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Opinion Editorials

Will real estate soon be sold online like a commodity?



Social commerce online and real estate

Could social commerce be coming to real estate? Could we be near the day where homes are a commodity like shoes or purses? Could the world of “I’ll only buy it if I know the seller” over-transparency make it to real estate soon?

A new startup is being announced today, Copious, which simply prompts people to “buy from and sell to people, not strangers” and after logging in with Facebook (to eliminate anonymity), users can see not only the face of the seller but how they are connected via the Facebook social graph (who they have in common) and who of their friends have bought from the seller before. This is the ultimate transparency in commerce- seller reputation is not linked to some made up name, it is their actual Facebook personal profile.

This concept is being labeled disruptive but we see it more as modern- whether we like it or not, people are looking to their social graph online to validate everything from where they eat to what they wear to where the live.

Copious will be integrating a “social pricing” option which allows sellers to give discounts and incentives for people sharing listings on Facebook and will have integration with Twitter and other marketplaces like eBay (for reviews), blogs, etc. and the site will recommend products to buyers based on their history of Facebook “likes” as well as what their friends have bought through Copious.

Facebook has a marketplace but the focus is selling between friends whereas Copious is simply designed to add a social layer to the transaction regardless of social connections (or lack thereof). It’s the ultimate empowerment for your inner creeper.

How Copious impacts real estate

Today, we introduce you to Copious as a hypothetical scenario for real estate. You as a Realtor would not post a home on Copious because (a) users expect the actual seller to be the item poster and (b) there is a 10% transaction fee which is unreasonable for a major purchase like a house (although there is no listing fee).

Copious (along with Facebook Marketplace) add an element to the world of commerce that is newly emerging- the social graph. Currently, if a buyer is really a creeper, they can search tax records for a home owner, search Facebook for their profile and creep them that way, but few buyers have thought to do this, rather startups are opening the door to that train of thought.

A consumer doesn’t need to be connected directly to a buyer, but there is a rising interest and trust being put into social connections. Consumer thought is starting to look like this: I’m looking for a couch. I see a couch for sale on Facebook by a friend of a friend, so there is accountability. If baby rats come out from inside the cushions, I can yell at my friend for having a crappy friend who sold me the sofa.

The social graph is rising in importance, but real estate should focus on how trust is being defined in modernity- it is becoming less about reputation and more about connections via the social graph. There is good and bad to this- the good is that shedding anonymity in commerce ideally leads to a cleaner transaction and gone are the days of fOakleys and Prrada bags but the bad is that the social graph can be gamed by people who spend the day adding hundreds of friends in hopes that half will friend them back, grow their social graph and who cares about reputation, they’re connected, thus stamped as trusted.

Although Facebook is expanding internationally at a rapid rate, it lost six million American users last month, the first time in over a year that the site has experienced an American user loss. Most cite privacy concerns and people we know personally that have left cite “drama.” Facebook is not the end all be all to marketing despite its behemoth size. Many are scaling back their number of connections, especially the early adopters who have tired of spam.

The takeaway

Because behavior on Facebook is just now beginning to change and go back to a more small town feel that it started with (despite how big it is), trust is important and startups like Copious will do well, but adding the “trust” between a house buyer and seller doesn’t seem realistic to us, regardless of the price.

People put more trust in the Realtors representing both sides because they handle the transaction, not the actual buyer and seller, so we reiterate as we have in years past that real estate is not a commodity, regardless of shifting trends online. There are some neat concepts to think about, but there are only so many ways to buy and sell a box/house.

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  1. Sandra Bundy

    June 15, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    I am constantly amazed by the ways social media is being used throughout our culture. If a friend speaks to me in person and recommends something I certainly listen but in the social sphere for me I use caution.

    As for your hypothetical 'copious' for real estate you are absolutely right. While experienced professionals play an important role in the home buying/selling transaction friends and money don't mix.

  2. Fred Romano

    June 15, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    It seems unlikely that homes will ever be sold online like a pair of shoes. There are too many factors involved and too many steps to complete before closing.

    It is foreseeable that real estate agents may get cut out of the loop if the MLS ever becomes obsolete, but it would take a catastrophic shift, like Google creating an online real estate service equal to the MLS for sellers and buyers to use.

    I still don't see that happening, and I hope it never does 🙂

  3. Jill Kipnis

    June 15, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Lani, I agree that it is difficult to picture the buying and selling of homes being done in this manner because it is the largest transaction most people ever make. A professional Realtor, knowledgeable in your local market, will always be a necessary and critical part of the home buying and selling process.

  4. sfvrealestate

    June 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Lani, I totally agree with you.

  5. Mike Woods

    June 18, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    I can see a time, in the not to distant future, that people may negotiate to purchase a property based on a video and other information subject to their satisfaction with a physical inspection.

  6. Steve Nicewarner

    June 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    I don't think you will ever see homes sold like a commodity [except in the bulk REO arena]. Where something like Copious might work, however, is in forming an informal "Buyer's MLS." Imagine a site where I can post "Hey, I'm looking for a 3-bedroom home in Durham." and friends of friends can tell me people they know who are selling. That would add an interesting twist to the real estate market.

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Opinion Editorials

Declutter your quarantine workspace (and brain)

(EDITORIAL) Can’t focus? Decluttering your workspace can help you increase productivity, save money, and reduce stress.




It’s safe to say that we’ve all been spending a lot more time in our homes these last few months. This leads us to fixate on the things we didn’t have time for before – like a loose doorknob or an un-alphabetized bookshelf.

The same goes for our workspaces. Many of us have had to designate a spot at home to use for work purposes. For those of you who still need to remain on-site, you’ve likely been too busy to focus on your surroundings.

Cleaning and organizing your workspace every so often is important, regardless of the state of the world, and with so much out of our control right now, this is one of the few things we can control.

Whether you’re working from a home office or an on-site office, take some time for quarantine decluttering. According to The Washington Post, decluttering can increase your productivity, lower stress, and save money (I don’t know about you, but just reading those three things makes me feel better already).

Clutter can cause us to feel overwhelmed and make us feel a bit frazzled. Having an office space filled with piles of paper containing irrelevant memos from five years ago or 50 different types of pens, has got to go – recycle that mess and reduce your stress. The same goes with clearing files from your computer; everything will run faster.

Speaking of running faster, decluttering and creating a cleaner workspace will also help you be more efficient and productive. Build this habit by starting small: try tidying up a bit at the end of every workday, setting yourself up for a ready-to-roll morning.

Cleaning also helps you take stock of stuff that you have so that you don’t end up buying more of it. Create a designated spot for your tools and supplies so that they’re more visible – this way, you’ll always know what you have and what needs to be replenished. This will help you stop buying more of the same product that you already have and save you money.

So, if you’ve been looking to improve your focus and clearing a little bit of that ‘quarantine brain’, start by getting your workspace in order. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels to declutter and be “out with the old”; you may even be inspired to do the same for your whole house. Regardless, doing this consistently will create a positive shift in your life, increasing productivity, reducing stress, and saving you money.

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Opinion Editorials

How to ask your manager for better work equipment

(EDITORIAL) Old computer slowing you down? Does it make a simple job harder? Here’s how to make a case to your manager for new equipment to improve your productivity.



better equipment, better work

What is an employee to do when the work equipment bites.

Let’s be frank, working on old, crappy computers with inefficient applications can make the easiest tasks a chore. Yet, what do you do? You know you need better equipment to do your job efficiently, but how to ask the boss without looking like a whiner who wants to blow the department budget.

In her “Ask A Manager” column, Alison Green says an employee should ask for better equipment if it is needed. For example, the employee in her column has to attend meetings, but has no laptop and has to take a ton of notes and then transcribe them. Green says, it’s important to make the case for the benefits of having newer or updated equipment.

The key is showing a ROI. If you know a specific computer would be a decent upgrade, give your supervisor the specific model and cost, along with the expected outcomes.

In addition, it may be worth talking to someone from the IT department to see what options might be available – if you’re in a larger company.

IT professionals who commented on Green’s column made a few suggestions. Often because organizations have contracts with specific computer companies or suppliers, talking with IT about what is needed to get the job done and what options are available might make it easier to ask a manager, by saying, “I need a new computer and IT says there are a few options. Here are my three preferences.” A boss is more likely to be receptive and discuss options.

If the budget doesn’t allow for brand new equipment, there might be the option to upgrade the RAM, for example. In a “Workplace” discussion on an employee explained the boss thinks if you keep a computer clean – no added applications – and maintained it will perform for years. Respondents said, it’s important to make clear the cost-benefit of purchasing updated equipment. Completing a ROI analysis to show how much more efficiently with the work be done may also be useful. Also, explaining to a boss how much might be saved in repair costs could also help an employee get the point across.

Managers may want to take note because, according to results of a Gallup survey, when employees are asked to meet a goal but not given the necessary equipment, credibility is lost.

Gallup says that workgroups that have the most effectively managed materials and equipment tend to have better customer engagement, higher productivity, better safety records and employees that are less likely to jump ship than their peers.

And, no surprise, if a boss presents equipment and says: “Here’s what you get. Deal with it,” employees are less likely to be engaged and pleased than those employees who have a supervisor who provides some improvements and goes to bat to get better equipment when needed.

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Opinion Editorials

How to build a company culture while working remotely

(OPINION EDITORIAL) It seems that even a post COVID-19 world will involve remote work, so how can you build and maintain a strong work culture that ensures growth and satisfaction?



culture remotely

New startups and existing companies are starting to transition to a fully remote (or nearly fully remote) model, but what does this mean for work culture? If you’re not careful, your work culture could easily become diminished as you transition to a remote environment, and if you’re building a company from the ground up, you may not have a strong culture to begin with.

Culture isn’t something you can afford to give up, so how can you build and maintain your company culture while working remotely?

The importance of a strong work culture

Maintaining a strong, consistent company culture is vital, even if your company is operating remotely. With a strong work culture, you’ll enjoy benefits like:

  • Better recruiting potential. A company with strong work culture will seem more attractive to talented candidates. The best people in the industry will want to work at a place with a great team and a great set of values.
  • Like-minded teammates. Establishing a consistent work culture allows you to selectively hire, then maintain employees who are like-minded. Employees with similar goals and mentalities, even if they come from different backgrounds, will be able to collaborate more efficiently.
  • Smoother communication. A strong foundational work culture that establishes goals, values, and beliefs within an organization can enable smoother, more efficient communication. Staff members will be on the same page with regard to high-level priorities, and will be able to exchange information in similar patterns.
  • Lower stress and less turnover. Better work cultures generally mean lower stress for employees, and accordingly, less employee turnover. Of course, this assumes you’re hiring good fits for the organization in the first place.
  • A better public reputation. Your work culture can also boost your public reputation—especially if you emphasize core values that are important to your target audience.

How to build company culture remotely

Traditionally, you can use in-person team-building sessions, regular meetings, and workplace rules to establish and maintain your company culture, but while working remotely, you’ll need to employ a different set of tactics, like:

  • Hiring the right candidates. Building a great culture starts with hiring. You have to find candidates who fit with your organization, and already share your core values. If someone doesn’t agree with your high-level approach, or if they don’t like your rules or workflows, they aren’t going to do their best work. These same considerations should be applied to your third party hires as well; agencies and freelancers should also fit into your values.
  • Hosting virtual team-building events. You can’t host in-person team-building events, but that doesn’t mean that team-building is inaccessible to you. Consider hosting a video conference to introduce your team members to each other, or bond over a shared event. You could also host virtual game nights, or provide team lunches to celebrate wins. Any excuse to engage with each other in a non-work context can help employees feel more connected and part of the team, and there are plenty of options to make it work virtually.
  • Streamlining communication. Good communication is both a constituent factor and a byproduct of effective company culture. If you want your culture to thrive, you have to set good standards for communication, and encourage your employees to communicate with each other consistently and openly. People need to feel heard when they speak, and feel comfortable voicing their opinions—even if they don’t agree with their superiors. There should also be easily accessible channels for communication at all levels. Over time, this foundation will help your employee communication improve.
  • Improving transparency. Workplace transparency is important for any employer, but it’s especially important for remote businesses trying to build or maintain a strong culture—and it’s challenging if you’re operating remotely. If you’re open and honest about your goals and how you operate, employees will feel more trusted and more engaged with their work. Strive to answer questions honestly and disclose your motivations.
  • Publishing and reiterating company core values. One of the biggest factors responsible for making a company culture unique is its set of core values. Spend some time developing and refining your list of core values. Once finished, publish them for all employees to read, and make time to reiterate them regularly so employees remember them.
  • Making employees feel valued. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make your employees feel valued. Take the time to show your appreciation however you can, whether it’s through a simple thank-you message or an occasional cash bonus, and be sure to listen to employee feedback when you get it.

Building a work culture in a remote environment is more challenging, and requires consideration of more variables, but it’s certainly possible with the right mentality. Spend time setting your priorities, and make sure you’re consistent in your execution.

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