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Fun with Fair Housing

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I don’t want to be around old people.

Don’t take me into any of those Spanish speaking neighborhoods.

If there are a lot of kids around, I don’t want to live there.

Gee, Mr. Buyer, I can’t narrow down communities by those factors.  But go check Zillow Neighborhoods, they can answer all of those things.

It’s a bit of a reach, but not by much.

We’ve been working on the next version of Housechick.com, and have been considering placing local census data on the site, but we run up against potential Fair Housing issues.  Yeah, it’s just facts from the government, but is providing data that one neighborhood has 30% more “multi-lingual people” or more non-US citizens than another neighborhood anything other than answering the probable racial makeup of a community in a round-about way?

one tucson neighborhood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It will be interesting to watch the neighborhood theory of home search evolve.  Places like Zillow, I would assume, can get away with data like this, where I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole. 

Being married to a fellow software engineer and database guru, we are perfectly capable of providing this sort of thing in my local market, but won’t.  I’ll admit to a bit of hubris, wanting to be the ultimate resource, but there are ways that we just can’t compete.

I’m not arguing against Fair Housing regulations, but how do you answer the savvy consumer, who finds information like this on those sites, but can’t get the same from me?  I am required to be a limited resource in some ways.  Obviously, I have local knowledge that a national aggregator doesn’t, but it’s difficult and frustrating to have access to data and not be able to spew it freely.

For now, the Housechindex will have to wait.

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

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6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Mariana

    December 18, 2007 at 12:20 pm

    Yeah. No touching this with even a 20 foot pole.

  2. Teresa Boardman

    December 18, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    Honestly I am disgusted by some of the comments my clients make about neighborhoods and am actually thankful that I have a legal reason not to comment. There are links on my sites to government sites, I am happy to let them decide what a “good” neighborhood and a “bad: neighborhood are. If they want to check crime rates, I have links to those as well. If they want to know if their are children in the neighborhood I suggest they look at the houses and see if their are swing sets in the back yards. If they want to only associated with people who are just like them more power to them. I guess I would classify myself as an urban liberal.

  3. Athol Kay

    December 18, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    I believe as long as you’re providing Census data and labeling it as such, you’re pretty much covered.

  4. Cyndee Haydon

    December 19, 2007 at 12:24 am

    Kelley – Interesting observation. Ironically we have some strong cultural communities like Tarpon Springs has a history in Greek culture and residence including their rite of the Catholic church. It’s always aekward when someone asks about wanting to live near for example Greeks – because they have greek language schools, churches, etc. that we are limited in how we respond.

    I guess it’s great to have sites to point them to and not have to be the ones saying anything on that slippery slope.

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Business Marketing

It’s Time For the Real Estate Industry to Get Engaged

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This post was brought about by a thread on my local association blog about whether or not we should be feeding our listings to Zillow.

I’m not going to re-open that debate here. (so let’s try not to hi-jack the comment thread with Zillow diatribes 🙂 )

I want to discuss what I see as a schism developing between the attitude of consumers and the attitude of real estate professionals. I hope that by addressing this issue, the industry can avoid what could be a very messy break-up with the public.

We Need to Change Perspective

By “we,” I mean real estate professionals. It seems to me that, sometimes, industry professionals act surprised, even indignant, at the success of sites like Zillow and Trulia. The objections are many, and they usually begin with something like, “but their data isn’t as up-to-date as the MLS!”

Protestations like that one (and the many others) miss the point, and come from the wrong perspective. As real estate professionals, we approach these sites as, well, real estate professionals. We are comparing it to the tools that we already have available (the MLS). Consumers aren’t can’t do that. They don’t have access to the MLS like we do.

I can hear some of you now, “well sure, but they could go to REALTOR.com.” Of course they could, but again, the perspective issue rears its ugly head. REALTOR.com is a site that displays listing information to the consumer for the benefit of brokers. It is not a consumer-centric site. It is designed entirely around the goal of driving leads to agents and brokers. I’m not saying that this is a necessarily bad thing. When a site is built this way, however, that philosophy will, at some point, become apparent to the consumer. When it does. . .

The Consumer Can Walk Away

The Internet is the land of almost infinite choice. When any of us surfs the net, we get to control our user-experience almost completely. We choose what content we do, or don’t want to see; we get to search for the things in which we are interested in any way that we choose. If we find what we want– great! If we don’t– we move on.

When it comes to real estate-related sites, consumers now have the ability to move on. There is enough choice out there for access to the information that consumers seek that they can move freely amongst these sources and choose the one that best fits them.

Getting the Consumer to Commit

The thing that sites like Zillow, Trulia, RealSeekr, etc. do better than most is that they engage the consumer. By this, I mean that they recognize that the consumer is in control of the experience and they are tailored to enhance that experience, not take back control.

All of these sites offer numerous ways for the consumer to participate in the process. There are comments, there are Q & A forums, there are custom searches, saved searches, heat maps, the list goes on. . . All of these features are designed to recognize the power of the consumer to control the process and make it easier for the consumer. It should also be noted that many of these features encourage interaction between the consumer and the agent/broker. This not only engages the consumer with the information, but the consumer with the professional. That is a good thing for everyone.

What to Do: It’s Time to Pop the Question

Rather than looking at sites like Zillow and Trulia as fight-to-the-death competitors with public MLS and agent/broker sites, industry professionals would do well to learn some of the valuable lessons that these sites offer when it comes to consumer interaction.

Lesson #1: GET ENGAGED!

It is time for the real estate industry to take the plunge, make the commitment, and get engaged with the consumer. For far to long, the industry has talked about engagement, only to have cold feet when the time came to get down on one knee. That cannot continue if the industry wants to remain relevant and grow moving forward. There are far too many potential suitors out there clamoring for the love and attention of consumers for real estate professionals to rest on their laurels and expect consumers to remain committed.

So whaddya say? How about we go pick out a ring. . .

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Economic News

Zillow One-Ups Lending Tree With Mortgage Marketplace

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zillow one ups lending tree


Lending Tree is fond of advertising “when bank competes, you win.”

Zillow took that model for its Mortgage Marketplace, which debuted yesterday, and took the next step – lenders are competing for business, but consumers aren’t forced to surrender their personal information to receive the quotes.

No name. No e-mail address. No Social Security Numbers. No names of your dearest pets.

You fill out a form to request a rate quote and the rates are posted back to you. There are few gimmicks to be had as lenders can see each other’s quotes. And for those who tend to quote the impossible rate (not that such things ever happen), there’s also a consumer review process to hold lenders’ feet to the fire.

Rich Barton, Zillow’s CEO, said the Mortgage Marketplace comes in response to research the company conducted on how borrowers shop (or, to the point, don’t shop) for their home loans:

Borrowers have told us via focus groups and surveys that they spend woefully little time shopping for the mortgage they have – 5 hours. About the same amount of time they spent buying their last computer and nearly half the time they spent shopping for their last car. They also tell us that they want their personal contact information to remain private and that they want to see real rates that are accessible to them, not “teaser” rates that don’t reflect reality.

Todd Carpenter at Lenderama has a pretty good flowchart of the process.

Cost to the lenders is minimal – a $25 setup/background check fee.

There’s the definite possibility of lenders doing much work without possible reward. As an agent who one worked with Lending Tree leads, especially on the home valuation side, a large number of the folks making the request simply want to see what the rates may be just as many just wanted to see what their homes were worth.

But not all are just lookieloos. Last January I sold a listing for someone who had come to me through the Lending Tree system. It was the first (and to my knowledge) only client to convert through the Lending Tree CMAs, but the commission check was paid in American dollars and cleared the bank. That’s what counted.

Response to Zillow’s launch has been fairly positive, though Joel Burslem asks whether the information the consumer receives may be too overwhelming (which just may be fitting in this RE 2.0 world):

OK, so I submit a RFQ and the lenders can jump in and respond to me… but I get the sense there’s a lot of hungry lenders out there right now though. And I’m not sure I want to wade through the umpteen dozen responses I may possibly get; part of me is still wedded to the idea that I only want work with the best, most fair, most reputable lenders (is that naive?) – if I have to do too much work trying to figure out who that, is I might bail.

In that respect, could the Zillow marketplace suffer from some of the same issues as Trulia Voices – a location where many speak up, and some actually know what they’re saying?

(photo credit)

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Conference Coverage

BREAKING NEWS: Zillow Partners w/UnChained – Bloodhoundblog

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unchained3z2.jpg

I had a suspicion this was in the works and my suspicion was confirmed in an email from Brian Brady seconds ago. Zillow will be the leading sponsor of the Bloodhoundblog UnChained Conference this May.

Quoting Zillow’s David Gibbons in the release:

In 2008 we are increasing our bet on Realtor 2.0 and I’m excited to announce that the Bloodhound Blog Unchained conference will be brought to you by Zillow. Bloodhound blog is read daily by thousands of real estate professionals and is arguably the most influential blog read by real estate insiders. The blog’s written by Realtor 2.0 for Realtor 2.0. From May 18th to 20th the bloodhounds are hosting a conference that will distill the best practices for profiting from the revolution in social media and real estate. BHBU is also possibly the only Mortgage 2.0 conference of the year with a separate track dedicated to loan officers and mortgage brokers. If social media is part of your marketing plan for 2008 I recommend that you get to Phoenix for this event.

Here’s a quote from Brian Brady:

Among the many potential sponsors who contacted us about Unchained, we selected Zillow for its leadership in the Real Estate 2.0 community. Its actions have always been consistent with its stated goal of being a media company aligned with real estate professionals.

Zillow.com has publicly announced its intention to provide a mortgage offering, as well as the current property database. As a mortgage professional, I anticipate this release and hope we’ll be able to feature at at the Bloodhoung Blog Unchained Social Media Marketing Conference-brought to you by Zillow.

David Gibbons and Drew Meyers live in our interactive world. Their commitment to the RE.net community is unparalleled and they are always looking to find ways to make the Zillow product offerings benefit individual practitioners’ businesses. That commitment is perfectly aligned with the goals of Unchained; practitioners helping practitioners.

We are proud to share the title of this conference with Zillow and welcome them as our partner.

An email comment from Greg Swan of Bloodhoundblog:

BloodhoundBlog has grown up with Zillow.com. We’re consistently second or third on a Google search for Zillow.com, and Debunking Zillow.com is one percent or more of our traffic every day. On the other hand, we’ve also been big boosters of the tools Zillow has built to help sellers, buyers and in-the-trenches Realtors and lenders get the job done.

We’ll be teaching Zillow-farming tactics at BloodhoundBlog Unchained, so Zillow is a natural fit for us. We’re very grateful for the faith they’ve shown in us.

Greg Swann

Things to do

At 4:15 EST, 1:15 PST, Brian Brady will be a guest on:

https://www.realestateradiousa.com/

He’ll be discussing the upcoming Unchained conference, the Zillow sponsorship, and the mortgage market.

Real Estate Radio USA is a provocative, opinionated, conservative talk radio show promoting and encouraging the promulgation of wealth through real estate.

Real Estate Radio USA is broadcast to a worldwide audience via the Internet and soon to be found on terrestial stations across America.

It is hosted by the Sultan’s of Short Sales, the Crusaders of Capitalism, and the Prophet’s of Profit…Barry Cunningham and Barry Johnson.

Visit the BHBU site for information

Congratulations to Zillow, Brian, Greg, and BHBU.

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