Don’t Brokerages Compete With Each Other?

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Over on Facebook, an interesting and intelligent discussion broke out — which is news in and of itself, I realize. We weren’t discussing The Dress or llamas. Amazing.

What we were discussing is MLS taking over syndication, something that Kipp Cooper at North Alabama pioneered. Here’s how it began:

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The responses were really interesting, and raised an issue that I think is worth talking about further. So let’s do that.

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On NRT’s New HomesForSale.com (Which Most Folks Are Misunderstanding)

Making Sense I know some folks think I’m a Realogy homer. Well, given that’s where I got my start in the industry, maybe I’m a little bit guilty of that whole “cut me and I bleed blue” thing. But I think I’m actually calling things as I see them; I’ve been plenty critical of Realogy when they’ve done something deserving of criticism, and I’m complimentary when they’ve done something right.

The newest Realogy initiative that’s making waves is HomesForSale.com, a “national” portal for the NRT, Realogy’s company-owned brokerage operations. I mentioned it and some screenshots yesterday, when I was really talking about some issues that the MLS probably needs to address. Since then I’ve seen all sorts of discussion about HomesForSale, about NRT, etc. etc. both publicly and privately.

Almost all of the commentary thus far has been negative. The main thrust of such criticism is something like this:

If this is the best that Realogy can do to compete against Zillow and Trulia and Realtor.com, it’s farcical. There’s nothing innovative or new here, and the site isn’t even mobile responsive, and the color scheme sucks too!

Or something along those lines.

Thing is, I think this line of criticism is almost wholly unwarranted, because it is based on a misunderstanding of the strategy behind HomesForSale. I actually think HomesForSale is a nice move, one that could fail of course like any initiative, but it’s solidly grounded in strategy.

Let’s get into it.

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Tell Me Again How the MLS is the “Gold Standard” of Data Accuracy?

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I’ll have some thoughts on Realogy/NRT’s new HomesForSale.com later, but I couldn’t resist this brief observation.

I kinda knew the problem existed, but until this splashy website came along, we did not have the visual impact/evidence. If HomesForSale.com accomplishes nothing else, it really ought to wake up the industry (particularly the MLS) about the problem with data in the MLS.

Let me explain, with pictures.

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We Need To Talk About Fannie Mae A Bit

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A couple of weeks ago, I learned about a new Fannie Mae program that was rolled out to lenders called Collateral Underwriter, or CU. From the press release:

Fannie Mae created the online tool in 2013 to analyze appraisal data it had been receiving from lenders electronically since 2012. With the rollout in early 2015, mortgage lenders will have access to the same information that Fannie Mae uses to evaluate property appraisals. It will enable lenders to review appraisals and address issues before delivering the loans to Fannie Mae.

It’s got the appraiser community in an uproar:

Only a few days into the release of the Fannie MaeCollateral Underwriter and my prediction of this being the biggest process change in the appraisal industry since the HVCC is becoming a reality for the field appraiser.

Appraisers and lenders are flabbergasted about what to do with the recent findings and feedback that CU has provided regarding appraisers’ work.

The appraisal community blogs and forums are packed full of questions regarding how to handle CU and how to properly defend appraisal reports as well as who’s responsible for review this information.

Fannie Mae’s guidance that the lenders are responsible for reviewing and interpreting the CU findings has turned into some lenders sending all the findings to the appraiser to comment on with no interpretation or guidance.

Granted, the program is new, there’s a lot of confusion, and a lot of unknowns. But while the industry’s been obsessed with Zillow and drones and such, something like Collateral Underwriter is likely to impact the real estate agent on the ground far more than any of those things. If you’re in the industry, I think it’s worthwhile to at least learn about it at a high level. Let me get the conversation started.

I’d like to thank Rick Lifferth, Founder and CEO of Data Master and a still-active appraiser with 40+ years of experience, and Bill Garber, Director of Government and External Relations for the Appraisal Institute, for taking the time to educate me on the topic as best as they could. Any errors or mistakes in this post are because I’m a poor student, not because they haven’t tried.

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Greed Is Good: In Which I Talk to Victor Lund about the BPP

I just had a fascinating conversation with Victor Lund of WAV Group who is spearheading the Broker Public Portal effort. We discussed a variety of topics from governance to equity to internal politics, shape of the industry, competitiveness, Zillow, Trulia, brokerages, etc. etc. It was awesome, and my thanks to Victor for making the time.

One thing that really struck me in the chat, and what I thought I’d write about, is just how much of a Adam Smith worshipping capitalist pig I am. I believe in the social benefits of private interests, the efficiency of the profit motive in bringing wonderful products and services to the world, and in short, that greed is good.

Now, in everything that follows, one caveat: Victor was not representing his own opinions, but reflecting the opinions and thoughts of the brokers and MLSs involved in the BPP conversation, as he should be, when he’s leading the PR and communications effort for the BPP organizing effort. So do not attribute anything here to Victor personally. :)

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