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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Free Advice to The Broker Public Portal

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Much in the news of late is the Broker Public Portal, a project/concept that has been in the works for months, if not years, and appears to be on the verge of happening at last. Victor Lund of the WAV Group has been publicizing the project, which had been shrouded in secrecy for quite some time. From Victor’s post:

The national broker portal project continues to gain momentum as brokers and MLSs agree to participate in the formation of the company to explore the launch of a national MLS consumer facing website with broker governance. Although only a month into the funding period, the group is well on its way to raising the $250,000.

After the holiday, the Council of MLSs hosted two online webinars on the topic. The Realty Alliance and The Leading Real Estate Companies of the World also hosted two webinars. This activity was followed by the delivery of information at the CEO Summit as part of the Real Estate Connect conference. Leading franchise organizations including Home Services of America, Realogy Franchise Group, RE/MAX and Keller Williams have also had executive briefings on the project.

Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that having a national portal controlled by the “industry” (more on this later) is a great idea whose time has come. With Move/Realtor.com now part of a giant multinational media company, and Zillow and Trulia’s merger imminent, it may be a great time for a new competitor to enter the scene.

From that premise then, there are a few major issues that really stand out to me. So this is my free advice — worth what they paid for it — to the folks trying to get the BPP project off the ground.

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MarketWatch Posts Nonsense; I Have A Suggestion

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Real estate journalism in the mainstream media is not exactly the stuff of Pulitzers. But even by that low standard, this “news story” from MarketWatch (via Realtor.com) is amazingly incoherent. Titled “Half of Americans Can’t Afford Their House“, the main thesis of the article is that housing affordability is a serious crisis:

Over half of Americans (52%) have had to make at least one major sacrifice in order to cover their rent or mortgage over the last three years, according to the “How Housing Matters Survey,” which was commissioned by the nonprofit John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and carried out by Hart Research Associates. These sacrifices include getting a second job, deferring saving for retirement, cutting back on health care, running up credit card debt, or even moving to a less safe neighborhood or one with worse schools.

Just based on that paragraph, the baseline assumption of the researchers and MarketWatch, appears to be that a life that does not involve “major sacrifice” is one in which people have:

  • Only one job
  • Full and complete retirement savings that have not been deferred
  • Full healthcare without any “cutting back”
  • No credit card debt
  • And live in safest neighborhoods with the best schools

That only one job? It is supposed to generate adequate income to support all of those other things.

If this is the baseline assumption of what constitutes a life without “major sacrifice”, I’m frankly shocked that only 52% of Americans don’t get to live that life. Seems to me, outside of the 1%, the rest of us have to make choices and sacrifices like choosing to live in a “less safe neighborhood” compared to the absolute best possible.

But that base assumption isn’t what made me laugh. No, there’s more to the unintentional humor.

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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:

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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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Concerning MLS Enforcement of Cooperation and Compensation, An Observation

In the comments section of my post on Listhub and Zillow, an intelligent discussion and debate broke out. Given the rarity of such thing on the Interwebz, I think we should celebrate that.

Now then, the subject of the discussion was around the “value proposition” of the MLS in the 21st century and how the rise of these huge tech companies, as well as potential threats from things like the as-yet-unknown Project Upstream, could impact it. The discussion turned to what many consider to be the core value proposition of the MLS: “cooperation and compensation.” As it turns out, there’s something to think about here, so let’s get into it.

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