CLAW/TheMLS saga gets more interesting. For background, read this Inman News article by Andrea Brambila, who does consistently decent reporting on these arcane issues for our industry.

Basically, CLAW decided to delay syndication feeds via ListHub by 48 hours. Chaos ensued. I’m trying to find out some more stuff about it, but the latest turn is… interesting to say the least. :)

It appears that Art Carter, the CEO of CRMLS, the largest MLS in the country and a neighboring MLS to CLAW, issued a letter to subscribers of CRMLS a few days ago to respond to a few points that Annie Ives, the CEO of CLAW, sent to her subscribers.

I was sent both letters by someone who belongs to both MLSs, and thought the exchange raises some… interesting points and questions. Suffice to say that the title of this post is not much of a hyperbole. Art does in fact administer the verbal equivalent of a beatdown.

[DISCLOSURE: CRMLS is a past client of mine at 7DS Associates. But I did not receive the emails from Art Carter, or from CRMLS, and had no communication with them about this post. I thought I should disclose the past business relationship, however.]

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A Good Step… First of Thousands on the Long Road

NAR’s First Board of Directors, 1909. That tall gentleman in the middle of the front row is most definitely NOT Dale Stinton, despite the striking resemblance.

Just saw on Facebook that NAR has renamed the “Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo” — its annual meeting in Washington DC — to “REALTOR Party Convention & Trade Expo“. Seeing as how I’ve been preachin’ (to the choir, mostly) for quite some time that the REALTOR Association needs to focus on its core competency of advocacy, I think this is a good step forward.

Coincidentally, just minutes before I saw that announcement, I read this post on Medium called “Re-Thinking RPAC“. The writer, Michael Oppler, is a young REALTOR whose father, Charlie Oppler, was the former Director of REALTOR® Party Activities. Again, what he writes is worth reading in full. Key paragraph:

Just as the Republican and Democratic parties must pay heed to a Darwinian like imperative to sustain their entities… so to our organization must be equally vigilant when it comes to managing our own evolution. To this end, I can think of no other function that we as members can help to become better funded and more functional, than when we support the advocacy of our own interests…and not for selfish reasons.

And over the past year or so, I have had numerous conversations with AE’s, elected leadership, NAR people, REALTORS, and others about the topic of advocacy by the Association. The winds are definitely blowing towards greater emphasis on political action and advocacy, which is a positive development.

Having said all that, there are two major strategic crossroads coming up soon-ish (or later-ish) for organized real estate. I think it’s worth thinking about for anyone involved with organized real estate, whether Association, MLS, or something else.

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Dear MLS – Raise Prices, By A Lot

Price_Increase

I have to be on an airplane in the not-too-distant future, but I really wanted to share this with everyone, because I think it’s so interesting. So fascinating.

Recently, I asked a hypothetical question in one of my favorite Facebook groups:

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 9.21.47 AM

If you click on over, you can read all the comments. What I was after was whether, in the age of Internet-is-King, the MLS remained relevant to practitioners for the purpose of advertising a property. And if so, just how relevant.

The responses are illuminating.

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The Realcomp Anti-Trust Ruling Will Affect MLS Syndication

6thcircuit

Inman News reports that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled against Realcomp II in a years-long case:

Michigan’s largest multiple listing service “unreasonably restrained competition” among real estate brokers by refusing to transmit exclusive agency property listings favored by discount brokers to Realtor.com and other public-facing Web sites, a federal appeals court has ruled.

At issue was whether Realcomp’s refusal to transmit Exclusive Agency listings to places like Realtor.com was anti-competitive. Since Realcomp’s policy only applies to a tiny fraction of listings in the market, Laurie Janik, the outgoing General Counsel of NAR, suggested this wasn’t that big a deal:

NAR General Counsel Laurie Janik said that because other MLSs don’t have similar rules in place, the appeals court ruling is unlikely to have a wider impact. “I’m sure it’s extremely disappointing news to the folks at Realcomp, but it’s not the kind of case that’s going to send ripples across the rest of the industry,”

That’s especially true since the NAR’s MLS Policy prohibits the MLS from excluding Exclusive Agency listings from feeds, as Realcomp had done.

Nonetheless, I respectfully disagree with Ms. Janik. I think this ruling will send ripples across the rest of the industry. At the very least, it should since the next case that comes down the pike will surely look at Realcomp II, Ltd. v. FTC as precedent.

(By the way, for the non-lawyer folks, this case is especially significant because it came from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The only higher court is the Supreme Court. At least within the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, this ruling is binding. And throughout the country, the ruling will be extremely persuasive.)

Before we dive into why I think this ruling is significant, since I am doing law-blogging here, I have to say that this is in no way a legal opinion (I mean, c’mon, it’s a blog post) and that you should consult your own qualified legal counsel.

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