Category Archives: Marketing

Edina Realty Reverses Course on Syndication

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Jay Thompson of Zillow celebrating the Edina deal. With what I assume is coffee.

I realize that the news of the day will be the News Corp buying Move, which certainly requires some thought, but since important details are missing from that story as yet and may not be clear for months to come… I figured I should take notice of another sort of significant story that just crossed the wires.

Here’s the official press release:

SEATTLE, Sept. 30, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Zillow, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z), the leading real estate information marketplace, today announced that Edina Realty, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, has joined the Zillow® Pro for Brokers program and will display all of its thousands of listings on Zillow for the first time ever. Launched in June 2012, Zillow Pro for Brokers is a free, five-point program that improves listings accuracy, provides better reporting, includes a powerful contact follow-up system and increases the visibility of listing agents for participating brokerages.

“We couldn’t be more excited to be building a relationship with Edina Realty whereby their direct listing feed will be updated every 15 minutes,” said Spencer Rascoff, Zillow chief executive officer. “It has always been our goal to be the best partner to the industry we can be, and in turn, offer the millions of consumers who visit Zillow the best experience possible. Edina Realty joining Zillow Pro for Brokers helps make that a reality. Now, home shoppers in Minnesota and western Wisconsin will have the most accurate and up-to-date view of the market, while home sellers can rest assured their home is being marketed to the largest audience of home shoppers.”

Edina Realty is one of the nation’s largest real estate companies with approximately 60 real estate offices and 2,300 REALTORS® throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

According to Greg Schwartz, Chief Revenue Officer at Zillow, this is a non-monetary deal. Edina’s listing agents would receive preferential placement and clear identification as the listing agent on their listings (i.e., the listing agent would be the top contact among the 3-4 agents in the box). In exchange, Zillow would get a direct feed from Edina, updated every 15 minutes. Zillow would also get Edina’s completed transactions data, which will populate Edina agent profiles. (I assume Trulia’s deal is the same.)

The MLS is not involved in any way, from what I understand. This is an outside-of-Listhub arrangement.

That’s Zillow’s side of the story. For Edina’s take, we go to its official press release:

Edina, Minn. – Sept. 30, 2014 – Edina Realty, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate, announced that it will begin sharing its listings directly with real estate media companies Zillow® and Trulia, as well as industry portal realtor.com directly from the MLS, beginning Sept. 30 at noon Central Time.

Edina Realty will share its listings information with Zillow for the first time, and the company is re-entering into partnerships with Trulia and realtor.com after pulling its listings from those sites beginning in 2011, citing concerns over accuracy, adequate disclosure of listing agent and broker information, and more.

“The position that Edina Realty took nearly three years ago has positively influenced the business practices of Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com,” said Greg Mason, president and CEO of Edina Realty Home Services. “The national sites have made enhancements in order to improve the consumer experience as well as the relationship with the broker and agent. For example, on Trulia, the listing agent is now identified alongside their listing at no charge to the agent,” said Mason. “Additionally, the sites are striving for greater data accuracy.”

Edina Realty’s website and mobile apps average a combined total of over two million visits every month and are the most highly trafficked real estate website and apps in the region. The company has led the market in sales for 14 consecutive years and is the region’s largest real estate company with more than 60 offices and 2,300 REALTORS®.

“We remain confident that our clients’ listings receive the best online exposure on edinarealty.com and through our mobile apps, but now their listings will also appear on these national online sites,” said Mason.

Edina Realty’s groundbreaking move to pull its listings from Trulia and realtor.com beginning in 2011 contributed to an ongoing industry-wide discourse about data accuracy and ownership, customer service, and legal obligations by non-broker controlled media companies. “We’re committed to providing the best customer experience,” said Mason, “so we’re happy that our position brought greater awareness around issues with accuracy and listing ownership, and that it contributed to many key changes with the national partners,” he added. “We’ll continue advocating on behalf of our clients and agents to deliver the best real estate experience possible.”

So… Edina’s position appears to be that its move to pull its listings in 2011 led to changes at the portals. Specifically, we’re talking about greater commitment to data accuracy, putting the listing agent first (citing Trulia as the example), and improvement in the consumer experience.

Thing is… the three sites have always been different, with different problems.

For example, data accuracy was never a concern with Realtor.com. And given Realtor.com’s primary product — the Showcase Listing — the “three-headed monster” was never a major issue with them either.

If “data accuracy” refers to outdated listing information on the sites, Zillow and Trulia have been hammering that hard for the past few years. The whole point of things like Z-Pro is to get direct feeds so that the data can be accurate. If it refers, instead, to the widely-despised Zestimates… well, I see nothing in either press release suggesting that Zillow will be doing away with that, or using some new broker-powered AVM.

Bottom line, who cares what the motivations were for Edina to reverse course? Maybe it was because they felt that they had spanked Zillow and Trulia enough, that the portals had learned their lesson, and were now behaving correctly. Having achieved those goals, Edina is now going to partner with them. Maybe it was because Edina saw that failing to syndicate to the largest websites in the real estate category was hurting their recruiting, retention, and business. No one really knows outside of Edina’s HQ.

What we do know, and this is significant, is the implication of Mason’s statement: “We’ll continue advocating on behalf of our clients and agents to deliver the best real estate experience possible.”

As of October of 2014, it appears that the “best real estate experience possible” includes advertising on the portals, at least for Edina Realty.

Whether that has any ongoing significance for others remains to be seen.

-rsh

My God, I Love These Videos…

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Look, if you’ve been a regular reader, you know that I don’t do “blogging for clients” type of junk you’ll find elsewhere on the real estate web. My clients are my clients, I don’t talk about them, what I do talk to them about is between me and them, and this blog here is my personal thing where I get smart or ridiculous or whatever. But in this case, I think you can forgive me for writing about a client.

I’ve been working with TREPAC (Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee) for a while now on their consumer-facing efforts, and one of the concepts that the team came up with (credit to SGS) was to run a contest showcasing why Texans love their Texas homes. I must confess that I had very high expectations, but… some of these videos have exceeded all of them.

Let me share some of my personal favorites (I’m not a judge, so my opinion doesn’t mean jack diddly squat) and then make a couple of observations for the industry folks to think about.

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The Five Unspeakables from the California Association of REALTORS Event

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The above is my view right now, as I’m in the Lakes of the Ozarks for an event tomorrow and Friday, so this post is heavily influenced by the fact that I’m sitting at a bar with a tropical drink, listening to Jimmy Buffet. So if it seems a bit of a disconnected ramble… blame Margaritaville.

But I did get some requests to discuss the event on Monday in San Jose for the California Association of REALTORS. I love this event, because it brings together leadership of organized real estate to look at serious strategic issues in the industry. CAR likes to push the thinking beyond business as usual, and I’m honored to participate.

Steve Murray of REALTrends was spectacular. If you’ve never heard him speak, make arrangements to do so. If you haven’t read his new book Gamechangers, make arrangements to do so. He’s far more radical than you might think for a stalwart of the industry, and he sees almost all of the big issues confronting us. I’m not going to go into much detail of his presentation, since you can get most of it from the book, and I don’t want to misrepresent inadvertently. Instead, let’s talk briefly about my presentation.

I actually went into the event with a different presentation in mind, but based on what I had heard that morning, made the command decision to talk about the five things that we in the industry talk about privately, acknowledge as problems, but don’t really discuss in polite company. So here’s the gist of the Five Unspeakables.

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NAR General Counsel Warns About Dangers of Failing to Syndicate

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Katie Johnson, General Counsel of NAR

In case you haven’t seen this yet, Katie Johnson, the General Counsel of NAR, has written an article that comes as close to a formal legal opinion on dangers of failing to syndicate listings.

Well, actually, she warns about the practice of pre-marketing, also known as “Coming Soon” but the logic that she uses applies with full force to the practice of not syndicating listings to major portals.

The full article is here.

Since I’ve had fun with Sam DeBord’s Inman article in the past in which I draw parallels between “pocket listings” and syndication, I find the paragraph below super interesting:

For most sellers, getting the highest possible price on the best terms is their “best interest,” and maximizing exposure of their property to potential buyers advances that interest…. Restricting the marketing of a seller’s property to only small networks, private clubs, or even to national websites without also making it available to other area brokers and agents and their buyer-clients through the MLS results in the property not being exposed to the widest group of potential willing and able buyers, and may not provide the seller the best opportunity to attract offers at the highest price. [Emphasis added]

If we take for granted that best interest = highest possible price, and that highest possible price results from maximizing exposure… the above paragraph could be rewritten this way:

For most sellers, getting the highest possible price on the best terms is their “best interest,” and maximizing exposure of their property to potential buyers advances that interest…. Restricting the marketing of a seller’s property to only small networks, private clubs, or even to the MLS without also making it available to national websites with their tens of millions of buyer visitors results in the property not being exposed to the widest group of potential willing and able buyers, and may not provide the seller the best opportunity to attract offers at the highest price. [Emphasis added]

Yes, yes, I know — the MLS is different from national portals, because shut up. Just like how it’s a terrible evil when an agent can pay to be advertised next to a listing about which she knows nothing located in an area 30 miles away she has never worked, but if she pays an IDX vendor to setup a website on which she can put listings about which she knows nothing located in an area 30 miles away she has never worked, why, that’s completely different, because shut up.

But hey, Katie Johnson writes:

It’s important that sellers understand the implications of various ways of marketing the property so that they can knowingly determine the choice that best serves their interests.

Yeah. Well, let’s hope there aren’t any trial lawyers reading this blog who might become super interested in just how much a seller was briefed about the implications of not sending listings to some of the highest trafficked websites in real estate, and knowingly determined the choice that best served his interests.

As an industry, we could continue going down this path, of course, and we’re likely to do that, because… well.. masochism, I guess. Or we might ask why these pre-marketing tactics and private clubs and so on are happening and take a hard look at underlying causes.

Heh, I know. I know.

A Few Random Thoughts on Zillow’s Coming Soon

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I’m gearing up for another all-day meeting for a project that I think will actually make a difference in the industry, but… I’m getting a lot of emails and messages asking me what I think about Zillow’s new Coming Soon feature. So here are a few random thoughts and questions.

As reported by Paul Hagey over at Inman:

Zillow has rolled out a new “coming soon” feature that allows agents, brokers and multiple listing services to market homes on its site up to 30 days before they hit the MLS.

The feature is restricted to agents who advertise with the portal and the brokerages and MLSs who provide Zillow their listings in a direct feed. “Coming soon” listings do not feature ads for agents other than the listing agent.

There are a couple other juicy facts in the article, such as:

In addition to driving up the number of agents who advertise with the portal and the number of brokerages and MLSs who send it their listings directly, Zillow added the new feature because it saw a need for a premarket category in its ecosystem, Schwartz said.

Zillow frequently sees listings posted to Zillow’s site before they hit the MLS, and this feature puts a framework around the practice on Zillow, he said. (Emphasis mine)

We all sort of knew that this was happening, but now we have confirmation.

In any event, some of the comments on that post — as well as comments from elsewhere in the RE chatosphere — are simply amusing. Since I’ve written a fair amount on pocket listings on this blog, and since I have to be at a meeting in a half hour, I’ll limit today’s thoughts/questions to some of those comments.

Ethics Disclosure: Since I am blogging specifically about Zillow, and about portals/MLS/industry, I should note that I have a business relationship with Trulia on the consulting side of my activities.

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