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Realtor.com Worried About Dollars, Not Sense


Feel…

How would you feel if the professional organization you belonged to was making your job harder to do?

Think…

What would you think if the organization you paid dues to in order to look out for your best interests was involved with a company that was looking out for their pocketbooks at the expense of yours?

Keep on reading and you’ll find out…

Realtor.com launched an AVM entitled “What’s Your Home Worth” a few weeks back. It allows consumers to put in an address and see an estimated market value for it. The widget is on the Realtor.com home page, as well as next to every listing displayed on the site. Obviously, they’re putting it in front of consumers as much as they can in order to promote it.

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So what’s the big deal? A few things:

The new Realtor.com just made your job as a Realtor harder.

The values they’re spitting out are anywhere from somewhat to completely inaccurate. They are no better than Zillow or any other AVM out there. In fact, in many instances, Zillow was much more accurate.

As Realtors, we all know how much fun it is when our clients want to argue our opinion of a property’s value against a “Zestimate” or some other inaccurate AVM. Now we also have to argue against Realtor.com and an organization we’re directly affiliated with.

In addition, many consumers will likely believe that the values somehow have the input of the 1.3 million Realtors in the US (after all, it is called “Realtor”.com). Once they see just how inaccurate the values are, do you think that think that consumers will view give Realtors more or less credibility than before?

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So why make our jobs harder and devalue our credibility even more?

It’s all about the Benjamins… Remember folks, this ain’t no not-for-profit charity. Real estate is a trillion dollar industry with millions of dollars of online advertising dollars at stake. And what compels companies to spend their advertising dollars on your site?

Traffic.

And what brings traffic?

Things like “Zestimates” and “What’s Your Home Worth”.

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Does it truly help consumers? No. Does it truly help Realtors? No. Does it put money into the pockets of Realtor.com? Yes. Doesn’t sound quite right, does it?

Suggestion…

So how about Realtor.com do this…

  1. Let Zillow and all the other sites out there that have AVM’s continue to make money off of their Zestimates and further discredit themselves as a source for accurate information.
  2. Focus on providing consumers the most accurate data and help interpret that data and show how to apply it in real life. This will help bring credibility to “Realtor” name in general.
  3. Start worrying about retaining Realtor members as well as attracting new ones by looking out for their best interests. We’re the ones who pay dues to keep you around in the first place, remember?

P.S. Sorry to Realtor.com for picking on them again.

Written By

Danilo Bogdanovic is a Real Estate Consultant/REALTOR(R) in Northern Virginia and author/owner of LoudounScene.com and LoudounForeclosures.com. Danilo serves on various committees with the Dulles Area Association of REALTORS(R) and the Virginia Association of REALTORS(R).

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Barry Cunningham

    June 19, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    You are talking about an organization that has Larry Yun as it’s economic prognosticator you know? What do you expect?

  2. Benn Rosales

    June 19, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    More.

  3. Frank Jewett

    June 19, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    It could be worse. The California AOR’s new website crashed on opening day. For several days they posted an anonymous apology (stand up leadership?), but now that’s gone, too. C.A.R. 2.0, we hardly knew ya!

  4. ines

    June 19, 2008 at 8:19 pm

    I just don’t get why they don’t ask for our opinion, do a poll, test it out first, put some thought behind it. It’s a shame.

  5. Jim Little

    June 19, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Do we want to get into the question of the R word in domain names?
    Just more NAR doing what it does well.

  6. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    June 19, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    They try harder and harder but are following behind the real estate leaders. Most of the Brokers in this area compete with then and beat them with local knowledge and sites. At one time they were the only dog. Now they have to use google Ad sense to help people find the site.

  7. Jim Lee

    June 19, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    Forget the sacred “R” word Jim; NAR is off to bigger and better acronyms now like “MLS”

  8. Jay Thompson

    June 19, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    You don’t even want to get me started on R.com. Try opening an independent brokerage and see how many hard sell unsolicited phone calls you get from them. I f’ing hate them. And I’m really not a hater….

  9. Bill Lublin

    June 20, 2008 at 5:29 am

    Danilo; Interesting post – though the comments surprised me. In an arena where we usually see a lot of conversation about the importance of transparency and providing what the consumer wants, we’re saying that we should be gatekeepers of this data (which I agree with by the way)

    Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like AVM’s I would disagree with with you that Zillow is more accurate – I would actually call it less inaccurate – becase I havent found one yet that is close to my opinion in any area where I work – and the whole idea of the AVM is flawed because it is a result built on inadequate data –

    That being said, if we take for granted that REALTOR.COM’s model is not as good as its competitors, but throw in an “inevitability” factor (consumers want it, many sites will have it, therefore it is inevitable that they will also) can we really fault them for exploring this as a feature of their site? I haven’t seen a post about how crappy Zillow, or Cyberhomes or any ohter AVM site is so far , even though we may all agree that they are not accurate nor benefcial to the consumer. (Though in all fairness, maybe I just missed them)

  10. Bill Lublin

    June 20, 2008 at 5:38 am

    @Jim Little and Jim Lee You guys are mixing apples and oranges here – The use of the trademarked word REALTOR is permitted by memners but restricted and montiored no differently then the use fo the words CENTURY 21, COLDWELL BANKER, KELLER WILLIAMS, ERA, etc etc etc. As a franchisee, I pay tons more to the franchisor then I do in NAR dues and they are exremely rigorous in their enforcement of their rights as a trademark holder (which they have to be inorder to maintain their rights) My company’s name is CENTURY 21 Advantage Gold – and when I write it, I am required by my fanchise agreement ot use all caps in the work Century, though when I use the phrase Century 21 other then in my company name I am required to type it in sentence case. Is that any more restrictive then the use of the word REALTOR allowed to the members of NAR? I don;t think so. And if you think their C&D letters are bad, when we registered Advatage Gold as a trademark, I got a letter from Americam Airlines who were trying to protect their use of the American AAdvantage frequent flyer program – does that make them foolish (the two terms and their uses are not even close)

    As far as the MLS isue, it seems from your comment that you just dont understand the sitution. The use of those three letters is not a trademark issue, it is a “true picture” issue. If the letters are being used in a manner which is not misleading to the public, there is no problem – For example, the URL “IamnotanMLS” would not in any way be misleading. But other uses could be misleading, and WE ALL HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO PRACTICE OUR BUSINESS IN AN ETHICAL MANNER WITHOUT MISLEADING THE PUBLIC (sorry for yelling, but this seems really hard for people to get).

    Thanks for playing

  11. Jim Lee

    June 20, 2008 at 6:06 am

    You know Bill, you’re absolutely correct. The MLS domain name issue does seem really hard for people to get.

    A big part of the issue is making a ruling so long after the fact AND making it retroactive (defacto), not to mention only being able to enforce it against NAR members.

    The general public, aka aggregators and lead sellers are still able to use it with impunity since of course NAR has no control over what they do.

  12. Bill Lublin

    June 20, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Jim – Thanks for telling my I was absolutely correct – that’s so rare for me. Could I aks you for a letter to my wife verifiyng that at some point in the universe that occured?
    🙂

    Its really not an issue of being retroactive. Its more a matter of clarification. If you were doing something wrong, and didn’t know it, wouldn’t you want someone to tell you so that you could stop?

    And in terms of enforcement and membership. I actually am proud that I hold myself to the standards of the Code of Ethics – I believe that its a good thing – and I’m proud of my colleagues in the business who do the same. Its one of the reasons I think being a REALTOR matters.

    I’m not worried bout what someone else does. I believe that its what I do that matters, not what others do. If someone else wants to mislead the public – let them – it won’t take me down that road.

  13. Mack in Atlanta

    June 20, 2008 at 6:57 am

    Danilo thinks that Z.com is more accurate, Bill thinks that Z.com is less accurate and I think that in my basic trade area that I am more accurate. R.com needs to promote the REALTORS, God knows we pay them enough!!!!!

  14. Jim Lee

    June 20, 2008 at 7:40 am

    Just one more point and we can then agree to disagree on this subject.

    You more than most understand that any violation of Article 12 occurs at the local level and you are likely familiar that several associations and boards across the country have had Article 12 violations filed and hearings held with widely varying results.

    I know that these hearings and the results are theoretically confidential but if the alleged offending website remains some months after the hearing it’s reasonable to assume that some respondents won and some lost.

    How do you and NAR reconcile the uneven enforcement of the MLS issue, i.e. why is http://www.AtlantaMLS.com OK in one city and http://www.ChicagoMLS.com is not in another?

    I’m only using those cities for illustration purposes, I have no knowledge of any proceedings or the outcomes.

    Just curious.

  15. Mack in Atlanta

    June 20, 2008 at 8:05 am

    Jim – to expand on your example, https://www.atlantamls.com is the public site of Georgia MLS, one of the listing services in the metro Atlanta market and https://chicagomls.com does not appear to be a part of the listing service for Chicago.

  16. Jim Lee

    June 20, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I only used those cities for illustration Mack.

    “I’m only using those cities for illustration purposes”

    The point and the question for Bill is why is it OK for http://www.MyCityMLS.com to be allowed in one board or association and http://www.YourCityMLS.com to be found in violation in another when both are prosecuted (hypothetically speaking) under the same new SOPs to Article 12 of NAR’s COE.

    Same NAR, same COE violation allegation, different results.

  17. Bill Lublin

    June 20, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Makc – Thanks for your input and actually creating the basis for the explanation

    Jim;
    As I said earlier, its about being misleading, not using those three little letters. In Mack’s explanation of the https://www.atlantamls.com as the public face of an MLS, that is in no way misleading. In other examples that I have seen, an individual or company that is not an MLS organization has created a URL to make it look to the consumer searching the Internet that they were clicking on an MLS site. For example the chicagomls.com page seemed to be a landing page owned by someone who moetized by renting it as a place to launch to other sites. When I landed on that one, I felt annoyed and misled. I would imagine that a consumer might feel the same way.

    As far as different panels having different findings, I don’t have a problem with that. The practice of real estate is local and in different areas, panels might find different ways. Heck, even in the same board, different panels might find in different ways, just as judges or arbitrators might hear two similar cases and have different verdicts. However in any case, the participants are provided with a due process, and are given an opportunity to make their presentation to the panel as best they can.

    Same NAR, same COE violation allegation, different panels, different results is the same as
    Same LAWS, same violation allegations, different judge or jury, different results.

    Aren’t they both ok?

  18. Danilo Bogdanovic

    June 20, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    Bill – I am not saying that we should hold on to the information. Quite the opposite, I’m a huge fan of transparency, practice it in my real estate career and believe that all agents, brokers, Realtors, NAR, etc should be much more transparent than they currently are.

    What I am saying is that we should provide ACCURATE information. Consumers don’t just want information. They want accurate information. When you search a term on Google, are you looking for any information or the most relevant and accurate information?

    What Realtor.com said with it’s “What’s Your Home Worth” feature was “screw accuracy” and followed in Zillow’s and other AVM’s footsteps of providing inaccurate information for the sake of traffic/money.

    It’s pathetic that an organization with “Realtor” in it’s name that’s preaching “Realtors are experts” turns around and provides inaccurate information, makes us all look like morons and makes our jobs harder.

  19. Eric Blackwell

    June 20, 2008 at 5:28 pm

    Hey Danilo;

    You owe them no apology. It is they, who owe us one.

    @Jay–No doubt. I am on the receiving end WAY to many of those…

    @Mack- Spot on. AVM’s do NOT work. You cannot set the price for the house without SEEING it and having a good idea of the value of others in the area. And yet they persist with their pipe dream…wonder what is in the pipe? (grin) Sad part is, they bought it with our money.

  20. Dan Connolly

    June 20, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not a big fan of NAR, but when I went to the site and put in my address, it said the range was from 265K to 875K and went on to say directly below the range of solds:

    “To find the specific value of your home and a strategy to make it worth more you should contact and work with a real estate professional in your area. Click Go to locate a REALTOR® near you.”

    To me that is not quite like an estimate of value, and I don’t really have a problem with it. Zestimates, on the other hand assign an exact dollar value without any immediate disclaimer, unless you dig on the site for it, and to me, that’s a problem.

    Of course on REALTOR.com the low sales were townhomes and I was asking for single family homes, but that was probably the listing agents fault, putting them in the wrong section to trick some people into looking… and on the REALTOR.com site they go back 18 months for comps, because I guess the news hasn’t drifted up to the Ivory tower yet that appraisers are only concerned about the last 6 months….

  21. Paula Henry

    June 20, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Danilo – This is a conversation for the ages. R.com basically sucks the $$$ out of Realtors and provides less than adequate service.

    AVM’s can not evaluate a property like a Realtor in the field day in and day out. They only make our job more difficult with their inaccuracies.

    It is so important to provide accurate information about homes we list. I’ve seen time and again, one agent depends on the previous information provided, who depended on the previous agents information and so on it goes. How difficult is it to measure a room correctly; to detail the specifics.
    We owe it to our clients and R.com owes it to us to display the information we provide accurately.

  22. Paul Francis

    June 21, 2008 at 5:47 am

    Despite all of the complaining, R.com just continues to go in the wrong direction. I have not even looked at it for such a long time until you brought up the widgets being placed near every listing.

    YUCK! It’s cluttered with so many crappy, annoying banner ads they deserve to continue sinking.

    New home builders, etc..etc.. Way too many obvious attempts to distract visitors. And R.com is supposed to help us sell our listings?

  23. Paul Francis

    June 21, 2008 at 5:53 am

    Ok.. I had to try it out for a neighborhood I specialize in. The square footages for the homes listed as comparables were not even correct — and I sold one of the houses! What’s up with that???

  24. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 21, 2008 at 6:02 am

    The Big R should be advocates for REALTORs, but the persons calling the shots on it aren’t leading the way in the real estate profession. They seem to be trying to play catch up by implementing other sites ideas (which by the way – weren’t any good to begin with).

  25. Mack in Atlanta

    June 21, 2008 at 6:13 am

    @ Dan- You wrote – “To find the specific value of your home and a strategy to make it worth more you should contact and work with a real estate professional in your area. Click Go to locate a REALTOR® near you.” The way I see it R.com will just use this to sell more cities or zip codes for $500 to $1,000 a month. Why should we have to compete with them?

  26. Bill Lublin

    June 21, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    @ Mack – My comment about Zillow was that I found it less inaccurate in comparison to another AVM – not that I found it accurate at all – And as any real estate professional would point out again – without seeing the interior there’s just no way to know- I would like to saa all of these AVMs go away, I think however that consumer demand will keep them round. I think the best thing that we could see would a number of them on the same page. They would all disagree about the value on the same page, demonstrating to the consumer that they should be getting a real estate professional over to figure it out with them.

  27. Eric Blackwell

    June 21, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    GREAT idea Bill! I will take that one on…(grin) Why don’t WE put them on the same page. We KNOW that they are mostly fiction…

    A compare your home’s value page on a blog with a Zesstimate, Trestimate and a Restmate! (others?) and followed up with a ….

    Want to know what it’s worth for REAL? Call me 555-5555 (hehe)

    Could be fun! Would generate some buzz as well

    Thoughts?

    Eric

  28. Bill Lublin

    June 21, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Eric – That’s exactly the deal – let’s do a page called REAL OR NO(T) REAL with avatars of really hot women holding aluminum cases – when you click on each one you get a different valuation on your home, but between each one, you get an offer from an investor to buy before you see the next number- (I can want to be the Banker on that show
    ;-D

  29. Eric Blackwell

    June 21, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Too funny! And it could be any value from .01 to $1MM , Howie…

    Open the next case! Yikes! Your value went down ;-(

    Sad truth is though that people DO rely on these fictional figures to their detriment.

    Would make a GREAT cartoon for a blog post, though. Hey Russ….hehe

    Thanks for cracking me up, Bill!

  30. Braxton Beyer

    July 17, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    NAR is absolutely ridiculous. They are a good lobbying group and that is about it. Everything they try to offer consumers or agents just gets in the way.

  31. Bill Inman

    July 28, 2008 at 3:06 am

    I have had issues with realtor.com for years. As the “Official web site of the National Association of Realtors” it does not provide a service for me a NAR member. Any service to include a simple Realtor search excludes every Realtor that does not pay up. The information that allows them to exist is information I have acquired and put into my local MLS, and then I am expected to pay realtor.com for my information to be displayed and links back to me. Realtor.com charges more than any other web site for their services and they have more third party advertisements than any other web site I have seen. We (Realtors) have rolled over and played dead for years and have allowed OUR associations to take advantage of us…we pay large dues for an association that is to work for us, not us for “them”…nobody will respect us until we respect ourselves.

  32. Kaw Manyur

    November 13, 2008 at 11:58 pm

    Realtor.com is a joke, and always been… it shows what kind of “professionals” run it (down)…

  33. Mark Antonowsky

    May 10, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I agree completely with Bill Inman! I’ve been boycotting realtor.com for about 5 years now. To think our own trade group website, given the importance of the internet to real estate, would operate the way it does i.e., blackmail agents to pay extra to have our listings contain OUR contact info, when any other IDX, zillow, yahoo, trulia, etc provides that info without charge, while selling and displaying banner advertising along with our listing content, is despicable! Realtor.com, to put it simply, sucks.

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