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Opinion Editorials

Sharing listing data is irrelevant if Realtors let others shape the future

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Looking outside of real estate

“As a company, we are culturally pioneers, and we like to disrupt even our own business.” Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, in a November 2011 interview with Wired Magazine.

I’ve been in a real estate for a decade, and I can’t imagine a statement even close to that coming from any “leader” of the real estate industry. NAR, state, and local real estate associations have spent the past decade doing everything they can to preserve the status quo. As a result, pretty much all of the innovations that consumers have come to rely on have come from outside the industry, reinforcing a consumer view that the real estate industry is a dinosaur that isn’t aligned with the wants and needs of today’s consumers.

Did our industry disrupt? No.

Did NAR, state, and local associations want to do anything to disrupt the word-of-mouth referrals that many agents depend on for their business? Absolutely not. Instead, it was a little San Francisco company – Yelp – that started out with a focus on restaurant reviews. Consumers quickly used the Yelp infrastructure to review pretty much everything and anything, real estate agents included.

Did NAR, state, and local associations do anything to disrupt how consumers search for homes online? Absolutely not! Instead, companies like Zillow and Trulia built-out best-in-class consumer sites with a nationwide reach that put tons of information (accurate or not, that’s another story) about homes for sale at the fingertips of interested consumers.

Did NAR, state, and local associations do anything to disrupt how the industry polices the behavior of its members? Nope, of course not. In an age when you can find information about almost everyone and everything online, Code of Ethics complaints and other arbitration matters continue to take place behind closed doors.

Unwilling to reinvent

I don’t want to start sounding pedantic (or bitter), so I’ll summarize: The real estate industry has been unwilling and unable to reinvent itself. Our failure to disrupt the status quo and re-imagine what real estate could be hasn’t stopped others from doing it. Instead, we’ve handed opportunity after opportunity on a silver platter to others, leaving  “the industry” to play catch up and look defensive and outdated.

And here’s the sad part: As websites have sprouted and technologies have been developed that make it easier for home buyers and sellers to do their research online, our state, local, and national association leaders missed the opportunity to put the agent at the center of that conversation. Want to connect with home shoppers? Trulia will gladly sell you a package – for about $80/month that will do exactly that. Want to appear above any agent’s reviews on Yelp? They will happily sell you an advertising package to make that happen.

We’ve arrived at a time when we are now arguing about whether or not it makes sense to syndicate our listing data to third party websites like Zillow or Trulia. Whether or not we will share our listing data with others isn’t the important question to me. It’s an interesting question, and I can see both sides of the argument. But I think it’s a distraction from the more important question: Are we going to find the courage to disrupt our industry and build the tools consumers demand, or will we continue to let others shape the future of our industry?

Matt Fuller brings decades of experience and industry leadership as co-founder of San Francisco real estate brokerage Jackson Fuller Real Estate. Matt is a Past President of the San Francisco Association of Realtors. He currently serves as a Director for the California Association of Realtors. He currently co-hosts the San Francisco real estate podcast Escrow Out Loud. A recognized SF real estate expert, Matt has made numerous media appearances and published in a variety of media outlets. He’s a father, husband, dog-lover, and crazy exercise enthusiast. When he’s not at work you’re likely to find him at the gym or with his family.

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23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Benn Rosales

    February 3, 2012 at 11:02 am

    Hi Matt, love the piece. I wonder though if our thinking is wrong from the outset? Why do we consider anyone who isn't branded a realtor outside of the industry? Aren't the radicalized thinkers that innovate part of the industry? It seems to me we draw this line between them and us rather than just bringing them into the fold and working with them.

    In the case of aggregation, truth be told, they are running data for free and have been for some time. Every business needs to make their own business decision on whether they'll syndicate for free or not. In that same spirit, the industry itself isn't one voice or one unit, it's each and every company that must innovate to remain competitive in their space, not the industry as a whole. In fact, the further away NAR and other orgs remain out of our businesses the better – we're already overly regulated.

    Perspective is sorely needed I think.

  2. Bill Petrey - real estate agent

    February 3, 2012 at 11:19 am

    MLS Data is all the National Association of Realtors have left of any value. If I could get full access without being a Realtor I'd drop my membership in a heartbeat. I suspect others would too. NAR probably knows this and is devoting its resources to protect it rather than being innovative. Of course they could be still working on the ethical thing. Can't believe they spent all that money on the theme of "we won't screw you."

    Maybe innovation from NAR is too much to expect.

  3. Matt Fuller

    February 3, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Benn – I agree with you that it shouldn't be "us or them." Unfortunately, though, the industry policies and regulations are structured so that if you aren't on the "inside" it is exceptionally challenging to get access to the data you need to build a useful product. I'd love to see associations make it easy for others to partner with them on cool projects. I'd also love to see associations standardize their data models and regulations so that innovation happens at a faster pace and startups have access to bigger markets for their products without having to tweak their product for hundreds of associations.

  4. Matt Fuller

    February 3, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Bill – In addition to the data, I think Realtors themselves are the value in the era of information overload. It's unfortunate that we look like data hoarders. We have even more value once we set the information free, IMHO.

  5. Abe Rashdyi

    February 4, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    One example of the lack of leadership is we as realtors are required by law to change listing status from active to pending or sold within 24 to 48 hours maximum, while a large number of advertized listings on Zillow and Trulia are pending or sold. This gives Zillow and Trulia a huge advantage; they can offer listings that buyers want. This is the fundamental premise on which Turlia and Zillow built their success.

    Miss information? You be the judge.

    Is it going to weaken consumer confidence in our industry? Think about it.

    Should industry leaders require outsiders to live by the same rules as realtors? It is up to us.

  6. Greg Cook

    February 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    BRAVO MATT!
    We need to look no further than KODAK to see what happens when a business is unable or unwilling to reinvent itself.
    IMHO consumers want more than listing information, much more. They need to know HOW or HOW NOT to buy, WHERE or WHERE NOT to buy, WHY or WHY NOT to buy.
    Here's an interesting stat that I feel sums it up: "Less than 10% of Agents do it, but those that do get 88% more leads. Answer? Blogging!

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Opinion Editorials

Mantras to help you cope with COVID-19 anxieties

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 has cause a lot of wierd changes to everyday life, and with unexpected changes can come serious anxiety. Here’s a couple ways to deal with it.

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COVID-19 anxiety

COVID-19 is stressful. Yeah, okay, that’s stating (and probably understating) the obvious, but it’s worth talking about the anxiety that this new normal has brought with it. Whether you have anxiety disorder or you’re just generally anxious because of all the sudden changes that COVID-19 has brought with it, it’s worth talking about ways you can cope, beyond the usual advice of “exercise, eat healthy, get sleep.”

I mean, yes. Try to do that too. But we’ve got some mental techniques that might help. Mantras, if you will, that could be helpful when coping with the stress of this situation seems to be too tough.

“I made it through something before.”

It can be really easy to get swept up in the powerless feeling that comes along with something this big and out of our control. As an individual, you might not be able to turn the tides of the virus or the affects it’s having on daily life, but you do have control over yourself. And human beings are tough. Even if we don’t feel like it.

One way to remind yourself of this power is to remember a time you overcame another obstacle. Whether it’s something big, like unemployment or the death of a loved one, or a smaller challenge, like getting a bad grade or losing something you treasured, visualize not just the problem, but how you got through it. Remember the strength and patience you had in overcoming the challenge.

Then take another deep breath and let yourself feel comforted by the knowledge that you’ve done hard things before. You can do them again.

“I couldn’t have planned for this.”

If you’re like me, it can be easy to get stressed out about unplanned occurrences. I prefer to plan in advance for things – especially big changes – and as someone who moved to a brand new city right before this pandemic blew up, well, all my plans went out the window. Sure, you might not be trying to make it in an entirely new environment during this upheaval, but chances are, some of your plans have gotten waylaid as well.

Which is why it’s important to remind yourself that you couldn’t really have planned for this. Think about it, a year ago, would this ever have entered into your five year plan? Absolutely not! You planned for a pandemic-free future, which was perfectly reasonable. If your anxiety is stemming from the feeling that you “could have, should have” done something differently, take a deep breath and remind yourself it’s not your fault.

Then take another deep breath, and let yourself feel comforted by the knowledge that something of this scale changing your plans does not reflect your skill or value as an individual.

“This, too, will pass.”

It can be really hard to visualize this thing being over. I mean, have you heard the joke that March seemed to last a whole year? In all seriousness, though, with so much changing so quickly and no definite answer of when shut-downs will end, it can feel overwhelming, but as cliche as it might sound, this trouble will end too. So it’s worth taking a deep breath in the face of this uncertainty to remember that it will be over one day.

Then take another deep breath and let yourself feel comforted by the knowledge that while it’s challenging now, in the moment, it won’t always be this way.

Anxiety often leaves us trapped in our uncertainty and fear. If these phrases don’t work to ease your worry, it’s worth keeping an eye out for something that will. Because we can all benefit from taking a moment to take some deep breaths and remind ourselves that even though it’s a scary time right now, we’re going to make it through.

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Opinion Editorials

How Gen X is nailing the COVID-19 social distancing order

(EDITORIAL) Of course, someone found a way to bring up generational stereotyping during COVID-19 and claim who is best, but are they onto something?

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Demographics and categorizing people helps us to process groups. A huge part of demographics and how we market ourselves in a job search, for example, is sharing our level of experiences and skill sets related to our profession – thus alluding to our age. Millennials (b. 1981-1996) received a lot of generational shame for being elitist and growing up in a time where they all received participation trophies – therefore being judged for not always winning a fair competition.

Gen X (roughly b. 1961-1981) has often commented that they feel like the forgotten generation which so much attention being play to the Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) who seemed to be born in to a great time of prosperity for “The American Dream” and then the Millennials who overtook Gen X and some of their jobs while they weren’t enough Gen Xers to fill them.

In this article “It Took a Global Pandemic, But Generation X is Finally Getting Love”, it is discussed how great Gen X is at this social distancing thing and maybe this will be helpful to anyone who feels like they are losing their mind. This is by no means an intent to shame any generation nor claim no one else knows how to handle it but this article does a great job about why Gen X might be primed to be handling the global pandemic well with the times they were raised in.

Right now, it’s a waiting game for many people who’s professions and lives have changed in what seemed like overnight. The patience required. The uncertainty of it all. The global pandemic forced (without any forgiveness), a swift move to new ways of life. The busy-ness of our days came to a crashing halt when we were no longer allowed to be out and about in places with large groups and possibly sent home to work remotely.

Many non-essential businesses were forced to close which meant people could not only not work at the office, but also had to cease their extra-curricular activities like working out at the gym, shopping, eating brunch with friends or taking their kids to their sporting events, a playground and/or coordinating a play date or sleepover. The directive from our local and federal government was for “social distancing” before the shelter in place orders came.

Gen X may agree that there were some pretty great things about their childhood – the types of things you do with your time because you don’t have a smartphone or tablet addiction and the fact that there was no way for your work to get a hold of you 24/7. Gen X did have TV and video games and sure, Mom and Dad didn’t really want you spending all of your time behind a screen but it also seemed that there wasn’t as much of a guilt trip if you did spend some of your “summer vacation” from school playing Nintendo or Sega with your neighborhood friends.

It seems like the article alludes to the idea that COVID might be helping people to get back to some of those basics before smartphones became as important to us as one of our limbs.

Gen X has had no problem adapting to technology and in their careers, they have had to adapt to many new ways of doing things (remember when caller ID came out and it was no longer a surprise who was calling?! Whaaaat?! And you can’t prank call anyone any more with your teenage friends at a sleepover! Gasp! You also wouldn’t dare TP an ex-boyfriend’s house right now).

Regardless of the need to learn new hard skills and technologies, everyone has been forced to adjust their soft skills like how technology and still being a human can play well together (since it is really nice to be able to FaceTime with loved ones far away). It seems those slightly unquantifiable adaptable and flexible skills are even more required now. It also seems that as you grow in your career, Emotional Intelligence might be your best skill in these uncertain times.

And not that we are recommending eating like crap or too many unhealthy items, Gen X has been known to be content surviving on Pop Tarts, Spaghetti O’s, Ding-dongs and macaroni and cheese which are all pretty shelf stable items right now. Whatever way is possible for you, it might be a good time to find the balance again in work, technology, home, rest, relaxation and education if at all possible.

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Opinion Editorials

How strong leaders use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) We’re weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, and some leaders are fumbling through it, while others are quietly safeguarding their company’s future.

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strong leaders

Anthony J. Algmin is the Founder and CEO of Algmin Data Leadership, a company helping business and technology leaders transform their future with data, and author of a new book on data leadership. We asked for his insights on how a strong leader can see their teams, their companies, their people through this global pandemic (and other crises in the future). The following are his own words:

Managers sometimes forget that the people we lead have lives outside of the office. This is true always, but is amplified when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve our teams, to help them be as aligned and productive as possible in the short and long terms. 
 
Crises are exactly when we need to think about what they might be going through, and realize that the partnership we have with our employees is more than a transaction. If we’ve ever asked our people to make sacrifices, like working over a weekend without extra pay, we should be thinking first about how we can support them through the tough times. When we do right by people when they really need it, they will run through walls again for our organizations when things return to normal.

Let them know it’s okay to breathe and talk about it. In a situation like COVID-19 where everything is disrupted and people are now adjusting to things like working from home, it is naturally going to be difficult and frustrating.
 
The best advice is to encourage people to turn off the TV and stop frequently checking the news websites. As fast as news is happening, it will not make a difference in what we can control ourselves. Right now most of us know what our day will look like, and nothing that comes out in the news is going to materially change it. If we avoid the noisy inputs, we’ll be much better able to focus and get our brains to stop spinning on things we can’t control.
 
And this may be the only time I would advocate for more meetings. If you don’t have at least a daily standup with your team, you should. And encourage everyone to have a video-enabled setup if at all possible. We may not be able to be in the same room, but the sense of engagement with video is much greater than audio-only calls.
 
We also risk spiraling if we think too much about how our companies are struggling, or if our teams cannot achieve what our organizations need to be successful. It’s like the difference in sports between practice and the big game. Normal times are when we game plan, we strategize, and work on our fundamentals. Crises are the time to focus and leave it all on the field.
 
That said, do not fail to observe and note what works well and where you struggle. If you had problems with data quality or inefficient processes before the crisis, you are not fixing them now. Pull out the duct tape and find a way through it. But later, when the crisis subsides, learn from the experience and get better for next time.

Find a hobby. Anything you can do to clear your head and separate work from the other considerations in your life. We may feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and without a pressure release we will not be able to sustain this level of stress and remain as productive as our teams, businesses, and families need us.

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