March 2006 Archives

The Bid Whisperers

Dianne Klien:

WHEN Topanga Realtors Gary and Karen Dannenbaum have big news, they typically share it with each other first. Except for the time Gary made an offer on a client's behalf for $2.5 million, and only hours later, wife Karen heard about it through the grapevine.

"That really annoyed me," she says. "The listing agent had told another agent, who congratulates me. So the word is going around that they have a full-price offer. All someone has to do is offer $5,000 more and they might get it.

Now, however, the National Assn. of Realtors has revisited an idea it kicked around two years ago — and this time made an addition to its code of ethics. Effective Jan. 1 of this year, buyers' agents in all member states, including California, are required to inform clients that their offers might not be kept confidential. Although many home buyers may not realize it, the terms of the offers they make may be revealed to other clients in a practice that the real estate industry commonly refers to as "shopping offers."

NAR MLS Survey

RIS Media [450K PDF Survey]:

Consolidation of Multiple Listing Systems and expanded data-sharing agreements are the key issues facing MLSs as the industry’s dynamics continue to evolve at an increasing pace, according to the latest survey of technology use in MLSs conducted by the Center for Realtor Technology of the National Association of Realtors®.

CRT’s fourth annual survey of technology use shows major new trends and emerging issues, including a decline in support for public Web sites, increased concern for information security and accelerating trends in technology use, including major increases in the use of mapping on MLS systems.

The survey of MLS technology, the largest and most comprehensive by CRT, clearly shows support from both Realtors and MLS executives for bigger market territories for Realtors. “The rapid pace of change within the industry is likely to lead to further MLS consolidations in the near future,” said Thomas M. Stevens, 2006 NAR president and senior vice president of NRT Inc., from Vienna, Va.

There is strong interest in expanding market regions for Realtors, with 55 percent of Realtor® respondents believing the ideal MLS size after consolidation would be a large region within a state or even statewide. A large percentage of MLS executives believe consolidation within a Metropolitan Statistical Area is ideal.

While MLS respondents are in favor of MLS public Web sites and see them as being good for the industry, not as many Realtors share that view; 63 percent of s® believe MLS public Web sites compete directly with agent and broker Web sites.

Agents Falling Short on Disclosure

Kenneth R. Harney:

A lawsuit in Silver Spring is focusing fresh light on a growing problem: Real estate agents are failing to disclose whom they represent in transactions -- even where state laws require them to do so in writing at their first substantive meeting with a potential client.

NY Times Magazine Real Estate Issue

NY Times' Magazine Real Estate Issue Quite a few interesting articles in the recent magazine:

Lead Generation: Zillow, Homegain and their ilk.

The process of creating, incubating and converting internet leads continues to attract money and media attention. Zillow's recent launch, based on local valuation ointment (similar to that used by Homegain and others in the late 1990's) was supported by a large PR budget. Mention was made by the Wall Street Journal (Mossberg, no less), NY Times, CNN, The Washington Post ("built on a shaky foundation") and many weblogs.

AVM (automated valuation systems) are difficult

The hype / reality ratio reminds me of previous valuation lead generation schemes. I had dinner with a long time mentor who happens to own a gorgeous ocean front home one evening during the late 1990's. Over sushi, my friend asked if I'd heard of Homegain? I said yes. He mentioned that it was _______. He received a direct mail piece that offered to tell him what his ocean front home was worth. He responded. The results sent back to him included duplexes in the valuation.

There are a number of challenges to the valuation lead generation model. Let's explore a few:

  • Tax assessor data is inconsistent both in its timeliness and data elements. One community might reassess annually and update sold data frequently. A nearby city might reassess every 3 to 5 years and update sold information occasionally.

  • Land records (deeds, mortgage docs) are a potential gold mine for many applications, potential being the key word. Each county seems to have a unique method to organize their data, notwithstanding the state of Louisiana, which bases its land records on the French system. Some of these records are not yet available electronically, if at all.

  • Geocoding [description] address and referencing data (assessment & sold information, satellite photos, demographic data) to a position on earth (latitude / longitude) offers some potential - see Zillow. Geocoding is not a panacea, however as bad data can eliminate some properties from the visitor's search (Virtual Properties validates all addresses via a frequently updated USPS database as part of our geocoding process).

Practical Local Valuation Lead Generation Opportunities for Agents and Brokers

The first rule, in my view, is that whatever you present must be accurate and current. The product must be easy to use and finally, simple to request more information (generate a lead).

Let's take a look at some examples that our clients use today:

  • Main Street HomeFinder (or Neighborhood Watch): Prospects can sign up for email notification of new listings, price changes, status changes, solds and open houses. The properties sent are stored against that prospect's contact information and are accessible to agents, teams or e-business coordinators for followup. Main Street applies rules to these leads as well, including personalized email and/or print (pdf) followup campaigns. These campaigns may include mortgage, title, insurance, relocation, concierge and other services. Internal followup campaigns can also be applied, automatically.

  • VOW (Virtual Office Website): prospects can search via distance from (perimeter search) certain addresses for active and sold properties. Users can also generate driving directions, satellite photos and neighborhood maps of their saved properties.

  • Comparable property maps: Main Street can display nearby active, pending and sold properties and concierage vendors on a map, in print format (pdf) and on a web page. These pages may include lead generation tools, which auto-populate contact records and activities.

  • These leads can be fulfilled by agents, teams or e-business professionals using Main Street's CMA (Comparable Market Analysis) tools. Our goal was and is to always place the agents and brokers at the center of the real estate process and relationships.
These tools are available on agent, broker and vow sites, powered by Main Street.
UPDATE: Ann Brenoff:
By now, chances are you've been to and may have concluded that the "zestimate" of your home's value isn't — make that izn't — worth the time it took to type in its street address. "Insufficient data" was the bleak verdict from BusinessWeek Online of the much-ballyhooed and anticipated website, which purports to tell you how much your home is worth. But the zoom and zeal of Zillow-checking has faded faster than the introductory low rate on an adjustable mortgage.
Learn more about local valuation lead management tools available today from Virtual Properties. Learn more by calling (877) 901 9601 and ask for Jim or Nancy or email leads at

Looking for a Home? Start at Your Computer

Allison Linn:

Years ago, Molly Bolanos looked for a home the old-fashioned way: She spent hours driving around in her real estate agent's car, hoping for the best and girding for the worst.

One recent morning, the process went like this: Bolanos and her fiance were alerted to a new listing online. They checked out the pictures on the Internet, then drove over for a real-life look and, within hours, were preparing to make an offer.

"It can be 24 hours - as quick as 24 hours that you're out making the offer - and it's because of the Internet," the Seattle resident said.

Add real estate to the list of industries being forever changed by the Internet.

Home listings - once printed out in books available only to real estate agents - are obtainable to everyone online, accompanied by increasingly sophisticated photographs and virtual tours. Now, a growing number of online services are also cropping up to help people do things like judge house prices, survey neighborhoods and evaluate school districts, long before they ever snap the seat belt in their agents' cars.

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