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Op/Ed

Allre: startup thinks it’s immune to brokerage laws, may lose their main partner before they even launch

Allre is the shiniest new real estate startup grabbing headlines, but has their main partner already pulled out, and are they really immune to real estate laws?

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At TechCrunch Disrupt’s San Francisco event last week, startup Allre pitched their attempt to disrupt the real estate industry status quo by taking the entire buying/selling process online. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Allre will cut out the middlemen (real estate brokers) and allow sellers to list their house on their website for free.

Buyers will shop the site’s inventory, set up appointments to see the house, make an offer directly to the seller, and move quickly and easily to closing. Happy seller, happy buyer, and no fees or commissions to the overpaid agents who don’t really contribute much to the process anyway.

I’ve been mulling this model over for a week, exploring the website (it’s in beta stage now, testing in the San Diego market) and formulating my thoughts. Full disclosure – I am a real estate broker. I have to admit that the disdain the site shows for agents turns me off right away, but besides the bruised feelings, my thoughts come from experience and research.

FSBO Site On Steroids

The company’s platform is like FSBO.com or any number of similar sites – but on steroids. FSBO.com allows an owner to list their home for sale in a similar fashion, but charges for the service and offers no guidance. It’s a paid ad site. It also offers submission to the major portals (Zillow. Trulia, etc.) and submission in a local MLS via a flat fee.

Allre is free for both buyers and sellers to use – but specifically emphasizes that it is its own marketplace. You cannot list your home for sale on the MLS and Allre at the same time, although it sounds like they will help the homeowner get listed on Zillow and other portals. Because Allre does not charge the buyers or sellers any fees, it does not consider itself a broker, thus believes it is immune from state real estate commission regulations.

Along with excluding the MLS and keeping the listings away from agents, it controls the entire transaction on its platform – from helping sellers come up with an asking price via automated valuations (hello, Allrestimates?), asking buyers/sellers to fill in the terms of the deal so the site can then populate a contract with the answers, and then “help walk all parties through the rest of the process to get to the closing date as smoothly as possible,” (according to TechCrunch).

If it Walks Like a Duck

So let’s explore the model here. Allre will allow sellers to list and advertise their homes for sale. It will vet buyers (making sure they are qualified to buy) and bring both parties together for the sole purpose of selling your home. Allre will control the transaction on their platform, create a contract for the parties, match them up with service providers, and guide the parties to a smooth close. What does that sound like to you?

bro·ker noun \ˈbrō-kər\ : a person who helps other people to reach agreements, to make deals, or to buy and sell property (such as stocks or houses)

According to Merriam-Webster, I’d call Allre a broker.

Forget about the fact Allre is not charging the parties a fee for bringing them together, the fact is that someone is paying for this party. The company says it has deals with one of the largest closing services in the world (unnamed) and Prime Lending to help buyers with their financing. Partners and affiliates (home inspectors, lawyers, movers, etc.) could be tapped for marketing fees or referral fees. Thus, Allre is being paid to bring buyers/sellers together and guiding them to closing. I’d think state real estate commissions would be interested in Allre and their platform.

But there are other dangers with this model. Considering the widespread fear of kickback accusations by RESPA or CRPB, who would want to risk paying a fee to Allre to be their provider of choice? Home warranty companies, title providers, and in-house lending groups have been subject to extreme scrutiny for paying fees to referral partners. What makes this any different?

In fact, despite announcing the Prime Lending partnership last week, rumor on the street says Prime Lending may be pulling out before the platform even has a chance to launch.

Another Disruptor (Yawn)

I am sick and tired of reading yet another story about an internet company who wants to disrupt the real estate industry. Texas broker Eric Bramlett (Bramlett Residential Real Estate) summed up his thoughts: “I think the biggest story here is that a startup with no funding and a 10 year old business plan got into TechCrunch Disrupt 2014. Didn’t Zillow announce it’s intent to disrupt the RE industry in 2005? Can I submit my 140 character communication tool to TechCrunch Disrupt 2015?”

Amen.

All of these internet companies that profess to want to disintermediate the real estate business – just as they did with the travel agency business (everyone even uses the same analogy) – forget one major fact: buying and/or selling a home is often the largest, most complicated transaction a person may undertake.

Joe Buyer doesn’t buy or sell a house every year, and when he does, it’s a huge financial decision. There are so many moving pieces to a real estate transaction that it is hard to summarize in a simple checklist or fill-in-the-blank document. When the buyers or sellers realize they’ve messed up with one of those pieces – missing an inspection date, having to re-negotiate a closing date, or are confused as to which repairs to ask the seller for and which to let go – who will be there to advise the consumer?

Allre founder Kathy Dryden is an ex-real estate agent, and it’s disappointing to read her quotes online, saying that today’s Milennial buyers and sellers “rarely need an agent.” Does an entire generation find that it’s a “hassle” working with a real estate professional to buy a house? “We already buy everything else online, after all, so why not a house?”

The truth that the public rarely understands is that the value in the real estate agent is less in opening the door to the house and more in getting them to the successful close. The majority of the agent’s work normally only starts after the perfect house is found – experience, negotiating skills, unsurmountable amounts of knowledge, and guidance are the real estate agent’s true value. I find it sad that Dryden publicly marginalizes the value an agent can give to a transaction – while basically offering to do the same thing (bring buyers/sellers together, and guide them to the closing).

Yeah, she’s just debuted the internet’s newest non-brokerage that looks like a brokerage, swims like a brokerage, and quacks like a brokerage.

Erica Ramus is the Broker/Owner of Ramus Realty Group in Pottsville, PA. She also teaches real estate licensing courses at Penn State Schuylkill and is extremely active in her community, especially the Rotary Club of Pottsville and the Schuylkill Chamber of Commerce. Her background is writing, marketing and publishing, and she is the founder of Schuylkill Living Magazine, the area's regional publication. She lives near Pottsville with her husband and two teenage sons, and an occasional exchange student passing thru who needs a place to stay.

Op/Ed

5 Consumer behavior shifts caused by the pandemic

(EDITORIAL) COVID-19 has changed the way a lot of people look at and act in the new world. These are the biggest 5 changes you should be aware of consumers.

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consumers priorities

COVID-19 is affecting businesses in multiple ways, depending on the industry. One thing that affects every business, regardless of industry is customer behavior. It’s no surprise that customers are changing behavior to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Google just released information that should help your business. It’s estimated that over 4 million people are staying home around the world to slow the spread of coronavirus. Use this information to help you shift your marketing efforts.

  1. Consumers are using multiple devices more than ever before.
    With kids home trying to do school, parents who are working, and people who are furloughed, content is being consumed at record rates. According to Google, Americans are watching 12 hours of media content each day.
  2. Increases in search for critical information.
    Online grocery shopping and cooking videos are top searches these days while Americans are staying home. Telemedicine is another hot search topic. People are looking for ways to stay home and protected.
  3. Consumers want to stay connected online.
    Google announced that in April, Google Meet hosted over 3 billion minutes of video meetings. YouTube has seen an increase in “with me” videos. People are filming themselves going about their day to connect with their friends and family. Virtual events have changed how people meet up.
  4. Routines are changing to be “internet-first.”
    Telecommuting is a top search these days as consumers try to find ways to work from home. People are looking for exercise options that can be managed at home. Consumers are using the internet to find options that keep them socially-distanced but connected to their routine.
  5. Self-care is taking a higher priority.
    Meditation videos are being consumed at a higher percentage than before. People are looking for books, games and puzzles to stay occupied at home.

Consider Your Business Against Consumer Behavior

COVID-19 restrictions may be easing, but consumer behavior may not change much until there is a vaccine. Your business can use this information to change your marketing to meet consumers at their point of need.

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Op/Ed

5 Secrets to a more productive morning in the office

(EDITORIAL) Productivity is king in the office, but sometimes distractions and other issues slow you down. So what can you do to limit these factors?

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distractions stop productivity

Regardless of whether you’re a self-proclaimed morning person or not, more efficient mornings can be catalytic in your daily productivity and output. The only question is, do you know how to make the most of your mornings in the office?

5 Tips for Greater Morning Productivity

In economic terms, productivity is a measure of output as it relates to input. Academics often discuss productivity in terms of a one-acre farm’s ability to produce a specific crop yield, or an auto manufacturing plant’s ability to produce a certain number of vehicles over a period of time. But then there’s productivity in our personal lives.

Your own daily productivity can be defined in a variety of ways. But at the end of the day, it’s about getting the desired results with less time and effort on the input side. And as a business professional, one of the best ways to do this is by optimizing your morning in the office.

Here are a few timely suggestions:

  1. Eliminate All Non-Essential Actions


    Spend the next week keeping a log of every single action you take from the moment your eyes open in the morning until you sit down at your desk. It might look something like this:

    • Turn off alarm
    • Scroll through social media on phone
    • Get out of bed
    • Eat breakfast
    • Take shower
    • Brush teeth
    • Walk dog
    • Watch news
    • Browse favorite websites
    • Get in car
    • Starbucks drive-thru
    • Arrive at office
    • Small talk with coworkers
    • Sit down at desk

    If you do this over the course of a week, you’ll notice that your behaviors don’t change all that much. There might be some slight deviations, but it’s basically the same pattern.

    Now consider how you can eliminate as many points of friction as possible from your routine. [Note from the Editor: This may be an unpopular opinion, but] For example, can you skip social media time? Can you make coffee at home, rather than drive five minutes out of your way to wait in the Starbucks drive-thru line? Just doing these two things alone could result in an additional 30 minutes of productive time in the office.

  2. Reduce Distractions


    Distractions kill productivity. They’re like rooftop snipers. As soon as they see any sign of productivity, they put it in their crosshairs and pull the trigger.

    Ask yourself this: What are my biggest distractions and how can I eliminate them?

    Popular distractions include social media, SMS, video games, news websites, and email. And while none of these are evil, they zap focus. At the very least, you should shift them to later in the day.

  3. Set Measurable Goals and Action items


    It’s hard to have a productive morning if you don’t have a clear understanding of what it means to be productive. Make sure you set measurable goals, create actionable to-do lists, and establish definitive measurements of what it looks like to be efficient. However, don’t get so caught up in the end result that you miss out on true productivity.

    “There’s a big difference between movement and achievement; while to-do lists guarantee that you feel accomplished in completing tasks, they don’t ensure that you move closer to your ultimate goals,” TonyRobbins.com mentions. “There are many ways to increase your productivity; the key is choosing the ones that are right for you and your ultimate goals.”

    In other words, set goals that are actually reflective of productivity. In doing so, you’ll adjust your behavior to come in proper alignment with the results you’re seeking.

  4. Try Vagus Nerve Stimulation


    Sometimes you just need to block out distractions and focus on the ask at hand. There are plenty of ways to shut out interruptions, but makes sure you’re also simultaneously cuing your mind to be productive. Vagus nerve stimulation is one option for doing both.

    Vagus nerve stimulation, which gently targets the body’s vagus nerve to promote balance and relaxation, while simultaneously enhancing focus and output.

  5. Optimize Your Workspace


    Makes sure your office workspace is conducive to productivity. This means eliminating clutter, optimizing the ergonomics of your desk, reducing distractions, and using “away” settings on apps and devices to suppress notifications during work time.

Make Productivity a Priority

Never take productivity for granted. The world is full of distractions and your willpower is finite. If you “wing it,” you’ll end up spending more time, energy, and effort, all while getting fewer positive results.

Make productivity a priority – especially during the mornings when your mind is fresh and the troubles of the day have yet to be released in full force. Doing so will change the way you operate, function, and feel. It’ll also enhance tangible results, like income, job status, and the accolades that come along with moving up in your career.

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Op/Ed

5 Side hustles that could turn into your new career

(EDITORIAL) With COVID throwing all jobs out of whack, maybe now you can explore something new and actually make a career change. Here’s 5 side hustles to try.

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side hustles

When you think of finding a side hustle, you might picture yourself finding an obscure job as a bike courier three nights a week or maybe even walking your neighborhood dogs. Both of these positions can be fun and pay extremely well depending on who you work for.

There are endless opportunities for part-time, enjoyable, profitable side hustles. However, if you take on any of the following side gigs, you could end up with a new career.

1. Day trading

Day trading is the purchase and sale of a stock, bond, or security all within the same day. Many entrepreneurs are drawn to day trading because it’s fast-paced and risky, but with the right skills, day trading presents a potential for serious profit.

If you’re curious about day trading, RJO Futures published a guide on how day trading works. RJO’s article explains that whether you trade from a large firm or on your own, you’ll need three tools:

  • Access to a trade desk. This will give you instant order actions the moment your trades are placed.
  • Analytical software. Analytical software will help you identify key indicators to inform your next move.
  • Access to news outlets. Day trading – specifically day trading futures – is volatile. Prices move by the second and having access to news outlets will give you a heads up if your market might be affected.

Be aware that if you enjoy day trading and get good, you might want to go full-time. It’s possible to turn day trading into a career, but the learning curve is steep.

2. Investing in real estate

Real estate is a lucrative industry, but it’s not for everyone. Popular among entrepreneurs, investing in real estate requires long hours of study, extensive research, and getting your hands dirty.

Usually, real estate investors have side hustles to supplement their income. However, many people get into real estate as a side hustle and end up turning it into a career.

If you want to get started in real estate, don’t jump to investing right away. Take the expert advice from the folks at Bigger Pockets and start by learning about the industry. Get a part-time job as an assistant property manager to pick up industry knowledge and learn your local landlord-tenant laws. If you’re going to invest in real estate to rent out, you’ll be a landlord at least for a short period of time until you hire a property management company.

If you know someone who can help you make your first investment, you don’t need to wait. However, to be successful you have to think outside the box to gain a full spectrum of industry experience.

3. Content writing

Every business needs content writers and many are willing to settle for any level of proficiency. If you have any writing skills, you can easily pick up some content writing gigs on job listing sites.

If you love writing, you might start out writing one blog per week and decide you want to pursue writing full-time. If it’s truly your passion, stick with it and you’ll find the right clients who will pay you generously for your work.

4. Coaching

Whatever people are struggling with, there’s a coach to save the day. Life coaching and business coaching are the most popular, but you can coach people on anything you’re passionate about.

Being a coach isn’t easy. Even people who intentionally start a career as a coach struggle. What most people don’t realize about coaching is that passion does not equal profit. Coaching is a hard sell, but life coaching is especially difficult. Running a coaching business requires more than business skills – you need to be proficient at helping people solve their problems.

If you’re good at helping people solve their problems, there’s a chance you might get addicted to being a coach. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping people grow and transform their lives.

5. Thrifting

It’s not hard to find sellable items at your local thrift stores. However, you need an eye for what people want to buy. If you’ve got that eye, you could end up with a new career.

For example, Natalie Gomez, a former merchandise planner at Macy’s, took on thrifting as a side job and wound up making thousands of dollars. Gomez was interviewing for a new job when she realized she was already making a good living selling clothes.

Enjoy your side hustles

Even if you don’t turn your side gigs into a career, take on gigs you enjoy. Money is necessary, but it’s never worth sacrificing your happiness.

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