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Using text message marketing? This class action lawsuit may change your mind

(MARKETING NEWS) A new class action lawsuit may have your team reconsidering whether or not text message marketing is worth the risk.

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Imagine sitting on the sofa with your family and your phone vibrates. It’s a text message! You’re expecting your brother to let you know if he’ll make it to dinner tomorrow.

But it’s a text from a real estate brokerage, loudly proclaiming an “OPEN HOUSE THIS WEEKEND” in all caps, with a link to the listing.

How did they get your number? Why are they yelling at you? Why doesn’t the link have a brokerage name in the URL? Why would I click that link? Why am I being bothered during family time? Why, why, why?

Most people would block the number and move on, or text “stop,” in hopes that the future barrage of unsolicited texts would stop. We all get them from every direction, nearly every day now.

But not Floridian Steve Grossberg, who took a screenshot of a text message from a Coldwell Banker agent, and hired an attorney. A class action lawsuit has since been filed in the Southern District of Florida, and a court date is set for this Friday, April 12, for Judge Federico A. Moreno to review the case.

The lawsuit claims the text messages were sent without written permission from the recipients (required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 2012), causing the Defendants “injuries, including invasion of their privacy, aggravation, annoyance, intrusion on seclusion, trespass, and conversion.”

Class action status is being sought for this case – Grossberg’s attorneys claim individual cases for all those impacted would overwhelm the court system and be too financially cumbersome for potential individual plaintiffs.

They’re seeking up to $1,500 in damages for each violation, which they say exceeds the $5,000,000 threshold for federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA). The “Class” would include anyone in the past four years that have texted by Coldwell Banker or anyone on their behalf, using automated equipment (or an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS)). Interestingly, in the “Class” description, the attorneys don’t include permission status at all, just “anyone” that has been auto-texted by the brokerage.

Court documents outline in detail the technologies used that allegedly violate federal statues, and Grossberg isn’t just suing the local agent or brokerage, but the international company, Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, claiming the text messages sent violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

The lawsuit does not outline in such detail, the chain of permission that was or was not given.

Real estate professionals that hire a marketing firm or a tech startup that promises to modernize their marketing, have an expectation that their money is being spent on something that is in compliance with all laws, be they local, state, or federal. Especially if that is what the company being hired specializes in.

Laying it at the feet of the end user (brokerages) is unfair, and it is curious that no service provider is named as the Defendant. Perhaps Coldwell Banker’s pockets seem deeper.

Additionally, the topic of permission is convoluted, as website visitors will often fill out their information when viewing homes, and the IDX provider will use that contact information to send even more information, thus written permission to contact.

Lumping the above activity in with telemarketing spam would be inaccurate. If a brokerage bought a list of phone numbers to cold text without consumers’ permission, that would, however be illegal.

Regardless, in the text message showcased in the lawsuit, the URL provided (ishomenow.com) forwards to listingstoleads.com – Listings-to-Leads (L2L) which says it is a “leading inbound marketing platform with a lead generation system.”

It appears to us that the lead generation company is the originator of the text message, not a specific Coldwell Banker agent or broker.

This Friday will determine next steps in this case, but for now, it is worth investigating your own text message marketing efforts (whether done yourself or through a third party) to make sure proper permissions have been obtained, and that all use is within current federal guidelines, because a potential $1,500 per text message sent in violation of the law would hurt any brokerage.

Be sure to read the lawsuit in its entirety as it outlines the specific behaviors in question, and review this potentially helpful compliance checklist in the meantime.

Real Estate Technology

Curated newsletters help you learn literally anything you want

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) All the news you could ask for in a large quantity of topics, from independent journalists brought to you in a neat looking Newsletter Stack.

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Over the shoulder look at laptop on bistro table, with online newsletter stack open.

To say it has never been more important to stay up-to-date on world news than it is right now doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch, but the issue of where to start can be so daunting as to overwhelm people—a problem that Newsletter Stack attempts to fix, and quite handily at that.

Newsletter Stack is a curated news service that delivers “unfiltered and fresh takes” from independent journalists on a variety of topics (56, to be exact). These topics are expansive and range from things like artificial intelligence and technology to think-pieces on pop culture and wellness, and one can browse by featured collections—for example, “Adult Picture Books” or “Emerging Markets”—for a more immersive experience.

Should the urge strike, one might also find themselves browsing the reading materials of other curators, a list found immediately below the Newsletter Stack collections library. This isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice touch for anyone looking to consume information they know is interesting to like-minded (or dramatically dissonant) individuals.

Newsletter Stack even has a section of their website dedicated to news submissions if you come across a piece that fits their aesthetic. That aesthetic is actually a huge selling point for the service; while plenty of inbox news subscriptions (and even more established services like Apple News) allow you to curate topics and sources to your liking, Newsletter Stack places a heavy emphasis on independent authorship.

In an effort to be as transparent as possible, one can browse a list of all current curators on the service’s website, search through their reading preferences, and see their recommendations.

Independence in an age of digital literacy metrics might be a sticking point for some folks, but Newsletter Stack makes it clear that they aren’t anti-mainstream media. In fact, it seems that the point behind this news subscription is much less holistic than other services (again, inbox subscriptions fall into this trap). At no point does Newsletter Stack make the claim that they should be one’s only source of news, and that’s incredibly important.

If you’re at all interested in expanding your knowledge using independent authors, and a clean interface, Newsletter Stack deserves a few minutes of your time.

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Real Estate Technology

This proptech optimizes remote viewing – and it just went public

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) Another property tech company goes public…. but NOT in the conventional way. And this proptech is building on ways to share online properties.

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Woman on laptop in window seat, looking at proptech sites online.

Hunting for a place to live during a pandemic has been… challenging.

Obviously, the housing market didn’t explode entirely (for better or worse), but the whole ‘Don’t be in close contact with a bunch of randos’ of it all meant that more sellers had to adapt their viewing practices.

I maintain that I should have snuck in some of my stuff and tried to claim squatter’s rights when I was let into a potential apartment by myself, but the idea wouldn’t have even entered my head if that complex was using walk-through technology like Matterport.

The company not only produces 3D walkthrough cameras, but also provides SAAS through creating 3D renderings for potential buyers/renters through phone camera-shots.

Matterport was founded in 2011, so it’s not like they were a total unknown when the ‘new normal’ hit us. It IS pretty sweet that they had gotten to a good point of establishment when we got pandemic-ked though, because they grew their base five times what it was in the year of our dumpster fire, 2020. Luck really does favor the prepared.

And now, in Dumpster Fire 2: 5G Vaccine Boogaloo 2021, not only did the company reach Android-compatibility (UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE), they also went public. Yay for both. But they went a kind of different way about getting that stock abbreviation than most companies.

Backed by Alec Gore to the tune of $640 million in proceeds and $2.9 billion in valuation, Matterport is now MTTR not through solely private investors, but through inconceivably monied
shell company Gores Holdings VI Inc.

These shell companies are more favorably known as Special Purpose Acquisition Companies, AKA SPACs, AKA “blank check companies”. They’re interesting in that they have literally no other purpose than to acquire a company that does actually do stuff in order to take the stuff-doing company public, and not only are they getting big names like Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank attached to them, they’re getting popular.

According to Investopedia, “SPACs have become more common in recent years, with their IPO fundraising hitting a record $13.6 billion in 2019—more than four times the $3.2 billion they raised in 2016.”

Between the rise of proptech and the rise of SPACs, and the… not-worrying-at-all rise of variants of COVID-19 that we’re waiting to see the efficacy of the vaccine on, we’ll probably see more
news like this, and soon.

I got too motion sick at ‘Cloverfield’ to partake of anything more advanced than ceiling-down AutoCad drawings, but I’ll be watching the headlines.

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Real Estate Technology

Want a second home but don’t know where to start? Try Pacaso!

(REAL ESTATE TECH NEWS) Owning a second home can be a daunting experience, but Pacaso looks to simplify it, and gives you more ownership over your dream vacation home.

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A second home on a lakefront property at sunset.

Owning a second home can be a lucrative investment, especially when the market goes up. Having your dream home near one of your favorite vacation spots can provide you a quick getaway without the hassle of having to find good deals and accommodations.

However, owning a second home is a huge financial decision. And, unless planned out properly, you could end up with plenty of surprising expenses your pocketbook isn’t ready to handle.

But, if that cabin in the woods or beach house retreat is a must-have, you could purchase part of a home with Pacaso. Pacaso is a marketplace for second homes, and it’s rethinking the timeshare model and nixing out the middleman.

Founded by CEO Austin Allison and Zillow Co-founder Spencer Rascoff, Pacaso says it’s “the modern way to buy and own a second home.” With them, you share joint ownership of a property with up to 8 other people so you’re able to get a second home for ⅛ of the cost.

How does Pacaso work?

You look through the company’s listings to shop for your perfect home. If what you are looking for isn’t on there, you can search for a listing on any real estate website and share it with them. If they decide the property is a match for the company, they will partner with you to purchase up to half of the property.

After you’ve chosen your home, Pacaso will create a property LLC for the home, referred to as the Pacaso home LLC. At the same time, they will remarket remaining shares, vet co-owners, and handle all the sales details and closing paperwork. Buyers can purchase from ⅛ to ½ of all shares. Then, at closing, the collective owners own 100% of the property.

The company also takes care of furnishings, repairs, utilities, and property management. And, once you’re ready to enjoy your new second home, owners can book a stay using the Pacaso app.

How is Pacaso different from a traditional timeshare?

In a timeshare, you are usually buying the rights to use a property for a set amount of time so you don’t necessarily own the property itself. With Pacaso, you’re buying shares of a real estate property so you have true real estate ownership.

Timeshares give you the right to use that property during a specific range of dates. With each Pacaso share, you get 44 nights per year. Since you aren’t locked to a specific time frame, you have the flexibility to plan your vacation whenever you want.

Also, Pacaso streamlines the resale process. You work with a real estate agent, and you set the selling price. So, you don’t need to settle for what the timeshare resale market sets for you.

If owning a second home is on top of your list, but the large financial burden is what’s holding you back, Pacaso might seem the right thing for you. You can still get that dream home, but for a fraction of the cost, and still enjoy all the second homeowner benefits.

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