Exhibit one: real estate
We are living in an exciting era where products, services and industries are being innovated at warp speed. The next generation of “it” comes faster and faster. With improved speed, function, and experience comes with it some seriously increased customer expectations, and there are some verticals that can’t seem to keep up. Exhibit one: real estate.
For the last decade, dozens (if not hundreds) of start-ups have announced big plans to revolutionize the inefficiencies in real estate. Their promises have been to clean up the data, improve the agent-client relationship, open up the information and democratize the industry, save money on commissions, and more.
Looking back over the last ten years, can anyone honestly say that the process of buying or renting a home has dramatically improved? For perspective, take a moment to think back to ten years ago in other areas. What where mobile devices like in 2004? Video game graphics? The TV viewing experience? Mapping/GPS? Bank ATM machines? Even the experience at your dentist? Internet connections? Most people would freak out if they had to go back to products and services of a decade ago. When will real estate finally break through and see this kind of innovation and improvement? Will it ever?
Exhibit two: Blocksy
Will they provide the breakthrough that we haven’t seen in almost a decade (when Zillow was born)? Blocksy is a New York City start-up that promises better content, a cleaner website, more accurate information, and exclusive listings to help people have a much better experience buying or renting a home in NYC.
Have you heard this mission statement before? Me too.
So how is this effort different from its predecessors? For starters, they charge users $15 per month for a premium level of service and content. But let’s dig deeper…
Blocksy is currently focusing only on New York City. NYC is a totally different real estate market versus all other cities and towns across America. It’s part wild west (example: no formal MLS) and part oligarchy (example: a few huge RE brands control the market and seem to make their own rules). So the specific market definitely needs to be factored in any evaluation. Moving on, let’s look at Blocksy’s promises:
- Better Website. I agree. The site is clean, easy to use and makes it easy to digest data and information. It is easy to search for listings and content.
- Saving money. A testimonial on their front-page quotes a buyer who says she saved $200k by finding a unit in her desired building that only Blocksy had listed. I’m fairly certain that a halfway decent buyers agent would have done the same. I don’t believe you can count this as “Blocksy saving me $200k.”
- Exclusive listings. Right in the same testimonial from above, Blocksy is implying they have exclusive listings. Hmm. I have no idea how this can be true. If they do – maybe this is valuable in some rare situations. If they have exclusives on truly great buildings and/or properties, this would have some value. I just don’t believe they do or that they will in the future. If they some how accomplish this, I don’t believe it makes much of a difference for most all users anyway.
- Better content. They have some good data, especially for the sales market. They could use more information and detail, especially for the rental market (note that NYC is one of the few cities where the rental business can be very lucrative for agents/brokers). The information and charts are modestly better than I am used to for NYC, but it isn’t a dramatic leap forward.
- More frequent updates (hourly). I’m not sure that hourly updates make a big difference given the reality of the real estate market, but it certainly can’t hurt. This is more of a PR win versus a customer experience improvement, though.
- Better and more accurate listings and information. When I search the website, I see the same fuzzy, misaligned, and non-standard pictures, and I see the usual occasional typos, missing info, and bad data. If Blocksy can fix these issues it would be enormously valuable. They haven’t yet, though, and doing so will require a monumental paradigm shift. I don’t know how they can do it but I hope they prove me wrong.
- And finally, the pay-for-service model. Blocksy does offer free use of the site. The premium fee is apparently for faster service and exclusive content. I did not sign up for the premium service, so I cannot evaluate it. I can comment on the model itself, though. When people pay for something, it creates an implied value of that thing (be it a product or service). Perhaps, like a placebo, this will create a user base that values Blocksy more than other RE sites. When one gets past this nuance, though, this start-up is asking users to pay for something that they can get for free in lots of others places. This is a tough sell and I don’t like it.
My (early) verdicts
Consumer perspective: I will give the free version of Blocksy a try, along with a few other leading sites, if/when I need a new NYC home. I would even give the 1-day free trial for the premium service a test drive. I hope these guys are better at this stuff than others, but I’m skeptical.
Real estate agent perspective: If I were an agent, I would focus on already proven websites and strategies for lead generation and client servicing. If Blocksy gets traction and starts to prove itself, I would jump on board.
Investor perspective: If approached I will stay far, far away from Blocksy.
Good luck, Blocksy. I hope that you finally create breakthrough innovation for the real estate industry. But I bet you fall well short. As so does the next one of your kind.
Our five faves for Friday – almost Thanksgiving edition
(EDITORIAL) This week, I have so many faves that I can barely keep it at just five – Unicorns, gophers, tears, science nerdery, and rebellions, oh my!
I heard a rumor that it’s Friday again, so today we share with you five of the neato-est things that we came across this week – some silly, some serious, all awesome.
1. Brands refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day
It started with retailers opening early on Black Friday, then opening at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, and now retailers are expected to force their staff to work instead of enjoy a bajillion-ish year old American tradition.
But some companies are pushing back, publicly refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day, so even though our home doesn’t care about Black Friday, we’ll be giving some business to those taking a stand.
2. I need you to know about my favorite tv show ever
So there’s nothing new about this, but since you’ve never heard from ME on a Friday Faves roundup, I really need you to know something about me – I have a lot of natural curiosities and history (when not told in a dusty way) fascinates the hell out of me.
Unearthed on the Science Channel is friggen amazing and literally EVERY episode has taught me something that I didn’t know before (like the one about Stonehenge included new discoveries that change how we think about how humans used to operate – seriously mindblowing stuff). All of the episodes are available online, yo, so get to nerding!
3. No one has bought me a Pony Cycle yet
One of the only email newsletters I actually open is The Grommet – they feature independent makers’ inventions and wares, and I’m all about supporting the little guy.
But I posted this insanely amazing Pony Cycle on my Facebook timeline this week with a request that someone buy me one. Guess what? No takers. My friends are monsters. I mean it comes in horse, unicorn (dibs), and zebra, why not buy me one or three?
4. Video that made me cry
After the recent earthquake hit Iran, there has been a deep need for food for the victims. Watch this video (my fave part is the pat pat on the back) and try to tell me that hate isn’t something we’re taught… also, I’m not crying, you are…
5. My favorite gif of this week
If you know me, you know I love gifs more than the average person. So when I came across this one, I knew I had to award it my fave of the week…
Is your job inadvertently harming your health?
(EDITORIAL) We often get so consumed with our work that we unknowingly hurt ourselves in the process. Learn how to keep this from happening.
With the changes in seasons, we tend to put more of an emphasis on our health. This makes sense as flus and colds have a tendency to run rampant around the holidays.
However, we should be more mindful of keeping track of our health throughout the year. And, given that our jobs are such a large part of our lives, it is important to keep in mind that our jobs can have an affect on our health. Which can often be a bad thing.
For most of us, we are in the same space for eight hours of our day. Sometimes we think that just because it’s ourselves occupying that space, things can’t really get germy. Well, think again.
We have so many things that we touch on a daily basis – our keyboard, mouse, phone, ID badge, etc. These have a tendency to become a house for germs, which can hurt us as time goes on.
Combat this by setting aside some time each week to disinfect all of your most-used items. Also, consider keeping some hand sanitizer at your desk.
Getting up to clean around your office can help take care of another issue – being too sedentary throughout the day. Sometimes we get so consumed with plugging away at our computers that we forget to get up and stretch.
This can be harmful to your weight and your circulation. Keep the blood flowing by getting up and moving a bit every hour or so.
The mindfulness of your health should not stop at the physical, but should also involve keeping an eye on mental health. Your job plays a big part in this as well.
First of all, you start and end your day with a commute. For some, this can be incredibly strenuous – expensive, traffic-filled, etc.
This has been known to lead to depression. Try filling this time with positivity and fulfillment by listening to a quality podcast or an audio book. This will help to give meaning to otherwise wasted time.
The most important thing to monitor with your mental health is making sure to not overwork yourself. It can be difficult to find that perfect work/life balance, but it’s necessary for a happy and healthy life.
Try staying away from work emails and texts after a certain time of the day on weekdays or on the weekends. Think about it this way – you’re not supposed to tend to your personal business during work hours, so why let work interfere with your personal time?
All of this can be helped by checking in with yourself every once in a while, or even by using the buddy system and discussing the topic with a work friend.
Lastly, be sure to check with your company to learn about health and wellness programs that may be offered.
Do literally anything with your money besides buy an iPhone X
(EDITORIAL) The iPhone X is pretty snazzy, but let me express why your money belongs literally anywhere besides in Apple’s pocket for this phone.
The iPhone X is off to a rocky start, beginning with the fact that no one seems to know whether it’s supposed to be pronounced “iPhone Ten” or “iPhone Ex” and working up from there.
If you’re here, you probably don’t need me to tell you that a 5.8-inch OLED screen, facial recognition, 4K recording at 60 FPS, and an all-glass design are superfluous as hell — but just in the off-chance that I’m wrong, THE IPHONE X IS SUPERFLUOUS AS HELL.
Take literally 30 seconds to think about all of the mega-cool features that convinced you to buy your last smartphone, then think of the last time you used even half of those features without feeling compelled to do so. If you’re one of those people who uses all of the filters on the camera every day, fine, but I’m willing to bet that you just use your phone for Facebook, texting, and calling your grandma.
You don’t need a 5.8-inch, all-glass, basically-a-tablet-of-a-phone to do those things, but if money doesn’t mean anything to you, be my guest.
It’s also worth noting that there is a certain point at which “really fast” and “really, really fast” feel identical to one another. My personal experience with this phenomenon was with the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8; it doesn’t matter how fast your newest processor is if the last one was fast enough.
Apple has a long history of publicly executing things that people are still using. While it’s hard to be too mad about the headphone jack, they hit a soft spot when they nixed ethernet ports—and, more recently, USB 3.0 ports—and the most recent dissident to fall victim to Apple’s indiscriminate chopping block is the Home button.
Yeah, that thing that make the iPhone usable in the first place? Not there anymore. Worse still, the simple display is now flooded with different shortcut hotspots. For example, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center — no, wait, that’s how you get home. You swipe from the top-right corner of the screen to open the Control Center, while the top-left corner opens the notifications screen that — hey, are you writing this down?
To make matters worse, Apple added a bunch of different contextual shortcuts to the physical buttons on the sides of the iPhone X, further reducing accessibility. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Is the iPhone X necessary? Absolutely not. Is it neato? Sure.
But is it worth your time if you’ve got dollar bills to blow? Again, absolutely not — do literally anything else with that money, up to and including burning it. As long as Apple continues to ignore the issues that plague their devices in favor of broken facial recognition and 3D emoji animation, consider spending your money elsewhere.
Think LuLaRoe is a pyramid scheme? Founders say your opinion’s uneducated
Social media giants are trying to operate without human controls but are failing
New stats behind mobile addiction and how people are coping
Our five faves for Friday – almost Thanksgiving edition
Class action lawsuit claims Tesla plant is a hotbed of racism
Red Ventures acquires Bankrate, layoffs commence
All I want for Christmas is some Nuheara ear buds
Wall Street wants to formally jump into Bitcoin waters
LuLaRoe in $1B lawsuit for shady business model
Disruption vs destruction and AI’s use of both
Amy’s Ice Cream founder on Austin’s business risks and rewards #WhyAustin
Turns out a lot of people are in between introverted and extroverted
P. Terry’s founder on the booming economy in Austin #WhyAustin
Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. National Anthem
Indeed President, Chris Hyams tells us #WhyAustin [video]
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