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3Oceans Rises From the Depths

April 26th, 2007 · 9 Comments

After a too-long blogging hiatus — brought on by a confluence of heavy work and personal commitments — I’m back…

One of the commitments keeping me busy was my “most Internet-marketed property…ever” listing. Let’s just say I underestimated how much time it would take to put property details up on some 80 sites…even though many of them auto-feed from Realtor.com But more on that later.

With the help of Jack Wimberly from West Valley Home Tours and the good folks from Wellcomemat.com I’m proud to unveil my debut acting appearance in a video segment about the listing, which is at 49 Missouri Street in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood.

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Tags: Potrero Hill · Real estate · Realtor.com · San Francisco · Wellcomemat.com

Post-Inman hangover

January 10th, 2007 · 5 Comments

Exciting couple of days meeting old friends whom I’d never met in person before.  Highlights of the last few days included:

  • Getting a post up before Sellsius  (Granted, Joe was in the panel, and sitting up front without a laptop, but hey, I’ll take any advantage I can, fair or unfair!)  I didn’t mean to imply in that post that nobody was interested in the session — as a few people pointed out, I attended the re-run, but the matinee was packed.
  • Getting some really excellent customer service from iBahn, the conference’s Wifi provider.  On Monday afternoon I complained about their service, and a scant few hours later, I got an email from Shannon Michael at iBahn asking for details so they could help.  Their customer care director Ponch Thompson also got involved, and all told I got two phone calls and several emails trying to resolve the problem.  In the end, I was able to figure it out on my side, but I feel it’s only fair that if I complained publicly about iBahn, I also need to publicly compliment them for a great customer service experience.  Shannon, Ponch — hats off, great work, and thanks!
  • Temporarily topping Google for the search phrase “Glenn Kelman Alan Dalton” — some 12 hours after posting about their duel, beating out the Redfin and Inman blogs.  I’m now down at number 2, but nobody should feel bad about getting Google-out-ranked by RainCityGuide.

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Tags: Alan Dalton · Glenn Kelman · Ibahn · Inman Connect · Real estate · Realtor.com · Redfin

Dalton vs. Kelman: 2-ish out of 3 ain’t bad

January 8th, 2007 · 3 Comments

Alan Dalton (Move.com) was in top form tonight in his panel discussion with Glenn Kelman of Redfin.  I predicted three things he would say and I got — well, sort of — 2 out of 3.

Prediction:  “I know Glenn Kelman is a decent man, an honorable man, who really really cares about Realtors, probably because most of his classmates at Berkeley became Realtors.”

Actual:  I’ll have to wait to review a full video of the panel, but he did make a few references to Glenn Kelman (and his cross-town counterpart, Lloyd Frink of Zillow) being “good, decent, honorable” people…but he didn’t mention anything about Kelman’s Berkeley classmates.

Prediction: “I think it’s appropriate that Glenn is here with us near Times Square, the world capital of frivolous neon lights and entertainment, which is really all Redfin amounts to.”

Actual:  Dalton did say something along the lines of “It’s appropriate we’re here in Manhattan…” but then launched into a long-winded analogy about how what Redfin is doing disparages Realtors, and if we did the same with all professionals — doctors, lawyers, etc. — there would be no consumers left to buy anything and we’d all be living in caves.  Very bizarre.

Prediction: “I ask you, what is the real estate public really looking for — the full service value-added model of the traditional Realtor, or a scaled-down web-based half-baked coccamamie jumbo-mumbo service that leaves the consumer to fend for himself?”

Actual: Lots of things along that vein, but not anything of the same wording. :(

Trust me, you don’t want to be in the ring with Dalton — he’s engaging, witty, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoys sparring.

Off now to some other event…will try to report more on this event later today or tomorrow.

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Tags: Alan Dalton · Glenn Kelman · Inman Connect · Real estate · Realtor.com · Redfin

Pre (Inman) game commentary

January 6th, 2007 · 6 Comments

I’m flying out tomorrow to attend the Inman REConnect ‘07 conference in New York, and it looks to be a packed and informative time.  Heck, it looks downright entertaining!

The keynote address has a nice ring to it: Real Estate Debate — High Touch vs. High Tech.  As alliterative as the title may be, however, I’d say it suggests a false choice.  Is it really “High Touch” vs. “High Tech”?  Are the options for the future of our industry really two distinct paths — one of them the “High Touch” model of old and the other the “High Tech” model that’s causing so much angst?  I think not:  just ask my clients about the “High Tech, High Touch” approach I use.

More entertaining than the title is the thought of seeing Alan Dalton take on Glenn Kelman — now that’s bound to be a good show!  Regular readers may remember Alan Dalton’s bombastic performance at another conference a few months ago.  In the ring with him back then was Zillow’s Lloyd Frink, who may not have matched Dalton in flamboyance, but certainly bested him in substance.

Glenn, if you’re reading this as part of your pre-game preparation, here are my predictions of what Dalton’s going to throw at you:

  1. “I know Glenn Kelman is a decent man, an honorable man, who really really cares about Realtors, probably because most of his classmates at Berkeley became Realtors.”
  2. “I think it’s appropriate that Glenn is here with us near Times Square, the world capital of frivolous neon lights and entertainment, which is really all Redfin amounts to.”
  3. “I ask you, what is the real estate public really looking for — the full service value-added model of the traditional Realtor, or a scaled-down web-based half-baked coccamamie jumbo-mumbo service that leaves the consumer to fend for himself?”

Remember, Glenn, Dalton doesn’t dislike you personally — he’s just running scared of the innovation that Redfin represents.

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Tags: Alan Dalton · Glenn Kelman · Inman Connect · Lloyd Frink · Real estate · Realtor.com · Redfin

An embarrassment of riches

December 14th, 2006 · 2 Comments

It just kind of happened this way, but I’ve been fortunate in the last couple of days to meet some of the most interesting folks in online real estate: Marlow Harris (360 Digest), Ardell Dellaloggia (Rain City Guide and Searchingseattle), David Gibbons (Zillow), and Kevin Connor from Docusign. — all of them up in Seattle. Yesterday, back in the Bay Rea, I had the opportunity to meet Travis Chow and Steve Schmidt from Neighboroo, as well as Pete Flint from Trulia.

I have write-ups on both Docusign and Neighboroo in the works, but for now let’s talk about Trulia.

Housed in classic San Francisco start-up open-plan style, Trulia’s ~30 employees definitelyimg_0230-cropped-small.JPG enjoy themselves — except when Pete Flint asks for volunteers to don the Trulia mascot. Can’t say I blame them — it does look rather uncomfortable, and I’d certainly rather be building the next refinement to Trulia’s offerings than humoring a curious visiting real estate blogger!

Trulia is really doing an exceptional job of trying to figure out how to improve the online experience for real estate consumers and how to win over real estate professionals to advertise. The latter is a particularly delicate balancing act, since our industry tends to be leery of technologists who stray onto our turf. Trulia has made nice with Realtors by providing neat tools for FREE such as a Trulia search box, home roll, free data upload feeds, and a Trulia Map. Unlike some aggregators, Trulia has built formal relationships with with many brokers across the country. A testament to Trulia’s Realtor PR is that a number of industry power hitters now sit on a recently-created Trulia advisory board.

Though Trulia concentrates on listings, it does have a fairly comprehensive database of other homes, a la Zillow. Unlike Zillow, however, these homes are not front and center; rather, Trulia’s site displays them only in the context of being near and similar to listings of interest, allowing the consumer to draw his own conclusions about value. Trulia does not appear to have a “T-estimate” up its sleeve.

How can Trulia display sold listings when that’s against the longstanding rules of most MLS’s in the country? (Note: our local MLS, and, I believe, the NWMLS, recently changed that policy.) Simple: Trulia is not a member of any MLS, so it’s not bound by the same silly rules. It gets its listing information from its Realtor partners, and its sold homes data from county records, via a third party.

The flip side of the advantage of not being beholden to MLS laws, however, is not having access to all the listing data…and therein lies Trulia’s “chicken and egg” problem, one common to online real estate sites. Trulia doesn’t — and can’t — have all the listings because it’s not an MLS member, and because it doesn’t have all the listings, it’s not as attractive a destination for consumers…which in turn makes it less attractive for Realtors to partner.

Pete’s response on this is that while MLS’s may have all the listings, “they certainly haven’t won the battle for consumer attention. Because Trulia offers consumers a way to understand real estate trends in a way that others don’t, I’d argue that we’re more of an attractive destination [than the traditional MLS], particularly with 80% of consumers looking online in their search.”

Pete notes, however, that though Trulia only has about 50% of the listings nation-wide that Realtor.com has, its inventory is steadily growing as it attracts more Realtor partners. He also points out that “according to Comscore, we are the fastest growing online real estate site in the US with over 25% month-on-month growth over the last 6 months.” If that growth continues, it may reach a tipping point where it has enough inventory to attract the eyeballs to attract the Realtors to contribute more listings.

Pete and I and product manager Megan Kamil brainstormed about what the ultimate real estate mash-up might look like. I’ll save that discussion for a future post.

Trulians — best of luck to you all, and thanks for having me over!

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Tags: Docusign · Neighboroo · Pete Flint · Real estate · Realtor.com · Travis Chow · Trulia · Zillow

Wow! You leave for an hour, and Zillow changes the world

December 7th, 2006 · 14 Comments

I stepped out for an hour….I came back…and the world, or at least my little piece of it, had changed, courtesy of Zillow’s upcoming product release.

Quoting Drew Meyer (Zillow PR), the new product release includes three components:

  1. Agents and owners can post homes for sales–for FREE.
  2. Added a real estate wiki that is seeded with over 100 articles–and opening it up to the community for improvement & expansion
  3. Make Me Move–now ANYONE can set a “dream” price for their home

Of my four predictions, only one turns out to be correct: community commentary, which is at least part of what the wiki concept seems to be. (Note to self: Keep remaining three predictions on file — maybe they’ll be part of Zillow’s next release!)

Thinking as a traditional Realtor, my thoughts on the three components above are, respectively:
Oh #!^%
Huh? again.

Putting on my consumer hat:

And now my Web 2.0 Realtor hat:
Brilliant (if I do it right)
Absolutely brilliant
Brilliant again.

1. Agents and owners can post homes for sales [sic] for FREE.

Traditional Realtor: “Damn them! First they stole our data, now they’re pulling the MLS rug out from under us, next they’re going to start selling us leads or doing the transaction themselves. I will never — never — advertise there, and I’ll take every opportunity I can to bad-mouth them.”

Consumer: “Very, very, very cool. I love how I can get quick-and-dirty estimates of my home’s value. I should let my neighbor John know about this new feature — he’s having a hard time selling his home, and his Realtor should definitely advertise the home on Zillow. I mean, it’s free, so why not? And Joe down the street, who’s also selling his home (but on his own without a Realtor) should also know about this.”

Web 2.0 Realtor: “Gotta play this right, but this could be big. I’m already advertising my listings on Craigslist, Google Base, and Trulia; I definitely need to add Zillow to the list and stop wasting my money on enhanced listings on Realtor.com. In neighborhoods I’m trying to break into, I definitely need to start buying some banner ads. If this is where my potential clients are hanging out online, I need to be there too. But…gotta be careful. If the Zestimate for this home is below where I’ve listed it, not sure Zillow is the best place to advertise it. Oh, and here’s another idea: I’ll buy ads in the neighborhoods in which my buyer clients want to move — an easy way of letting the FSBO’ers in that neighborhood know to call me since I may have a client for them.”

2. Added a real estate wiki that is seeded with over 100 articles–and opening it up to the community for improvement & expansion.

Traditional Realtor: “Wiki?”

Consumer: “Nice, very nice. I love Wikipedia, but I can’t always find the really local real estate information I’m looking for. What’s the market been doing in Barron Park lately? How many offers are typically coming in on homes in Palo Alto these days? Hmmm…looks like this 3oceans guy Kevin has some of the answers I’m looking for…maybe I’ll shoot him an email.”

Web 2.0 Realtor: “Not 100% certain how to play this, but hey, I’ve got all kinds of content on my blog that I can re-purpose into some interesting Wiki-type content, and this could get me some publicity — help me get known as the local expert on Eichler homes, or on the Fair Oaks neighborhood. Realbird just started something similar at Realki.com — maybe I’ll split my efforts between the two sites and see which gives me better results.”

3. Make Me Move–now ANYONE can set a “dream” price for their home.

Traditional Realtor: “Yeah, right. Now anybody with a crap Eichler worth $850,000 is gonna put it out there at $1,100,000 and cross their fingers. If it’s my listing, they’ll probably expect me to advertise it in the paper at that price, too, and waste months of my time and thousands of my dollars while they come to their senses.”

Consumer: “It’s a bit gimmicky, but also kind of entertaining. I know my home is only worth $800,000, but you know what? If somebody really wanted to offer me $900,000, I’d sell it in a heartbeat! Can’t hurt — I mean, it takes 2 minutes of my time to do it, right?”

Web 2.0 Realtor: “Gotta watch these numbers like a hawk. If there’s a home with an unreasonably low Zestimate, and a “Make Me Move” price above that, but below what I think market value is…that could be tasty. If there’s a home with a “Make Me Move” price above market value, but not too much so, might be worth contacting that homeowner and explaining my services.”

Now…time to head to the other blogs and see what their reaction has been…

Update: (12:41am PST, Thursday, December 7, 2006) — About an hour ago, Zillow President Lloyd Frink posted the announcement. Zillow’s site itself, however, is still not back on.

Update 2:  (9 minutes later)  — Zillow’s David G, in his inaugural post on Active Rain, addresses one of Web 2.0 Realtor’s above issues.  Apparently if a home is listed for sale on Zillow, the price that will appear is its list price, not its Zestimate.

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Tags: Craigslist · Google Base · Lloyd Frink · Real estate · Realtor.com · Trulia · Zillow

The real reason Realtor.com is critical of Zillow…

November 8th, 2006 · 3 Comments

With New Orleans already alive with NardiGras, I’m expecting some more choice outtakes of Realtor.com’s Alan Dalton criticizing Zillow to come out soon.

Why is he so against Zillow? Is it, in fact, out of some sort of principled commitment to the way online real estate should be conducted?

I think it has more to do with what Lloyd Frink of Zillow says in this clip from a recent CAR convention.

Quite simply, Realtor.com is running scared. In 6 short months, Zillow has made rapid gains and is now in contention to become the leading real estate destination on the Web, along with all the ad revenue that implies.

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

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.

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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.”

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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.

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