3 Oceans Real Estate, A Boutique Real Estate Brokerage Serving the San Francisco Bay Area header image 4

Entries from October 2006


October 31st, 2006 · 2 Comments

You know why many Realtors feel so threatened by Zillow? Because at first glance, it looks like yet another attempt to cut us out of the business. In fact, second and third glances could lead you to the same conclusion:

  • Second glance: Zillow’s founders cut their teeth at Expedia.com, one of several sites that let to the demise of the travel agent business.
  • Third glance: Zillow initially considered pursuing that business model…until they figured out, and apparently pretty quickly, that the real estate business ain’t the travel agent business, and they could make far more money by becoming an advertising-driven media company instead.

Listen to Lloyd Frink, Zillow President, at a recent convention of the California Association of Realtors. [Note: For some reason during much of Lloyd’s presentation, the camera showed a still of him instead of a live shot.]

Money quote for paranoid Realtors:

At Zillow, we quickly realized that you can’t replace Realtors with people over the phone…a much better business model for us is to NOT be part of the transaction, but to build something that is very, very compelling to consumers, and if we get enough of them to come to our web site, then we can attract people like you to come and advertise.

Tags: , , ,

[

Tags: California Association of Realtors · Lloyd Frink · Real estate · Zillow


October 31st, 2006 · 1 Comment

Just alerted to this on Om Malik’s blog — Google just bought Jotspot.  The obvious name for this new entity?  Take a guess…

With that out of the way…what in the world is Jotspot anyway?  It’s a neat little Web 2.0 hosted wiki application.  What does that mean, and why should that interest somebody in the world of real estate?

A “wiki” is simply an online collaborative application.  The most well-known is arguably Wikipedia, the public-contribution encyclopedia.  Other “wikis” include spreadsheets and maps which have the ability to be used collaboratively.

Some clients of mine clued me in to Jotspot earlier this year, and we found it a pretty effective tool for collaborating on the real estate search process.  I would upload information about the properties I had previewed for them, and they could see the comments I’d made, add their own, and ask questions.  “Did that one have a nice water view?  Did the kitchen in that home have the countertop style we prefer?”  The information was viewable as a spreadsheet, in map format (which homes have we looked at in this neighborhood?), and as a calendar (which homes did we see last weekend?)

Tags: , ,

[

Tags: Google · Jotspot · Real estate

Zillow maintains composure

October 31st, 2006 · No Comments

After Alan Dalton’s Hugo-Chavez-esque attack, Zillow’s Lloyd Frink responded in a surprisingly low-key fashion, choosing substance over style. I’m not sure I would have been able to resist shooting back. No, wait a minute — I would have shot back, no question.

Unsolicited advice to Lloyd:

Never use the words “spreadsheet” and “valuation” with a Realtor audience. Coming from a consulting background, I made the same mistake when I got into the business. Instead of “valuation”, say “estimate.” Instead of “spreadsheet” — well, just don’t use that word. Period. “Spreadsheet” connotes too mathematical an approach to estimating the value of something as emotionally charged as a home. Never mind that a common quick-and-dirty approach to a first cut of home valuation used by Realtors is a simple price-per-sq-ft analysis — a great task for a spreadsheet if there ever was one.

Tags: , , , , ,

[

Tags: Alan Dalton · California Association of Realtors · Lloyd Frink · Real estate · Realtor.com · Zillow

Different management, same tune

October 30th, 2006 · No Comments

Responding to Alan Dalton’s Zillow-skewering at the recent convention of the California Association of Realtors, Brad Inman of Inman News had this to say:

Money quote to Realtor audience: “Don’t let anyone demean your value by suggesting that you should be threatened by new sources of information.”

Tags: , , , , , ,

[

Tags: Alan Dalton · Brad Inman · California Association of Realtors · Inman News · Real estate · Realtor.com · Zillow

We’ve seen the fireworks; now let’s see the substance…

October 30th, 2006 · No Comments

Lest I give the impression that Alan Dalton is all bombast and no substance, consider the following clips, also from his recent address to the home crowd at the California Association of Realtors.

Dalton gets the Internet in a way that many senior real estate executives don’t. He understands that the transparency promoted by the Internet is a good thing.

The problem is, his hands are tied. Without the suffocating restrictions on the display of online data recommended by the National Association of Realtors, and implemented by many MLS’s, I have no doubt that Realtor.com would have a much richer treasure trove of data with which to tempt the public — though it would probably still have a less-than-mediocre interface. Dalton is a capable executive, of that I have no doubt. It’s difficult for him to compete against the sites that aren’t beholden to NAR — like Zillow — so he cloaks his frustration by calling on red herring higher principles.

Classic. He challenges Zillow to do something, and then promises to implement it as well on Realtor.com. That “something”? Displaying “what homes have sold for” instead of “what homes are worth.”

The problem? Many MLS’s, including our own in Silicon Valley, REIL, prohibit the display of sold listings. Realtor.com has had access to sold data for eons but, bound by NAR’s paranoid “keep the data under lock and key” restrictions, it hasn’t been able to…until recently…and then only by disingenuous subterfuge.

Tags: , , , , , ,

[

Tags: Alan Dalton · California Association of Realtors · Lloyd Frink · National Association of Realtors · Real estate · Realtor.com · Zillow

Quick! Somebody get this guy some Ritalin!

October 30th, 2006 · 5 Comments

I finally had a chance to view the video of the Realtor.com (Alan Dalton) vs. Zillow (Lloyd Frink) confrontation a few weeks ago, and though Dalton is still a few credits short of graduating from the Hugo Chavez School of Rhetoric, it was clear he hadn’t taken his Ritalin that day.

You can see the whole thing for yourself here (Quicktime version) or here (Windows Media version) [CAR membership possibly required], or read my non-chronological review — starting in this post and continuing for several days — which is equal parts commentary, unsolicited advice for Alan Dalton and Lloyd Frink, and entertainment.

After a fairly lengthy talk by Joel Singer, Executive Vice President of the California Association of Realtors (CAR), Lloyd Frink gave a pretty low-key introduction to Zillow.

Then came Dalton’s turn at the podium, and he has, shall we say, a different personality. He started by pandering to his California audience…

…and then came out swinging at Zillow in general and Lloyd Frink in particular. [Several clips spliced together]

Tags: , , , , , , ,

[

Tags: Alan Dalton · California Association of Realtors · Joel Singer · Lloyd Frink · Real estate · Realtor.com · Zillow

Electronic transactions and peace in the Middle East

October 29th, 2006 · 3 Comments

At the recent convention of the California Association of Realtors, Brad Inman, President and CEO of Inman News Features, spoke about how technology has been changing the business of real estate. Inman’s a pretty sharp character, and he “gets” technology in real estate in a way that many industry leaders don’t.

Here’s what he had to say about electronic transactions:

Uh, Brad…next time you’re thinking of buying or selling a home, let me know…we’ll do all the paperwork electronically, and the first and only time you’ll have to put a pen to paper is when you sign the closing documents at the title company. Alas, California law still requires mortgage documents to be signed the old fashioned way.

Tags: , , , , ,

[

Tags: Brad Inman · California Association of Realtors · Electronic signatures · Inman News · Real estate · Technology

A wake-up call for the title and escrow business

October 29th, 2006 · 3 Comments

Patrick Kitano over at Transparentre.com has a thought-provoking article on changes in the title and escrow business wrought by technology and the changing market. It’s a must-read for title reps and indeed for everybody in the business of providing ancillary services to Realtors and their clients — that would include mortgage folks, property and pest inspectors, and contractors and other tradespeople.
Every transaction needs an escrow officer, and the difference between a good one and a bad one can mean the difference between a deal that happens and one that doesn’t. Almost every transaction needs title insurance (the ones that don’t are those in which the owner is paying cash and chooses not to purchase it), and here in northern California the tradition is for the same company to provide both the escrow services and the title insurance. In Southern California these services are often split between two different companies.

A great escrow officer — and there are many of them — is a valued member of a real estate team and develops close relationships with the Realtors with whom he or she works. The sales force of the title and escrow industry — title reps — are also relationship-builders, and they’re always striving for ways to strengthen these relationships and help their Realtor clients build their businesses.

The value-added services provided by title reps go well beyond the culinary — despite the fact that Realtors are second only to cops in their love of doughnuts. Examples include:

  • Help with creating disclosure packets and posting them online
  • Creation of mailing lists and address labels
  • Providing technology advice
  • Offering the use of seminar rooms, LCD projectors, etc.
  • Co-sponsoring marketing events

Transparentre asks two provocative questions:

  1. Can title and escrow companies afford to continue providing those value-added services in a market with fewer transactions and a time when the obscene profit margins of the title insurance business (with claim payouts in the single digits) are being challenged?
  2. Are those value-added services good enough for today’s technology era?

On the second, I think the answer is “Not as much as previously.” Many Realtors are coming up to speed pretty rapidly on the technology side and no longer need as much help with the old-world way of real estate marketing. What kind of value-added Internet-age marketing assistance should they be offering?

That’s the million dollar question.

Tags: Escrow services, , Title insurance

[

Tags: Escrow services · Real estate · Title insurance

Realtor.com vs. Zillow dustup video finally released

October 27th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Thanks to RIS Media for pointing this out

A video of the fabled dustup between Zillow’s Lloyd Frink and Realtor.com’s Alan Dalton is finally online at the web site of the California Association of Realtors.

I’m at a cafe with really slow Internet access right now, so I’m having a hard time viewing it. Is somebody going to upload this to Youtube?

Update:  It’s a 100MB+ file, and presumably copyrighted, so I’ll take a pass on uploading it to you Tube.  Why CAR hasn’t done so is completely beyond me.

Tags: , , , , , ,

[

Tags: Alan Dalton · California Association of Realtors · Lloyd Frink · Real estate · Realtor.com · Technology · Zillow

Part 2: When Realtors lobby, who wins?

October 27th, 2006 · 2 Comments

My previous article on Realtor lobbying efforts on Santa Clara county’s Measure A sparked some email comments which, by permission, I thought I’d post here.

First, from a friend who used to be the mayor of Menlo Park:

You could think of it differently too - it *IS* in your CUSTOMERS’ best interests to enjoy remaining open space and a better quality environment.  PLus many would say that it IS the level of open space and trails etc that MAKE our properties have higher values. SO yes, there is a little less land to develop, but in terms of how much the existing housing stock wil sell for, I would actually argue this IS in residential realtors’ overall best interests (not to mention climate change… etc…)
Then, from another Alain Pinel agent, disagreeing with Ray Schuster (quoted in previous article):
 As a fellow member of SILVAR, Farm and Ranchers Association of Brokers and former board member of Santa Clara County Association of Realtors. I can not disagree with you more. The effect that Measure A would have on land in Santa Clara County is devastating. The process required for even the slightest of permits would make it financially paralyzing to improve any rural property.  I would strongly suggest you personally read the measure and then decide if the far reaching effects of the provisions that would supersede the existing policies would merit such legislation.
I have spent the better part of two decades selling, improving and developing land in Santa Clara County. If Measure A had passed thirty five years ago there would be no Silicon Valley. And I would be sending this email from an open field.
This is just another broker’s viewpoint on Measure A.
Tags: ,

[

Tags: Measure A · Real estate