Maybe I can offer a totally different perspective

Hurricane Fannie Freddie got me thinking about an email that I sent out to a Seattle real estate agent not too long ago.     The agent emailed me to say that she thought Rain City Guide’s negativity was only making the Seattle real estate market worse and that we should provide a more positive outlook.

This was not the first email I’ve received like this (far from it), and so I thought I’d share my response with 4realz readers since it may help you uncover a bit of what has worked on RCG over the past 3 1/2 years (note: I modified the email substantially to protect the innocent):

Dear Seattle real estate agent,

Maybe I can offer a totally different perspective.

As you seem to understand by your email, Rain City Guide is an awesome marketing tool that generates lots of interest among seattle real estate consumers and substantial business for many of the active participants.   However, I think the reason we are successful often gets lost on industry insiders.

There’s no doubt that the group of contributors to RCG often takes a slightly negative twist (some might argue “realistic”) on the market and that in general, the most active participants are extremely pro-consumers at the expense of the industry.   For industry-insiders like yourself, this can often seem completely inappropriate (as you mentioned!), but for those of us generating business by tapping into an honest dialog with consumers about the market, it can often seem odd that anyone would take any other position.

Truth is, I can’t think of one successful real estate blogger (i.e. one who is generating substantial business from blogging) who views their job to look out for the industry.

While it might be in the best interest of the industry for RCG to put a positive spin on today’s market, from my perspective, it’s in the best interest of each contributor to take a position that a vast majority of consumers can relate to.   For consumers, the market sucks… and that includes most of the people who are considering buying and/or selling right now.    And my experience has been that if you tell an internet consumer anything they don’t want to hear, they’ll simply do another google search and find an agent, website or blog that matches with their reality.

My recommendation? As you contribute comments (and maybe some day posts) to RCG, focus on consumers and (pretty much) ignore the other contributors.  And if you do decide to give industry-spin, then be prepared that RCG readers love to point out self-serving agents and RCG contributors are often more than happy to distance themselves from industry insiders because they’re looking to earn clients, not industry friends.

Essentially, don’t be the “example” that other contributors can focus on to differentiate themselves.  Instead, focus on relating directly to consumers with the most authentic dialog you can muster.  There’s plenty of business to be generated by all if you fight for the consumer’s heart and mind.

And just to be clear, this perspective has everything to do with the expectations of internet consumer and very little to do with RCG.  This honest dialog between agents and consumers goes on, and will continue to go on, with or without RCG.

I hope this helps! Best,

-Dustin

I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts on my email.  Does this philosophy work outside of Seattle?  Or am I just totally missing the boat on what makes RCG tick?

4realz Roundtable: Effect of FDIC/Treasury Actions on Home Buyers and Real Estate Industry

[NOTE: we had a wonderful show and you can listen to the entire episode at the bottom of this post!]

This week were going to cover the obviously hot topic of the effect of the actions taken by the government in bailing out and/or helping secure IndyMac, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae will affect the real estate industry.

This week’s guest is Lawrence Yun and as the chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS, Lawrence is sure to bring an incredibly interesting perspective.  He’s constantly traveling around the country talking with people about their local markets… and whenever he’s stopped by real estate technology circles, like trips to Portland and Virginia, he’s impressed the locals tremendously.

As always, you can get information on how to (1) listen to the call live, (2) take part in the live chat and potentially take part in the conversation by following the (relatively simple) information on the 4realz Roundtable TalkShoe page.  My guess is that this will be one of the more popular shows yet, so I’ll likely only be taking live callers based on folks who ask interesting questions in the chat room!

Also, in order to better accommodate Lawrence’s schedule, I’m moving the call to one hour later than usual.   The show will be on Thursday, July 17, at 5pm PST (8PM EST).     I definitely hope you can join us for a conversation on this timely topic!

UPDATE #1:

What an great show.   Thanks so much to everyone who took part!

Jonathan Miller, Jillayne Schlicke and Rhonda Porter really helped provide an excellent base for a roundtable discussion with Lawrence.   In our one hour conversation we covered so much ground… and I only wish I had the bandwidth to transcribe the whole thing (or even take better notes during the conversation!).

Nonetheless, we covered looked at how the real estate market would be affected by issues such as banks bailouts, freddie/fannie mac troubles, isues with jumbo loans, REOs, consumer confidence, government actions, sustainable housing, inflation, and much more!   If you’re interested in getting an in-depth look at the real estate market and where things are headed, then you can listen to the entire show right here:

[podcast]http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-20339/TS-128183.mp3[/podcast]

UPDATE #2:

There are great conversations going on about this topic on both Rain City Guide and ActiveRain. Also thanks to Jim Duncan, Ardell DellaLoggia, Jonathan Miller, Rhonda Porter and Tom Royce for helping to spread the word!

Localism2.0 Launches

I got an early tour of the next version of Localism and I like much of what I saw… It’s a clean design that will give real estate agents plenty of opportunities to promote themselves (including by buying and/or creating new local communities). My guess is that this release will be very popular within the ActiveRain community.

Here’s my main criticism: When I put my consumer hat on, the purpose of the site doesn’t jump out at me at first glance.  As a new user going to Twitter, I know what I’m suppose to do (i.e. answer the question: “what am I doing?”). As a new user going to Facebook, I know that I’m there to connect with friends and family.   With localism, I’m asked to “go hyper local”… but I’m honetly not sure what that means… and it’s not particularly compelling when I get there since, as a consumer, there’s not a lot of ways for me to interact on the site… yet.

So here’s the good news.   The ActiveRain team mentioned that (1) they did their SEO homework and they’re convinced these sites will rank really well (only time will tell) and (2) they’re working hard to add more consumer interaction points (text, photo and video upload for non-ActiveRain members).   Assuming that at least some of the communities starts to get some serious traffic and the agents involved start to get some leads from the site, then I think they’ll have another winner on their hands.

Been crazy for a few days getting ready for…

…in Realty Quest.

Here are some of the things I wanted to talk about this week, but haven’t had the chance:

  1. 4RealzEd is coming to Pasadena on May 30! The buzz from the first two events has been wonderful and I’m already seeing people sign up without any real marketing on our part! I love it!
  2. Move, Inc lost $4.6M in Q1 and not releasing “transformational” product. About the only positive news is that they are “announcing” a beta site that has been live (with a link from the homepage) since December. I feel bad for my previous colleague in marketing who has to spin this stuff.
  3. Keller Williams gets Zillow fever. Consider the great relationship between Top Producer (owned by Move) and KW, this must have been particularly painful for Errol Samuelson (runs both Top Producer and Realtor.com)
  4. Trulia teams up with the Silicon Valley Ass of REALTORS.  The traditional walls are slowly crumbling.
  5. Seattle times reporter/blogger wonders covers conference with Move, Zillow and Google and wonders who will create the real estate destination portal of the future
  6. Todd announces RE BlogWord… A special real estate track for the popular BlogWorld conference in Vegas. My guess is that there will be a bunch of big names from the world of real estate social media so this should be a lot of fun.
  7. Had a great, GREAT, meetup yesterday (dubbed: Doctor’s Note Gathering) with real estate and tech folks from the valley.   Linda and Ted had nice write ups!
  8. Getting excited about a panel this year at Inman led by Jeff Turner called: Growing Pains: Take Your Blog to the Next Level (more announcments around RE Connect are sure to come!)
  9. Krunching.com launched earlier this week. I like everything about the site (from the perspective of a  first public launch), except the business model.  I think they will either need to be a tech provider (i.e. selling tech to consumers/professionals) OR a brokerage (commissions!), but not both.   Otherwise, the site is great and I look forward to seeing more!
  10. Niki let me know that he launched Homethinking Mortgage earlier this week.   I feel bad that I haven’t had more of a chance to check out the site, but ANYTHING Niki does is worth checking out.   Some of the things, like the heat maps of average loan amount, are interesting, but I just haven’t taken the time to figure out how they will be useful!
  11. BeatYouThere launches (yet) another national real estate search site.  I kinda feel bad for anyone trying to start up in this space at this point, even if they are well funded.   Incremental improvement in the search just aren’t going to be enough at this point.
  12. And speaking of things that will be forgotten about in a few months…   I like Louis a lot and he’s definitely doing a great job reaching out to the online real estate community, but…
  13. CyberHomes redesigns the site.   I can’t help but wonder when will they start seriously marketing to consumers?

Redfin releases a genuinely interesting update!

According to their press release, they are now commingling MLS, FSBO and Foreclosure listings on one map… and this has me scratching my head!

Are they allowed to do this? Isn’t this type of commingling of listings against MLS rules?

redfin search in woodland hills

Notice the purple and pink icons… Those are REO (foreclosures) and FSBOs, respectively (green icons are MLS listings).

I have four ideas about how they are able to get away with this:

  1. They found a loophole in MLS agreements that let’s them commingle listings (but I would find this hard to believe).
  2. They got buy-off from all their local MLS organizations (but I would find this hard to believe)
  3. They have reason to believe they can win this battle in the courts… (maybe a DOJ brief in support of this or something similar?)
  4. They just don’t care about the rules and believe that consumer support for this feature will be so great that they’ll risk MLS fines.

None of these scenarios seem likely to me. What am I missing?

With that said, I REALLY like how they are approaching the foreclosure data. I’ve received a few press releases recently from real estate search sites that “announce” they are now publishing foreclosures on their site. However, inevitably, when I tested out the feature, the sites were just regurgitating RealtyTrac data that required consumers to pay a fee to get the actual address of the property. Redfin is providing the address.

Also interesting, someone from Redfin let me know that they are going to phase in a flat-fee buying option in order to accommodate these new listings types.

I want to send my congrats out to the Redfin team for pushing the boundaries yet again. Love ’em or hate ’em, they’re working pretty darn hard to deliver features and tools that they think will do a better job serving their customers.

UPDATE:

There’s some debate in the comments about whether there are local MLS rules against commingling of data, with some people claiming it’s just a misunderstanding that the data can’t be commingled.  However, someone (who wished to remain anonymous) send me the following email which demonstrates that for at least one MLS where Redfin is commingling data, the rules are pretty clear:

Check it out:   http://www.imrmls.com/centsite/idx_policy.htm

“4.13. Listings obtained through IDX must be displayed separately from listings obtained from other sources, not including information provided by other MLSs.”

What that says to ME (having experience with MLS rules) is that MRMLS doesn’t allow FSBO properties side-by-side with MLS listings.

The 1st 4RealzEd event was yesterday and…

4ealzEdI think I’ve recovered enough now to actually post about it! 🙂

Despite our best efforts to be prepared, the day started off a bit rough with a nearby mudslide taking out power in our building in the morning (meaning no hot coffee and no projector) and a 9-car pileup on a nearby freeway slowed me down tremendously. AHHH

So, to say it started rough would be an understatement… But once it started, things seem to get on a roll quickly.

I started with an overview of consumers expectations in a web2.0 world to set expectations for the day… Jim followed up with presentation on optimal features and design for a real estate website. Then it turned back to me for a presentation on social networking… lunch… then another presentation by me on creating value through blogging about communities. And we returned for the day’s finally with Jim giving a engaging presentation on measuring and tracking marketing results to ensure a positive ROI.

All around, it was a wonderful day! And, maybe they were just being nice, but the attendees who talked with me said only good things about the education.

Because I promised attendees I would give them a list of all the sites I mentioned in my presentations (so that they wouldn’t have to ask me to spell out each URL), here is the list for everyone’s benefit.

Consumer Expectations in a Web2.0 World:

Engaging in Social Networking to Earn Clients

Using Blogs to Build Communities

I wasn’t tracking the sites that Jim mentioned, but there were not nearly as many of them in his presentations…

And thanks again to all the bloggers who have helped spread the word about the event, the sponsors who helped us keep the price low and all the attendees who made the day possible!

I received some incredible feedback from all three groups, which is going to lead me to make some changes to the upcoming events (I’ll announce those early next week!). Great stuff all around. Thanks again to everyone!

Going way back before I took my job at…

…Move, I landed a 30-minute meeting with Dan Rosensweig (COO of Yahoo at the time), where I tried to convince him that I should lead up a team for Yahoo to build a platform that would help real estate professionals market themselves at a local level using the various tools Yahoo had in-house (at the time, it was something like Yahoo 360, Flickr, upcoming, local business reviews, maps, listings, etc.).

Dan’s strongest argument against such a platform was that I should prove out the concept first by doing it myself since almost all of these platforms had APIs (and theoretically, he was right, but I was looking for a regular paycheck!).

Anyway, I only remembered this story after reading Joel’s post about Seth Godin’s new product: SquidZipper.

Even two years after my call with Dan, the market for providing a free, quality, and local marketing platform for agents is still largely undeveloped… and while one of the real estate focused verticals like Trulia or Zillow could theoretically fill this niche, it still seems like such a no brainer for one of the big guys like Google, Microsoft or Yahoo to take a page from Seth’s playbook and create a niche-specific platform for their various tools!

Seth’s platform is a great idea… but it is still missing the one thing that could really make a platform like this work: an abundance of consumers!