Trulia makes substantial acquisition
Zillow announced its record-breaking first quarter results yesterday, and at 5 a.m. this morning, Trulia’s announcement, the planned acquisition of Market Leader (which owns ActiveRain) relegated Zillow’s news to “What, did they say something?” in agent circles. Before most of the Left Coast was even awake, real estate agents east of the Mississippi were commenting on Facebook groups and Active Rain’s blog platform about what this could mean for them — agents — and their future relationship with T and AR.
Online comments from the real estate community ranged from “who cares?” to “the sky is falling” to “they’ve sold us out.” Let’s break this news down into digestible pieces and I’ll give you my own (always opinionated, biased towards me-the-Broker) take on what this means to the real estate community.
First, let’s address the ActiveRainers
To those who are tearing at their clothes and opining the “sell out” of a beloved agent blogging platform to the “corporate raiders” — here’s a reality check: ActiveRain is a business. Sure it was started by a handful of computer geeks who developed an idea (hey, let’s get agents blogging online, talking to each other and members of their community, then we’ll leverage that into business for them), sold the idea to the masses, then sat back and watched it take off into a community of its own. As it got bigger and more successful, original founders dropped off to go on to bigger and better things.
Entrepreneurship is about thinking up an idea, selling it to users, and then many entrepreneurs sell the entire company and move on to the next idea. That’s how business works. So the argument that AR is selling users out isn’t valid from a purely business standpoint.
Where the “sell out” argument comes from is the fact that many AR users have been blogging on the platform since 2006-2009. The early adopters built a close knit community of agents (and other real estate professionals) who got to know each other and helped each other, especially through the latest downturn. Back in 2007 when I joined (the same year I opened my own brokerage), it was more an agent-to-agent platform. I found a group of like-minded professionals around the country to bounce ideas off, celebrate successes with, and drink a virtual glass of wine with at the end of a long day.
Thousands of agents built their blogging careers with ActiveRain. We learned about SEO, how to get our posts/blogs to rise up through the search engines, and dominate our local area. Hyperlocalism blogging was taught for years at AR and many agents became top producers thanks to learning how to make their blogs rank — and be read — by consumers. The theory is that by being a curator of local knowledge (not just real estate) consumers will be drawn to our sites, and by extension, we will be the go-to name when a local reader needs our services. I have sold millions of dollars worth of real esate by blogging using this technique and it works. What will happen to the great SEO that agents have built with their AR blogs? When Trulia takes over will that someone hurt our SEO and all the Google juice we’ve built up in our hyperlocal blogging efforts? Of course it will.
Now, let’s talk about Market Leader
When Market Leader entered the picture the same “sell out” cries rallied, and in the past 18 months not a heck of a lot has changed there. With the exception of a few more sales calls (which we always got from vendors) I haven’t noticed too many changes. But here’s the difference: ML was more of a software company (selling back end CRM services and trying to generate/sell leads to agents) than a consumer-facing portal. Despite their best efforts at making a consumer facing site work (RealEstate.com, acquired by Market Leader), I don’t see that’s been a huge success.
That’s where Trulia can be a game changer. As much as AR and ML are agent-focused, Trulia (and Zillow and Realtor.com) are consumer-facing sites. The bulk of their effort over the past few years has been to lure the consumer in to use their site to search for properties/find an agent. The sites are packed with “how to buy” and “how to sell” advice, listings for sale and (recently added) rent.
Here’s where I see the backlash.
These companies take the listings that agents work their tails off to get and re-sell us the very leads that our own listings generate. The sites make money by selling premium advertising to brokers/agents. While they’re courting the consumer on one hand (hey come look at all the houses for sale) they’re courting the agents/brokers out of the other side of their mouths (hey give us your money and we’ll deliver the buyers/sellers to you). They take the fruits of our labor (our listings), display them on their sites, and then charge us to find out who is interested in our inventory. See the irony? It makes me feel dirty just to admit I pay for this whorish advertising.
Not only do they make us pay for leads our inventory generates but these same sites generate “leads” with false data. How many calls do you get for “listings” that were sold six months ago or are not even on the market yet (pre-foreclosures flagged by RealtyTrac)? And my newest gripe is Trulia’s brilliant “recently sold” lead. In this one, I get an email from a consumer who wants information on a recently sold house. The theory is that maybe this lead is a neighbor thinking of selling. So if I email back the sold data maybe I’ll get a new listing.
Except in the trenches it’s not working that way. Buyers are emailing on the house, not understanding it’s sold, and they want an appointment, or wonder why it’s online if it’s not really for sale (since if it’s on the internet it must be true). Telling them it’s not for sale (such as a pre-foreclosure or a recently sold) just annoys the consumer. That’s not a “lead” — it’s a consumer who thinks I am wrong and the internet must be right. It takes up my time to convince Joe Buyer that the house really really is sold and no I cannot show it to him.
But I digress.
Agents know how bad the data can be on the aggregator sites (which is what T and Z are). T/Z argue back: garbage in/garbage out. Meaning, agents get your act together and update that data so it’s correct! Mark those houses sold, enter your status updates promptly and make sure the feed coming in is correct.
As of May 8th, my firm of 6 agents has 85 listings. Perhaps I should hire someone to check the various aggregator sites every day. Or I could cut the feed out completely. That’s the battle cry of some brave brokers who have gone that route. No feed to T/Z, then the consumer must come to our site to find the data! If you are a huge brokerage in control of the bulk of the market, that could work.
But we won’t stop the consumers from seeking out and using T/Z and their nifty little apps (and Realtor.com which in my area seems to be barely used). I ask every buyer who calls into the office who I get to speak to, every buyer I see at a closing table or in person, “Where did you find this property?” The majority are using T/Z and so if the consumer is there, we need to make sure our listings are in front of that consumer. Removing our sellers from the feed reduces their exposure and may harm their chance of sale.
What major platforms have been lacking
But what the major platforms have been lacking is agent-to-agent interaction. That is where Market Leader and ActiveRain come into play.
With ML’s back-office CRM software (already used by some firms such as Keller Williams) and the agent-centric blogging, Trulia made a brilliant play to rope the agents into their platform. I don’t question their business acumen. So why did I want to throw up this morning when I read the news release? Because instead of seeing it as a “yeah we have the whole enchilada now, in one cool place” my gut reaction was “Great, I’ll be held hostage here.” Keep reading for why I feel trapped.
Why agents feel trapped
I pay for TruliaPro status (and Zillow Premier agent as well). Up to three months ago I also paid for a half dozen zip codes in my area for my firm to dominate Trulia in my little world. I spent thousands of dollars in 2012 on Trulia upgrades. In doing the taxes I calculated the ROI on those zip codes and decided to adjust the ads. I wanted to test a few new ones and dial back a few old ones. Easy enough. For years I’ve been doing this all by myself with no “advisor” needed. Add a few cities, subtract a few. Analyze results in three months. Adjust. Except in February I realized my sliders (that control ad percentage of market purchased) were gone. I could not dial back any of my zip codes or adjust.
Trulia took away the sliders/ability to control my own ads, and didn’t even tell their tech support apparently. I had to send a screen shot of what I was seeing to my rep for him to even understand what was going on. Then he promised to call me back when he figured it out. When he did (several days later) he explained that the Powers That Be at T decided only sales reps could change/adjust our ads now as we might “screw it up” and make bad changes. Oh. That explains it. But it was too late. I had already called in, gotten a different rep, and tried to talk through the changes I wanted. The new quote was jaw dropping. The rep explained it would be much easier (and cheaper) to just stick with my old ad plan rather than play with percentages and buy/change zip codes. In reply I cancelled all my advertising.
This control-freak approach also extends to the leads they send me (the ones I pay for). The email I get anonymizes the lead’s email and replaces it with a Trulia-centered email. To get the real email I must log into T’s portal, hit reply to the lead, and then I can see the true email. It’s an extra step, which matters to me because I use a third party portal to consolodate all my leads. So when the portal gets this junky email, I still have to waste time by logging into the T website, copy/paste real email, log into my CRM portal, and replace bad email with real one. Time suck. T say it is to protect the consumer’s data. Really? I think it’s so you control one more aspect of the lead-to-agent flow and it messes with my system.
As a broker and an agent, I don’t like it
I have no problem with the T/ML/AR partnership from a business standpoint. I get it. But as an agent, I don’t like it. It’s just one more blow in the fight to the top of the search engines for these two companies. And while T and Z are duking it out for Top Dog status, it’s the agents who are in the middle getting squeezed.
Relax and refresh with our office life movie list
(EDITORIAL) Whether you are considering a new career path or not we have a movie list to pique your interest, and just maybe motivate as much as they entertain.
It’s a new year! Woot! Maybe you’re feeling in a work funk and are rethinking your goals and future trajectory. Whether you need something to push you in a new direction, motivate you, make you think about where your career is going, or just to entertain, here are 10 movies about work, work ethic and how we can change our career path by just changing our mind.
Top 10 Movies About Work
1. Glengarry Glen Ross: This take on David Mamet’s play is at the top of the list. If you haven’t seen it, where have you been? If you have, it’s a good one to revisit. This ones got it all raw reality, ego, desperation and some surprising plot twists all with an outstanding cast. If you are in sales, don’t miss this. And, Millennials, take note. You will one day be in the same place as those old fogies – aka Boomers. Oh, and, remember, “Coffee is for closers.”
2. His Gal Friday: An oldie and a goodie with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as an editor and reporter who worked together, married and then divorced. This slapstick movie is great for a peek inside media, especially journalism, because it shows the lengths that reporters and editors will go to in order to get the scoop. The movie has great dialog and is timeless. It also shows how fast things can move, which is still relevant today especially with social media and the life of a news story moves even faster.
3. Up In The Air: A hatchet man learns his job is being tweaked. He will no longer need to fly, and now the tables are turned and he is unhappy with his fate. This movie can be a challenge to watch if you recently lost a job. But, one lesson learned is that work isn’t everything, so live your life.
4. Office Space: A funny take on work and life and the balance between the two. Regardless of where you are employed, there are rules, regulations and office BS that can be on the one hand completely pathetic and on the other so laughable. It’s always better to laugh, rather than cry. Oh, and do not touch the red stapler.
5. Working Girl: Maybe you missed this one because it dates back to the days when shoulder pads ruled the workplace and women still wore nylons. Melanie Griffith portrays a secretary (remember this is before that changed to assistant) who is great at what she does. She’s got goals and dreams to take her career to the next level. But, she’s not taken seriously at the investment firm where she works. Sigourney Weaver is the boss and she will do whatever she needs to stay on top. Griffith has a twist-of-fate meeting with Harrison Ford, another executive and she takes a chance on herself and her future. This movie has big hair, humor and a love story to boot.
6. Good Will Hunting: Ok. This one isn’t necessarily about work. But, I picked it because it’s an example of what can happen when you let your past hold you back and you don’t pursue your dreams. We have Matt Damon (Will) a janitor at a prestigious university and his friend Ben Affleck, a brick layer. Damon portrays a guy with a rough past who is going through the motions until he has to work with a psychologist played by Robin Williams. He’s forced to consider his past and his future. He has a gift but what will he do? His friend, Affleck, wants him to pursue bigger things, but can Damon let go of his past and embrace his gift?
7. The Devil Wears Prada: Ah, the evil queen and the naïve princess. That may seem like a different story, but it is a similar plot line with a triumphant finish. Anne Hathaway portrays Andrea who is fresh out of school and lands a job at a prestigious fashion magazine. The fact that she had never read the magazine and got the job is beyond surprising, but regardless she lands the job and works for Miranda, played by Meryl Streep. Streep’s character is a Diva and a demanding and horrible boss. She challenges Andrea on multiple levels. Will Andrea become a workaholic like her boss? As they say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
8. 9-to-5: Way before the Me Too movement there was Fonda, Parton and Tomlin as three office employees who are sick and tired of their chauvinistic boss, played by Dabney Coleman. The women begin to plot for revenge and take their boss hostage in his home. In the meantime, they begin making changes at the office.
9. The Pursuit of Happyness: If you think your life is rough, maybe reconsider for a moment. This is a story about a man who was determined. He was pushing forward and as much as he was pushing, it seemed that he couldn’t get ahead. But he was resolved in the belief that he could and would make his life better for himself and his son. There is a great quote that says: “The harder I work, the luckier I am.” This movie shows that out.
10. Rocky: This movie made Sylvester Stallone. He wrote it and that my friends is a great story of tenacity too, because before Rocky Stallone was basically a nobody. Rocky is a nobody boxer who gets the chance to take on the reigning champion, Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). He busts his ass and does whatever it takes to get the job done. This is a story of endurance, dedication and taking a chance on yourself.
This list is not comprehensive, but we hope you find inspiration, motivation and some laughs too. And, remember, work is not who you are, it’s what you do. Now, go get some popcorn and candy and take a break.
It’s Me, myself, and I; not work, job, and side hustle
(EDITORIAL) Who else is tired of the Hustle? Why is it there anyway? How can I stay out of it? These question are important when thinking of your next opportunity.
Live your life in a constant state of fear and exhaustion because you’ll either be doing so in an apartment, or under a bridge.
Sounds…bleak, no? Well, it’s still the best business advice I’ve ever gotten.
Okay, fine, I didn’t hear this pearl of wisdom in those exact words.
What my father actually said was ‘Make sure you have a side hustle or two, because it’ll broaden your experiences, and because you never know.’
The reality of seeing that through just so happens to mean what I got into in the opening.
Texas is an at-will state. Just as you don’t need a reason, or notice to quit, neither do employers need to give you reason or notice to fire you. Want a personal example? Here’s mine:
Just as I’d settled into starting day 4 of a house cleaning gig, corporate, so to speak, called me in to fire me. I wondered if I’d accidentally offended someone, missed a light fixture, or blacked out, unhinged my jaw and swallowed a client’s cat, so I asked what it was I could have done so badly in only three shifts.
As it happened, they just “didn’t think I was a good fit”, and “could tell how it was going to turn out”, which could have meant anything from ‘You vacuumed too loudly and someone complained’ to ‘The chicken entrails we cast told us you were going to start a fire somewhere and we wanted to nip it in the bud’.
What would have happened to me if I didn’t have contract work on my side to keep my lights on while I got back to the search for 40 hours? It starts with an E, and ends with a viction.
Or, to be realistic, it’d start with asking my folks to move back in, selling all my stuff, and desperately searching for someone to take over my lease so I wouldn’t take a huge credit score hit.
But not everyone has that kind of fallback. And even though I fully expect my mother to outlive me, everyone reading this, and also the sun, I won’t always have it either.
My point is: you never really get to rest. You have to constantly chase clients as a freelancer in case someone changes their minds, gets acquired by another company, dies, etc. You have to keep your resume updated and your job searches fresh in a 9-5 in case they lowball you on a raise, let your manager grope you without consequence, or decide that new employment laws threaten their yacht-panthers’ manicure schedule and show your entire division the door.
I don’t subscribe to the ‘Hustle Culture’ that paints this as a good thing either. It’s not. It’s maddening to keep up with, and that’s very much by design. Scared, tired people need more convenience, need to buy more stuff, need to work harder to afford that stuff, and it’s a hard cycle to break out of and STAY out of. Remember, nobody writes books about the businesses that fail.
But with this fear comes a certain kind of clarity. If nothing is promised to ME, I don’t have to promise anything either!
I don’t HAVE to work late into the night to prove my loyalty. I don’t need to see other, better offers as a threat to a meaningful relationship. I don’t have to put my education on hold until I reach ‘a good time’ to ask for a different schedule around acquiring a valuable new skill.
If, for all you know, your boss is having you train your replacement any time someone’s “brought on board”; then, for all they know, your in-person-interview elsewhere really IS a dental checkup!
At first I felt super slimy about thinking this way. Whatever happened to perseverance? Integrity? Honesty? Teamwork?
And then I realized the people at the top sleep like rich toddlers after making decisions for the betterment of the company that might happen to screw over an individual, and I embraced my inner hagfish.
If your net worth is a rousing round of canned laughter like mine, you have very little choice but to weave and maintain your own safety nets. That’s what Dad wanted me to understand—not to put all my eggs in one basket. He didn’t want me to be afraid, per se, just aware. I added the fear myself because…well pick any news story.
It’s tiring, it’s difficult, it’s morally light gray sometimes, and I shudder to think how I would handle this if I had kids.
But considering how many times an extra check, or a good gig reference has saved my bacon, job monogamy is out…even if playing the field does mean I need extra naps.
You f**ked up and got fired – now what do you do?
(EDITORIAL) Ever get fired, or have an office fail? We will examine how to handle problems and life crises in the workspace with seriousness and humor.
One day recently, I was feeling lost and was about to use Google because I needed answers! I wanted to magically stop the world because it was spinning too fast.
Some questions have a lot of different answers. Some answers aren’t so clear and some questions are hard to ask when you are feeling like a major f@ck up. That was how I was feeling.
In this ongoing column, I will attempt to share some real-life situations, options, answers, and when needed, consult with experts to provide responses to those questions you may be too afraid to ask. Or, to consider questions you may have not even realized you needed to ask.
To kick off our column, the first I F@cked Up situation we will consider is getting let go or laid off. While they are not the same situation, they do have some similarities.
Why, Mary Ann, what do you know about either of these situations? Well, I’ve been laid off twice, both from major news enterprises. And, I’ve been released of my duties. Neither situation feels very good, but believe me when I say, it’s not the end of the world. These situations bring with them a lot of baggage to unpack, so we will break it down. Today we deal with what to do first.
I Just Got Fired/Laid Off
So, you get called to the office. You are met either with your boss and HR or a person your company hired to separate you from them. (Like in Up in the Air) If you are being let go, you may have seen it coming – if you were paying attention. If you were laid off, depending on if other folks were let go recently, it may come as a surprise and a very harsh blow.
How you feel
Regardless of how it happened, you probably feel like crap. It’s a fact. Whether you are happy to be set free from the most toxic of toxic of work environments, or you’ve been laid off and provided with a decent severance package, you will still probably have a bit of worry, fear and feeling of “what the hell is wrong with me” self-doubt going on. And, then there’s the big question. What’s next?
This is all pretty standard. Unless you are a narcissist and then, that is a whole different column.
When you are laid off or fired, most decent employers will try do it in the middle of the week – so you can call later with questions. If you were like me – you were a deer in the headlights. I remembered very little of the actual conversation. You will have questions you didn’t think to ask at such a moment. You will want answers. If you are released on a Friday. Your employer is really shitty because now you have the entire weekend to ruminate over the questions.
Don’t ruminate over the questions.
Feeling like crap and being pissed are normal. So, feel all the feels.
NOW, DO THIS:
Gather your things. Hold your head high. Tell your colleagues deuces. Leave the office.
If you imbibe alcohol, stop at the store, get your favorite food and whatever beverage you like the most. Go home. Get plastered or near shit-faced – if you don’t drink, then buy a carton of ice cream or a sheet cake. I don’t encourage over consumption of alcohol OR food, but at this moment, you probably feel lower than low. Give yourself permission for this moment to let loose, honor, and celebrate it. As much as it may feel like the world is blowing up, right now you get the opportunity to say “What the hell, what do I have to lose?”
The point is: Get it out of your system, and quickly. If you get released from your position take a few days before you begin to do anything work search related. Your ego is probably hurting. People get fired for a wide variety of reasons, many of which have nothing to do with their ability to do the work. And, if you get laid off, usually it’s about money, bankruptcy and situations far beyond your control. Still, it hurts your pride and can do a number on your self-confidence and self-esteem.
BUT, DON’T DO THIS:
If you’re pissed off after being let go, especially if you were fired and if your workplace sucked you may want to scream it from the rafters and announce it all over social media. DON’T.
Don’t go on Facebook and blast: I got fired!
Don’t go on LinkedIn and say: Company XYZ are a bunch of douches.
Don’t change your LinkedIn to say you are no longer at Company X.
Don’t immediately hit Glassdoor with a crap review.
Don’t immediately email/text/PM connections saying you were fired/laid off.
Don’t immediately start looking for jobs.
You are raw. You are pissed. You may or may not be super worried and concerned about your next paycheck. You may be really upset. You don’t want to come off as someone who is desperate, even if you really are. We will come back to this in another column.
You’ve overeaten and gotten shit faced. You may have cried or broken stuff. Good! ARGH!
Feels so much better.
You should take a few days to rest, recharge and focus on self-care.
But, one thing you do not want to put on hold is filing for unemployment.
File for Unemployment the day after you get let go.
Now is the time when you need to be focused and aware. When you file, don’t lie about anything, be honest and fill out the forms.
You say you don’t want to take money from the state. Well, that’s great, champ, but it’s a good fall back option.
Also, please note, if you get fired for doing something very wrong on the job, it’s likely you will not be eligible for unemployment, so don’t be surprised if you called your boss a mofo and you don’t get unemployment.
You want to file as soon as possible because it takes weeks (from 4 to 6 but typically a little less) for the state to start paying. And, if you haven’t been saving and are living paycheck to paycheck – you know income creep – you will probably need what little unemployment provides, a lot less than your standard salary.
Unemployment filed, consider if you have any mileage you need to be reimbursed for and get that done. If you have a severance package, get those checks in the bank ASAP. If your employer let you go as part of a layoff, they may be having financial issues. So cash the check(s) fast.
You’ve had time for a pity party. You’ve filed for unemployment. Now, it’s time to do some reflection.
You say, ‘self-reflection, that a lot of BS and I don’t have time for that I need money now.’
Yeah, you probably really need some self-reflection if you don’t see the value in it.
Now is the perfect opportunity to consider some deep questions like:
What went wrong at your last job? If you were released, let go, fired, why did that happen? Whether your boss was a total asshole or not, you probably had some part in the final outcome. Own it. Now’s the time to think about what went sideways. Was it a clash of cultures? Was it a personality clash? Were your skills not what you presented on your resume? What was your work ethic?
Even if you weren’t fired you should reflect.
Think about what was going on. What did you like, hate, learn? This is an opportunity to take the experience you had and use it to discover what you want next, which should be a job where you feel celebrated and not tolerated.
Find some surveys online where you can do self-reflection about your skills and abilities. Talk to your closest friends and ask them for feedback on what they like most about you. They care about you and can offer some real feedback to help you to regain your self-esteem.
If you haven’t done this before, take some time to do an inventory of what you like, hate, what you must have in your next position and what are deal breakers.
If you were working in a really awful workplace, you really may need time to decompress. Take the time to get outside, go for walks, do what you love. Now’s the time to sleep in and regroup. But, don’t wallow and start doing whatever you need to feel motivated for your next opportunity.
As my mom (and religious texts) always said: “This too shall pass.” So be ready.
Coming next week: You ate, drank, and reflected, so what the heck do you do now?
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