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.


The Five Unspeakables from the California Association of REALTORS Event


The above is my view right now, as I’m in the Lakes of the Ozarks for an event tomorrow and Friday, so this post is heavily influenced by the fact that I’m sitting at a bar with a tropical drink, listening to Jimmy Buffet. So if it seems a bit of a disconnected ramble… blame Margaritaville.

But I did get some requests to discuss the event on Monday in San Jose for the California Association of REALTORS. I love this event, because it brings together leadership of organized real estate to look at serious strategic issues in the industry. CAR likes to push the thinking beyond business as usual, and I’m honored to participate.

Steve Murray of REALTrends was spectacular. If you’ve never heard him speak, make arrangements to do so. If you haven’t read his new book Gamechangers, make arrangements to do so. He’s far more radical than you might think for a stalwart of the industry, and he sees almost all of the big issues confronting us. I’m not going to go into much detail of his presentation, since you can get most of it from the book, and I don’t want to misrepresent inadvertently. Instead, let’s talk briefly about my presentation.

I actually went into the event with a different presentation in mind, but based on what I had heard that morning, made the command decision to talk about the five things that we in the industry talk about privately, acknowledge as problems, but don’t really discuss in polite company. So here’s the gist of the Five Unspeakables.

Continue reading and the Power of Radical Questions

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine in the commercial real estate space asked me about I had no idea what he was talking about, so I went over to look at what that’s about. Well, this is what the website looks like right now:


Hm. “The easiest way to sell your home”? Receive an instant offer online and close in 3 days? What the hell???

Then I looked into them a bit more, and spoke with a friend at Inman (where I am this week) who is in the know and connected to the venture world more than I am. You know, despite the fact that the real estate industry will be talking about Zillow’s acquisition of Retsly (as we should), because Zillow drives all conversations in real estate these days, I actually think that might be the story of 2014. Might.

Since it hasn’t launched, no one really knows what’s what. But what says to me is that strange and magical things happen when you ask the really radical questions. There is so much power in asking Why Not? and Why Must Things Be This Way?

In an industry where every little thing is marketed as a “game changer” and a slight twist on the decades-old home search process is lauded as “disruptive”, shows us what real disruption looks like, and how it begins.

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Clareity Goes Back to the Future Beyond Syndication

Back To the Future

“Marty! I went back in time before Listhub! It was amazing!”

My friends at Clareity, Gregg Larsen and Matt Cohen, have just released a white paper they co-authored titled Beyond Syndication that is worth reading in full if you’re interested in this sort of thing. They include an overview of where things stand today, and then make a recommendation or two. Despite the fact that I declare Syndication dead as an issue a couple of years ago, it’s like a zombie that refuses to go away, so I have to write on it to see what I think about it.

At the same time, I think this white paper is significant in that it strikes a different tone in some respects, and perhaps we can consider it a step forward in putting the syndication issue to bed once and for all.

Having said all that… I was expecting something a bit more… ah… dramatic given the title. I suppose the role of the dramatic overstatement and questions no one wants to ask is mine and mine alone. :)

So let’s get into it.

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Some Thoughts on Move & NAR v. Zillow & Samuelson


The judge in the non-compete-disguised-as-a-trade-secrets case between Move & NAR v. Zillow & Errol Samuelson has issued a preliminary injunction that looks like a big win for REALTORS and REALTOR-lookalikes. Inman News has the story, and the actual order itself (PDF).

As a an interested bystander, the whole thing is sort of sad. Wish my friends would stop fighting and find ways to coexist. But hey, it’s easy for me to play John Lennon and Imagine a world like that. I’m certain it feels way different for the principals involved.

Some further thoughts and questions follow, as the order was heavily redacted. I assume the reason was to protect the very trade secrets that Move & NAR claim Zillow stole/attempting to steal from them. Nonetheless, there’s quite a lot in the order. We discuss them, after the jump.

[Disclosure: I have a business relationship with Trulia, who is obviously a competitor to both Move and Zillow.]

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