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NJ real estate team to ask clients to sign “Zillow Disclosure” form due to ongoing inaccuracies

With data inaccuracies lingering in the real estate industry, regardless of the source, one brokerage is taking action to help consumers better understand the chain of data.

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Real estate syndication should be a science, but with all of the pipes and tubes and chutes and ladders every listing goes through before being presented to the public, inaccuracies remain, whether the problem lies with the real estate search site, how the brand set up their feeds in ListHub, or how the data is syndicated. Zillow has long been the target of criticism for this inaccuracy problem, and others have weighed in saying that Trulia (now owned by Zillow) has similar issues (although less frequently). They’ve been working for years to fine tune the process, and it is admittedly better than just a few short years ago, but problems remain in the chain of data.

Anyone in the field knows that whether they’re the listing agent or a buyer’s agent, they’re the ones that get the angry phone calls about homes that are shown as on the market that have really been off-market for months, and vice versa.

The Baldwin Dream Team at Keller Williams NJ Metro Group in Montclair NJ ($45M in volume in 2014) has decided to do more than just complain online about it, rather, they’re working on a disclosure for their clients to sign addressing this very problem of data inaccuracy.

About the potential “Zillow Disclosures” form

In the Closed Facebook Group, Lab Coat Agents, Nick Baldwin at the aforementioned brokerage posted:

“This is the second time in 30 days when this listing of mine has appeared “off market” when it is very much “ON market.” Zillow does not know what is causing this, so it takes them upwards of a week to fix. So, due to instances like this (and a few others) my team is now having our sellers sign “Zillow Disclosures.” This disclosure will say, in a nut shell, that The Baldwin Dream Team at Keller Williams Realty cannot be held responsible for how Zillow displays the listing on their site. After we upload the listing to our MLS, seller approves or suggests changes, then we are not liable for what Zillow decides to do with it.”

Is this the answer?

Some practitioners felt that the potential disclaimer should cover all real estate search sites, or that it could be a simple addition to existing forms so that clients don’t have to sign even more papers. But overall, the reaction from practitioners was positive.

In the Facebook group, Nick Baldwin was clear that this was not a Zillow rant, and Zillow Industry Outreach Director, Jay Thompson addressed the specific listing used as an example and said, “I can assure you there’s 2,000+ employees at Zillow that do care and are concerned. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t care, and they didn’t care.”

Zillow’s efforts have room for improvement

“On a regular basis lately, we’re receiving all sorts of missives from Zillow about all their advances,” Roberta Baldwin, Team Leader at The Baldwin Dream Team notes. “While I’m grateful for the leads through the Premier Agent conduit, which I pay for, as I do on Trulia, it doesn’t make me feel special at all when I spend a Saturday night trying to hand upload a listing that should be there, as I did this weekend, while on vacation. Or worry on a Sunday that the public open house tag we uploaded hasn’t shown up in timely fashion.”

She points to a recent email to agents from Zillow CRO Greg Schwartz wherein he states, “Our coverage of active listings is the strongest we’ve ever had and continues to grow. More MLS listings means faster price and status updates and more complete coverage for your advertising efforts.”

The email is described by Baldwin as “premature, given the daily issues we all seem to be having.”

How did the “Zillow Disclosure” come to be?

Roberta Baldwin tells us, “We’ve been instructing our sellers for some time to allow these portals time to position their new listings, but when it runs to several days without satisfaction, no seller wants to feel his property is the only one that’s not up and running and correctly positioned. Savvy sellers also don’t understand why they have to wait for uploads and they don’t want to erroneous information pulled from sources out of our control. For instance, right now, Zillow programs a multi-family home listing as an “Apartment for Sale.” We have a seller who is livid about this – he doesn’t understand it because he has a 2-unit building for sale, not an apartment (which conjures up a condo) – and so we’ve spent a good deal of time discussing this with Zillow but have been told there’s nothing they can do, their programmers are working on it, they don’t know when it will change, etc.”

She adds, “Another example is a luxury home we had recently where the listing and photos came up in disarray and weren’t corrected until after the house sold! Today, alone, I already noticed a listing that suddenly came up as active with no photos but is actually under contract, another with the old price that we changed days ago. Keeps us on our toes!”

Therefore, they decided this week to prepare a disclaimer which is still in the works and expected to be completed next week, which states that “when Zillow and Trulia upload listings, make corrections and process open houses is out of [The Baldwin Dream Team’s] control, although we will work with these portals to make sure the listings are there online, complete and accurate.”

Will other brokers follow suit?

Roberta Baldwin notes that the wording is being run past a lawyer, and that their intent is not to libel any company, just to “just to create a discussion point of importance to sellers in a way that sticks with them.”

“Just mentioning syndication problems in conversation doesn’t have the impact, we’ve found,” she expounds. “We always want the best for our sellers – that, in fact, is out biggest motivator – and to protect them from worry that we aren’t doing our job, that their listing is not being taken seriously, because that is usually their instant concern.”

The idea has “hit a nerve,” Roberta Baldwin said. “It has definitely hit a nerve. Any agent focusing on listings is bound to find massive discrepancies in the syndication upload process, so we think this could catch on and perhaps could act as a catalyst for Zillow and Trulia corporate and, of course, their programmers, to really look at the impact on busy Realtors.”

She opines that agents with the most business are apt to be the most understanding. “Spending hours a week tracking down listings, monitoring their whereabouts day to day, trying to claim listings that are, in fact, our own and are branded as such by our MLS, is tedious, time-consuming, and costly. I hear new agents in our office express wonder that their first listings are missing. Many of them are incredibly savvy about marketing and just don’t get why this should be happening.”

What practitioners should know about this move

“Protecting the integrity of our business is paramount,” concludes Roberta Baldwin. “There is nothing we do when we list a home that is intentionally arbitrary. So when the listings become impossible to track on these portals, when we get different opinions on how to upload these listings – whether we should wait til [sic] they appear or hand upload, whether to use Postlets or not to use Postlets – when we question why some listings simply don’t register with their systems in timely fashion or when we get the old, fuzzy version of a listing from 3 years ago, or even the “for sale by owner” version with a horrible stamp across the photos – it’s hard to accept when we’ve done everything right from our end. And when Zillow and Trulia service departments then send us canned directions back in response to real problems we have that we are asking them to fix, as if we’ve never had any experience with their systems before, and when we need fast and accurate help – it is really upsetting to us as well as to our sellers.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, however, as she clarifies, “I will say that we have very nice, helpful service people over at Zillow and Trulia who have done what they can when we are truly desperate. That does help, but doesn’t alleviate root causes of the glitches we face.”

#ZillowDisclosure

UPDATE: video chat on the topic

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Real Estate Brokerage

Brokerages rarely write an internal communication strategy, here’s why they should

(BUSINESS) Almost no real estate brokerages have an internal communication strategy, but they absolutely should.

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It’s still early enough in the year that you can start fresh, personally and professionally. Help your organization by taking into account what’s happened in recent history and where you want to go. From there, you will determine what steps are necessary to achieve your goals.

Writing an internal communication (IC) strategy can be the first step in mapping your goals and is virtually unused in the real estate industry. According to All Things IC, an “internal communication strategy is like a map, an outline of your organization’s journey. It’s the big picture of what you want to achieve.” This can be done by a brokerage, or an independent agent alike.

Great! So, where do you start? First, know what an IC strategy needs to address. This includes the where, how, what, and why.

Write down the current state of the company, then state where you’re heading, or where you’d like to be. Create a list of objectives to support this.

Then break into your “how.” Explain how you are going to get to where you want to be, as well as how long it will take and why.

You’ll then venture over to a “what” by outlining what is involved along the way to your goal. Then, throw in a little “why” by explaining why this approach is the best for the job.

Go back to “how” and tell how you’ll know when you’ve reached your destination. This part will require tangibles, measurements to support a change in reaching your goal.

Finally, give one more “what” and address what will happen if you don’t change the way you’re currently operating. If things are working for your organization, that’s great! But, there is always room for improvement.

For an internal communication strategy, it is important to include the following: a title, an issue/purpose, structure, executive summary, audience segmentation/stakeholder mapping, a timeline, channels, measurement, communication objective, approval process and responsibilities, key messages, and an appendix.

Now, what was missing from the initial inclusions was a “who.” So, who should be the one to write this document?

Well, it needs to be someone with a strong understanding and implementation for internal communications. This can be done internally by someone on staff who is an expert; or, it can be outsourced to an expert. Regardless of who writes it, make sure it is clear and concise for the audience at hand.

What is most important to remember is that writing an internal communication strategy is just half the battle. Your work is not done once this document is agreed upon by the leadership team. And finally, you must be willing to enforce what’s written on these pages and be ready to make the changes you’ve outlined.

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Real Estate Brokerage

COVID-19: Huge list of resources to quickly help you and your clients

(NEWS) NAR has compiled a comprehensive list of resources for Realtors, homeowners, and insights on how the stimulus bill will impact the industry.

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As the COVID-19 crisis continues to rattle the globe, many of us have far more questions than answers. Realtors are trying to figure out how to be socially responsible, stay healthy, and maintain their business.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has collected several resources to help you and your clients stay informed of industry happenings during these difficult times.

Click the following headlines for the full lists.

Resources for property owners

This guide collects resources curated by trusted sources like the American Land Title Association, bank regulators, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide property owners with guidance during the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the resources provided include:

  • A real-time list of county record office closures
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity plans
  • Information from major banking institutions regarding their policies and customer outreach
  • Information from mortgage insurers
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) foreclosure and eviction moratorium

Guidance on tech-driven alternatives to open houses

As more states head into lockdown or shelter-in-place situations, open houses are a no-go now and for the foreseeable future. While many are concerned about what this means for their business, there are options available as long as you are willing to get creative and embrace technology. In order to help facilitate this shift, the NAR has created a set of guidelines to help members navigate this situation in a way that is safe for them and their clients.

How stimulus recovery will affect the industry

A $2 trillion economic relief bill just passed the U.S. Senate and is expected to pass through the U.S. House and Presidential office without issue. The NAR has been hard at work to make sure that self-employed and independent contractors will see relief from this stimulus package.

What are Realtors doing to help their communities?

Realtors are a vital part of their communities; they know the neighborhoods and small business owners whom they see every day. During the COVID-19 crisis many realtors across the country are doing their part to help the most vulnerable people in their communities.

This is a constantly evolving situation as every state is being faced with tough decisions that affect the health of the citizens and economy. We encourage realtors to stay safe and continue checking resources as the situation progresses in their area.

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Real Estate Brokerage

Project Hatch: Advice directly from successful people

(BUSINESS) Project Hatch shares stories of major founders around the world in an effort to help others grow professionally and “found” their dreams.

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Even if we’re at the tip top of the professional food chain, there is always something that we can learn from those who came before us. Additionally, there is always something that can be learned from peers (or mentors if you’re continuing the career-ladder climb).

This is the intent of Project Hatch, which is designed to tell the stories of founders in order to inspire others who are looking to go down that path. “The best way to learn how to build a company is from those who have done it before,” according to Project Hatch’s official website. “Project Hatch features case studies and analysis from the view-point of founding teams.”

Examples of case studies include some current heavy hitters, such as Tyler Handley – founder of Inkbox, Alex Zaccaria – founder of Linktree, and David Ciccarelli – founder of Voices.com. Their stories include where they are and how they got there.

“So for us, the primary drivers of growth have typically been performance marketing and the associated word of mouth and the organic and return off that. So Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snap and we’re experimenting with TicTok right now,” – Tyler Handley

“We created a solution to a problem that we thought was unique to us; but it turns out millions of other people had the same problem. One of the key moments of validation for us, was early on, when the platform was uploaded to Product Hunt,” – Alex Zaccaria

“Exactly two years ago, we raised $18 million USD from Morgan Stanley Expansion Capital out of San Francisco. As growth stage equity investors, they were attracted to a large and growing market for voice and audio products,” – David Ciccarelli

The case studies include four key areas that are broken down for major industries. These include: ecommerce, media, agency, and SaaS. With ecommerce, you can learn how to create scalable stores; with media, you can find out how media giants receive hundreds of millions of views on different social platforms; with agency, you can learn how to be more innovative in order to standout in today’s competitive market; and, SaaS offers the most passive form of online income when done correctly, so they feature those who have done it (and are making $600k per month!)

Project Hatch boasts over 15,000 monthly users, over 33,000 monthly page views, and 111 monthly interviews. The site also includes run downs of celebrities’ net worths (so, be sure to look through that if you want to feel bad about yourself).

This is a solid platform that offers something interesting for everyone at any point in their career. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that, since there is so much professional advice out there, don’t go overboard looking into so much of it that you forget to do your own work.

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