Will CLAW Be the Waterloo for Anti-Syndication Forces?

La Battaile de Waterloo

La Battaile de Waterloo

[This post was written to be posted almost a month ago, when the Errol Samuelson news broke, wiping the media calendar clean. And then I went on the road. Nonetheless, the issues raised here and the access to Zillow and to Annie Ives are important enough and I think still relevant, so I figured I'd post it. Even if a bit later than I had hoped.] 

The CLAW/TheMLS 48-hour delay saga enters a new chapter, as I have some new data and some new information in my possession. For those not familiar with what’s going on, this Inman story by Andrea Brambila is an excellent place to start. And of course, I’ve already written about the tension between CLAW and CRMLS.

I have been working on trying to get a bit more information on some facts surrounding the brouhaha, and I managed to get a senior Zillow executive on the phone to get their side of the story. What I’ve learned makes me re-evaluate l’affaire de CLAW in a new light. This might be a seminal event in the evolution of real estate, a Waterloo for the anti-syndication forces within the MLS industry.

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NAR Acquires Ashley Madison, Plans New Consumer Ad Strategy

AshleyMadison

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

CRMLS Makes Like Lewis & Clark

872px-Lewis_and_Clark_Expedition

I’m still on the road, and overly occupied, but the latest news about CRMLS (a former client) is exciting and deserves at least a couple of comments. From Andrea Brambila’s report:

Brokers who belong to the nation’s largest multiple listing service will soon get a capability they’ve long clamored for: the option to upload listing data directly from their own back-end office systems to the MLS.

“We have some very large brokers that would love to have their agents input their listing information into the broker’s system” and then upload it to the MLS, CRMLS CEO Art Carter told Inman News.

Currently, agents must log into the MLS and key in the same listing information separately. Or they can enter listing data into their MLS system first, and the MLS will feed the information back to their broker’s back-end office system.

Yep. While the technology to do this two-way flow has been around for years, CRMLS is making like Lewis & Clark and exploring the wild unknowns here. The rest of the industry will benefit from watching how things unfold. Kudos to Art, his team, and to the CRMLS Board for taking this important step.

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Free Consulting to NAR and Move

leon-black

Why yes, I made $1.3 billion on Realogy… You want to do what now, NAR?

The Notorious B.O.B.’s series of posts on Move “giving back” REALTOR.com to NAR (one here, one on his blog) plus a Facebook conversation got me thinking. Which results in free consulting advice. Worth exactly what you paid for it, of course.

NAR should take Move private and buy it outright.

It eliminates a lot of problems, while of course, creating some new problems. Hey, that’s life. Let’s get into it.

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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.com®, 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.