Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Power, Diversity, and the SP200 List

As some of you may know, I’ve been assisting Stefan Swanepoel with a project called SP200, the second annual edition of which just went live. SP stands for “Swanepoel Power”, so the actual list is the list of the 200 most powerful individuals in the residential real estate industry.

Since I haven’t shown this post to Stefan or anyone else, and this is my personal blog, everything that follows is my personal opinion only.

Recently, an interesting little debate broke out on Facebook about the list, when Leigh Brown, a REALTOR and coach, posted this:


The resulting debate and comments were, and remain, fascinating, interesting, and important. Nonetheless, I thought it might be useful to at least provide a peek behind the scenes as Stefan, I, and others spent weeks and months debating the list, debating the criteria, and ranking individuals.

To be sure, the most important debate happened last year, when we put the first edition of the Power 200 list together. Because it was then that we spent countless hours on the phone and via email debating the central concept of the list: “powerful”. What is “power”? What do we mean by that? How would the list and the rankings change if we changed our assumptions about what “power” means?

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First Ever Notorious Reader Contest!


So… earlier this year, at the T3 Summit, I listed as one of my Black Swans the possibility that the 1099 independent contractor status for real estate agents might go away. The reason, I thought, was that state and federal governments would want MOAR taxes. You know, Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, whatever taxes that are tied to “employment”.

Fast forward to the California Association of REALTORS event earlier this week, and Joel Singer, CEO, mentions that this exact issue is one of the big challenges that keeps him up at night. I heard much the same thing from Budge Huskey of Coldwell Banker. There are a couple of lawsuits making their way through California courts that may result in real estate agents being classified as employees.

Here’s the thing. One of the points that Joel made was that if agents became employees, that will be horrible for organized real estate, for franchises, etc., but it might be great for others. And in all of the discussion that followed, I kept asking myself a question… that I could not answer.

A few days later, I still can’t answer the question. So this post/contest. I figured I might as well outsource my thinking to some of the best and brightest in the industry and outside it.

Here’s the deal. Please email your best answer — as long or as short as you’d like — to the question below to I will select a few that I think are the best, then post them on the Notorious Rob Facebook page. The top vote getter (by Likes) will then win.

What will they win, Chuck? The first place winner will receive an all-expenses paid vacation for a week to Houston suburb of Katy in August! The runner-up will receive two weeks to Katy in August! No, not really.

I think $20 gift certificate to iTunes, Amazon, or Starbucks — your choice — to the winner seems about right. Woot! Free cash from Notorious!

The Question

Here is the question/topic for your participation in this lovely contest:

In 2015, Congress proposes changing legislation such that real estate agents would be treated as W-2 employees. Now, imagine that you are speaking to a regular homeowner, not to another real estate professional.

Please provide the best consumer-centric reason why real estate agents should remain 1099 independent contractors, instead of employees. How does the home buyer or seller benefit from having real estate agents be 1099 independent contractors?

Again, your answer may be as long or as short as you’d like. Email them to me. I’ll pick the top few and post them. We’ll give this a week maybe? Then I’ll post the winner. Share with your friends! The deadline for entry will be… Wednesday, July 30th, at noon central time. We’ll pick a winner by Friday.

Here’s wishing you better luck than I had trying to think of the answer to that.


NAR Acquires Ashley Madison, Plans New Consumer Ad Strategy


CHICAGO (April 1, 2014) – The National Association of Realtors® has agreed to acquire the online relationship website Ashley Madison ( 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, 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, 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 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.

BREAKING: Zillow Hires Shaun Donovan as Chief Association Persuasion Officer

Shaun Donovan

SEATTLE, March 5, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Zillow, Inc. (Nasdaq:Z), the leading real estate and home-related marketplace, today announced Shaun Donovan will join the company in the new position of Chief Association Persuasion Officer to lead the company’s relations strategy with REALTOR Associations. He will report directly to Zillow® CEO Spencer Rascoff, and also manage the Washington DC office of Zillow.

As former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, Donovan, 48, brings more than 20 years’ experience in finance, law, government and the real estate industry to this important role. In addition to building and strengthening Zillow’s relationships with the Federal, state, and local regulators, legislators, and policymakers, Donovan will also assume executive oversight for Zillow’s outreach to the National Association of REALTORS as well as the state and local Associations of REALTORS.

“We’re thrilled for Shaun to join the Zillow family. We’ve long admired Shaun for his leadership as well as his perspective and approach in advocating on behalf of American consumers,” said Rascoff. “We felt that bringing Shaun on board as CAPO would really help our friends in the Association world see the benefit of working with Zillow. Or at least not working against us.”

“I’m excited about joining Zillow because I believe the company is leading the real estate industry in innovation and serving consumer needs. Equally important, I believe the entire management team truly understands the essential role that local, state and Federal government plays in ensuring that the playing field is truly level. Consumer protection is everyone’s business, and I’ve seen first hand while working at HUD at just how committed to the consumer everyone at Zillow is,” said Donovan. “Why, just last week, I was speaking with my man Barry and mentioned how we really need to make sure through oversight and regulation that consumers are protected while the real estate industry goes through this exciting time of change, innovation, and competition. He, of course, agrees, since I’ve never met a man more concerned about the average American consumer than him. Plus, he really loved hanging out with Spencer during that online town hall event, you know? Anyhow, I’m sure that our friends — and I know all of the big players at NAR, NAHB, ABA, and all that — would see the wisdom of closer collaboration with Zillow. I’m going to make them an offer they can’t refuse.”

All industry-related services aimed at the brokerage community will continue to be managed by Errol Samuelson, Chief Industry Development Officer. Greg Schwartz, Zillow’s Chief Revenue Officer, who also reports to Rascoff, will continue to lead Zillow’s entire sales and revenue operations across all marketplaces. This includes Zillow’s Premier Agent program and advertising sales for Zillow’s real estate, mortgage, and display businesses, in addition to new responsibilities to grow Zillow’s rental marketplace.

“Shaun and Errol will work closely together as their organizations are tightly integrated to ensure we create and deliver the best possible programs to benefit our industry partners, and that our industry partners see the wisdom of working with us, instead of against us. Shaun’s primary focus on explaining the reality of the situation and convincing the Association leaders to work with Zillow will allow Errol to invest more time on the positive aspects of our relationships, as opposed to all of the persuasive parts of the relationship,” added Rascoff. “And should we encounter any… difficulties with any Associations or MLSs, we’re confident that Shaun can make a phone call or two and resolve the situation to our satisfaction.”

Donovan served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development since January of 2009, after being nominated by President Barack Obama, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Donovan has a long history of working to provide affordable housing to American families. He previously served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Before his service as HPD Commissioner, Secretary Donovan worked in the private sector on financing affordable housing, and was a visiting scholar at New York University, where he researched and wrote about the preservation of federally-assisted housing.

Donovan also served in the Clinton administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing, where he was the primary federal official responsible for privately-owned multifamily housing. At that time, he ran housing programs that helped 1.7 million families access affordable housing.

Donovan holds a B.A. and Masters degrees in Public Administration and Architecture from Harvard.

About Zillow, Inc.

Zillow, Inc. (Nasdaq:Z) operates the leading real estate and home-related marketplaces on mobile and the Web, with a complementary portfolio of brands and products that help people find vital information about homes, and connect with the best local professionals. Zillow’s brands serve the full lifecycle of owning and living in a home: buying, selling, renting, financing, remodeling and more. In addition, Zillow offers a suite of tools and services to help local real estate, mortgage, rental and home improvement professionals manage and market their businesses. Welcoming nearly 70 million monthly unique users in January 2014, the Zillow, Inc. portfolio includes®, Zillow Mobile, Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, Zillow Rentals, Zillow Digs™, StreetEasy®, Postlets®, Diverse Solutions®, Agentfolio®, Mortech® and HotPads. Zillow is headquartered in Seattle.

About This Press Release

In the unlikely event that anyone failed to realize this is a complete fabrication and spoof, it should be made clear that this is a totally fake release that serves only to entertain the author. Of course, it could potentially make real estate industry observers think a little bit about the environment we’re all operating in and question certain assumptions. That’s always healthy.