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Op/Ed

The Zillow/ListHub breakup adds third dysfunction to the real estate industry

With Zillow and ListHub parting ways, we can add listing syndication to the list of disorderly services that agents will face.

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dysfunction in real estate

For years there have been two consistently dysfunctional and inefficient segments of the real estate industry – MLS and Lockboxes. After the widely discussed breakup between Zillow and ListHub, we can now add listing syndication as the third rail of stupidity in the practice of real estate.

It is important to note that none of this affects buyers and sellers, at least for the long-term. Agents and brokers, on the other hand, just added one more head shaking, what in the hell were they thinking, can’t somebody just fix this, item to their everyday job. Now that the efficiencies of ListHub have been greatly diminished, a key service that was working very well for Realtors® is now a long-term problem.

The problem this creates for agents is a duplication of effort/cost. Despite some progress over the years, the MLS is still a fractured marketplace that requires duplicate entry and fees for many. In geek speak, that is referred to as overlapping market disorder.

The lockboxes agents need to safely and easily access properties are not much better. In many markets, listings have to have two or more different lockboxes on them to make sure everyone who needs to get in can access the property.

Now, we can add listing syndication to the list of disorderly services that agents will face. Instead of negotiating with one company to get the job done, now there are two. Instead of one user interface, now there will be two. Instead of one set of rules, there will be two. An already complicated, yet functional service, just became the latest hassle for Realtors®.

So Who’s to Blame?

This question is more intriguing than it is important. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. Frankly, the relationship was doomed to fall apart at some point, but the timing was advanced due to bad communications and lack of trust.

From the beginning, this was a shotgun marriage and that is generally a bad foundation for building success. Zillow never wanted to be bound by the restrictive rules of ListHub, but needed the data of the number one syndicator.

Combine that poor foundation with Move Inc.’s purchase of ListHub (and then Point2, the seconding leading syndicator) and you can see the dilemma Zillow faced. Most of us would not like it if our main supplier was owned by our chief competitor.

The timing of the break-up is a bit odd and seems to conflict with what the parties are saying. For instance, ListHub claims that the timing of the breakup was just coincidental and not related to the arrival of the new CEO. That may be the truth, but talk about bad timing.

Zillow, on the other hand, claims they made a strategic decision to stop doing business with ListHub, but they hardly seemed ready to make that bold move. By their own admission, this will cause a drop in data until they can negotiate with the 800 MLSs in the country. That could take months or even years.

Again, all of this is intriguing, but not really important. What’s important is that syndication just got more complicated for everyone, including ListHub, Zillow, and Realtors®. ListHub loses the largest client in the market, Zillow has to negotiate 800 different deals, and Realtors® have to figure out how to navigate yet another dysfunction in the marketplace.

And the Winner is…

MLSs could be the only winners in this deal. For the first time in many years, there is a war on to get data feeds. This could be financially beneficial to MLSs. If history repeats itself, this financial benefit will be lucrative, but short lived.

The history of this goes back to the mid 90s when Realtor.com and listing aggregation was new. Originally, the business model by aggregators was to charge Realtors® up to $7 per listing to display on their site. In the course of two weeks surrounding the NAR Annual Convention, competitive forces drove the charge down to zero by the end of the Convention, and a week later, aggregators, including Realtor®.com were paying up to $3 per listing.

We don’t know what aggregators will pay now, but suddenly MLSs are, once again, sitting on a pot of gold. It is probably a much smaller pot than it was in the 90s, but Zillow is likely to have to pay MLSs something to set up direct feeds. If not, it will take them much longer to ramp the data levels back to normal.

Can’t We Just All Get Along?

“No,” was the answer Spencer Rascoff gave when asked via Twitter if Zillow would prefer, all things being balanced, to continue to get listings from ListHub. That doesn’t bode well for any chance of reconciliation. ListHub officials agree that it is unlikely the two companies will work together again.

To outsiders, that makes little sense. While it could be argued that Zillow may emerge stronger in the end, it will be a very painful (and probably expensive) process negotiating directly with all of the MLSs and brokers. Just ask the staff at Realtor® Property Resource (RPR) how easy it has been coming to terms with MLSs. They’ve been at it for years and still only have 80 percent on board.

ListHub is also in a weaker position because the largest portal in their space is no longer a client. ListHub may or may not be willing to soften the terms and concessions they want from Zillow to reach a new agreement – if that even becomes an option.

The only hope for this situation is that investors put pressure on Zillow because the data loss is having a negative effect. That may not even happen, but if it does, egos may have to be set aside to keep the investors happy. There’s no clear resolution to this situation, but it will be fun to watch… except for agents who have to deal with the dysfunction.

Dave is a 20+ year veteran in Realtor® association management and leadership and is currently the CEO of the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors®. He is a writer, speaker, strategic planner, and life-long learner with a passion for creative thinking. Dave has published his first novel For Reasons Unknown and will be publishing his second by the end of the year.

Op/Ed

Your career depends on you, and the mentors you select

(EDITORIAL) Moving up in your career can be dependent on your drive to be better, but improving does depend on who you choose to teach you

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career mentor

Remember when you were younger and were encouraged to join extra-curricular activities because they would “look good to colleges”? What if the same were true for your career?

While applying to a university may be a thing of the past for you, there are still benefits to having extra-curricular activities that have to do with your career. Networking is a major piece of this, as is finding mentors who will help point you in the right direction.

These out-of-office organizations or clubs differ for every industry, so for the sake of this article, I will use one example that you can then interpret and tailor towards your own career.

The Past President of the national Federal Bar Association, Maria Z. Vathis, is someone who has taken the extra-curricular route throughout her entire career, and it has paid off immensely. Working as an attorney in Chicago, Vathis joined the FBA shortly after beginning her legal career and now is the Past President of the almost 100-year old organization.

She started working her way up the ladder of the Chicago Chapter of the association, and eventually became the president of that chapter. At the same time, she was also becoming involved in the Hellenic Bar Association, and would eventually become national president of that organization, as well.

“Through these organizations, I was fortunate to find mentors and lifelong friends. I was also lucky enough to mentor others and to have opportunities to give back to the community through various outreach projects,” said Vathis. “As a young attorney, it was priceless to gain exposure to successful attorneys and judges and to observe how they conducted themselves. Those judges and attorneys were my role models – whether they knew it or not. I learned how to be a professional and how to work with different personality types through my bar association work.”

Finding people in your industry – not just in your office – can be of great help as you go through the journey of your career. They can help you in the event of a job switch, help collaborate on volunteer-based projects, and help collaborate on career-advancing projects (like writing a book, for example).

And all strong networks often start with the help of a mentor – someone who has once been in your shows and can help you handle the ropes of your new career. Most importantly, they’re someone who you can seek advice from when you’re faced with someone challenging – either good or bad.

“I have been unbelievably fortunate with my mentors, and I cherish those relationships. They are good people, and they have changed my life in positive ways. I still draw on what they taught me to help make important decisions,” said Vathis. “My career success is due in large part to the fact that my mentors took an interest in my career, had faith in my abilities, and supported me while I held various positions in the organizations. Not only is it important to continue having mentors throughout your career, but it is important to recognize that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. You never know who you will learn something from, so it’s important to remain open. Also, after you become seasoned, it is important to give back by mentoring others.”

When asked why it’s important to be part of organizations outside of the office, Vathis explained, “To build a book of business, you need to be visible to others.” She also stresses the importance of putting yourself out there for new affiliations and challenges, because you never know where it may lead.

If you’re unsure of how to start this process, try asking co-workers and other people in your professional life if they have any advice or recommendations of organizations that can help advance your career. Another simple way is to Google “networking events in my area” and see what speaks to you. In addition, never be afraid to reach out to someone with a bit more experience for some advice. Take them out to coffee and pick their brain – you never know what you may learn.

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Op/Ed

Kakeibo: The Japanese art of spending wisely

(EDITORIAL) If regardless of how much money you make, it seems like you’re always short a buck, take a hard look at how you are spending. It could save you a lot.

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control your spending

Raise your hand if you have cash in your wallet.

What is a wallet you ask.

I jest. I know you know what a wallet is. (I hope.) But, sometimes I wonder if cash will go the way of the rotary phone. Seems most folks I know use debit cards, Venmo or their phones to pay for things nowadays.

Ever notice when you go to the store and have a debit or (worse) a credit card at your disposal, your plan to spend $20 ends up more like $50-$100. For example, anyone who shops at Target knows that when they ask you at the checkout, “Did you find everything you needed,” the answer is “ugh… Yes, and then some.”

Living in a plastic economy has made us less cognizant of how we spend money. But, leave it to the Japanese to have a system for putting the thought into buying. It’s called Kakeibo (pronounced kah-ke-boh) and it translates to “household finance ledger” and it’s something most Japanese folks learn to use from the time they are wee children.

The system began in 1904 and was “invented” by a woman name Hana Motoko (also known as Japan’s first female journalist), according to an article on MSNBC. The system is a no-frills way of approaching finances, whether personal or business.

Now, some folks are great at keeping a budget and knowing where the money is going. My mom, for example was the best bookkeeper. Unfortunately, her skills with money didn’t pass down to me. So, I actually purchased a Kakeibo book to try and get my finances in better shape.

You don’t need some special book (save your money), though you can find lots of resources online, including these downloadable forms, but in actuality all you need is a notebook (preferably one to take with you) and a pen. No Technology Required.

If you have been spending money and not knowing where it is going, then it’s going to take some work to change your habits around money.

In her article on MSNBC, Sarah Harvey says what makes Kakeibo different than using an Excel spreadsheet or budget software is the act of physically writing purchases down – it becomes a meditative way of processing spending habits. “Our spending habits are deeply cemented into our daily routine, and the act of spending also includes an emotional aspect that is difficult to detach from,” Harvey says.

As a business owner or entrepreneur, it is also easy to get sucked into believing you have to have new technology, systems and bells and whistles that maybe you don’t need – just yet. Spending goals for a business, just like a personal budget, are important if you plan to stay on track and not lose sight of where your money is going. Lord knows the money flies out the door when starting any new project.

Based on the Kakeibo system, there are some key questions to ask before buying anything that is nonessential (whether for your home or business):

• Can I live without this item?
• Can I afford it? (Based on my finances)
• Will I actually use it?
• Do I have space for it?
• How did I find the item in the first place? (Did I see it in an IG feed? Did I come across it after wandering into a store, am I bored?)
• What is my emotional state today? (Calm? Stressed? Celebratory? Feeling bad about myself?)
• How do I feel about buying it? (Happy? Excited? Indifferent? And how long will this feeling last?)

For Harvey, who learned about Kakeibo while living in Japan, using the system forced her to think more about why she was making purchases. And, she says it doesn’t mean you should cut out the joy of buying, just possibly making better choices when needing retail therapy on a crappy day. She found the small changes she was making were having a positive impact on her savings.

How to be more mindful when spending:

• See something you like, wait 24 hours before buying. Still need it?
• Don’t be a sucker for sales.
• Check your bank balance often. Can you afford what you’re buying?
• Use cash. It’s a different feeling having that money in your hand and letting it go.
• Put reminders in your wallet. What are your goals? Big trip. Then, do you really need new headphones, a bigger TV, a new iPhone, etc.
• Pay attention to what causes you to spend. Are you ordering every monthly service because of some Instagram influencer or, because of some marketing you get online. Change your habits, change your life.

Using the Kakeibo system of a notepad and pen or a Kakeibo book for the process can help you identify goals you have for the week, month and year and allow you to stay on track. Remember, cash is still king.

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Op/Ed

5 Things your home office may not need

(EDITORIAL) Since many of us are working entirely from home now, we are probably getting annoyed at a messy desk, let’s take a crack at minimalism!

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desk minimalism

COVID-19 is changing our behaviors. As more people stay home, they’re seeing (and having to deal with) the clutter in their home. Many people are turning to minimalism to reduce clutter and find more joy. There are many ways to define minimalism. Some people define it as the number of items you own. Others think of it as only owning items that you actually need.

I prefer to think of minimalism as intentionality of possessions. I have a couple of dishes that are not practical, nor do I use them very often. But they belonged to my grandma, and out of sentimentality, I keep them. Most minimalists probably wouldn’t.

They say a messy desk is a sign of creativity. Unfortunately, that same messy desk limits productivity. Harvard Business Review reports that cluttered spaces have negative effects on us. Keep your messy desk, but get rid of the clutter. Take a minimalistic approach to your home office. Here are five things to clean up:

  1. Old technology – When was the last time you printed something for work? Most of us don’t print much anymore. Get rid of the old printers, computer parts, and other pieces of hardware that are collecting dust.
  2. Papers and documents – Go digital, or just save the documents that absolutely matter. Of course, this may vary by industry, but take a hard look at the paper you’ve saved over the past month or so. Then ask yourself whether you will really ever look at it again.
  3. Filing cabinets – If you’re not saving paper, you don’t need filing cabinets.
  4. Trade magazines and journals – Go digital, and keep your magazines on your Kindle, or pass down the print versions to colleagues who may be interested.
  5. Anything unrelated to work – Ok, save the picture of your family and coffee mug, but clean off your desk of things that aren’t required for work. It’s easy for home and work to get mixed up when you’re working and living in one place. Keep it separate for your own peace of mind and better workflow. If space is tight and you’re sharing a dining room table with work, get a laundry basket or box. At the start of the workday, remove home items and put them in the box. Transfer work items to another box at the end of the day. It might seem like a little more work, but it will give you some boundaries.

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