Category Archives: Technology

Zillow and Trulia VS. Brokerage Sites for Real Estate Data Accuracy

Breaking News – WAV Group Releases Accuracy of Real Estate Websites

I’ve written on how poor a job Zillow and Trulia do in data accuracy of what is actually for sale in the marketplace.  A study released today from the WAV Group outlines just how bad the problem is.

The study looked at the percent of agent listed homes on Redfin, Long & Foster, Windermere, Trulia, and Zillow.  The brokerages were 100% correct in the market study area outlined in the report.  Trulia was 81% and Zillow was 79%.

Secondly the brokerage sites show newly listed homes 7 to 9 days faster than Trulia and Zillow.

You can read or download the full report here which was sponsored by REDFIN (Press Release).

 

Zillow Announces Agent Websites

Zillow announced a WordPress Premier agent website for $10.00 per month  yesterday.  Another part of the scheme to suck agents into using Zillow services.

I have spoken to the Realtor.com people for some time about offering something similar with no results. Shame on you as they had the technology to offer the same thing in a industry friendly format.

Imagine having a site created and set up to do everything you dreamed and expected a website could and should do? Cultivate traffic, provide value to clients, capture prospects and contacts, convert Internet-generated leads into clients, track and manage your relationships, and so much more. No programming skills or tech-savvy expertise required! The Premier Agent Website comes with easy-to-modify designs, simple customization, plus complimentary online training and support.

The move is smart and affordable including search via IDX.  My assumption is that it’s powered by Diverse Solutions with MLS IDX data feeds.  I will write more about this when I’ve had the time to look at the system they are using.

I’m sure many agents will find this attractive, but all should consider building the most important web hub on something they have complete control over, not relying on Zillow or your Company web site.  Your web site should serve as a hub of your on-line marketing efforts with Facebook, Google +, and other outlets driving traffic back to your web site or blog.

For those that embrace this newest carrot consider Zillow and the real estate seller’s ability to list their home for sale on Zillow without a Realtor, or offer a commission to the selling agent.

Go ahead, have Zillow provide your website, CRM, and lead generation – they do have your best interests at heart.

Right?

 

Reasons For Sandicor’s Consumer Facing Website

Today I was at the San Diego Associaton of REALTORS® expo and stopped by the Sandicor booth to meet Ray Ewing the President and CEO.

After speaking to real estate agents involved in Sandicor committee work, no one seemed to have an answer why Sandicor felt the need for the public facing website.  I was curious to know why such a decision was made in the dark hallways with so little membership input.

Mr. Ewing was very polite and spoke to me regarding the reasoning behind the move for the public facing site in our brief meeting.

Mr. Ewing stated that it was partially a recommendation of a consultant group that was hired and secondly the wish to help the local real estate brokerages do better on Google against Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com.  He stated there were no major brokerages on first page search results and he felt the public site would pull readership from the 3rd party syndicators.  He also mentioned the ability to clearly identify the listing agent/broker, and the accuracy of the data provided.  Funny how Realtor.com gets lumped into this argument when they are as accurate at the MLS feeds.

Doing a Google search today for “San Diego Homes For Sale” found the following ranking not including pay per click advertisements.  While no major real estate franchise showed up on first page several agents or smaller brokerages did from years of building effective SEO sites.

These people/companies are the true losers now having to compete with their own MLS.

  • Trulia at number one.
  • Zillow at number five.
  • Sandicor at number six.
  • Craig’s list at #7
  • Realtor.com at #8

Second page results turned up Redfin and Century 21 franchise, 3rd page Ziprealty, and 5th page Prudential California Realty.  Mr. Ewing is correct that most major brokerages have done a poor job with good organic search results, but failed to recognize the hundreds of smaller brokerages and agents that have.  These are the members that are now faced with additional competition from Sandicor.

Mr. Ewing went on the explain how inaccurate Zillow, Trulia were and that the listing agents were not clearly identified on search results.  The Sandicor public facing site clearly identifies the listing agent and office making it so much easier for the consumer to deal directly with the listing agent.

Frankly competing with the likes of Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com without an effective mobile strategy or decent home search experience is rather like the funny clown with the toy cannon pictured above.  Its amusing but really sad for the membership that is working with a poor tool and forced to use only certain browsers and mobile devices.

Real estate consumers choose where they wish to search for homes and gravitate towards the experience that fits expectations – trust me, Sandicor is not that experience.  All of the 3rd party sites give an awesome experience both on desktop and mobile devices.

Here are 3 questions that I have.

  • Why did Sandicor not partner up with Realtor.com for a national public facing website?  Realtor.com is not the enemy.
  • Should an MLS be concerned with serving the general public or its members?
  • Does Sandicor promote dual agency over a real estate consumer selecting an agent for themselves?Get involved if you want to make a difference.  The Zillow, Trulia, Reatltor.com issue has the potential for disruptive forces in the way real estate is done.  In my mind rather than chasing kittens and rainbows, Sandicor should focus on making the MLS the best professional tool for its members.  One that runs on all browsers and devices and is better than what the consumer sites.

    Photo courtesy of Flickr

RealtyV2 Uses UberConference

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RealtyV2, San Diego’s virtual real estate brokerage uses UberConference

I came across this really creative conference call service done by the person that brought  us Google Voice (Grand Central).  Having an occasion to do conference calls when Google Hangout’s video capability or Join.me screen sharing is not necessary, sometimes a good old-fashioned conference call is just the ticket.

Not everyone has a computer or a webcam, but everyone I know has a telephone.  So why not elevate your conference tool to a higher level?  Currently UberConference is in Beta and you can sign up on their website or send me an e-mail and I will send you an invite.

Today I had my first occasion to try the service after uploading my contacts from Google.  Adding a few contacts and scheduling the conference call was easy with the ability to schedule on your calendar.  Uberconference alerts you via text so you won’t miss the call.

While holding for my first caller to arrive I heard country music. Thinking this rather odd until I paid attention to the lyrics.   Hands down the best hold music ever!

Features like recording, muting individual callers, and moving the person speaking to the top center of the browser are cool.  You gain points by sharing which will give you more caller capacity and Uberconference promises local numbers, recurring conference schedules, and outbound calling in future releases.

Check out this review on ars technica.

 

 

 

The Luddites Have Returned With Pitch Forks and MLS Books

The Luddites have returned with pitchforks and MLS books in hand calling for the return of the gatekeeper of listing information.

AGBeat reported yesterday that some major brokerages were pulling feeds from Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia.  You can read the full article here.

“Consumers cannot easily tell who the listing broker is on Realtor.com,” Bob Peltier, President and CEO of Edina Realty Home Services told AGBeat. “And, there is no easy way for them to connect with the Edina Realty listing agent on Realtor.com unless the agent has paid to be featured alongside their property listing.”

Having an issue with Zillow or Trulia and data accuracy is one thing.  Having an issue with Realtor.com who pulls directly from MLS and is updated is another.  Much like the ARG argument the underlying motivation is call us (or visit our website) if you want the information.

Photo courtesy of Abi Skipp via Flickr and modified with Photoshop

 

Customer Fail with AT&T U-verse

Here is an example of what you don’t want to do in customer service for your Clients. Let me tell you an experience I had over the weekend.

Recently I signed up for AT&T U-verse service to replace my Cox cable.  This was against my better judgement but the recent installation of fiber optic into my building was too tempting.  I ordered the service, a very nice installation technician came by and installed my service, explained everything, and even set up my remote controls.

I was impressed when the technician handed me a card with his personal cell phone number to call if I had any issues with U-verse.  Wow, I told him,  ”AT&T has really changed, what a breath of fresh air.”

Fast forward when I get a letter from AT&T asking me why I had not paid my bill.  Not ever getting a bill I was surprised.

The notice was not too pleasant and informed me if I did not pay by a certain date my service would be disconnected.

Fair enough, I knew it would take some time to set up an account for auto payment so I put the bill aside until this last Sunday when I had time to work on it.  From previous experience I know it would take an hour or better with AT&T.

So first thing on Sunday morning I called the number on the letter and it was answered by a rather smooth talking computer.  After 1o minutes of working through the phone tree I got down to where the system asked for the last 4 digits of my social security number.

Now keep in mind I know my social security number, and yet after 3 or 4 tries I was informed the entered number was not my SS#.  Repeated attempts to get to a live operator failed and I was at a dead-end on a Sunday morning.  I hung up in frustration.

No worries I thought, I will just go on-line and set up an account to pay the bill.  Going on-line I went to the website suggested and started to fill out the required information.  Asking to establish my  AT&T access ID I put in my e-mail address – jeff@jeffreydouglass.com, entered a strong password and pressed the enter key ….

 

 

What the heck?

The system returned “the access ID contains profane text”.  Several more tries resulted in the same warning so I tried several other e-mail address’ before one seemed  acceptable to the system.  Note that the instructions state that I can use numbers, periods, (,), hyphens (.) or at symbols (@).

Here is what I get back….

Mind you I am in San Diego in my office – not Istanbul.

I’m frustrated at this point not being able to pay the bill via telephone or on-line and decide that AT&T must monitor the social media channels, and maybe I can get some help from them.  I tweeted out a series of tweets in total expecting some help.

Having enough I go about my day certain that someone from AT&T will reach out and help.  Unfortunately no one replied, called, or sent me an e-mail.

Monday came and I never had a chance to make another call to AT&T.

Tuesday morning I got up, had several strong cups of coffee and dialed AT&T.

When I inquired as to why I did not get a regular bill she told me it was mailed to me.  Since I don’t delete e-mails I searched my archive and found only 3 e-mails from them, none of them a bill.

I paid the bill over the phone and got the confirmation.

Everything was fine until she told me that I would now have to pay a reconnection fee since the service was terminated.  I explained to her that had spent several hours on Sunday morning doing everything I could to pay the bill and all of the problems that I had.

She suggested that I should have gone to a local AT&T store to pay with my credit card.  I suggested that perhaps I should be able to pay on-line as I have for my AT&T cell bill for the last 3 years.

The representative curtly told me there was nothing much she could do, but if I faxed her the screen shots of my “profane e-mail” and out of the US ISP, she might be able to do something.

She informed me that the screen shots would have to be dated, so I could prove I was trying to pay the bill prior to the cut off date.  I informed her that my screen shots did not have the date attached, but why in the world would it matter, clearly I was trying to pay the bill, and now I am a liar too.

At this point I asked for a supervisor, and after another 5 minute wait another representative came on the line.  I explained the situation and why I felt the service termination was undue.

“Well Mr. Douglass, you should have paid this bill long ago and not wait to the last-minute.  What is it you want me to do at this point?”  You understand that if I waive the $30.00 termination fee, YOU will be charged the next time your late without any recourse!” (You Deadbeat).

Anyway, since I have no TV tonight I thought I would post what I consider to be a total failure of customer service!  Shame on you AT&T for treating your customers like cheats, liars, and deadbeats.

PS – I pay my bills on time and this was a series of unfortunate occurrences that led to this very unpleasant experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trulia Announces Changes, Trust Me.

Trulia announces changes to save broker relationships.

Yesterday, Trulia CEO Pete Flint announced some ‘broker friendly” changes on their corporate blog.  You can view and see the entire Trulia post here.

The listing syndication discussion will find anything from the extreme listing syndicators need to be wiped off the face of the earth, they need to pay for data, or they are saving organized real estate.  As usual, somewhere in the middle of the spectrum lies the solution for all.

The two lighting rods of the listing syndication discussion are Zillow and Trulia.

A recent search of Downtown San Diego real estate turned up “602 listings” on Trulia while our regional MLS reported 170. Much of the inaccuracy comes from multiple input sources, contingency status, and the egregious practice of calling a “distressed property” a listing.  There is a white paper attached to this post for further information.

In a nutshell these are the areas that Pete Flint said are going to change.

  1. They will be enhancing the listing agent and listing brokerage on every listing on Trulia.  This is where most of the controversy comes from the real estate industry that are listing agents.  The complaint has been the consumer was not able to clearly identify who the listing agent and brokerages is, left to fall victim to some buyer’s agent.  Interesting enough, most IDX solutions do not list the listing agent or brokerages prominently - so I am certain we will see more of the “only the listing agent/brokerages, can truly represent the Seller conversation.
  2. For those agents and brokerages that feature listings (pay for placement) Trulia will remove competing agent or broker information.  Again ties in with the concerns in number one.
  3. Perhaps the most important in my mind for the real estate consumer is data accuracy.
Data accuracy will be the most difficult without the 3rd party syndicators using a syndication service which pulls accurate information from local multiple listing systems.  Two of the largest syndicators are ListHub and Point2.  Since these services pull directly from the local multiple listing services they are as accurate as the actual data and only include allowable fields.

We will enhance listing management and claiming processes to improve accuracy of the listings we display. It has always been our goal to display the most accurate listings information to home buyers and sellers. That said, as you know, data accuracy is a complex challenge due to the fragmented nature of the real estate industry’s data management systems. This challenge is not unique to Trulia, and we continue to invest significant resources towards developing effective solutions, but we need your assistance. Our interests are fully aligned with yours on this subject; data accuracy is a shared responsibility we need to solve together. We ask for your help and support, and are committed to continue to work with the industry to improve data quality on all levels.

The data accuracy is pretty simple to solve by using a syndicator, but that will cost them.

The most disappointing thing about this is no mention of calling a property that has a NOD filed a listing to exaggerate the actual properties that are so sale.  I am working on a video of this unfortunate practice which will be posted soon.

Hats off to Trulia to at least opening the discussion. I will be checking back to see if accuracy has improved.

Moving from a revenue source that sold agents that wanted to appears on listing searches, to one relying on the listing broker or agent playing ball will be a risky one.

Photo courtesy of Collin Harvey via Flickr

 

 

Why Zillow Is LIke A Roomba?

A few weeks ago I read a post stating how much time they  wasted watching their Roomba robot vacuüm worked.  Fixated on a large dust bunny in the middle of the floor and hour was spent on the couch watching the Roomba missing the obvious need to cleanup that one spot.

Zillow uses an automated market value estimate known as a Zestimate.  While amusing, the computer algorithms that produce these values have little to do with the real world, yet they are fun to watch.  Artificial intelligence is still in its infancy and while amusing, I’m not sure of any value it has brought to the real estate space.

What is my point?

Over the last several months I’ve written articles on the inaccuracy of both Zillow and Trulia.  For instance in a recent search for real estate for sale in San Diego’s 92101, Sandcor MLS found 170 homes Zillow 368, and Trulia 602!

Today I had a lunch with some respected social media contacts and the discussion led to the lack of open discussion about these inaccuracies or why it should be important.  It seems that many of the voices have disappeared from the discussion, leaving the real estate consumer trying to search for a home using a blind robot.

Come on Zillow and Trulia, let’s have some consumer and industry outreach to show us that you really give a damn about accuracy, or is it just about trapping the home buyer in to paying for a foreclosure search or connected them with the “neighborhood expert” who’s only real qualification is the credit card he used to buy the zip code.

Not enough open discussion is going on about this important issue.

Photo courtesy of Chris Bartle via Flickr

 

Another Voice Goes To The Dark Side

More news today that Todd Carpenter is joining Trulia from AGBeat.  Todd was  with the National Association of Realtors (NAR) as Director of Digital Engagement.

AGBeat has confirmed that Todd Carpenter, National Association of Realtors’ Director of Digital Engagement has accepted a position at real estate search giant, Trulia. Carpenter is the first to have been in the Digital Engagement role, and as he leaves, it is unclear as to whether or not the position will remain within the trade organization.

 Carpenter’s new title will be the Senior Management Industry Engagement and he will be starting toward the end of the month. A Trulia spokesperson told AGBeat that Carpenter “will be an industry voice” and that the company plans on putting him front and center as he engages the real estate industry.

I recently did an analysis of how inaccurate both Zillow and Trulia were on listing counts and the bait and switch of using foreclosure companies to boost listings, you can check out the article Searching For A San Diego Home.  While Zillow has been the lighting rod for most of the 3rd party syndication sites, Trulia is far worse in accuracy and transparency for the real estate consumer and returned 602 listings in downtown San Diego, while our MLS reported 170.

Both Zillow and Trulia have snapped up well-known voices in the real estate space.  What is really interesting is the dialog has fallen silent with little coming from Jay Thompson or Bob Bemis.  I think this is more about keeping the noise down than actually wanting to improve accuracy or change the fact they want to dominate the real estate space.

While I started out on the side of free enterprise and competition after the announcement made by Jim Abott, taking a closer look at the issues has turned up some pretty dark agendas at foot.  I wrote a followup post after taking a closer look at the issue where Jim has some good points.

I believe that both Jay Thompson and Todd Carpenter won’t be able to put up with the agenda or be silenced.  My hope is they will make some difference, but I truly believe this is about removing the thinkers from the conversation.

Not a good thing.

Photo courtesy of Roger Price via Flickr

 

Where Is The Real Estate Industry Today?

Speaking with colleagues in the industry reveals the collective belief that the industry has survived  the disruptive forces of change.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

My friends over at 1000 Watt think otherwise, and I’m inclined to believe their assessment of where we are in the shift.  Check out the great graphic and article.

The industry has yet to be truly disrupted.

You may be incredulous. But consider that the real estate brokerage model is fundamentally the same as it was in 1995, commissions haven’t moved much, and there are in fact more Realtors today than there were back in the mid-nineties.

 Innovation, certainly. Disruption… not yet.

Not unlike a rollar coaster ride, we’ve made it through the start of the journey, a few quick climbs and drops, but just around the corner lays the upside down track.  Hold on!