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WeWork has more office space in Manhattan than anyone

(REAL ESTATE) WeWork is now the biggest renter in Manhattan – what it says about the company, and perhaps an opportunity for *your* business.

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It’s official: WeWork now rents more office space than anyone in Manhattan—including their previous competitor, JP Morgan. With 5.3 million square feet of rented space, the coworking company clearly intends to maintain its momentum, thus lending credit to the inherent value of social work environments.

The sheer growth WeWork has seen in 2018 speaks to the notion that the coworking craze — perhaps surprisingly — isn’t slowing down.

While WeWork (and other similarly themed companies) only accounted for 3.3 percent of the new leases signed in 2017, they ate up 9.7 percent of new leases signed in the first two-thirds of 2018. Those aren’t the numbers of a trend in decline.

Despite some water cooler disdain toward WeWork’s potentially wishy-washy work culture and some of their latest publicity stunts, investors seem to like them more than ever. In fact, word on the street is that SoftBank — a prolific WeWork investor — is considering a second investment that would value WeWork at or around 40 billion dollars.

Like we said: not a sign of a declining company.

WeWork’s objective success isn’t the star of the show here, however; it’s what they’ve proven through that success which matters.

WeWork’s ethos (that human beings need interaction with other similar human beings in order to thrive in a workplace) gets further reinforced with every lease the company signs.

If small- to mid-sized companies can take away one thing from WeWork’s example, it’s this – many people need other people in order to do their best work.

There will always be exceptions to the rule—plenty of folks work alone from home and are happy to do so—but the fact that freelancers living in some of the most expensive real estate in this country are willing to pay additional cash just to be around other like-minded individuals is fairly indicative.

If nothing else, keep in mind the social atmosphere afforded by WeWork when designing your office spaces or nailing down your workplace culture expectations. And yes, they allow Realtors and brokers to lease space, too…

Jack Lloyd has a BA in Creative Writing from Forest Grove's Pacific University; he spends his writing days using his degree to pursue semicolons, freelance writing and editing, oxford commas, and enough coffee to kill a bear. His infatuation with rain is matched only by his dry sense of humor.

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Real Estate Corporate

New Zillow strategy – telling you to take your money and shove it

(REAL ESTATE) Zillow is adding a new feature that is raising eyebrows, but could go a long way toward consumers’ trust in their new direction.

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In college I would spend hours investigating what courses I would be taking the next semester. My university provided a flow chart of the kinds of classes I needed to enroll in, but it was completely up to me which one I chose. I used two main sites that helped my make my decision. One was a site that showed me every single variation of my potential schedule and the other was a crowd sourced rating site for the professor. Since then, several rating sites have come out all in different industries, and as you already know, real estate is no exception.

As a consumer, I have a very strange relationship with Zillow. I’ve never bought a house, but I’ve used Zillow to find multiple rental homes, to dream about homes I’ll never afford because I like avocado toast and to look at the before photos of a home my friends bought.

I also have a strange consumer opposition to them after their little Zestimates drama last year, their recent foray into alleged photo poaching, and their not so blatant attempt to run the table by buying a mortgage company.

That said, Zillow’s new strategy has my interest piqued.

With the purchase of Mortgage Lenders of America, Zillow has secured their place at the adults table of the real estate world. They’re now the search engine that will help you find a house, the company that will connect you to a Realtor and the lender that can help you buy it. Zillow is taking their one-stop shopping a step further and allowing you to rate your real estate agent (beyond their existing rating system) — just like I did with my professors.

Customers will be asked for input on agents’ communication style, responsiveness, trustworthiness, and expertise (sound like HomeLight? Yeah, I know).

In an effort to be customer satisfaction driven, Zillow’s Premier Agent customers will be privy to reports based on data that Zillow will collect from other customers that will gauge agents’ performance.

Zillow believes their customers are all about customer service and I can’t say they’re wrong. I don’t know of any industry where customers don’t want quality assistance. The irony is not lost on me, though, that they’re an online company trying to measure human interaction.

Zillow’s President, Greg Schwartz, explained, “we promise you this: we’re going to give you the greatest platform to make it happen. And we’ll keep pushing to get it right so you can deliver exceptional experiences.”

Solid promise, but how is it going to work? Will it be like the website I used to rate my professors where it was an option to do so or I could just lurk in the shadows and reap the benefits of the reviews? Or is it going to be like Uber / Favor / fill-in-the-blank-phone-app-service where I am required to submit a review before I’m allowed to do literally anything else? They’ve long had agent ratings, but insiders suggest that an Uber-esque rating is really what’s in play here.

Schwartz went on to talk about agents who aren’t performing up to customer standards — again, are there hard and fast guidelines? Because I can guarantee you that as a customer, I will have different standards than Mariah Carrey.

Schwartz said, “For agents who aren’t performing up to customers standards — Zillow will no longer be interested in taking their money. The company wants to be able to tell every consumer who comes to the site that the agent they select will deliver a high-quality experience.”

Whoaaaaaa. Schwartz is really swingin’ for the fences there. If you aren’t up to Zillow’s standards, they’ll tell you to take your money and shove it. Despite a shaky opinion of the mega-company, this speaks to me.

I’m not entirely sure alienating large groups of a people you’re trying to work with is the best strategy, but Zillow seems to have the appearance of trying to do good things. We’ll see what shareholders think, how brokers will respond to a potential Uber-esque rating for their agents, and ultimately, how consumers opt to trust the data in a sea of subjective agent ratings alongside endless lawsuits against that shake confidence in the brand.

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Real Estate Corporate

Zillow closes deal on mortgage company, they’re now officially lenders

(CORPORATE) Zillow just spent money on a mortgage company so they give you some money, too. #MakeItRain

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zillow buys mortgage co

With the changing of the leaves comes the changing of Zillow. Zillow, you know the one — that real estate website that has helped home buyers find houses for years — has decided to enter the mortgage game.

Yep, you read that right. Late Wednesday, the company completed its acquisition of Mortgage Lenders of America (MLoA). MLoA is a privately held online lender in Kansas… well, they were. They’ll still operate from their Kansas HQ and they’ll keep their VP, but Z is the captain now.

That’s one small step for home buyers and one giant leap for the real estate industry. All other aspects of consumerism has made its way to the ether, there’s no reason mortgage lending shouldn’t either.

Zillow has been in the search and listing side of real estate for over a decade now. However, they first dipped their toes into the selling side of the real estate biz when they announced their “Instant Offers” program, which allows sellers in particular markets to receive offers from investors. Shortly thereafter, in a fairly predictable move, they became an investor and purchased homes as well.

Becoming a lender was a very obvious next step for the online real estate site and has been a long time coming.

Now, with the acquisition of MLoA, they’ll have the capacity to be more than just an investor. To accompany the acquisition, there’s supposedly a rebrand for MLoA in the near future, too.

This acquisition certainly opens avenues to develop tools and partnerships.

“Getting a mortgage can be the toughest, most painstaking and time-consuming part of the home-buying process,” Greg Schwartz, president of media and marketplaces at Zillow, said in a statement. “Having our own mortgage origination service as an option for consumers will allow us to streamline the process for people who buy a Zillow-owned home.”

This is a huge move for Zillow. They went from showing home buyers homes to actually buying homes and now financing the buyers purchasing those home.

While this certainly streamlines, shortens, and simplifies the home-buying process for consumers in the Zillow Offers world, it will be interesting to see how it effects them as a company and the mortgage industry as a whole.

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Real Estate Corporate

$81M lawsuit claims Zillow illegally scrapes real estate listing pics

(BUSINESS NEWS) Real estate giant Zillow is being sued by a California photographer who intimates that the company has scraped the images without anyone’s permission.

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zillow sued by gutenberg represented by mathew higbee of higbee associates

California photographer, George Gutenberg filed a lawsuit today against Zillow, alleging copyright violations for their use of his real estate photos, indicating that Zillow scrapes images from Multiple Listing Services (MLSs) rather than using listing data syndicated to them.

Court documents request a bench trial, damages (plus attorney’s fees and court costs), and that Zillow stop using Gutenberg’s copyrighted images. Under 17 U.S.C. § 504, Gutenberg is seeking “an amount to be proven or, in the alternative, at Plaintiff’s election, an award for statutory damages against Defendant in an amount up to $150,000.00 for each infringement pursuant to 17 U.S.C. §
504(c), whichever is larger.”

If Gutenberg were to win, Exhibit A of the lawsuit cites 543 images in question across 17 listings on Zillow, which would total $81,450,000 or more.

The issue of real estate photography copyrights has long been convoluted. There are six stakeholders that have consistently argued that they own images used in real estate listings: homeowners, real estate photographers, the listing agent, the broker, MLSs, and real estate listing websites.

The argument that homeowners own the rights to images taken of their property has very little merit, and we have uncovered no copyright lawsuits that a homeowner has won regarding photography.

One can see why an agent or broker believes they have the right to the images they’ve paid for, but those parties don’t always read their photographer’s agreement prior to paying their invoice, while MLSs and websites have slid into their Terms of Service that they own the copyright once it is uploaded to their servers (be it directly or via syndication).

But what is different about Gutenberg’s position than many others is that he retains the copyright to all photographs taken of each property, allowing the agent a “limited license to use the photographs for up to one-year purposes of marketing the property.”

Wouldn’t that include Zillow? Nope.

The license “expressly states that it is not transferrable and prohibits third party use without permission from Gutenberg.”

Unlike many photographers, Gutenberg actually registers his images with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Mathew Higbee of Higbee and Associates issued the following statement to The American Genius:

“Mr. Gutenberg has a robust working relationship with many top real estate agents in southern California and across the nation. Mr. Gutenberg’s clients gladly pay to license his work knowing that Mr. Gutenberg’s high-quality photographs and signature style add significant value to their listings. In addition to real estate listings, Mr. Gutenberg also licenses of his photographs for editorial and commercial use in print and online publications, advertisements, and retail and commercial businesses.

The agents that engage Mr. Gutenberg understand that they are permitted to use his photographs for the limited purpose of promoting their real estate listing, which includes placing the photographs on the MLS. Content placed on the MLS is only available for the life of the listing and is immediately removed when the listing is sold or otherwise taken off the market. Mr. Gutenberg is not aware of any of his real estate clients directly syndicating his photographs to Zillow, nor is Mr. Gutenberg aware of any of his real estate clients exceeding the scope of rights granted in their individual licensing agreements with him.

Rather, it appears that Zillow, owner of the largest real estate website in the world, indiscriminately copies millions of photographs per day off of the MLS in an effort to build what they refer to as their ‘Living Database of All Homes,’ which Zillow has leveraged into multi-billion dollar company. Zillow’s unlawful copying comes at the expense of creators and rights holders such as Mr. Gutenberg who depend on payment of reasonable licensing fees by those who exploit their works.”

The implication is that the clients are not in violation of the copyright if they didn’t syndicate listings to Zillow or upload them directly. A claim that is far heavier than a standard copyright lawsuit, and stands to call into question Zillow’s practices.

The internet has long changed how people copyright images, who owns them, what agreements each party enters as they upload and/or syndicate data to third party sites. This isn’t the first lawsuit of this nature, nor the last.

We’ll keep you updated as this lawsuit progresses.

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