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What do You Wish Your REALTOR® Association Staff Knew?

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Why Wont They Hear Me?

Isn’t this how life works? You suggest, recommend, implore that someone do something a certain way. They resist, never doing it like you think they ought. Then, someone form another place in their life, maybe an outsider or someone they know from another context, asks them to try the same #*@&%$ thing and they just do it. No questions asked. I’m not sure why this is so, but I’m sure you’ve seen it happen all the time.

Maybe I Can Help

I think I’m in a rather unique position to help you. Every year the National Association of REALTORS® puts on a conference for the people who work for your state and local associations of REALTORS®. Attended by about 1,000 state, local and national REALTOR® association staff from across the country, the Association Executives Institute (AEI) is one of NAR’s largest annual events. Someone thought I could add some value to the committee that’s planning this conference, and I began my term on it a few weeks ago.

It occurred to me that you, dear Agent Genius readers, are in a unique position to help me. Here’s what I want: Tell me what you think your REALTOR® association staff needs to know. No one understands better in what areas your local associations just don’t get it. So please, let me know what they need to know.

Recently, I tweeted a shorter version of this blog post and got these reactions:

  • Tell them to make the MLS work in Firefox
  • I wish our staff knew more about short sales
  • Help them convince us how important it is to get involved

Those are a few samples. What else do you wish your local association staff knew? Of course, I’ll also happily accept your suggestions on how we could get the point across in a way that will help your state and local associations actually absorb and deliver on the stuff they need to understand. I’ll do my best to make sure those topics make their way into the sessions at AEI 2009.

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60 Comments

60 Comments

  1. Frank Jewett

    June 1, 2008 at 8:44 pm

    I wish our staff knew more about short sales

    I’m unclear on how this would help, since AOR staff are non-licensees who can’t, shouldn’t, and hopefully don’t provide legal advice.

    I wish our staff scheduled more short sales classes

    That would be a more realistic objective for an AOR, though short sales were last seasons “low hanging fruit.”

    I’ll give you mine, as a former AOR employee and current affiliate:

    I wish my AOR had blogs for industry news, broker outreach, and rookie realtors.

    Realistic, helpful, and long overdue.

  2. Bill Lublin

    June 1, 2008 at 9:36 pm

    Ben; This is an important post and I hope that you get a ton of response from people who have challenges communicating with their staff – But I hope those people who know how hard most staff people work, how dedicated they are, and how much they want thoughtful and helpful direction from their membership give you responses as well.

    IMHO we have some incredible people in all levels of the various REALTOR organizations, and if people reached out to them, there would be fewer issues about what their dues get them.

    Frank;
    As the Chairman of the Working Group on Short Sales for NAR, material, developed by practitioners with lots of experience from a number of states is being developed (with the help of the outstanding Staff at NAR) and will be posted on REALTOR.ORG as soon as we implement a few changes that were suggested by members when the report of the Working Group was made to the Risk Management, MLS Policies, Professional Standards, and Conventional Finance Committees as well as the Leadership Team. This material will enable companies or Associations to prepare their own educational programs for associates,

    NAR staff and the LT is also discussing the issue of Blogs, but there are a number of legal and policy issues since the writers on those blogs, unlike this one, would be interpreted as speaking for the organization, a problem unless each blog were vetted and approved by the appropriate parties which would then make them less vibrant and effective. But it is being discussed and worked on.

  3. Barry Cunningham

    June 1, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    Bill..I was going to list a litany of real world issues that could be addressed but instead I will list just one. How about a comprehensive plan to make the MLS kick out listings that do not have at least 6 pictures. We’ll work on the phone answering issue next time.

  4. Frank Jewett

    June 1, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Barry, what about a listing for raw land or farm acreage with an old shack on it? Seriously, we get them from time to time in the South County. You don’t need six pictures.

  5. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 6:12 am

    And…..this is where I’ll be spending my day….

    (Holy Hanna! Who the $#*&$ made a math a necessity to comment!?!?! – I am so screwed! Where’s Lani, I know she did this just to keep me from commenting!) 🙂

    Barry: Is Barry latin for pain in the…. oh nevermind 🙂 You’re a huge supporter of DOJ trying to screw NAR, I am surprised that you would start off proposing an anti-competitive policy, right from the top. Is that you master plan? Nah, I don’t think so. I really do think you want (what is in your opinion) the best consumer coverage and I agree. But… to invoke a policy such as this is not the staff’s job – it’s the member-leadership. And… there are a number of good agents who will take the listing, and schedule a professional photographer or even have to wait for good weather to get those photos just right. So, why delay putting a listing in MLS 30 days to get on a schedule or find the right lighting / weather? Also, like Frank said there are just some houses, where 6 pics isn’t as important as the rest.

    Frank: I’ve gone from being a Broker to Staff Director of Education and I teach all over VA. Most staffs aren’t licesed, haven’t practiced etc… and I agree shouldn’t be giving out legal advise. The association north of mine is huge and has several attorneys on staff – who have never practiced and call our office from time to time to ask about short sales, agency, COE etc… I illustrate that to say that the association SHOULD be a resource. Usually when I get calls, I do know the answer, but deliver it not as opinion, but as an e-mail, link or (rarely) fax to the source, so that agents and brokers can answer their own questions (with a little guidance). I think the Association should be the place for members to come and get information on whatever their pressing needs are. Our area Short Sales aren’t just low hanging fruit (although the are) it’s a way of life. It’s getting to a point that a majority of our listings are distressed properties. (But between you and I – I am very tired of talking about them and teaching classes every month on them)

    Ben: Communication is a struggle for our local association, like I wrote on VARBuzz.com, however getting the volunteer-leadership to help staff show the relevance of the Association to their business is an issue. Realtor.org, VAR and FAAR have a TON of resources, so much so, that members sometimes get lost. We need to do better at creating a road map for the members about how to use all these tools for their day to day business.

    Lastly: Virginia Association does have an active blog at http://www.VARBuzz.com and (my local association) Fredericksburg Association is at http://www.FAARForum.com. I am sure it’s harder to manage at a National Level, as the state and local blogs have already had some bumps, but I think it is well worth the effort to get information out and for the associations to be utilizing the most current technology.

  6. Michelle DeRepentigny

    June 2, 2008 at 6:38 am

    I spend a lot of time on VAR Buzz and I’m a Georgia REALTOR, I have kidded that I should move because I feel more connected with that Association than I do mine. Don’t get me wrong, you couldn’t ask for a nicer or more dedicated group than we have locally, but the technology has a long way to go. Our Association website is functional but really boring so I guess what I want is to be engaged & educated in a more dynamic way.

  7. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 8:44 am

    Matthew, short sales were the low hanging fruit here last year. It turned out much of that fruit was in fact already on the ground and getting soft. Very few short sales were completed with most being drawn out until they went to auction where the bank ended up buying them. It was so bad that agents working with buyers began avoiding short sales altogether. REO is the new low hanging fruit here. We’re seeing multiple offers and overbids on REO listings as buyers treat the discount as if it was cash. Same thing happened in southern California last year and many of those buyers are now upside down. Our area was behind the curve. Your area may be different or it may just be further back in the same progression. What percentage of short sales in your area are closing?

  8. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 8:53 am

    Frank,

    A local broker did some math and said only about 5% actually close. Several area agents are also consulting with their clients about avoiding short sale listings because of the extensive time and effort. It’s become such the norm, however that some of the better agents are able to get quick lender turn around, because they’ve been doing all the right things with the lender for months.

    That’s rare, unfortunately. What’s more common is that buyer agents tell their clients two or three horror stories and they just avoid anything even smells like a short sale. I am not sure where the association should be going with with (association being leadership and not staff.) I am not sure that Short Sales are in anyone’s best interest, so current the association is training what to do, as a listing / buyer agent and not getting involved in “if” you should be doing them.

    It does seem to be THE main question we get hit with here at the offices.

  9. Matt Thomson

    June 2, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Our local agency needs to know sign laws…where and what kinds of signs can be posted. Our county did a “sign hunt” a few months back and lifted over 4000 real estate signs, as well as over 2500 other small business signs.

  10. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 8:57 am

    BTW: I have not confirmed that 5% closing rate, myself… so, it’s rumor at this point…

  11. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Matthew, we have a local broker who does a lot of tracking and he suggested similarly low numbers. He also attended auctions and reported that the majority of those homes went back to the lender, so today’s short sales seem likely to be tomorrow’s REOs, in many cases. As I mentioned, we are seeing movement in REOs, but it appears to be very haphazard. Prices are slashed dramatically, multiple buyers come rushing in, and one buyer walks away with a “prize” for well above the “bargain” price. I’m reading the San Diego, Sacramento, and Inland Empire bubble blogs to search for patterns and the one I’m seeing is knife catchers who assume that if a property has dropped from $800K to $600K, they can’t possibly lose. That’s probably true in the long run if they can afford to hold the property, but in the short run some of those $600K bargains are now underwater.

    The one constant, which was lost at the height of the bull market, is “location, location, location.” I’m starting to see some 2004 prices, but only in the least desirable areas. During the boom we saw “a rising tide lifts all boats” as even the undesirable areas showed double digit appreciation, but those areas have been the first to fall. How far the desirable areas will fall remains to be seen, but we have seen slowing across the board which suggests that migration from less desirable to more desirable is over. Now the big question is how many already owned homes are sustainable in a post-ATM world.

    Sorry for hijacking this thread.

    To get back on track, my local AOR publishes a monthy newsletter, a bi-monthly e-newsletter (every other issue is mostly reruns), and e-mail blasts that mainly promote events and classes. All of this material could be delivered more efficiently through a blog, so it is more a question of adopting new methods than generating new content, at least to get started. Once the blog is established, AOR directors and committee chairs could submit items to PR/Mktg for approval. It doesn’t seem difficult.

  12. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Yeah, I’m sorry for being Frank’s get-a-way driver on the hijacking!

  13. Aria Schoenfelt, Austin Real Estate

    June 2, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I have many grumbles for NAR all revolving around the lack of compatibility the technology involved. I work hard to be a part of new technology and feel like I’m dragging the services offered by NAR and my local board behind me.

    Primarily:

    – WEB STANDARDS FOR MLS!!! 50% of my traffic comes from Firefox, I use Firefox and Safari. MLS needs to work with multiple browsers. Successful websites are compatible with many browsers and I carefully design my sites to work with all browsers.

    – Release IDX API to agents as well! I don’t want a iframe on my site, I want to customize search results and have them available on my site without shelling out my hard-earned money to someone else with the same knowledge I have. I am a web developer, I want to develop my own site. Until I’m a Broker (which I will be soon), my website suffers which makes me look bad in an area where I have special knowledge and talents.

    – Don’t make me use a stupid Treo or d-Key. I have a Treo for the convenience of not having to plug in a dkey and remember to carry something else with me each day, but I loathe it. I want a choice of cell phones and lock boxes with more up-to-date technology. Seriously, infrared is antiquated, why are we still using it? Give us options for opening a lockbox. Many cell phones have bluetooth, can’t we use that instead of IR? And for those without bluetooth, can’t the same lockboxes accept IR, a card swipe, or other options?

    I always get the feeling that NAR drags its feet with new technology insisting that shell out loads of cash for its partners to offer my a service that isn’t even really what I want.

    In a nutshell, I want NAR to understand and comply with web 2.0 and technology 2.0!

  14. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 11:23 am

    C’mon Matt..are you kidding me. Are you saying making sure there are pictures means one is anti-realtor?

    It’s too much to ask for a real estate agent to make sure there are pictures on the friggin listing?

    30 days for lighting and weather? Um..we live in South florida. hasn’t rained here since the Dolphins won a football game. Absolutely no excuse can be given. As for raw land…like I said…we’re in South florida…what’s raw land? O h yeah..we call that the Everglades!

  15. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    This listing on Zillow has eight photos, but they all look pretty similar.

    https://www.zillow.com/HomeDetails.htm?zprop=2144581526

    Former jails don’t have a lot of curb appeal.

    Barry, I think I know where you are coming from, but I’ve spoken with several top producers who intentionally limit the number of photos to show the property in its best light or, if it has no best light, to get interested buyers to actually come and see it in person. Despite frequent lectures from the 1000Watt pulpit, listing photos are not a “one size fits all” issue.

  16. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Barry: 30 Days was an extreme example, I’ll admit, for weather; maybe not for a good photographer. I personally did my photos, because I was good at it. There are others who have some barriers.

    Regardless of the time, I don’t feel it should be function of state government or associations to mandate how one markets a property with the exception of fair housing and disclosure issues.

    I think that there should be dozens and dozens of pictures personally, but I don’t think that number of pictures should be a minimum standard. Outside of an active and valid real estate license there should be very few barriers to MLS access. Otherwise where do those barriers start and end? So, now you have a six picture requirement…. what next, only homes over a certain dollar amount?

    My main reason is that this delay in getting pictures or taking useless pictures just to reach minimum standard could be damage to the seller.

    Do we also say they can only go in if there is a visual tour, how about if they only have a dedicated website or blog site, or wiki for the listing? I think all those things, in the right context is good – but the time spent preparing those marketing venues shouldn’t be a deterrent to seller who has to sell “right now.” At some point too many demands, becomes damaging to the seller. An agent get the listing in and add the main picture, while taking a day or two to get the house prepped and ready for better and more professional pictures.

    MLS shouldn’t be the platform to establish minimum standards and once more your beloved DOJ agrees with me.

  17. Jonathan Dalton

    June 2, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Century 21 went to a policy where only listings with six photos would be allowed on the site. Right now I’m at an office that encourages the maximum 20 or 25 or whatever it is for REALTOR.com.

    I’m sorry, but on a 1000-square-foot townhouse there are only so many things to shoot. Six angles of the same room or the same front elevation is silly. Pictures are meant to enlighten and highlight the best aspects of a home; they’re not meant to fill a quota.

    I’ll now scroll up to figure out what this post actually was about …

  18. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 1:20 pm

    “I think I know where you are coming from, but I’ve spoken with several top producers who intentionally limit the number of photos to show the property in its best light or, if it has no best light, to get interested buyers to actually come and see it in person”

    Huh????

    I would think…that if the intent was to actually SELL a house, one would want to make the ability to sell the home easier.

    With so many weeding out listings online are you kidding that some intentionally leave out pictures..OMG why give theses people licenses.

  19. Ken Smith

    June 2, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    @ Jonathan – Agree you can only take so many photos. We have sellers of 1 bedroom condos wonder why they don’t have 25 photos like the 4 bedroom house does. Seems like simple logic to me, but some sellers just can’t get the concept that a buyer doesn’t want 18 photos of their outdated kitchen.

    To the original purpose of the post: I think that being compatible with FireFox is a must. Seems silly that we would have to include this as FF has been gaining SO much ground over the last 3 years that this is old news.

  20. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    Not talking about 25 photos guys..I ‘m talking about the times when there are NO photos. That’s absurd.

  21. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Barry, I can’t argue with someone who closed 19 transactions in 2007. There is more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak. I’ve retooled my research to target results, then analyze the process that got those results rather than looking at the process and trying to find a top producer to justify that process. The results yielded by this approach have been surprising.

    Perhaps technology will eventually render some of the old guard obsolete, but right now I can say that many of them are still doing well using traditional methods and approaches that rely more on psychology than technology. The rationale I was given for limiting pictures or not using them at all was that the agent didn’t want to “give it all away.” He’s using curiousity as the draw.

    Again, it would be arrogant of me to dismiss the success he is having using that approach, especially since I know avid bloggers who can’t blog anymore because they had to take full-time jobs.

  22. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Frank…you “can’t argue with someone who closed 19 transactions in 2007″….why did he tell you that was hig production? What market was that? So Fran you believe that 19 transactions in 2007 is a good year? Just wondering?

    “The rationale I was given for limiting pictures or not using them at all was that the agent didn’t want to “give it all away.” He’s using curiousity as the draw.”

    Frank here’s a question..how many transactions did your “high producer miss” by not placing pictures on the MLS.

    This isn’t old school..it’s just plain stupid! Yes..I’m sorry it’s such a strong word..it’s plain stupid!

  23. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Barry, when I worked at the title company I had access to reliable data. If I was ever going to take Realtor claims at face value, that experience would have cured me. It’s remarkable how many people touting the strength of the market have somehow missed their share of it. It’s also remarkable to look at the difference in closing ratios. We’ve seen agents locally who had $10 million worth of listings during a season and ended up selling nothing because they had overbid for those listings.

    80% of the agents in Santa Clara County close between 2 and 0 deals per year. 19 closings here, in a year when the median price was $800,000, gets my attention and earns my respect. Believe me, I start from the paychecks at the closing table and work my way back. What I’ve discovered is a variety of approaches with very little correlation to the use of technology. As a tech trainer, it’s not necessarily in my best interest to admit that, but as Brian Buffini says “the truth is never inappropriate.”

    The old saying is “Price is the problem that solves most other problems.”

    Are you saying “Pictures are the problem that solves most other problems?”

    I’m not trying to argue with you, Barry. I’m just reporting what I’ve discovered in my local market. To be fair, despite the catchy “Silicon Valley” nickname, Santa Clara County does appear to be lagging behind the curve on real estate technology adoption, so perhaps things will change, eventually.

  24. Gina Kay Landis

    June 2, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    I would LOVE to see a statewide MLS that works with the best features of all those that exist and dumps the features that don’t work. May take massive reprogramming or even invention of a new MLS (of course we know Rappatoni/DABR MLS and MarketLinx/WRIST, Inc. MLS, two that are quite different re: input, where ease of use is somewhat subjective). It’s irritating to have to use 2 MLS’ (well, actually, more than 2 in SW Ohio, with Darke County’s and Cincinnati’s) depending on what county you are working in, or to have to re-enter listings in two or more different MLS’. NO ONE understands the length of time it takes to massage that data in sometimes what seems to be uneven or illogical ways, nor the fees assessed due to differences in inputting between the MLS’.

    I want my representing organization to fully understand what agents go through on a daily basis when it comes to technology, particularly the needs of this minute versus the needs of the past hour. Technology cannot move fast enough, and documenting those changes so they filter slowly out to the masses simply takes too much time. There are currently a number of agents who are adamant about using the latest technology so they can then relate to those within the age or interest range for a number of reasons, one of which is sales, but the larger reason is the hunger for connection and interaction. While those agents may or may not be extroverted, they are the ones who will attract people interested in those same technologies and thus will be the ones who reap the benefit of those connections over the next few years.

    Agents, or their representing affiliated organizations, who back away from the technologies rapidly enveloping the industry, will be left in the proverbial dust.

  25. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Ok Frank..I understand..it’s just wholly frustrating to see listing after listing with no picture. In your market it might be a plan…down here it’s often just plain laziness!

  26. Ben Davis

    June 2, 2008 at 4:30 pm

    Gosh all of these comments and all I wanted to say was that I wish that the staff would manage to stay later than 4:59pm…seems that all of my tough problems happen at 5:01pm!

    Ben

  27. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Barry, I agree and I don’t recommend a “no pictures” approach, but to paraphrase “Glengarry Glen Ross”, I would argue “Don’t post a picture unless you are sure it’s going to help.” In some cases, the three best pictures might encourage someone to visit your listing while eight pictures might give them enough information to cross it off their list. At the risk of offending by comparison, car dealers don’t sell cars with pictures, they sell cars by getting your butt in the seat and getting you to imagine what it would be like to do that every day. In my limited experience choosing housing, it was the feeling of being there that sold me, not the pictures. The pictures should be used to put butts in the seats. 🙂

  28. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 5:50 pm

    Frank…that’s just plain wrong! If the house is a dump then feature it as a dump There is a buyer for everything. If it’s a dump then price it as such. I look at 100+ deal per day. I am not leaving my office chasing around a property that does not tell me what I need to know.

    If the property does not show well then trust me, there’s a buyer for that as well. Just a different buyer.

    In order to “put the butts in the seats” the theater shows a great preview!

  29. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 2, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    #1 Understanding that many 3rd party real estate sites (trulia, zillow, etc, etc), on which many REALTORs are participating – may develop into parasitic relationships. By participating on these sites, the REALTORs themselves are creating “new” content for those sites (which search engines like and which will eventually help those sites outrank the REALTOR’s own personal site) – and it establishes in the consumers’ mind that if they have a question about real estate for a particular area, you go to THOSE 3rd party sites for the answers. Its creating a dragon that will come back and bite the REALTOR. Those 3rd party sites may be “free” now – but their revenue model can change, especially once they have established themselves as an authority. And then those same REALTORs that helped create that dragon, will then in turn feel compelled to spend money on pricey advertising that those sites are then offering, purchase leads generated by those sites, etc.

  30. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Barry: “…that’s just plain wrong” is based on your experience. What makes your experience more correct than Frank’s?

    I am not saying you’re wrong, as matter of fact I am annoyed at the lack of photos in listing… however, I have time and time again encouraged buyers to go see a home that I had previewed and knew was a good fit but because of crappy pictures from the listing agent I had to drag them kicking and screaming. Agents have six seconds to get the attention of buyers on-line. If the buyer puts a ton o bad pictures it makes the buyer’s job just that more difficult. Again, I am a big fan of tons of pictures, but occasionally there are homes that just look better in person than on-line.

    You all should go check out http://www.wikimls.com and see what one broker has done to make both sides of this argument happy.

  31. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    I am not leaving my office…

    Barry, now I understand your objection.

  32. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Jennifer:

    Those are interesting points. How do you think an agent should response to a savvy consumer who asks: “Why isn’t my listing on (insert your aggregator here)? My friends house sold from Craigslist, Zillow or Trulia!”

    The reason that these systems are growing in popularity is that they are more innovative than MLS systems.

    I am not disagreeing with you. I am actually still on the fence, but if the clients are going to these systems, how does an agent meet this need on their own?

  33. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    Matthew, I think it’s based on Barry wanting to check the place out from the comfort of his desk before he tells his clients about it. I sympathize, particularly as I’m about to spend $70 to fill my tank, but again there is more than one way to skin a cat and appealing directly to buyers rather than trying to make life more convenient for buyer’s agents is a valid approach.

  34. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Frank: Barry is an investor, my understanding is that he isn’t an agent. This actually (IMHO) adds to his creditability as he’s giving us his opinion as a consumer.

  35. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Matthew, thanks for the correction, but the point remains that Barry is making this argument because he personally wants to be able to see as much of the property as possible from his office. Whether enabling him and everyone else online to do that provides better service to the seller has not been proved. I haven’t seen a strong correlation between the number of photos and successful sales.

  36. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    Frank/Barry: according to the NAR 2007 Profile of Buyer and Sellers, consumers found the following of most use:

    Most Useful Information
    84% Photos
    82% Detailed Listing Information
    60% Virtual Tours / Real Estate Shows
    39% Maps
    37% Neighborhood Information
    26% Agent Information

    I don’t know how to quantify national data to see a relation for number of photos to days on the market, but last year I did a local (about 1000 listings) check on days on the market and number of photos and found virtually no difference for DOM based on number of photos. The numbers were actually only 7 days less for those listings with more than one photo and none for those with six or more. That’s just my local market and that was a year ago.

  37. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Ben Davis: That’s a good point about the time. I tend to get phone calls on my cell and home number on nights and weekends. As a staff member I’m not too thrilled about, but what are ya gonna do?!?!?

    What time do you think association offices should be opened and closed?

  38. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    Frank, as I have said many times, my purchases are all about the bottom line. I am not looking to save gas or stay in a comfy air conditionined office. I said I look at more deals in a week than most agents look at in a year.

    There is not much I can’t ascertain about any property in my area. I have a database that allows me to instantly value the property (not a zestimate) obtain the market rents, see what the cash flow is..etc…My buying porocess hardly requires the use of an agent and if it does I walk into my assistant’s office and she handles it as she is an agent.

    On our real estate side, we have buyers from across the world who are utilizing a web 2.0 brave new world mentality and want pictures along with their dossier. Having no pictures makes it hard to provide our buyers what they are looking for.

    Matthew you ask what makes it wrong??? How about this…when one goes to get a listing, presumably they tell the seller they are going to do this and do that to sell the property. I am quite sure that the agent did not tell the client that they are going to leave pictures arbitrarily off. Show me the agent who TELLS the client they are PURPOSELY not including pictures and THEN I’ll believe he is doing the right thing. Absent tha, he or she is a foolish and lazy marketer and even if , As frank says, they sell a few homes…well that is in spite of themselves.

    Isn’t it time that those in the industry understand that it is the need of the CONSUMER that needs to be filled and not that of the agent playing games?

    C’mon Matthew. it’s just not right, IMO to tell a seller that you intend on marketing a property and then having no idea or plan to properly implement a marketing plan and that part of that marketing plan is to purposely leave pictures off.

    That’s wholly absurd!! I’m sorry but I can’t think of one business that would conduct itself in this manner. Especially not one that expects to ring in 6% or so of the sales price.

  39. Jennifer in Louisville

    June 2, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    @ Matthew: Quite simply – the only reason they are growing & gaining in popularity, is because real estate agents are furnishing them the information (listings, answering questions by consumers to try and pick up leads – which provides new content, and establishes THEM as the authority, etc, etc) in the first place. Without the information provided by the real estate agent, the majority of those sites would wither and die. Continue to provide them the information, and the real estate agent will have it come back and bite them in a big way later.

  40. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    Barry,

    Never at any point did anyone say that photos weren’t needed. However, you’ve once again twisted this issue to an unrealistic level to try and be the “god of real estate.”

    You’re right, everyone else is an idiot and your smart, blah, blah, blah.

    I am glad that AG can be available for you to abuse to try and get more listeners.

    I am sure that everyone on here who has tried to show that there were other valid opinions than yours, have appreciated their wasted hours – and I swore I wouldn’t do this anymore. You got me!

  41. Matthew Rathbun

    June 2, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Jennifer that is a valid point. I just don’t know that it’s fully practical. Again, just thinking out loud, but MLS is making money off your work as an agent. Realtor.com is making money off your listing data. A matter of fact they are charging you to put your data on their systems, as opposed to the current aggreators. My thought is that MLS systems should be using the technology that makes Zillow and Truila popular with the consumer. If I had to corral all the agents to one effort it would be to build a better MLS, one that was more client centric, rather than fighting the existence of systems that have become very popular with consumers.

    Again, I think you’re right, I am just of the impression that the industry has relegated their responsibility to be innovative to the point that it’s trapped in this slippery slope. Almost to the point, where one must use the systems to be relevant to the consumer.

  42. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Matthew you are above being a drama queen aren’t you? i was referring DIRECTLY to Frank’s comment where he said “he knew top producers who intentionally” left out photos. No pontificating there. Did you somehow miss that and go straight to trying to come after me?

    I’m an easy target here. Always have been and always will be. Venturing into here to gaze into the mindset is very entertaining and sometimes informatiive. I think I have said that.

    I am not ASKING you to answer so don’t bother wasting your time if you feel as such. Are you implying that my statement of agents needing to be more consumer-centric is playing god??? C’mon you can do better than that.

    I am not asking you or anyone else for an OPINION. Frank’s words were HIS words. There was no twisting. He said he knew agents that purposely left off photos.

    That is and I maintain absurd and contrary to just about any tenet of marketing. Your own comment said that seeing photos was the top thing buyers want to see.

    I understand wanting to bear the torch for realtors..it is to be expected, but how about once in a while opening your eyes and seeing things for waht they are and relating to the statements at hand.

    I am far from saying “I am right and everyone is an idiot”. I am SURE there are more than a few readers who found it preposterous that Frank said he knew agents who purposely left photos out of their listings.

    They just don’t like to speak their mind for fear of other agents not liking them. I don’t fear that in the least.

    Lastly, if you for an instant think that I comment here as an effort to attract listeners to my Real Estate Radio USA radio show, you have a GREATLY over-inflated sense of self-worth and perhaps you should refrain from attempts at flattering yourself yourself in that manner. It’s quite unbecoming.

  43. Benn Rosales

    June 2, 2008 at 9:18 pm

    “to attract listeners to my Real Estate Radio USA radio show, you have a GREATLY over-inflated sense of self-worth and perhaps you should refrain from attempts at flattering yourself yourself in that manner.”

    Nice plug. 🙂

  44. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Benn,

    That was written to make a point. matt’s insinuations were baseless. I all of the time I have been visiting AG I have never once mentioned my radio show’s name..NEVER. Yet I get accused of trying or even NEEDING to drive traffic.

    So I wanted to show him that if that was my intention, I would be quite a bit more blatant about it.

    It’s not my style to self-promote and in fact it’s ALWAYS someone else who actually brings up the fact that I have a radio show.

    I don’t need to do that. Never have, and never would.

  45. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Barry, I merely gave a legitimate, truthful example. First you implied I was gullible for taking the agent’s word for it (which I hadn’t), then you claimed the same agent would be more successful if he provided more photos. At this point I don’t care if you or “more than a few readers” think it’s preposterous because I’ve seen the numbers. I respect those numbers.

    Once again, it doesn’t further my agenda as a tech trainer to claim that fewer photos could be an effective selling technique. If I was like most tech trainers, I’d be hyping photos (blogging, virtual tours, videos, and whatever else I could sell, support, or collect referral fees from) despite the lack of evidence. I chose to be honest. I guess it was an inconvenient truth.

    “Meanwhile, the vast majority of agents who don’t understand Internet marketing are starving for business – especially in this slow housing market.” – Joe Crump, in my spam folder

  46. Frank Jewett

    June 2, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Barry, earlier today there was a backlink (?) in some AG thread that mentioned your show. It didn’t offend me. I appreciate what you add to the discussion, except when you assume that I’m being naive. I think we’re both pretty cynical about the profession, but in a spirit of healthy skepticism rather than the sort of unbridled negativity I see on many of the bubble blogs. I hope you and I don’t have any heat.

  47. Thomas Johnson

    June 2, 2008 at 10:21 pm

    Barry, Barry, What would David Gibbons do? Remember comment marketing is there forever.

    Now as far as MLS goes- How about MLS working with not just Firefox, but how about Safari? Then we could all run our web 2.0 businesses on iPhones. If NAR were to push this, we could also get Realtor lifetime Disney passes, Steve Jobs is Disney’s single largest shareholder and 2 million Macintosh sales plus a million iPhones to Realtors would really get him in a generous mood. By the way, ERAHouston is Kiplinger’s #1 city to live and work for 2008! https://agent21.featuredblog.com/?p=23

    @Benn: Nice job on #6, though!

  48. Barry Cunningham

    June 2, 2008 at 10:35 pm

    Frank…it’s on comment #27 and it’s called a “track back”..not a backlink. We didn’t put that there. I would think that you would know what that is.

    I’m not skeptical of the “profession” ..just those who posture as such within it. We all know who they are. I just get sick of the fact that too many are unwilling to call it as they see it and let the posers ride.

    Thomas, WWDGD? He. like I would say that in order to properly provide a level of customer service that exceeds the expectation of the consumer client, one would seek to go beyond the boundaries of acceptable norms and long established conventional wisdoms and seek to provide a level of service that differentiates one from another and in so doing build a credible authority-conveying prescence that the consumer can rely upon and feel comfortable with. Success is doing above and beyond what is expected and that which others are not prepared to do and are not willing to do.
    .

  49. Bob

    June 2, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    Barry – I have told sellers that I will deliberately NOT display pictures on certain properties. My job is to sell the property. The more people I get through, the better. Pictures frequently act as a filter. In certain instances, pictures not only don’t do a property justices, but they dissuade buyers who really do need to see the property to appreciate it.

    Not everything is cut and dry.

  50. Benn Rosales

    June 2, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    @Barry

    After sifting 140 comments you have mentioned your show 12 times which includes the two times here.

    I point that out because you would do the same, however, let me say this. In every circumstance it has been in keeping with the topic on hand, and never blatant.

    Let’s call it what it is and just be damn honest about it- we’re all promoting something, and we all hope to gain something, life ain’t free, and hell if you can elevate the individual (including yourself) in the process then it’s a winning situation – there are top level producers in this medium, AG and Real Estate Radio are two of them, and we share many of the same followers- the bottom line is those followers are better off having had two sides to the coin. They’re biggins, they’ll find the middle.

    Now, here we are, off topic, when the question was- “Agents” I can deliver a message for you to your associations- what would you like it to be?

    I suggest we let the agents talk to a trusted messenger and save this show for another day.

    In 140 comments I’ve never stepped into the middle, but on this one, I’ll take the last word and this subject is back on task.

    Best, Benn

  51. Bill Lublin

    June 3, 2008 at 2:25 am

    Looking at the comments above I thought I had wandered into Athol Kay’s blog.
    Don’t know how I missed the earlier brawl discussion, but I’m sure I won;t miss the next one.
    Benn, nice 🙂

    Sort of a shame that with all of the Association business available for discussion, most of the non-photo comments revolve around MLS issues – which is, in most cases, a different organization with a different staff structure. Its sort fo sad that with a great question like the one that Ben started this post with, the level of knowledge about the Association’s mission is so low, that there were only a couple of Association related responses – rather then MLS requests –

    I guess my request of Staff would be to fix that, but frankly, in the words of Beuaty and the Beast. “its a tale as old as time…”

  52. Frank Jewett

    June 3, 2008 at 3:21 am

    1. Local AOR should use a blog to communicate with members. PR/Mktg could redirect content from print newsletter, e-newsletter, and promotional blasts to the blog. AOR directors and committee chairs could submit items to PR/Mktg for approval. No additional staff or skills needed. It’s easier than print!

    2. Local AOR should take an active role in redeeming previously disavowed marketing meetings (“Broker Tours”) and promoting the purpose and value of those meetings (“know the inventory”) to members.

    3. Local AOR should take an active role in redeeming hopelessly bloated and aimless affiliated groups (WCR is better than most, but there is still room for improvement locally) to reduce the cost of meetings (“Do we really need to meet in a ballroom when the board has a boardroom and classrooms?”) while increasing the efficiency (less self-congratulations, better speakers) of those meetings.

    In this market, the focus of the board should be on helping members pull together while saving money and increasing value.

  53. Eric Blackwell

    June 3, 2008 at 3:34 am

    Ben;

    Kudos for getting things back on track. Another thing I’d like to send to our board:

    -@the subject
    We currently have a comfortable surplus budget wise. Ideally, this should go back to the REALTORS and when you actually feel the crimp of the market a bit, what truly is important and needed will become more clear. It does for us.

  54. Norm Fisher

    June 3, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Frank said, “I haven’t seen a strong correlation between the number of photos and successful sales.”

    Point2 did some research on photos which suggested a pretty strong connection between “inquiries” and the number of photos displayed with a listing. I’m not sure how scientific it is but it’s certainly interesting.

    https://www.teamfisher.com/blogs/norm_fisher/archive/2007/01/13/a-compelling-case-for-more-photos-on-your-home-listing.aspx

    I think that the average consumer is inclined to associate a lack of photos with “laziness” as Barry has here, and I guess that’s the real rub if you never have an opportunity to explain your rationale.

    Our MLS requires one photo. Most would argue that’s not enough, and in most cases I’d agree. That said, I think that minimum service requirements should be left to the broker, and not the association. I have no problem with my competitors appearing “lazy” online. If a prospective seller is convinced that photos are important there is all kinds of online ammo that can be used to prove that you’re the better agent.

  55. Daniel Bates

    June 3, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    I wish my local AR would recognize that not every member works in the major metropolitan area the AR is formed around and that I’d appreciate my dues being spent on advertising that would benefit me JUST ONCE.

    Pretty much the same sentiment echoed to the NAR, stop giving away so much money to charities and start helping members with some actual benefits (10% of car rental does not qualify) like health care, etc. The national advertising sounds like a broken record too “it’s a great time to buy…it’s a great time to buy…it’s a great time to buy”…you’re making people stop believe the honest agents that only say it when its true.

  56. Jennifer Rathbun

    June 3, 2008 at 9:03 pm

    Ben,
    Didn’t you write this article? I have not seen your comments although I must admit I skimmed since I wanted to veer a different direction with my comment.

    I was just thinking that it might be great if VAR visited other conventions to see how other organizations run their own conventions. That way you could see bigger options and smaller options.

    Now I know this would be difficult, but lucky for VAR, they are in Richmond and Richmond has lots of conferences. This weekend I will be attending a conference at the Richmond Convention Center. There will be 5-7,000 people at this event. I know VAR has considered going this route in the future. Here’s an opportunity to see how it works. Yes, this is a homeschooling conference, but set up is set up.

    If anyone from VAR would like to meet me to walk around this conference for a couple of hours, let me know and we’ll try to work it out. The conference is Thursday – Saturday.

  57. Frank Jewett

    June 3, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Point2 did some research on photos which suggested a pretty strong connection between “inquiries” and the number of photos displayed with a listing.

    Norm, does Point2 upsell the ability to include more photos with a listing?

  58. Norm Fisher

    June 3, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Frank,

    They don’t with my package, but I’m not sure about the others. I’ve just emailed a P2 contact to find out if the same number of images can be uploaded with each of their packages and I will let you know. It’s a good question.

  59. Jay Thompson

    June 3, 2008 at 11:24 pm

    Frank (and Norm) –

    The photo limit for the Point2 Standard level is 15. Pro and Premium = 36.
    ( https://nls.point2.com/Content/FeaturesServices/FeaturesServices.asp )

    I just came this close to blowing the anti-spam math quiz of 9+3. I apparently need more sleep.

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Opinion Editorials

Dopamine detox to rewire your brain from internet addiction (it’s common!)

(EDITORIAL) So, you’re addicted to the internet. Whether your drug of choice is scrolling, posting, or interacting – it’s time for a dopamine detox.

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Upside down photo of man holding iphone case saying "social media seriously harms your mental health" representing dopamine.

Ah, smartphones. The best friend we can carry around in our pockets. This small device that’s nearly glued to our hands gives us instant access to many worlds.

It’s exciting to see what’s up on Instagram, take up to six stabs at Wordle, and scroll recipes you’ll never make on Pinterest. It’s also a place where we can share the highlights of our life and, in return, get validation through likes.

With that validation comes a small rush of dopamine, something we’ve all become accustomed – and some of us addicted – to.

While I’m not addicted to posting, I would say I have an addiction to scrolling. I can’t make it through a 50-minute episode of “Dexter” without picking up my phone to check an app or two.

And there is that dopamine rush with it, where you feel like you’re the most up-to-date you’ve ever been. But what about when this becomes too much and we’re overloaded with information and feel bogged down by the constant updates?

First, we need to understand what dopamine is.

It’s a neurotransmitter that works in two spots in the brain: first, its production helps us begin movement and speech. Second, we feel it when we receive or expect a reward. It even creates a kind of “high” similar to what’s found in nicotine and cocaine.

So, if we expect these dopamine hits from social media and we don’t get those results, the dopamine crashes to the ground creating burnout.

Well, this can cause burnout. And, while tempting, the solution isn’t as easy as just deleting all of your social media and walking away clean. Additionally, “take a break” features are too easy to swipe away.

So what can you do?

Mana Ionescu at Lightspan Digital recommends a Dopamine Detox.

While breaking an addiction takes longer than a day, Ionescu recommends starting there and tailoring it to your needs.

Here is what she describes is necessary for a detox:

  1. Turn off all notifications on your phone. ALL of them. You will be looking at your phone every 10 minutes as it is. You won’t miss anything. We lose endless hours of productivity because of those pings.
  2. Tell people to call you if it’s urgent. And teach them the difference between urgent and important. So do keep call notifications on.
  3. Stop over-messaging. The more you message, the more you’ll get responses.
  4. Shed the pressure to respond right away to messages that don’t need a response right away.
  5. Take detox days. Nothing but calls, confirming meetings, and using the GPS is allowed on those days.
  6. Put your phone on sleep mode at night. You can, at least on iPhone, set permissions so that certain phone numbers can get through, in case you’re worried about mom.
  7. If you’re dating, remember that texting is for laughing, flirting, and confirming plans. Please pick up the phone and talk to that person to get to know them. I will not take you seriously if you just keep texting.
  8. And yes, we all know the game, whoever looks at their phone first over dinner picks up the bill.

This won’t be easy, but your brain will likely thank you in the long run. And, when you’re back online, hit up the comments and let us know how the detox went!

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Opinion Editorials

Strong leaders can use times of crises to improve their company’s future

(EDITORIAL) In the COVID-19 crisis, some leaders fumbled through it, while others quietly safeguarded 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 strong leaders can see their teams, their companies, and 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 occurs. We need to remember that our job is to serve their 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 was disrupted and people are 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 leaders game plan, 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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Opinion Editorials

7 sure-fire ways to carve out alone time when you’re working from home

(EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need downtime, me-time, and self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health but also our productivity at work will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well-rested, and well-treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time while working from home.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keep us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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