Category Archives: Marketing

Initial Thoughts on the Listhub-Zillow Divorce

By now, any reader of mine has heard about Listhub and Zillow waving goodbye to each other. As the great American philosopher Louis CK once observed, “No good marriage ever ends in divorce.” Clearly, this divorce was coming for years and years.

I’m writing this in large part to figure out what I think about it. The overwhelming impression within the real estate industry appears to be that this is bad news for Zillow. Inman’s headline is “Rupert Murdoch Playing Hardball With Zillow” (Subscription Required) after all.

If this is playing hardball, it comes a few days late and more than a few dollars short. We’ll see how it plays out, but I wonder if this isn’t worse news for Listhub/Move than it is for Zillow.

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Seven Predictions for 2015: The Nouvelle Vague Edition

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Welcome, faithful readers to an annual tradition here at Notorious ROB: making predictions for the coming year that are Guaranteed to be Wrong, or Your Money Back!

The musical pairings for this edition comes from the extraordinary and extraordinarily unique French cover band, Nouvelle Vague. I mean, who else does remakes of 80’s new wave hits with a vaguely self-aware melancholy infused with a 60’s bossa nova vibe? Yep, the French, that’s who.

Let’s get into it.

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Grading Time! Reviewing My 2014 Predictions

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Welcome to another edition of an annual tradition, in which I go back and grade myself on my predictions made at the start of this year. My track record so far:

  • 2010 Predictions: 6 of 10 (.600)
  • 2011 Predictions: 4.5 of 7 (.642)
  • 2012 Predictions: 2 for 7 (.286)
  • 2013 Predictions: 4.5 of 7 (.642)

When I made my 2014 predictions, I wrote: “In any event, it’s customary here at Notorious to make predictions that are sure to go wrong, or your money back! 2014 should be no different in that regard.” Given how gloomy my predictions tend to be, I’m happy to report a solid no-good outing in 2014!

Let’s get into it.

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Two Redfin Veterans Launch a New Brokerage Model…

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Truth be told, I get a ton of press releases and the like announcing some OMGASM! DISRUPTIVE NEW THINGAMABOB!!!BBQ!!11 from one real estate related company or another. I tend to ignore most of them because said AMAZING GAME-CHANGING DISRUPTION turns out to be a slight modification of some CRM platform. “Now you can put your listing on Instagram automatically” isn’t exactly disruptive, no matter how much the marketing folks and PR folks like to dress it up.

I’m making an exception in the case of Surefield, a brand new brokerage in Seattle, for a couple of reasons.

One, the people behind this new brokerage have a track record. The two main founders are David Eraker, the Founder and first CEO of Redfin, and Rob McGarty, who ran operations for Redfin’s brokerage side (and mortgages as well).

Two, Surefield is actually trying something new, which may or may not work, but at least it’s new and potentially disruptive, if it takes off. (I have some questions about the viability, but….)

Three, Surefield itself may or may not be the next big thing, but it seems to me that it is yet another entrant into space that are explicitly seeking to change the way that business is done in real estate. These tech-enabled brokerages are the front-wave of Real Estate 3.0 (yes, yes, I know such Web 3.0, Internet 4.0, and Human 2.0 type of stuff is just marketing-speak for the most part, but I do like the phrase to signify this next generation of attempts) and I think there’s something going on there.

Let’s get into it.

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On Rupert Murdoch Buying Realtor.com (Part 2): Wherefore Hope?

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I meant to get this up days ago, but between travel, client engagements, other writings, and an upcoming vacation, I just couldn’t. But if you’ve missed Part 1, you can check it out here.

In a nutshell, part 1 worries about whether the acquisition would be allowed to proceed without the government requiring that ListHub be spun off or sold off. It also speculates on whether large brokerages and franchises would be happy about a NEWSTOR.com extending into mortgages and elsewhere.

Since that post, and in my travels and conversations, I’ve heard quite a lot of opinions from agents, brokers, MLS CEO’s, Association Execs, and others about how this acquisition is a total gamechanger. In fact, no less an august personage than Brad Inman himself, the publisher of Inman News, wrote the following with the headline “Do Not Underestimate Rupert Murdoch“:

For certain, News Corp’s acquisition of Move changes the chessboard of online real estate. Any hubris at Zillow headquarters in Seattle has suddenly been clipped. But it eases FTC approval of the Zillow-Trulia merger because suddenly there is formidable competition.

Most importantly, this move will spawn greater innovation for the consumer and better offers to agents and brokers. Some will argue it gives the real estate industry relief from a monolithic distribution partner, solving a vexing problem in one clean sweep. But the industry should still be on its toes: Murdoch and Zillow should never be underestimated.

I cite Brad Inman because he’s such a respected part of the industry who speaks so rarely that when he does speak, it gets people’s attention. I also cite it because I think his views here are echoed in the views of so many others I’ve spoken with about the News-Move deal.

The core idea expressed by those folks is something like, “Now that News Corp. is in the mix, Zillow had better watch out!” That idea, in turn, is supported by two assumptions:

  1. News Corp and REA have far superior management talent than does Move/NAR, and freed up from meddling by NAR, the new Realtor.com is going to get super-duperific.
  2. News Corp will leverage its immense media assets to drive traffic to Realtor.com like Black Friday drives shoppers to WalMart.

Both of those assumptions may turn out to be true. But from where I sit today, I think both assumptions are rather… optimistic… or overblown… or simply wrong. News Corp’s taking over Move may turn out to be a gamechanger, of course, but I see nothing yet that suggests any such conclusion.

Let’s dive into why.

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