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HouseLogic – An Inside View of The NAR’s New Consumer Engine

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NAR Takes Back Its Position

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The National Association of Realtors’ new consumer engine is one of the most well thought out concepts in recent or distant memory.  HouseLogic seeks to be a Resource not found elsewhere on the web, helping consumers improve and maintain the value of their home, providing resources and cost savings in the process- the “Mint.com for homeowners”, says Jim Duncan.

Partnered with notable names such as the Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, and This Old House, HouseLogic is already populated with articles and resources for consumers to learn and to maintain their investments, as well as set goals, and it has a points and badge rewards section to give weekend warriors a pat on the back, thus marking cost savings and achievement, all sharable on Facebook.

What was clever of the Association was to seek out the designers of mega sites like Target and IKEA, to overcome possible criticism of the user experience, as well as more than ten consumer focus groups on the type of materials that would be most helpful to them.  They also sought the opinions of Realtors throughout the process, making it clear in the initial presentation that thousands of consumers and thousands of Realtors were asked their opinions so that the Association could deliver a product with broad appeal.

The Association of Realtors also seeks to be the Library of Congress to both home buyers and sellers with all of the resources imaginable on the subject in an attempt to be “all you need to know to be a smart home buyer and seller.”

The Association also put a lot of research into the Realtor side of the equation, noting that all of the information on the site is “select and sharable” through Microsoft Word, Widgets, Email, thus saving the average Realtor $400.00 a year in the purchase of canned consumer content.

Sounds great, right?  There’s more!

We’ve (Agent Genius) been saying for a very long time that the Association needs to get more consumer focused, as have many others within the online space.  What makes this most interesting is that in the past, real estate professionals have been reminded time and again that the Association is member centric, and finally that is no longer the case.  The Association’s goal is to bridge Realtors with consumers in an attempt to maintain the brand relationship with consumers they’ve enjoyed for over 100 years.

Interestingly enough, there is no doubt in my mind that the Association truly sees an opportunity in meeting the consumer head on because the truth is that with this new engine, the Association can now convert what was 1.1 million members into that plus 10 million consumers to bear on Washington initiatives and projects aimed at furthering the dream of home ownership.  The website is equipped to teach you and your consumer how to build grass roots efforts locally as well as equip them with the tools and know-how to lobby congress along side the National Association of Realtors in the name of advocacy.

The website is equipped with mechanisms to build not only membership for consumers, but also collect valuable data points on consumers just like any big media company, and without a doubt, it is a media company with a political arm, and it is clear and transparent about the effort in being a partner with consumers.

The strategy, and position is straight out of the movies, but real enough to take on Wall Street, make no mistake about it.  Its initial beta release to the public is November 12, 2009, and the hard launch is set for sometime in February.

Where I think the Association is tied down is to the reality that on paper and point and click, this project has all of the hallmarks of a successful brand, but plagued by antiquated practitioners that do not operate anywhere near the level of its online face, because at the end of the day, the transaction happens on the ground in real time, and in real life.

And then there’s the past

Which brings me to the Realtor’s Property Resouce, also known as the RPR . Can the National Association rise above it’s image of a monopoly?  James Hagerty, blogging for the Wall Street Journal points out the stigma the brand has in his recent article “Realtors, Wary of Zillow, Build Their Own Data Tool” in reference to the RPR and HouseLogic, noting:

Realtors are fighting back against the idea that consumers might be able to use the Internet to bypass them.

And he’s right.  The National Association of Realtors brought a tank to a knife fight because interest in the RPR is high from heads of Fannie, Freddie and others who have noted that a tool of RPR’s nature would have been useful not only to them, but to consumers in the run up to the housing crisis, putting competitors on notice that the Realtor brand has been here for years, and has no intention of backing down.  The Second Century initiative as it’s called plants that flag…

But then there are those pesky consumers:

Real estate agents have less and less to offer with each passing year. They need to find a business model that will let them be profitable on a 1-2% commission basis.
NAR is so incompetent that if I ran Zillow, I would be laughing.

…………

The world will be a better place when they’re all gone. Their entire “profession” is built on nothing. They make 6-7% to take pictures and show people houses. Why is the mortgage industry under such regulation now for the 1-2% they make on a transaction but nobody is questioning the 6-7% realtors make?

…………

I cannot find any realtor with ANY value to add beyond what I can readily do better myself. Listing realtors don’t sell apparently – buyers agents do (what a crock). When asked what justifies the $10,000+ commission I hear pricing advise (not for me but to expedite their commission) and help with paperwork (especially their exclusive listing ball and chain) except that they point out they are not lawyers – so you’ll need one anyway!

………..

Comment notes from the Wall Street Journal Blog post.

The Association has a lot more work to do, but I think they have a credible plan.  The ‘Realtors Valuation Model’ as it’s called will absolutely compete in the online space against reportedly failed AVMs that force valuations that are off by 20 to 30% to reside on consumer property websites, often competing with the seller asking price, and in others, propping up the sellers asking price.  This pricing inconsistency provides the perfect gap (or seam) for the Association to play, and why not?

Questions we predict will be raised in the coming days:

  1. What is RPR and HouseLogic costing the NAR? What is the total investment in each project?
  2. How will revenue from media placement be distributed?
  3. What is the timeframe for HouseLogic to be sold to a third party or are there guarantees HouseLogic will remain in the control of the Association?
  4. What is the strategy to bring Realtors up to the level of its online brand?
  5. What are the short term and long term strategies for overcoming consumer perception?

If you haven’t seen HouseLogic.com yet and would like access, the beta code is 57dearborn.


AgentGenius.com is not affiliated in any way with HouseLogic.com or the National Association of Realtors, nor has AG been approached to review HouseLogic, nor was AG invited to last week’s HouseLogic webinar put on by NAR and although we knew five days in advance of the launch, we have respected the wishes of the embargo.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Ken Montville

    November 10, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    In the reader comments box from the Wall Street Journal Blog, I hear a lot of the same complaints that have been coming from disgruntled consumers for ages. I wish someone had a magic wand they could pass over these consumers to show them in “Christmas Carol” style what the past, present and future looks like.

    I am not familiar with House Logic or RPR to be able to form an opinion. Surely, any technological innovation that can provide *accurate* and understandable information to consumers is preferable. My experience with such innovations to date is that they are lacking the depth of knowledge about specific, geographic-centric market places. Additionally, they assume that all consumers are examples of the “rational man” economists trot out to try and explain their models of human economic behavior. Such, “rational men” always act in a certain way in the face of certain evidence/information.

    This doesn’t work. Human emotion gets in the way.

    There is no questions that Realtors need to adapt to changing technological innovations but (and this is a big “but”, IMHO) only to better serve real life human beings (i.e., home buyers and home sellers) that are not adapting and have no inclination to adapt and will still depend on the advice and knowledge of reputable professionals. AKA: person-to-person contact.

    • Benn Rosales

      November 10, 2009 at 2:24 pm

      Ken, eloquently put. I’ve given you a headstart on houslogic, the wsj pretty much sums up what the RPR will do that matters to consumers, but RPR is so much more, but I’m reserving my thoughts on it because I’m not hands on with it yet.

  2. Jim Duncan

    November 10, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Where I think the Association is tied down is to the reality that on paper and point and click, this project has all of the hallmarks of a successful brand, but plagued by antiquated practitioners that do not operate anywhere near the level of its online face, because at the end of the day, the transaction happens on the ground in real time, and in real life.

    And this is the most salient point; the best tools in the world can be wasted on the people who are ostensibly using it. On the other hand, for those Realtors who are capable of using this, and the RPR doesn’t charge for access/use, this could be a tremendous tool.

    Further, there’s an interesting (although clearly not direct) parallel … if the Wall Street Journal really does take their information from Google

  3. Fred Romano

    November 10, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Fancy website but I am not sure how much use it will get from the public. I don’t think (as a homeowner) I would use it.

  4. Doug Francis

    November 10, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Man, that site looks great!

    But, I have found that 40% of my clients never do much to their homes other than routine maintenance. When they call to say “we’re moving” and I see essentially the same place they bought years ago, I can’t believe it. Maybe 20% are really into fixing up their places, and the houselogic.com site seems targeted to those who are willing to read rather than look at snappy pictures. Okay, I’ll say it: Engineers!

    My test ride showed a very contemporary picture of people likes, and we all know how quickly styles change. So this is going to require massive maintenance since they are quoting estimated prices for things like “cork flooring”. I guess my “Ask Norm” books now look totally obsolete.

    The other item that I notice missing is… ads from Target, IKEA and This Old House. Maybe that future widget on my site will have a 10 second ad before the content is available?

    • Benn Rosales

      November 10, 2009 at 10:05 pm

      If this were true, I think HGTV (also a partner) would be out of business, which was wise as I always thought it would in fact be hgtv that did what houselogic is doing, or wait, maybe there internal modeling told them it wouldn’t work? I guess time will tell 😉

  5. Mike Bowler Sr.

    November 10, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Looks like an interesting concept that will generate good public relations. A few concerns or questions I would have would be:
    1.Bringing our members into the 21st century to adapt to changing technological tools like , social media, DocBox forms online systems, electronic signatures etc.?
    2. What will assure a system like this won’t end up turning into just another Realtor.com?
    3. What will assure membership that advertising won’t be sold to 3rd parties who will join the crowd selling our business back to us. (3rd party relocation etc)
    Other than that, I like change and innovation. Mike

  6. Jeff Chambers

    November 12, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    The design is clean, but on first glance the content looks very thin. I would have expected a whole lot more content from names that big. I also don’t get the concept of “badges”? What are they good for? I’d rather see a site that was more personalized to me / my house that I could tag items, set alerts, warranty info, etc and actually get value from – rather than another real estate voyeurism site — that market has already been cornered.

    I’m also concerned that in their screen shot they are showing actual $ amounts of savings and value added for projects. This is going to give people more mis-information not based on THEIR market conditions and the 100 other variables that go into the estimation of the value added (or subtracted) for a given project. Again this is another arbitrary number assigned to real estate — this market is also cornered.

    I guess to sum it up — I expect more from the organization that is responsible for governing the ethics and is the voice of responsibility for the real estate world.

  7. Fred Romano

    November 13, 2009 at 9:09 am

    I take back my last comment… I have been checking the site out and the “member” section too… not bad and there may be a lot of useful info which I can use on my own website.

  8. Juan

    November 19, 2009 at 1:27 am

    It does say ‘beta’ at the top right? A site with this much content takes a while to perfect. I’m excited that there is a new, reliable, accurate, and FREE, resource on the internet for this information. Too often when i google for home ownership topics, i end up on some message board where people are fighting about irrelevant details. I will definitely bookmark this site, and I hope it gets updated often!

  9. Christopher

    November 19, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    I actually really like the site. I was a slow adopter only seeing it at the conference, but I think it has the potential to be a great go to site. Content really needs to be seeded but it is well on its way to being the ultimate resource. Really easy to use. Benn- didn’t see it named, but doing some sleuthy work – NAR got HUGE to do the site right? Great choice- got to go to quality to get quality. Now if only HUGE could address a lot of our individual sites, that would be massive.

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