Super excited to say I’m now a partner …

Super excited to say I’m now a partner in Selliken Systems!

In my excitement, I recorded a short video about why I’m so excited about this opportunity:

If you’re curious to learn a bit more about the team I just joined, here are some links to HomeQuest and M Realty. And if that’s not enough, definitely check out Garron Selliken‘s blog… These are some great folks, and I couldn’t be more excited to be joining the team!

And of course, if you have any questions about what and why I gave up my independence to join this team, send ’em my way! I love those kind of questions! 🙂

Is professionalism in real estate overra…

Is professionalism in real estate overrated?

The real estate zebra clearly things so… but I have to totally disagree.

But before I talk real estate, it’s worth talking about my experience as a licensed transportation engineer, where I never remember hearing anyone debate the value of “professionals.” Among the many different types of projects I worked on were signal design projects, where a dumb design mistake (bad signage, lack of sight distance, non-standard turning radiuses, etc.) can easily (and often do) lead to accidents, deaths and lawsuits. At my consulting firm, every project was overseen and actively reviewed by a principal of the company. The principal was not only licensed, but had years (almost all had at least a dozen years) of licensed experience. In other words, ever after an engineer became licensed (which involved a multi-day test!), they wouldn’t be able to approve final designs until they had years more experience. And far from being the exception, that was how every transportation engineering consulting firm (at least that I was aware of) operated… and it resulted in an industry that generally has a very good reputation with their clients (who are generally city and state governments)… Like any industry, consulting firms are often selected based on price, but the risk of sacrificing quality has been mitigated by the fact that there’s such a strong professional ethic within the engineering industry.

Compare that to the real estate industry where the barriers to entry are so much lower and the quality reviews so much more infrequent. The industry often portrays itself as “professionals” who are always looking out for the best interest of their clients (and most real estate agents are), but there are enough incompetent “bad apples” in any given market that there’s widespread distrust among consumers.

Daniel makes an extremely valid point that on any given transaction, industry-wide “professionalism” doesn’t matter much, as it’s the professionalism of the individual agent that determines if the client is satisfied. And when we sold our Seattle house, Ardell represented us, so I was able to feel more than confident that our agent was looking out for our best interests.

However, it totally misses the issue of widespread consumer distrust of the industry in general. (Want to see some distrust among consumers? Check out this post on RCG.) Unless/until the industry can do a better job removing the bad apples who are just around to make a quick transaction (ethical or otherwise), I would argue that the real danger is consumers, especially consumers who don’t already have a trusted advisor, will be more than happy to seek out and use alternative business models that differentiate themselves only on price.

[cc photo credit: One bad apple]

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 Exclusive: Realtor.com unleashes the Zillow killer and you…

…didn’t even notice:

new home values tool on Realtor.com

Apparently, Realtor.com launched their answer to Zillow recently without much fanfare!

The first thing to note is that the new tool mixes estimates for home values along side listings from the Realtor.com database. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but even with an announcement from NAR, the blog world has been silent. (And I’m told by someone-in-the-know that it has been live with a link from Realtor.com for a few weeks already!)

The part that seems to be missing is accuracy of the listings.

For example, the VERY first comparable I tried shows a home value estimate that is clearly way off base… The home at 26227 Adamor Road in Calabasas, CA which recently sold for $575K is listed on Realtor.com with an estimated value of $925,399 and Zillow with a zestimate of $564,000.

Recently sold home on Realtor.com

OUCH! If I was a REALTOR trying to sell a home on Adamor Road, I sure would be pissed if REALTOR.com was estimating homes were selling in the million dollar range, but actual sales were closer to the $600K range! A “beta” label only goes so far!

The second example I tried (by simply typing in Seattle, WA and then zooming in randomly until I could see a listing) was the home at 7352 26th Ave in Seattle, WA showed a recently sold price of $880K, the Realtor.com home value is $690,000, while the zestimate is $900,500.

For the third example, I decided to head further east to Chicago (no real reason other than NAR is located in that area). I randomly landed at 1729 N Melvina Ave in Chicago, IL which recently sold for $225K. the Realtor.com home value is $218,183, while the zestimate is $247K.

Results:

Two horrible estimates and one decent estimate out of three tries. It makes sense that the realtor.com team has not made a PR push around this feature yet! 🙂

On a related note: Things get even more interesting when you think that NAR took on a similar project (was called “Gateway”, now called “Real Estate Channel”) to aggregate home information across the country. These types of projects are not cheap… so why create duplicate efforts?

A fascinating conversation about NAR/DOJ…

I really want to thank the industry titans who participated in today’s podcast:

As well as all the people who listened in and provided wonderful chat commentary throughout the podcast. There were so many great names that showed up that I can’t wait to get many of you on future podcasts!

I thought if I gave us a half-hour we’d be able to cover the subject completely… but with the crew above, we were flying along after an about an hour when I decided to pull the plug in order to save some energy for next week! 😉

And if you missed the live call, don’t worry, you can still catch all the recored action here:

That was so much fun, I know we’ll do that again… Hopefully soon! 😉

Congrats to FrontDoor for picking up…

Kelly Roark.    With her experience as a VP at both Inman and Trulia, she’ll be able to bring some great industry insights to the FrontDoor team.

One of the things I really like about Kelly is that she’s not afraid to get into the trenches…  A great example is when she came up to Seattle with Sami to meet with the RCG community.   The agent community was extremely skeptical about Trulia at that point, so I think it is appropriate to attribute at least part of Trulia’s success to Kelly’s ability to reach out to the broker/agent/blogger community.