Michael Wurzer, the author of the well-written, provocative, up-and-coming FlexMLS blog, offers an MLS software provider's perspective on the recent Zillow developments, which from his point of view are yawn-inducing. Given that he first heard the news in the middle of the night after having been woken up by a puppy, he's probably grateful.
Michael raises the following challenge: Now is the time for brokers, agents, and MLS organizations to realize and increase the value of the MLS data repository.
I couldn't agree more. The unfortunate thing is…it simply ain't gonna happen. Why? There are many reasons, not the least of which is organizational: Realtor and MLS boards are designed with certain goals in mind, none of which have anything to do with technological innovation.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, since excelling in technological innovation is not a prerequisite for excelling in the real raison d’être for Realtor and MLS boards, namely fostering cooperation amongst otherwise fiercely competing brokerages and Realtors. It really is coopetition in its purest form.
Think about it. In our local market, the three biggest brokerages are Alain Pinel, Coldwell Banker, and Intero Real Estate. The rivalry between these three companies, and between their respective agents, is fierce and unrelenting. A new listing for Alain Pinel often takes place at the expense of the other two, since anybody interviewing multiple agents is likely to pick one from each company. And yet, despite this intense competition, agents from any company — not just the big three — regularly and gladly show all the listings on the market, without regard to the listing broker. Similarly, listing agents regularly and gladly listen to all the offers that other agents bring in, no matter which brokerage they come from.
It really is quite impressive, and the structures behind this are the much-maligned Realtor and MLS boards. They create and enforce rules that enhance cooperation amongst competitors. They have arbitration committees for settling disputes. They have codes of conduct that prohibit poaching another Realtor's clients. They require all members to upload new listings within 48 hours.
The big price they pay for enabling this coopetition, however, is that these boards tend to be consensus-driven (or nearly so), slow-moving, plodding, and methodical. While this is the only way to get sworn business enemies to agree on anything, it's a terrible way of fostering innovation.
Want to put sold listings up on the MLS? Hell, no! If one key player puts his foot down, perhaps threatening to remove his listings from the MLS, then that ain't gonna happen.
Let's talk about uploading the listings to Trulia, Google, or Zillow? Absolutely not! (Unless you're the Houston MLS.) All it takes is one big broker to feel threatened by this move and it simply won't happen until there's absolutely no choice.
Ok, then, let's discuss creating a snazzy state-wide MLS to compete with these interlopers! Sure, we'll discuss it, but what we really mean is "let's set up a feasibility steering committee to investigate this and report back to the board in the Spring of 2009."
Zillow and the other 2.0 players have no such restrictions. Quite the opposite: they're designed to turn on a dime, to be responsive to competitive pressures, to be creative, to be laser-beam focussed on consumers. That's why they're so good at constantly turning out great products: they're designed from the ground up to do precisely that.
Think of the Realtor and MLS boards as being akin to your local PTA. The PTA is set up to do extremely well at certain things: raising money for a school, getting parents to volunteer in the classrooms, fostering interaction between parents and teachers.
But would you choose a PTA-type organizational structure to field a team of world-class baseball players? No way! To do that, you'd need to be much more business-oriented. You'd have to be willing to take chances, to fire players that weren't doing well, and to be a hard-nosed negotiator. That's now how PTA's are set up.
The next time you get frustrated at our industry's seeming inability to respond to these competitive threats, remember that that's simply the price we pay for having an organizational structure that otherwise suits our needs quite well. Your local Realtor or MLS board ain't gonna be beating Zillow or Trulia at the technology game any time soon.
Tags: Alain Pinel Realtors
, Coldwell Banker
, Intero Real Estate
, Real estate
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Tags: Alain Pinel Realtors · Coldwell Banker · Intero Real Estate · Real estate · Trulia · Zillow
Hot on the heels of Trulia’s announcement that Keller Williams’ listings will soon be added to Trulia’s database, now the company can proudly boast that another giant — Realogy — is on board. Included in Realogy’s portfolio are the giants Century 21, Coldwell Banker, and ERA.
Trulia has been slowly building its relationships with brokerages around the country to get their listings on board, and has won the trust of the industry — naturally wary of online predators who take the listings, snazz them up, and then sell them back as leads — by faithfully directing traffic back to the brokerage’s sites and staying true to its promise of making money only through advertising.
Don’t know how I missed this promo when it launched on Youtube late last year, but here’s some slick advertising for the company, featuring, amongst others, Alain Pinel’s CEO Larry Knapp.
This is where things start to get interesting. While Trulia’s search experience has always been at least on par with the best real estate search engines out there, its relative dearth of inventory — compared to broker-run and MLS-run sites — has been its Achilles heel. Sure, it’s always been fun and cool to search on their site, but in the early days when their site had only 20% of the listings in an area, many would have sacrificed Trulia’s coolness for the completeness of less cool sites.When Trulia got up to 50%, the same could perhaps be said. With Keller Williams and the Realogy giants now on board — as well as the large local players, like Intero and Alain Pinel Realtors here in the Bay Area — they could well soon reach the tipping point of, say, 80%, after which the remaining stragglers will have no choice but to go on board as Trulia becomes a more popular search destination.
It’s unlikely Trulia would ever have 100% of the listings in any given area because of the “long tail” nature of listings. In our MLS catchment area, for instance, there are currently 4110 active listings, of which fully 536 are from brokerages that currently have only 1 listing. There’s simply no way Trulia can knock on the doors of all these brokerages to get those stragglers, so the company will have to rely on the “me-too” syndrome for them to join.
Tags: Alain Pinel Realtors
, Century 21
, Coldwell Banker
, Intero Real Estate
, Larry-Knapp, Real estate
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Tags: Alain Pinel Realtors · Century 21 · Coldwell Banker · ERA · Intero Real Estate · Real estate · Realogy · Trulia
What better way to spend a balmy, sunny, spring day than viewing the new crop of homes to hit the market in Palo Alto? Come along for the ride as we explore the inventory, which, per our friends at Altos Research, is still tight, but improving.
First up was a stray Menlo Park property — “stray” because Menlo Park properties are normally on broker tour on Tuesdays, not Fridays — namely, 1026 Menlo Oaks in the Menlo Oaks/Flood Park neighborhood of Menlo Park. A retired fireman’s residence, this classic old 3/2 home sits on a 9000 sq ft lot, a size more commonly found south of Bay Road than north of it. The listing agent, Jeanne Wangsness of Coldwell Banker, has it listed at $1,047,000, and in this market it’s anybody’s guess what the winning bid will be, despite how close it is to the charming sounds of highway 101. Look at it this way: you’re paying $100,000 for the home, another $2000 for the quaint (but gas-burning) stove, and $945000 for the land.
From there it was on to Palo Alto and 2297 St. Francis, listed by local Coldwell Banker superstar Brendan Leary. Tragically close to highway 101 and Embarcadero — and priced accordingly at $925,000 — is a definite candidate for the cute award, with 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 1120 square feet. Detracting from its charm, however, is a somewhat unkempt back yard.
After popping by Intero Real Estate’s Lana Raltson’s listing at 290 Iris Way in Palo Alto, I mosied on over to see fellow Alain Pinel-er Arti Miglani’s listing at 3055 Stelling. Showing my softer side, I took time to coo over an adorable little 8-month baby whose mother was busy looking over the property. Listed at just under $1.2M, this 3/2 Eichler home has been well-looked after and nicely remodelled, maintaining some of the original charm. Typical of this style home, there is a partial wall separating the kitchen from the living area, but the kitchen has been redone with tasteful tiles, cabinetry, and appliances, and is well lit from both the large windows and door leading outside and the track lighting. Arti had thoughtfully provided a coffee cart service — a wonderful way to keep Realtors lingering longer at the property.
Then it was two quick stops at 3934 Nelson (Pat Miller, Alain Pinel) and 2590 Bryant (Tim Anderson, also Alain Pinel) — the latter a small home on a big yard, whose nearly-certain fate is to be torn down and built into a McMansion like the one currently being built 2 houses down.
Today’s pièce de résistance was definitely the last property I saw: 345 Lincoln Ave, a grand century-old Professorville home listed by the Carol/Rosemary/Nicole team (again — Alain Pinel!) For just under $5M, you get a 21000 sq ft lot (pretty rare in Palo Alto), an elegant 4000+ sq ft home, 6 (or more) bedrooms, two stories plus an attic — and thought I can’t speak for the listing agents, they would probably be happy to throw in a GPS so you can find your way around. The nicest touch of this property was undoubtedly the “guard tower” perched above the back of the house, extending up to a four-story house, surrounded by a wall of glass. A perfect place for a sundowner or a late afternoon nap, one imagines this tower would have been perfect for spying on those marauding Athertonians in the old days before peace broke out between the two neighboring towns.
345 Lincoln Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301