As much as this blog is all about real estate, it’s also all about me (Alex) and what I do to not only help my clients, but also my colleagues. For many years I’ve been dabbling in little ventures here and there to help my colleagues do more deals, and give their clients valuable real estate information. The first company was sfnewsletter, which created and sent branded newsletters for Realtors to their clients.
If you haven’t heard about listing syndicator site Zillow acquiring competitor site Trulia for $3.5 Billion in stock, I feel for you…especially if you’re in real estate. Since this announcement, I’ve received a couple emails, seen a few comments, read a few newsletters, and thought I’d try to spark a dialogue here on the site.
For what it’s worth, I’m definitely not thrilled about these two companies continually capitalizing off of our data. I certainly feel they would be nothing without the brokerage community, and firmly believe real estate brokers and agents got it all wrong (especially bowing down and “claiming” our own listings on these sites…for a fee!), but who am I to judge. I want to hear what you have to say. To start the conversation, have a look at what a reader said recently in a past post we had done about how worthless Zestimates are: “Zillow Zetimates Rubbing You Wrong Too? Vent”:
Why hasn’t anyone considered starting an “Agent Owned” National CMLS Internet advertising company by which we all become coop owners and share in the ad revenues and use the service at moderately low cost. We could put a stop to all the internet companies using OUR LISTINGS to make BILLIONS and use those revenues as retirement supplements to all the coop members of the National CMLS internet company. I am sick and tired of Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and other sites using our listings to milk the real estate agents for money that belongs to us. These are our listings not theirs. If anyone should make money on our listings it should be us. We can put a stop to this and no longer allow these sites to use our listings. In the very least, they should be paying us for our listings. Wake up Real Estate Agents………….
Then, have a look at what a local brokerage had to say in their newsletter about making sure their listings are accurate on these sites (ever think about just killing the feed?):
This is big news in the real estate community. We know these sites are very popular with the public, and that’s why for years [brokerage] has fed its listings to both sites. This has been done to try to minimize the kind of factual errors often found on these sites. Despite their popularity, Zillow and Trulia are not getting their content from our local MLS, and so listing details can be wrong. Dramatically wrong at times.
As a matter of fact, Zillow itself gives the accuracy of its popular “Zestimates” only two out of four stars in San Francisco, admitting that these estimates have a median error of nearly 12% – that’s a big number. Still these sites are popular, and while [brokerage] believes it has enhanced the user property search experience on its own website, the company will continue to keep an eye on Zillow and Trulia, and leverage these platforms as much as possible.
Finally, have a look at this email I received on the matter:
Realtors are guilty for not keeping up with the times and being completely opposed and scared of technology, as we know well. PocketListings.net being the ultimate example. I still don’t understand how hard it was to make anyone understand the concept of creating their [Realtors’] own listing network that they control. Doing anything to really help agents is ultimately a dead end because they are all stupid – few exceptions like you :) The successful businesses don’t give a shit about agents. Zillow, Trulia…as you stated, mining all the data agents worked hard to create. Redfin, basically wants to cut the agent out of the equation. The solution is simple: kill the feeds and those companies perish, but the industry never will. It’s run by idiots.
Share your thoughts in the comments below…(Remember, you can be anonymous if you choose).
I’ve written before about technology that is here to stay, and how the real estate industry can benefit from all the brilliant people in the world creating it, and I’ve recently come across another good example of a new company that’s applying technology to attempt to solve a big headache for buyers and agents alike: the escrow (purchase) process.
I met founder Jonathan Aizen when he reached out to me through TheFrontSteps, and he took me through an early version of his tool, Closing Time, telling me about how he built it based on his own pain navigating the closing process on his Noe Valley home last year. Basically, Closing Time takes a bunch of information about a buyer’s property and finances to generate a customized checklist of steps to complete prior to close of escrow (read: get the keys to your home). These steps include things like “Get homeowners insurance” and “Submit your W-2s to your lender.” The steps generated and their due dates are based on the information you give Closing Time (it asks you simple questions like “what kind of property are you buying?”, etc.). For pre-contract buyers, Closing Time simply provides a checklist of things to prepare that might make escrow run more smoothly (like getting your financial documents in order, who to use for inspections, etc.) after you beg, borrow and steal your way to convincing the seller to accept your offer over one of the 15 others he just received.
It’s an interesting concept, and it’s certainly worth checking out. While great strides have been made in document management and e-signatures to reduce the amount of crap you actually physically have to sign (now you just click, click, click your way through), the actual escrow process has remained mostly untouched by technology (especially for the buyer). I’m still thinking about how this would work with my own workflow, as there’s an agent-interface that helps agents track buyers through their escrow process, and I’m actively giving them feedback about how to make it more user friendly and as little a drain on my already tapped time for technology and new processes, but I invite all of you to give it a shot and tell me or Closing Time what you think.
To that end, Closing Time is offering a free trial for agents, and buyers, who read TheFrontSteps. Agents can invite in as many buyers as you want for the first three months. Agents can sign up at http://www.closingti.me/agents. Buyers can try it too, even if you’re not yet under contract, by going to http://www.closingti.me to play around. Both buyers and agents can use the invite code “TheFrontSteps.”
Good luck with it…and Happy New Year!
If you follow us on Twitter, you’ve already heard. There will soon be a network to post, search, and sell pocket listings (PocketListings.NET). Off-market, pocket listings, whatever…they’re out there, they’re bought and sold, and real estate agents will soon be able to share information amongst themselves on a much larger scale, which we hope will increase an agent’s opportunity to sell their pocket listings, and ultimately open up some doors for buyers and sellers beyond what is listed on the MLS.
The market has changed, the internet is here and not going anywhere, agents have valuable information about off-market properties that until now (when we launch) has been difficult to communicate to a large audience, and it’s time for something new. We can’t tell you everything, but we can tell you it will be cool. So get yourself a Twitter account and follow @pocketlistings for updates.
–PocketListings.NET [coming soon!]
Is it us, or does the San Francisco Association of Realtors just like to make things complicated (Remember the Token Code?)
www.SFRAO.com is a new web site developed by the Association to provide detailed information on tweets broadcast by the Association. It is shown as a link at the end of each tweet that requires more than 140 characters to provide the kind of detailed treatment of a subject that REALTORS® will find useful. Just ahead of the link is a “D” number (i.e., the “Details” number). If a tweet has a D number and you are interested in seeing a more detailed explanation of the subject, jot down the D number and click on the link. Once on http://www.SFRAO.com, enter the D number of the tweet. Then enter your member ID and password. A title relating to the tweet will display. Click on the title and the details will appear.
All of this secrecy! Is it really necessary?
Living in earthquake country, we get asked all the time, “Is this home on bedrock or landfill.”
The next question, “Do you know if this building has been retrofitted?” Usually, we don’t, but that might be changing. Check out this new user-generated mashup where you, the visitor, can add a project that has been retrofitted. We’re guessing it’s an honor system type thing and thinking it could be pretty useful. What about you?
Cool idea, cool map, but we’re thinking when the users start adding all the retrofitted projects to the map, those bubbles (pinpoints) might get a bit cluttered. No big….Along comes the 9.0 shaker, we clear the map, and start all over….if we’re still around.
Being heavily focused on selling real estate in San Francisco, and not renting it, we’re always on the lookout for a quick and easy tool to help answer that question, “What do you think this place would rent for?” Aside from actually contacting a true expert in the field of rentals and having them go in and take a look at the property, our hands have been tied. Not any more. There is a new website out there tackling this very problem, rentBits.com, “a free national rental search engine that also offers free rental rates pages for over 4,000 cities in the United States. Using data from over 7,000,000 rental houses, condos and apartments, the service gives renters, property managers and leasing agents key information on average rental rates in their city.”
The above screenshot is from their San Francisco page (obviously we only care about San Francisco), and you can get to that page by following this link. Have a look around. We find it pretty informative, but then again we only have a few minutes to check things out these days and put them out there for you to pore over in detail.
Having just spent 4:45 of our lives watching this entire spiel about “while the Zestimate’s fun to kind of get an idea…”, it’s really not accurate so don’t waste your time, we’re left with a few thoughts.
1. Sara is cute
2. Sara’s lip gloss sparkles
3. Sara’s hair shines, but how would it look brunette
4. Sara is really thinking the Zestimate is a total load of shit and will go up and down 3 times a week whenever they refresh the data, and she can’t believe she has to read that drivel, but her options will pay off someday, so she’ll keep reading and thinking of her next pedicure
5. Why a turtle neck?
6. More Sara, less Zillow psycho babble
7. Yes, we love poking fun at Zillow, always have, always will…that doesn’t mean we don’t admire their technology and vision.
To the untrained eye it might look as if our lovely city by the bay has the Chickenpox. Alas! ‘Tis not the case. It’s just Google getting into the game of real estate, and leave it up to them to do it right (maps.google.com/realestate).
[Note: These below maps are embedded on this site and you can play around all you want right here…how cool is that!?]
Not a fan of the Satellite image search, and need to know your streets? Go for the basic street map:
Wondering if your future home is on a hill and whether you can sell your Thigh Master? Zoom in and go Terrain:
[Note: You can even go Street View]
Wondering if you’re future home is close to public transportation and how the traffic in the area is? They have that too.
In fact, you can get photos, webcams, wikipedia and all sorts of information about the area you want to put down roots all by clicking around the maps.
Proximity to good coffee? It’s probably on there too.
It makes searching for a home by area so unbelievably simple (not as simple and effective as actually getting in the car or walking your future ‘hood…assuming you’re not relocating cross continent), but simple nonetheless. Contacting those with the listings and not getting shuffled to some third party site that is essentially rebroadcasting MLS data on their site (which Google is then able to “crawl” and display…we’re guessing) is a bit tricky. The information certainly has a time delay as to what is displayed, when you click on properties there is enough error that we’ve discovered to make us not entirely certain about the price or details of a property and whether it is, in fact, still available, and price reductions aren’t showing up all too real time either, but the data is there, and it’s cool. Really cool. It just needs to find its wings, and we have no doubt it will.
Check it out, if you haven’t done so already.
Where readers ask, and we (the community) try to answer:
We have a house in SF that’s been on the market for 3 weeks with minimal activity. Our agent is doing the traditional stuff but no presence on blogs, etc. Should she be using yours and/or other sites to market our house? What are the options/costs? What kind of ROI can she/we expect?
Great question. The short answer, yes…she should have it all over the blogs and social networks. By being on MLS alone it is fed to the biggies (Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, etc.), but the social networking power of blogs (like this), Facebook, and Twitter should not be ignored.
ROI, no idea, but the costs are negotiable and a few thousand extra eyeballs per week can’t hurt, especially when those eyeballs are browsing the real estate porn of cyberspace.
Good luck. Next time (and tell your friends) when you list with us, your home will be on theFrontSteps until it is sold. No questions asked.