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RealSeekr.com Launch [Product Review]

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realseekr.com launches


The Backstory

Gia & Grant Freer, real estate brokers in Florida sought out to create a site that they believed would become the premiere
one-stop shop for home buyers, sellers and agents alike. Their RealSeekr.com project has been intriguing to me because it’s founded by agents instead of a media company!

After sitting back and reading blogs for a year and a half (I promise, the Freers probably know who you are already), they created a site that they felt would answer to some of the problems incurred by other search sites. RealSeekr.com was born to centralize listings information and fill in the biggest gap in national search sites which is the socializing aspect that gives real estate professionals the advantage of real time social opportunities. So far, they’ve partnered with individual brokerages who provide their local board’s IDX feed in over 20 states with already more than 1.6 million listings.

How Do I Get Started?

RealSeekr.com offers free memberships that allow users to join and interact immediately or a premium membership for $249 (per year) allowing agents to have “unlimited enhancements,” classified ads and free SMS Text Messaging (all of which we’ll get to in a sec). Home buyers can sign up and create a profile for free and can immediately begin chatting with agents.

What’s This “Real Time” Stuff?

By real time, I mean that on your profile, users can see your last 10 Twitter messages (if you choose to allow it), can contact you on Skype, or send you a SMS Text Message to your cell. What’s extremely interesting to me is that with each individual listing, users can push the “share this” button to use social bookmarking, sending the listing to all sorts of sites (Facebook, digg, del.ic.ious, etc) or create a link to be posted anywhere (Twitter, WordPress, Blogger) or simply emailed the old fashioned way.

What DO I Like?

  • First and foremost, I like that as they are growing, they are very quick to respond to feedback and work out any bugs that users find. In fact, they welcome all user input.
  • Because listings are fed from the local MLS, you don’t have to start from scratch to showcase your listing, just go claim your existing listings and enhance them. Nice.
  • RealSeekr.com has a Q&A community that doesn’t have a points system, doesn’t feature who answers the most frequently or who has the most awesomest answers ever. I think this Q&A environment has the best chance of survival as far as real estate forums go because it rewards agents by connecting them with consumers. Period.
  • I enjoy that members can upload unlimited photos, video and audio to their listings and the listings have Google Street View already incorporated.
  • I absolutely LOVE that the enhanced listings show up first but are not separated, making it less invasive for home seekers who are programmed to skip over the separated listings as junk ads (think of a google search, you ignore the sponsored ads and check out your search results first).
  • There are a LOT of customization options: you can select your (3) professional specialties, the languages you speak, upload a photo of you AND your brokerage logo and whether you’re an agent, broker, home buyer or “real estate professional” (which is a category I tell myself they created for me, the non-licensed person involved in helping run a brokerage).
  • Each enhanced listing offers an option to enter a TON of keywords which helps Googlers find your listing.
  • Premium accounts come with five geocoded ads (meaning someone searching in Austin will see the featured Austin agent). I’m hoping they’ll branch out and put these geocoded ads on affiliate sites to increase exposure.

What Do I Have MIXED FEELINGS About?

  • I’m on the fence about the sponsored agent links that come with the premium account because although they show up on many of the pages, they don’t seem to be geocoded, so Benn’s link sits next to a Realtor in Bristol, CT. That’s great for people who are shopping for “a home, somewhere in the US” but not so cool for the local consumer. This may be because of the site’s in beta and no one is on it yet, but if it is not geocoded I hope they’ll reconfigure that.

What DON’T I Like?

  • My biggest beef is the photo uploading process- this one at a time thing isn’t going to cut it… I have 70 shots I want to upload and I have the patience of a toddler, so I beg RealSeekr.com to upgrade the photo uploading system.
  • I’m not sure if it’s because it’s slow to update, but even after uploading a picture to a claimed listing, it still says “no image available.”
  • When enhancing your listing, what typically would be a “save” button at the bottom of the page says “enhance property” which confused me since I’m programmed to find the “save” button. It’s just a personal preference, but I would rename it to “save enhancements” for those of us who are formerly blonde.
  • The site currently allows home sellers that are doing their own FSBO (for sale by owner) listing to upload for free. I’m not sure how this is going to work overall.
  • Lease listings are not on the site but I haven’t asked if they are a part of RealSeekr.com’s next phase. I’d love to have our lease properties up there and that segment of the home seeking community is left out. In this mortgage environment, some choose to lease instead of buy, so if it’s not a part of the master plan, RealSeekr may miss a big opportunity there.

In Summary…

RealSeekr.com, founded by agents who are stepping out on a limb with their project looks to be a very promising site that centralizes so many of the traditional as well as newly formed social networking tools in one place to excite buyers as they connect with tech savvy agents. RealSeekr.com feeds the desperate desire for instant gratification that consumers AND agents have. With much of the country covered so far, they have an awesome platform to grow from and their enhanced listings and geocoded ads are a feature I’m personally enthusiastic about, as I am about their no-points Q&A section. There are some tweaks RealSeekr will be making over the coming months and they welcome ALL input! We highly anticipate watching the newly hatched RealSeekr.com blossom. Keep up the great work, Gia & Grant!

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius - she has 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.

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48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Michelle DeRepentigny

    May 22, 2008 at 11:45 pm

    Thanks for sharing, I’m over there filling out my stuff now and WHOO HOO they have 1 of our mls systems!

  2. Gia & Grant Freer

    May 23, 2008 at 12:27 am

    Hi Lani, Hi Benn,

    Thank you guys for the great feedback. Your suggestions and ideas have already been added to the “To Do List” and we will continue keeping everyone updated as RealSeekr progresses. There’s obviously a lot of features and functionality that we’ve been able to integrate into the site so far that many people over the course of the last year or so have also discussed and commented about in various forums. Those ideas and suggestions have been instrumental in taking the concept that we had for RealSeekr to another level, and that’s really been a key driver for us – listening to what people are discussing, encouraging all our colleagues in the real estate profession, as well as consumers, to join us in closing the gap, meeting particular needs that perhaps other sites aren’t necessarily satisfying, and providing everyone with the tools and real-time functionality that they need in one place. We really appreciate the valuable feedback, and so to encourage it even more, a members feedback corner has been built in which we’ve already discovered is a great place to share those ideas, suggestions, enhancements and improvements as we continue to build out and innovate –we’re already on our second case of Pledge as we continue dusting to get the house ready for showing! ?

    Thanks again guys for the warm welcome.

    Gia & Grant @realseekr

  3. Bill Lublin

    May 23, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Lani;
    I really like the folks, and its nice to see real estate professionals explorng new options in the industry, but isn’t the aggregation issue the same? As the site gains traction, the upside ability to earn a profit from their work is going to be a result of what I call the “crack effect”. We start out with a harmless media program that costs little or nothing (Trulia cost me ZERO at first, with logos that linked back to my web site) then when the aggregation gains traction, the enhancements start to get more and more expensive (After a year on Trulia, those little logos would have cost as much as our company’s website, just for the branding and the link).
    I guess if anyone’s going to benefit from that I would prefer it be someone I like, but I really think that the businessperson’s best protection is in driving their own traffic to their own sites where they can benefit from the consumer contact directly.
    I also have some heartburn about the FSBO listings being on the site where we put ours. Again, if the site gains national traction it will be from the preponderance of REALTOR listings, andthe FSBOs will be getting additional exposure to the traffic driven by the other 85% of themarket. As a real estate person, that doesn’t benefit my business at all. The same with realtytrac – their ubiquitous presence on every search engine that will have them as a method for selling subscriptions that people then forget to cancel (and I’m one of them – duh!) is really not what I think the consumer wants when they look for real property. I think they want the direct goods.
    That being said, again, I am in favor of these particular people having every success possible, so congratulations to Gia and Grant for being creative, and best wishes for their success.

  4. Benn Rosales

    May 23, 2008 at 1:13 am

    Bill, I get it- totally. But having spoken with Grant and Gia at great legnth about their motivations on many of the things you mentioned, I have no doubt in my mind that the ideals behind their platform are sincere, honest, and absolutely take into account every concern agents have especially in regards to FSBOs. The system is designed for conversation, and their vision is one where the agents can be seen and approached and conversations take place that otherwise wouldn’t because of dnc issues. Their concept bridges the gap between agent and consumer both from a buyer/selling agent and the consumer on so many levels. It presents the product in upfront fashion and allows an immediate touch to take place between agent and consumer creating a real time conversation- this (from my skeptical mind) is a really cool concept and I ask that all take a wait and see approach.

    This product does not rail against aggrigators, it is exactly what Realtor.com should have been from day one and I have a feeling that These REALTORS are about to give Realtor.com a run for its money.

  5. Frank Jewett

    May 23, 2008 at 1:39 am

    I’m thinking these “business links” aren’t going to be popular with the tRibe.

    eClosed.com – Flat Fee MLS

    Flat Fee MLS Listing starting at $289

    Atlanta Flat Fee MLS/FMLS Listing Service

    Connecticut Flat Fee MLS Services $299

    But hey, anything that raises the bar for REALTOR.com is a good thing. After all, REALTOR.com wouldn’t be added a “warm color pallet” and “engaging voyeuristic images” if they hadn’t seen them somewhere else first. And yes, those are direct quotes from the “talking points.” Read ’em and weep.

  6. Gia & Grant Freer

    May 23, 2008 at 1:45 am

    Hi Bill, thanks for your comments and observations.

    In response to the question and concern raised about the integration of FSBO uploads by Sellers on RealSeekr, I just wanted to take a moment to explain the rationale for including the feature:

    From a consumer perspective, one of the recurring themes in many commentator observations has been the need for a “one stop shop” that includes all the properties available for sale in the marketplace at a given time – Listed properties, Foreclosures and For Sale By Owners.

    From an agent professional’s perspective, as we all know, FSBO’s present a wonderful opportunity to prospect for new business. The intention here is simply that by using the real time communication tools in a social, useful and fun environment, member agents can engage and interact with FSBO’s and present the persuasive and compelling discussion (without being pushy) for encouraging the Seller to see the tremendous benefits of using an experienced, knowledgeable and tech savvy real estate professional. FSBO conversions continue to represent and remain, one of the most important areas of generating new business for real estate professionals.

    Also, it is worth mentioning, that the “do-not-call” hurdle really doesn’t apply in as much as RealSeekr is a great online venue to start a conversation, introduce yourself and say hello – very much the same way that we all do in networking events, lead groups and neighborhood interactions offline. What we’re attempting to stimulate is a transition of that offline conversation to an engaging online setting.

    Hope we’ve been able to clarify the rationale behind the feature.

  7. zo hai

    May 23, 2008 at 2:26 am

    Wow! I love your way of reviewing =) You give clear cuts of the pros and cons. Cheers and thanks for the info =D

  8. Gia & Grant Freer

    May 23, 2008 at 4:17 am

    Hi Frank,

    Thanks for the feedback. The Business Links will be opened up in the next few days to all community members and their businesses, providing relevant and related business information as part of a user search. What we envision here is that all the participants in a real estate transaction, for example Attorneys, Insurance Professionals, Mortgage Bankers, Loan Officers, Title Companies etc, as well as local businesses, will be able to promote and link to their services, with consumers receiving targeted local information.

  9. Chris Shouse

    May 23, 2008 at 9:10 am

    I looked at properties or at least tried and I find nothing for Las Vegas. Will they be on board? I like the concept and wish you luck. I am more of a buyers agent and do not do many listings.

  10. Benn Rosales

    May 23, 2008 at 9:23 am

    Chris, since I cannot hand out your email address, why don’t you contact them directly about serving LV?

  11. Chris Shouse

    May 23, 2008 at 9:33 am

    I will Benn I like the concept and anything that will improve our industry is a plus. This just might do it. Thank you for bring this to us.

  12. Jonathan Dalton

    May 23, 2008 at 9:56 am

    > The intention here is simply that by using the real time communication tools in a social, useful and fun environment, member agents can engage and interact with FSBO’s and present the persuasive and compelling discussion (without being pushy) for encouraging the Seller to see the tremendous benefits of using an experienced, knowledgeable and tech savvy real estate professional.

    Without being pushy? That will be interesting … Come post your listings, and then have a dozen agents tell you why your home never is going to sell because it’s not getting the full exposure even as your home is listed right beside our listings. Um, okay …

    While I wish Gia & Grant luck, this looks like just another of the score of such search sites that have appeared over the last year or so. Nicer bells and whistles but the same premise warmed over – here are all the listings, now connect with an agent!

    Which also makes this yet another site to compete against my own for the attention of buyers in my own backyard. Screaming into the wind on this one, though, as that’s clearly the wave of the future.

  13. Ines

    May 23, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I have to tell you that although the concept sounds good and they have obvious good intentions – the though of yet another listing platform just makes my skin crawl.

    I’m all for helping people, but I would need to allocate a few hours to upload our listings to their platform. My immediate market (in Florida) – Miami Shores – has 234 active listings right now and only 2 show on their site.

    I personally like to upload my listings once and then syndicate to different platforms – I use v-flyers but there are tons of others. I cannot afford to keep an eye on another platform….but that’s just me. I will be checking regularly to see what new features they implement and what people are saying.

  14. Vicki Moore

    May 23, 2008 at 11:09 am

    The site is visually appealing – I love the colors and configuration – and easy to navigate. I’d like to see more search options like searching by area for an agent. The Q&A should be geocoded as well. The thumbs up/down thing annoys me like crazy; there’s no explanation. It’s just: I don’t like that answer. What good is that?

    I hear your concerns, Jonathan, but this direction is inevitable whether it’s an agent run product or not. Our position of being the keeper of information is gone. These sites will proliferate until the consumer is satisfied and all of the information is available – one-stop. The competition in this arena is going to get more fierce. The argument of why to hire a realtor has to move away from “we’ve got all of the data.” That argument is null.

    I sure wouldn’t want to be a FSBO or an REO; they’re going to be inundated with calls of all sorts from people of all caliber and knowledge.

    I’m wondering about the social part. I’m already spread thin trying to keep up with the online networking I’m doing. It’s really going to come down to figuring out what’s most effective and creates results.

  15. Matthew Rathbun

    May 23, 2008 at 11:17 am

    A few mindless thoughts, from a generally thoughtless person:

    1 I like the idea and the fear of exposure shouldn’t be a concern at all. If someone else wants to devise a way to promote a seller’s listing, then so be it. I didn’t have to pay for it, and I could show my Seller “all the ways I market their home”

    2. People REALLY need to get over this desire for “buyer leads” to “come back to their site”. The seller didn’t give you the listing to use as bait to get more clients. Dual agency is an aging cancer that is slowly dying. …as it should, IMHO. Seller’s shouldn’t expect you to also be the Selling Agent.

    3. I can agree that I am not a big fan of lining up FSBO with listings entered into MLS, but just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not in the best interest for the buyer-client. They want you to find them a home that’s right for them – not one that is listing in your MLS. GOOD buyer agents should be looking in all reasonable resources for the right home for their client. There are some very real damages that can be done to buyer and agents messing with FSBO, but that’s why a strong and skilled buyer agent is useful.

    4. I like this site, I like that it’s developed and ran by licensees, I think it will be easy to use and if they make some money off their idea and hard work – than that’s the American Dream. We should just be upset we didn’t think of it first.

    5. If Realtor.com was doing the job it should be doing, than none of theses other aggregators would stand a chance and no one would be afraid of them. (well maybe not… I’m open to thoughts on that statement)

    6. Lastly, there are only so many buyers at any given time. If they are looking at this site, Zillow, Trulia, RDC and the whole list of others, it’s going to frustrate them and drive them back to an agent who understands how to decipher and utilizing this information for the consumers best interest. So, here is what all you should be writing about on your local blogs: Yes, there are a ton of aggragotrs out there, but the information isn’t complete, always accurate and FSBO’s are obligated to follow the same laws and obligations as a licensee – this is why you need me, the agent to help you sort through all this mess of raw information.

    Historically fear has done nothing buy paralyze people. Agents should be looking to convert challenges into opportunities. These aggregators aren’t going away… They are just forcing you to rethink your business.

    I am with Jonathan, in that this does create one more challenge for the single agent sites. I don’t know the answer to that, other than this is the same pattern that mom and pop shops faced with large franchises entered their markets. This time it’s just on-line. Nothing is new in this business, so I’ve been told. So, it’s the same pattern on a different venue.

  16. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    May 23, 2008 at 11:27 am

    OOOOH, I heard that lease listings ARE coming- that’s awesome, right Jeff? 🙂

  17. Matthew Rathbun

    May 23, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Gawd, my spelling sucks!

  18. Frank Jewett

    May 23, 2008 at 11:43 am

    I don’t want to invite everyone into a pie fight, but Gia and Grant might want to check out the commotion over at ActiveRain after a member was removed from the system over a racial comment that was deemed unacceptable.

    Creating and enforcing terms of use is to online community development what background checks and maintenence funds are to property management. Sometimes neophytes assume everyone will act in a reasonable and professional manner. The sum total of internet history suggests otherwise, though Jonathan Washburn seems to have been taken by surprise.

    I know “censorship” is unpopular, but many professional forums ban the discussion of politics and religion because experience has taught them that those topics, which have nothing to do with the profession, eventually lead to incidents like this. Despite what you hear, social networks have never been self-policing, just as rental units are not self-managing.

    Food for thought.

  19. Jim Duncan

    May 23, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    @ Frank –

    I just read a few minutes’ worth over there and my thoughts on it are simple –

    That is exactly why I tell people to own their own respective domains and content.

    For a starter, go here.

    The AR folks are writing under someone else’s rules; there’s nothing wrong with that, but people should understand that going in. If they don’t, that’s really their fault.

  20. BawldGuy Talking

    May 23, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    What’s the priority of the typical agent putting their listings on sites like this one?

    And there’s the rub.

    I thought the listing contract said the agent was to do their best to sell the dang house. In return, they get paid a check with 4-5 figures before hitting the decimal point. The contract doesn’t mention the agent’s God given right to pimp the listing for the most new leads possible.

    Wanna know why the public thinks ill of house agents? There lies much of the answer.

    If your seller asks you why you didn’t use that cool new site they saw on agentgenius, are you gonna tell them the truth? That it doesn’t generate enough leads for YOU? Really?

    The seller lists with the agent of their choosing ‘cuz they think that agent will sell their home for the most money in the shortest time. I’m guessin’ here, but the smart money’s on the thinking saying your seller wasn’t considering your lead generation as a factor in their listing decision. Ya think?

    Get the damn home sold — the leads will come. Especially in today’s market, why would an agent even pause if they believed a site might remotely have a chance of getting their listings sold? It’s beyond me.

    Oh, and FSBO’s? For Heaven’s sake, list the damn things in your area. Duh! What’s the difference between the old days when they nearly dominated the Sunday classifieds, and being on these sites? Zilch, zip, nada. Sack up and list them. Eliminating competition is the path leading to the slipperiest slope of all.

    The 4 top priorities for a listing agent are as follows, IMHO:

    1. Get the listing sold.
    2. Get the listing sold.
    3. Get the listing sold.
    4. Generate leads for future business.

    I’ll admit I was never on M.I.T.’s recruiting shortlist, but I know what my sellers expect from me when they sign a listing. Hint: It’s not providing me with more leads.

  21. Jonathan Dalton

    May 23, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    > These sites will proliferate until the consumer is satisfied and all of the information is available – one-stop.

    But all the information isn’t available in one stop, Vicki. The IDX feeds aren’t complete. There are choices made as to what information is sent and what isn’t. For instance, despite my constant requests, I can’t filter REO properties because the needed field isn’t part of the local MLS’ IDX feed.

    So what you end up with is a collection of sites, all with incomplete information, and even with all of the incomplete information from multiple sources you never get all the information.

    > If your seller asks you why you didn’t use that cool new site they saw on agentgenius, are you gonna tell them the truth?

    I’d probably tell them that the cool new site has limited viewership and a limited return, Jeff … which, as I read it, is mostly a waste of breath. If it’s easy enough to upload, then I’ll do it. If it takes too much time to do, I probably won’t.

    One of the better aspects of the Point-2-Agent platform is the syndication of listings to a number of different sources.

    One last thing – I don’t look askew at the listing aggregators because I want the buyers leads from my listings to come to me. I look askew at them because I want the buyers to come to me directly. This likely still will happen on my niche sites like Westbrook Village Real Estate. which rules the roost on Google. But I’m not as thrilled about the notion of competiton when that competiton is being fueled by my listings. My own listings being used against me is less than cool.

    Same reason I don’t bother with AR … the Google Juice is cool but it’s fueled by my content. So now that I left, I’m competing with an AR profile from someone using a platform that I helped build (in a miniscule way) with my own content.

    We’re creating our own competition, kids.

  22. BawldGuy Talking

    May 23, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    I get your point, Jonathan, but I wonder if sellers reading this thread are wondering why agents are upset? The sellers might wonder why they’re upset about avoiding ‘competition’ but not that their listings aren’t selling. I’m not directing this to you, ‘cuz I know your batting average relative to your competition.

    That said, sellers will ask the tough question: Is my agent more concerned about the quick sale of my home at the highest price possible? Or are they more distracted by ensuring their competition isn’t getting one up on them?

    Reading this thread, there’s not much doubt what answer they’re getting.

  23. Bill Lublin

    May 23, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    @ jonathan – try filtering the remarks field with the words corporate addenda required you might find REO stuff – It works for me.

    @bawldguy – I love the list of priorities for the listing agent – but you gotta admit that its tough to provide someone (not these folks for whom I have good wishes) with the stock to put in their store, and then be charged for the privilege of using it- I think that’s where people get twisted up – And the flip side argument might be that the people who inquire on our company’s site are introduced to our company’s properties as early as practical. If they go to someone else’s site, they may never have them promoted by in the most beneficial manner. – Maybe yes, Maybe no, but its a thought!

  24. Ines

    May 23, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    I get what you are saying – but if we spend all day including listings in all kinds of different sites, when do we get time to actually sell real estate? I just received a really nice e-mail from Gia Freer explaining that once the feed is there, the agent does not have to manually input it. Now THAT’s what I’m talking about.

    They are also smart enough to offer something in return for providing those feeds. I’m all for exposing our listings to as many sites as possible, but not for having to make updates to 30 different sites every time there’s a minor change.

  25. BawldGuy Talking

    May 23, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Bill — I appreciate your thoughts, but as usual, I must be behind the home agent curve here.

    If the point is to sell the property, and the site assists the agent in that endeavor, why does the agent balk? The site charges money?! OMG! What next, the agent charges his sellers when escrow closes? What will they think of next, capitalism?

    Sure, it’s their store, and they’re getting your listing sold. That’s why they’re in business. That’s the part I’m missing. So what? Isn’t selling listings the point of it all? Are these sites supposed to model the Red Cross? Are they real estate’s version of the Peace Core, helping poor agents everywhere?

    The client is king, not agents. It’s our clients for whom we work and who pay us for RESULTS. They care not a whit about our marketing costs, lead generation, etc. They hired us to sell their property, period.

    If this conversation is being read by potential home sellers, I wonder what they’d have to say?

    We already know, don’t we? It appears many agents are putting the emphasis on the wrong syl-LA-ble.

  26. Bill Lublin

    May 23, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Jeff – I don’t disagree with any point you made – and as someone made the point earlier, I think the ship has sailed on this whole issue- I guess its the old timey me wanting to be the advocate for my seller everywhere, not on the second string (sigh) I guess I’ll get over it 😉

  27. BawldGuy Talking

    May 23, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Bill — Excellent point. Since this is Lani’s post, I’ll use a baseball analogy, rare indeed.

    Closed escrows are RBI’s (runs batter in) as that’s how we know who wins. Runs scored/closed escrows.

    Yet, sometimes it requires a hitter to give himself up by bunting for a sure out, which allows a runner(s) to move into ‘scoring’ position. If the next hitter comes through with a solid hit, the run(s) score, moving the team closer to another win.

    The next time you see a baseball game where a hitter successfully executes a sacrifice bunt, watch what happens when he returns to the dugout. The entire team is waiting to offer congrats and props for taking one for the team.

    Putting your seller’s listing on a site leveraging it for others’ benefit is a small price to pay for selling the home.

    Seller’s tend to respect agents with high RBI totals. Knocking in runs IS the name of the game, right? Sometimes a sacrifice is required to get them into scoring position.

    Lani’s rollin’ her eyes as she reads this. 🙂

  28. Frank Jewett

    May 23, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    The part that is being missed is when the Terms of Use allow the aggregator to take control, edit, modify, and resell the listing without the consent of the listing agent or the property owner. To paint aggregators merely as helpful sales facilitators is to miss the bigger picture entirely. The newspaper may also help you sell the listing, but they didn’t have the nerve to resell your listing to other channels.

    You might want to review Zillow’s Terms of Use more carefully. Giving up complete control of your listing seems like a significant price to pay for the “help” Zillow provides.

  29. BawldGuy Talking

    May 23, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Frank — Let me continue my one-act pony gig. 🙂

    Giving up complete control? If the listing sells, and enough have to or agents wouldn’t be using them as much, the agent makes money. Big time money.

    A $300,000 listing commission @ 3% is $9,000.

    I’ll take the $9,000 and they can have control. Works for me. It also works for the seller.

    Oh yeah, the seller. 🙂

  30. Matthew Rathbun

    May 23, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    Frank, I think the point about Terms of Use is a great point…and one that I honestly hadn’t thought of. I went and explored the terms issue. It looks like the abstract of the statement is that the listing agent may enhance, yet not modify the core data. So, brining data from IDX cannot be altered, but an end user (my wife has signed up) can add photos, videos etc…

    I didn’t read in the terms of use to say that anyone else can modify this information. This is just like the idx agreement for the agents personal website

    Thanks for pushing me to research this a bit more. Looks like I need to help my wife read some other services terms a bit better.

    Great point!

  31. Frank Jewett

    May 23, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    BawldGuy Talking, last year most listings on Zillow didn’t sell. Call it a sign of the times rather than a reflection on Zillow. The problem comes when the listing expires and another agent picks it up, but you are still “advertising” that listing on Zillow. If the other agent complains to the MLS, you get fined. If you complain to Zillow, they tell you they own the listing. This has happened to actual Zillow users.

    Matthew, here is the section of Zillow’s Terms of Use that caught my attention, from section 3:

    …you grant Zillow an irrevocable, perpetual, worldwide license to (1) use, copy, distribute, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, reproduce, edit, modify, and translate your Submission, in connection with the Services or in any other media, and (2) sublicense these rights, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law.

    “Irrevocable” and “perpetual” imply that you cannot remove the listing from Zillow without their consent.

    “Edit” and “modify” imply that Zillow can make changes to the listing without your consent.

    “Sublicense” implies that Zillow can resell your listing to anyone, anywhere without your consent.

    Seems to me like you are giving up complete control of the listing when you post it to Zillow because you agree to the Terms of Use when you post the listing to Zillow.

    Sorry for hijacking the thread. ReelSeekr obviously has an opportunity to provide a better solution for agents by respecting their need to have reasonable control over the listing. I wouldn’t have a problem with ReelSeekr sublicensing the listing to other aggregators, provided they disclosed all of those aggregators (some online systems refuse to disclose, citing “confidentiality agreements”), get permission from the agent (or homeowner, if FSBO), preserve the agent’s rights with regard to the listing (i.e. if you sell it to Zillow, their unfair TOS do not apply), and agree to transmit removal instructions to all sublicensees in a timely fashion (no more “Flying Dutchman” listings that sail on forever).

    Am I being unreasonable? I’m simply trying to protect the agent, since every aggregator I have ever seen has placed all responsibility on the agent, even if the agent didn’t know they had the listing. I ask you, how is that fair?

  32. Frank Jewett

    May 23, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Here are the Terms of Use for ReelSeekr as of today:

    You grant to REALSEEKR a non-exclusive, world-wide, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable license to reproduce, distribute, display, perform, and create derivative works and compilations of, the content you provide on the Sites. This license applies to REALSEEKR’s use of your content on the Internet, and in any other medium now known or discovered in the future. You grant REALSEEKR the right to sublicense these rights to others, and to grant others the right to sublicense these rights.

    It appears that REELSEEKR can resell (sublicense) your listing to anyone, anywhere, without your permission. Not only that, REELSEEKR can resell the right to resell your listing, so all the sublicensees can resell your listing. Your listing could end up on dozens of aggregators, all with their own Terms of Use, all claiming that you are solely responsible for the second, third, or fourth hand listing information, just from posting your listing on REELSEEKR.

    Do those terms seem fair to any of the brokers and agents in the audience?

    Why can’t the agent retain control of the listing?

  33. Matthew Rathbun

    May 23, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    Frank, I don’t think anyone felt hijacked. You’ve brought up some great points that we can all noodle over. I don’t speak for AG, but I am glad that folks like you make folks like me think about other angles.

    Those Zillow terms bring up some very interesting concerns.

    Everyone has their own bias when they read comments, but no, I don’t think you’re being unreasonable.

  34. Matthew Rathbun

    May 23, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Frank,

    I suppose (understand that I am not on any of these payrolls) my thoughts would be that the agent does have control through their broker. Most MLS require a broker to give permission for their firm’s listings to be shared via IDX. In the MLS system that is in use in Northern Virginia the MLS possess the right to release the IDX to whomever they want. So… ultimately most brokers do have control over the listings, but it’s all or nothing!

    I suppose I would be ok with the trade off of allowing an aggregator permission to give more exposure to my listing, in exchange for free marketing; so long as they didn’t actually alter the data that I entered into MLS.

  35. Ines

    May 23, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    I will play devil’s advocate here for a second (after Baldguy had his say)

    Just last week, we showed up to do a walk-through for one of our rental listings (tenant already approved and turning the key) and when Rick showed up the tenant asked who he was. Rick identified himself as the listing agent and the man went ballistic! His agent had put our listing on Craigslist under his name and the tenant found out the day of the walk-through that the listing was not his.

    Of course we were upset that this man was using our listings to get business and was not open about the transaction – but ultimately, he got the place rented – the job completed and the owner was happy.

    There’s a right and a wrong way to use other agents’ listings which would benefit everyone involved – they just have to be open and honest about it.

  36. Frank Jewett

    May 23, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    Matthew, I have no problem with the MLS licensing listings to aggregators. I see no earthly reason why those aggregators should be allowed to turn around and sublicense those listings to any Tom, Dick, or Harry who creates a website. Again, this is nothing against REALSEEKR. Insiders like Gia and Grant are far more likely to understand these issues than interlopers with publishing models.

    The problem I have with sublicensing is that you might decide in your fiduciary capacity that it is in the best interests of your clients to place their listing on REALSEEKR and not on Zillow, but if REALSEEKR sublicenses that listing to Zillow, your fiduciary capacity has been compromised by someone else making the choice to place your listing on Zillow. Your judgement and advice have been marginalized.

    I suspect the sublicensing clause does not apply to MLS feeds or brokerage feeds because I don’t think MLS systems and brokers would refuse to give up control of where their listings could be published. If that hunch is correct, then the published Terms of Use are merely being used to catch unsuspecting agents who post their own listings. I look forward to reading Gia and Grant’s thoughts.

  37. Jonathan Dalton

    May 23, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    Bill – there are a few phrases that might help filter for REOs but it would be much, much, much easier if the Miscellaneous field (which contains “Lender Owned Property” was on the IDX feed.

    Jeff – as we discussed this afternoon, I’m not necessarily upset. I’m sorta bored. And feeling a bit stretched in needing to keep up with all of these sites that do essentially the same thing. Adding a live chat isn’t the most spectacular differentiator. Neither is being designed by agents.

    If this site somehow helps a listing sell, beautiful. Very happy. Short of that, it’s just another example of a site with no value-added content of its own hoping to make some cash with other people’s listings.

  38. Benn Rosales

    May 24, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Regardless of what any of us may think or feel about realseekr or any other outlet of this kind, the listing and buying consumer will still be there with or without us. If any of our thoughts mattered on this subject to the consumer they would never list or shop anywhere else but their mls.

    Everything that has been said here today matters to the listing agents, I can agree with that, but the problem is, the selling consumer doesn’t care if their home is listed on 500 sites as long as everyone can see it no matter where they are- I suspect buyers might even buy it if they could skip the dilemmas of the local Realtor- who wants or buys this type of drama? I guess those that enjoy a great tabloid display that is only worth something for as long as it’s being read- otherwise it’s dog mess paper or bird cage liner.

    I am beginning to wonder if the problem is really the media centers the consumers are enjoying or is it our mindset? I guess one only has to look at the dramatic levels of traffic these sites enjoy for the real answer.

  39. Paula Henry

    May 24, 2008 at 10:00 am

    This is a great debate – I personally see both sides. I chose NOT to put my listings on Zillow in the beginning, because of their “terms of use”, lack of control over my listing and the fact you can never remove information or a listing.

    Did it matter? No! ReMax of Indiana decided to put all their listings on Zillow. Once they do, a buyer has to sign in at the ReMax site to obtain more information. To publish as much useful information to the buyer, I have to go back to Zillow to edit or claim my listing. As Ines said, it takes a considerable amount of time to enhance your listings at all these sites. I, too, use vFlyer, Point 2 and Real Estate Shows to syndicate my listings.

    Buyers are looking for information, it’s what they want and if they have to browse several sites, they get frustrated. According to the NAR statistics, the last thing a buyer is looking for is agent contact information. We have to give them information and prove our value is not based on being the keeper of information.

    As a listing agent, it is my job to get the home sold. As such, I did sign up at RealSeekrs. I don’t believe my sellers care where the buyer comes from, as long as they get there.

    The bonus for me, is, there is a link out there for buyers and sellers to connect directly to my sites. This provides an opportunity for them to research me as an agent, when they are ready.

  40. Jonathan Dalton

    May 24, 2008 at 10:58 am

    > dramatic levels of traffic these sites enjoy

    I’m not so sure the majority of them enjoy dramatic levels of traffic. That’s the thing.

    Stepping aside from the debate over the pros and cons of listing aggregators, what I’m left with is this basic thought – did we need another one of these sites? Is it filling any niche that already had not been covered a dozen different other ways? Is it going to provide value to the consumer or just add to the confusion that comes from incomplete info across a dozen or more sites?

  41. Bill Lublin

    May 24, 2008 at 11:15 am

    @Jonathan – You know that I’m not nuts about putting ANYONE between agents and consumers, and therefore am not crazy about the whole concept of aggregators. And I think if we (the industry) had not been asleep at the switch) we wouldn’t have allowed people who have neither produce nor customers to eat our lunch (or at the very least take the potato chips off the tray)

    Stepping aside from the debate over the pros and cons of listing aggregators, what I’m left with is this basic thought – did we need another one of these sites?

    Having said that, in answer to your question of course we need another one of these – because this is a business opportunity for the Freer’s, and if they are creative enough, and work hard enough and spend the time, they deserve to make the most of the opportunity they create.
    We really do live in the best country in the world IMHO, and if this is an opportunity for them to advance themselves, I would say Go for it! – At least my potato chips might end up in the hands of someone from our industry… Amd Thanks for the opportunity to make a Memorial Day Holiday Plug, I’m feelin Uber-Patriotic this weekend 🙂

  42. Jonathan Dalton

    May 24, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Can’t argue with that logic, Bill …

  43. Benn Rosales

    May 25, 2008 at 9:07 am

    @Bill I thank you for redirecting this thread back to the spirit in which this review was written. G&G knew they would meet some controversy, but besides being a business opportunity, they’ve put their complaints about realtor.com to action and produced a product from the agents perspective- that takes moxy in this crazy world (putting your heart and soul where your mouth is). You said if they invest- and they have, and still are and have gone so far this week to investigate every comment in this thread with their team to make adjustments where needed to address agent concerns. I think many here will find that they’re beyond willing to listen and adapt (unlike other sites that just make excuses) and we will see evidence of that first hand this coming week.

    again, thanks Bill

  44. Frank Jewett

    May 26, 2008 at 12:05 am

    Gia and Grant, you may want to submit RealSeekr here: https://www.1000wattconsulting.com/web2.0/

  45. John Perkins

    May 11, 2011 at 3:12 am

    It appears as though RealSeekr.com has gone out of business.

    • Lani Rosales

      May 11, 2011 at 9:01 am

      John, this review was written in 2008 and a lot has changed since then. From what I understand, RealSeekr.com structure and bones still exists but has been shelved temporarily. If I was a venture capitalist, I'd inject it with money and watch it take off! 🙂

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Housing News

Avoid Blah-Blah Conversation With This Voicemail Cloaking Device

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Please Dear Lord, Don’t Let Them Pick Up, So I Can Leave A Voice Mail and Make A Quick Get Away.

You know those times when you have to return a phone call, share an update, remind someone about something?  And those times where there’s no getting around it, you have to make the call and deliver your message, but you’re short on time, patience, courage, or ___________?

Guess What? I Have Good News For You.

There’s an App. for that, and it’s called SlyDial.  At the Inman Reboot event in HoustonChris with TechSavvyAgent dropped this cloaking device on us.  Basically, SlyDial is a clever smart phone tool.

SlyDial allows you to make a call from your cell phone to their cell phone, but their cell phone won’t ring. Instead of their phone ringing, SlyDial lets you dial directly into their voice mail, and leave a message. Yeah, that’s right, call directly into their voice mail, and their phone doesn’t ring. Check it out, it probably works on your smart phone.

You can get more details and info here.  The App. is free and straight forward.  It looks like the picture below when it’s launched on the iPhone4.

It’s that simple.  Good luck with it.  I was wondering in which situations you’d use something like this?

Thanks for reading.  Cheers.

Photo Credit

PS.  fyi, I don’t work for, nor am I in any way associated with, employed by, or even know anyone at SlyDial.  In other words, there’s nothing in for me by saying nice things about SlyDial, except the pleasure of telling you about a tool you might find handy.

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Product Review

New Realtor.com iPhone App

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Realtor.com launched their new iPhone application and gave a few of us the chance to play with it and tear it to pieces before the launch (maybe they didn’t quite put it that way, but it’s the way I’m approaching it).

When I first open these new apps, I always think of the intent and this one is pretty obvious.  The Realtor.com iphone app iss totally and completely designed with the end consumer in mind (sorry Realtors if you thought it could be about you).  It’s about providing the latest property information in the quickest, easiest and most user friendly fashion possible.

When you open the app, a home screen gives you several options, including searching for nearby homes for sale, nearby open houses or perform a new search by location or MLS ID.  You can allow for the app to use your current location and it actually gives you nearby listings currently for sale (also giving you the option to narrow down your criteria).  This can be really cool if you are driving in a neighborhood and just want to get property information without having to even get out of the car or make a phone call.  (Bad for agents that rely on the client to actually make that call to capture their business).

Realtor.com iphone app screen shot

You can view a map option or a list option of properties and are able to actually click on any given one and get detailed information, not only on the property, but also the listing agent and the brokerage (very similar to what you see on Realtor.com).  You can scroll through photos of the listing and turn the phone to get bigger photos and you can save the property and include notes to go with it.

Realtor.com iPhone app screenshot

What’s even more fascinating is the option to contact the listing agent on the spot.  You can call them by clicking on their telephone number, you can email them,  visit their site and add them to your contacts.  (I know I’m an over achiever, but wouldn’t it be cool if you could tweet or facebook them as well?).

Realtor.com iphone application
My favorite feature is the “drive around and use your location” to find listings – but you can also enter an address for a particular listing and/or its surrounding competitors and even enter the MLS number.

Great move on Realtor.com to empower the consumer.  Personally, an educated consumer is the best one in my book, but here’s the beef many will have…You can now say “Buh Bye” to Buyers’ Agents, with this app, listing agents will have the upper hand – this will give quick and easy information to the local consumer (not the end for those buyers agents that work with absentee and relocating clients).

Problem?

I can now see me getting bombarded by calls from people who “forget” to tell me they are working with another agent and just wanted quick info.  I can also see my clients calling other agents just because their information was handy.  We’ll just have to see how this extra communication tool will evolve….it could be detrimental for many.

The question of who does Realtor.com work for will inevitably come up.  Many will criticize this as a tool of disintermediation, but if we are smart, we will not only know how to use this information in our favor, but we will welcome it with open arms.  I do wonder if it could be possible to personalize this particular iphone app for a fee so that Realtors can offer it to their clients (of course I would try to come up with a win-win for everyone).

For now it’s time for everyone to make sure their contact information is correct on their listings, and especially Realtor.com.  Listing agents will have the ability to answer inquiries on the spot, staying above the competition with customer service always at the top of the priority list.

And for the record, I’m not associated with Realtor.com, so feel free to kill it if you have the itch.

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Product Review

Desktop Analytics – Polaris

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Keeping Track

polaris2 I’m a big fan of keeping a pulse on the health of my blogs and sites.  Polaris has released a desktop application that allows you to keep track of your Google Analytics, on your desktop. 

The free version only allows monitoring from one account, while the $15/year version will allow multiple accounts.

The system features are very easy to setup and it works on the AIR installation system, which most of us already have with the Twitter apps.  It was quick to download and install. 

 

Polaris shows total visits, pageviews, activities by date, visits statistics and tons more.  Essentially anything that you would benefit from in Google Analytics, but on the desktop.

newpolaris

The current product is cool, but the company is also advertising some interesting upcoming products.

    • Dopac
      • Dopac is our flagship web analytics solution that brings Google Analytics to your desktop with a host of new features and possibilities. Based on the success and experience of our previously released beta product, the “Google Analytics Reporting Suite”, Dopac takes the original experience to the next level and brings a lot of new concepts to the table.
    • Rayet
      • Rayet is our strange kid on the block. It’s experimental, funky and fun!
        With Rayet we are aiming to make web analytics reporting smarter. Instead of generating a lot of good looking graphs and charts Rayet will cut to the chase and analyze your data for you. Rayet will give you suggestions on how to improve your website experience based on the analytical data available. By comparing different time samples it will tell what works and what doesn’t. Being in very early development there’s currently no release date planned yet.
    • Phobia
      • Phobia is made for one single purpose; impress your boss, client or anyone else you need to suck up to. It gives you data ownership by allowing you to export or synchronize your data in any given format. Anything from smart looking spreadsheets, pretty PDF’s or entertaining presentations is entirely possible! More info on features and release will be up here soon.

       

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