End of AgentMatch Does Not Mean the End of Agent Reviews

– by Cindy Miller

Realtor.com® has announced that they have concluded the pilot launch of their AgentMatch program stating that “using an algorithm to “match” consumers with REALTORS® is misguided”.   The announcement came in letter to members from realtor.com President, Errol Samuelson.  While many REALTOR® members that were adamantly opposed to this initiative will be pleased with the announcement, the end of this pilot does not mean the end of agent reviews.

In July, the company launched a test of its agent rating program in only two markets and received a tirade of protests from agents nationwide.     The program would have required permission from the MLS in any market to use the data to support the new program and no agreements were in place outside of the two test markets.

While a “match” program may not be the best solution, consumers – accustomed to reading online reviews before purchasing items – now expect tools for online research before hiring professionals.     Managing your online reputation is a necessary part of your marketing efforts.    Historically, your brand was managed by your broker, whether it be print or electronic media, or within communities and there remains great value in that instantly recognizable brand.   However, consumers now demand more information on who you are, what you do and who has trusted you in the past before making their decision to partner with you.

Many sites are building your reputation without your input and providing information online that affects a consumer’s opinion about you.     Do you receive personal referrals?   Of course you do, and people still trust their peers; what has changed is those peer recommendations are often online and not at the neighborhood block party.   Think about the last good book you read; did a friend recommend that to you over a cup of coffee?   More likely, a friend recommended it to you on Facebook or via a Tweet or you just noticed that many of your friends “liked” it online as even our definition of “friend” has evolved.

In announcing the AgentMatch pilot, Realtor.com® was attempting to capture this trend and do it in a way that allowed your actual production to play a role in your online reputation building and to play matchmaker between a seller with a home in that location and price range and an agent that actively  lists in that area (the pilot was only on the listing side, with buyer agency to be added later).     The objections focused on concerns that numbers do not tell the whole story, and REALTOR.com® agrees.  “A computer cannot find the best REALTOR® for someone, just like a computer cannot place an accurate value on a home”, says Samuelson.

The end of the AgentMatch pilot does not mean that your online reputation does not play an ever increasing role in your business.    To that end, realtor.com® provides free online tools to build your profile and solicit recommendations from the clients you have served.     If REALTORS® can get behind that effort and fully develop those tools and the REALTOR brand, it will give consumers a trusted resource and a central place for agents to manage their online reputation.    The marketing and profile tools available at no cost can be reviewed at www.marketing.realtor.com/engage.

In addition, I would encourage every agent to perform an online search of your own name, your team name, and your firm name and see what the internet has to say about you.     Be wary of “upgrading your profile” on many of these sites;    the fee is often not warranted compared to the traffic the site gets and by participating in the site, you are helping to drive traffic to it.    Concentrate your online efforts on high traffic, trusted resources.

Being an industry veteran, I have seen agents vehemently object to concepts over the years that later became standard procedure  (cooperating with other brokers, online MLS entry,  online display of listing information, use of fax machines and cell phones, to name just a few).     The oft quoted quip from Henry Ford, “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”, aptly highlights that we should be open to previously unimagined innovations while being cognizant of unimagined consequences – the building of cars necessitated better roads and bridges.    Likewise, new innovations in the real estate industry might be bumpy at first and necessitate building better pathways to gain a smoother ride.

Posted in Industry News, National Association of REALTORS, Technology

FannieMae requires Property be listed in MLS

by: Cindy Miller

New Fannie Mae Servicing Guidelines effective August 1, 2013 include a provision that requires “all properties being considered for a standard short sale/HAFA II must be listed with an active status on a multiple listing service (MLS) for a minimum of five consecutive calendar days, including one weekend…”

Click here for the full Servicing Guide Announcement SVC-2013-13

With the recent rise in “off MLS” transactions, much of the discussion has centered around whether such marketing strategy is in the best interest of sellers – does the “exclusivity” factor create a mystique that results in a higher price for the seller or does maximum exposure to the largest possible pool of buyers and buyer representatives eliminate any doubt that the seller is garnering the best possible price and terms. There have also been concerns raised over whether “exclusivity” equates to “discrimination”.

It would seem that Fannie Mae wishes to ensure that their inventory is getting exposure through the MLS to avoid any appearance of such exclusivity of pricing or availability.

Posted in Industry News | 1 Comment

June Housing Activity Rising with the Temperatures!

June

As potentially the brightest sun in the current economic recovery, housing activity has followed the mercury higher this summer. Interest rates and new construction activity have been in the spotlight lately, fueled by concerns over tapering Federal Reserve activity and ongoing inventory constraints. Watch for indications that more homes are selling in less time and at higher price points. Also watch for sellers returning to an inviting marketplace, which will help replenish neighborhoods with new listings.New Listings in the North Texas region increased 6.8 percent to 12,593. Pending Sales were down 0.5 percent to 7,849. Inventory levels shrank 21.6 percent to 30,269 units. Prices followed the mercury higher. The Median Sales Price increased 12.1 percent to $185,000. Days on Market was down 24.4 percent to 52 days. Absorption rates improved as Months Supply of Inventory was down 32.9 percent to 4.0 months.The economy – which generates the jobs that fuel housing demand – continued to improve at a moderate pace during the second quarter of 2013. Budget sequesters and sluggish export growth have taken a back seat to housing recovery and stronger consumer spending. Interest rates could flirt with 4.0 percent again but are not likely to reach 3.3 percent again.

 View full Market Reports at http://www.ntreis.net/resources/statistics.asp

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April Fools!

by: Cindy Miller

So, what was the best April Fools prank you encountered today?  Which ones did you fall for?   Greg Robertson  over at VendorAlley ran some great headlines today for the real estate industry –  NAR announcement from Dale Stinton that they were shutting down RPR and refunding investment dollars to its members;  Homes.com announcing a REALTOR drone service as an extension of their Concierge services and finally, that a Zillow Zestimate was actually accurate on a lone property in New Mexico!

Around the internet, Google announced “Google Nose” – smellavision for your search engine – and Twitter created a new Twttr site for their new free basic service since you now must pay $5 monthly to use vowels in your tweets on their premium site.    In other news, since we don’t have enough cat videos,  Vimeo announced their new ViMeow service.

Locally, the Dorsey Gang at KSCS, infamous for their elaborate annual pranks, announced a proposed bill in the Texas Legislature that would do away with 4th grade in Texas public schools.  They even created a fake organization with a blog and a twitter account to raise a grassroots campaign against the idea.   Parents and teachers alike are outraged that Parents will have to home school their children for a year.

For more April Fools pranks around the web, search #aprilfools on twitter.   To read about the ones mentioned above –  @vendoralley, @HawkeyeOnAir, #googlenose, #twttr, #vimeo.

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What is the new definition of MLS Services?

By: Cindy Miller

At the recent National Association of REALTORS meetings in Orlando, an interesting debate arose in the the MLS Policy Committee meeting centered around defining of “basic” services for an MLS.   The proposal being brought forth was to add Lockbox services as a basic service, which ultimately was sent back for further study and a possible review of how NAR defines “core”, “basic” and “optional” services of an MLS.

“Core” services reflect the defining purpose of an MLS –  providing current listing information and a means to communicate compensation to potential cooperating brokers.  These services date back to the original Multiple Listing Service before it was defined as such –  Broker A sharing information about property he knew was for sale with Broker B who might have a purchaser for that property.

NAR defines “basic” services that an MLS may provide on a discretionary basis as things such as sold and comparable information and tax information, mortgage information, amortization schedules and statistical information.  These services may be provided on a blanket basis for all users.

Additionally, an MLS may offer “optional” services that may be made available to users, but a user cannot be required to participate in or pay for, such as Lockboxes and advertising.

While the central debate was over reclassifying of LockBox services,  the point was made that perhaps we need to redefine all of these categories.    Is sold and comparable information now a “core” service that every MLS provides or should provide?   Currently, even though NAR policy requires an MLS to provide Internet Display (IDX) to all Participants,  it is not defined in this policy as even a “basic” service.   With advances in electronic delivery of information and the demand from consumers for information, is Internet Display (IDX) now a “core” service?

As staff of a Regional MLS,  I would caution that we be careful about blurring the distinction of some services; for example, in our region, Lockboxes and Electronic forms are delivered as Association services, though the MLS provides deep linking to facilitate the use of these services – if redefined as an MLS core service, does that delivery shift?

What do you think?  The MLS Policy Committee will be pondering these issues over the next few months and it will be interesting to see how much feedback they get and what possible changes may be proposed.

Posted in MLS Policy, National Association of REALTORS, Technology | Leave a comment

iPhone 5 Battery Issues?

BY: Cindy Miller

Some users seem to be having issues and some are not.   Personally, my phone did not have battery problems until after updating to iOS 6.0.1,  but it is not clear if the update causes the issue or if it just takes several charges before the issue manifests itself.   Regardless,  several of our staff have experienced the problem and after internet searches and advice for turning off this app and that, I will tentatively say we think we have found the resolution.   If your phone suddenly begins draining power  (mine was going from 100% charge to dead in 4 hours or less!),  simply Reset the phone,  allow the battery to completely drain and the fully charge it.   I did this last night and as of mid-morning, I still have almost 90% charge.

Go to Settings – General – Reset – Reset all Settings.   Allow the battery to completely drain (I let mine go dead),  then plug in charger and do not remove until 100% charged.

This seems to be a nagging issue whenever Apple releases a new iPhone, but I’ve yet to see them post any official remedies, so I hope this info helps if you are experiencing the same!

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NAR approves MLS Policy change

BY:  Cindy Miller

The Board of Directors of the National Association of REALTORS approved a change to MLS Policy that provides a local MLS the option of adopting a Social Media policy.  After several years of discussion and recommendations to the NAR MLS Committee,  the MLS Technology and Emerging Issues Subcommittee presented a proposal that allows, but does not require, an MLS to give Participants the ability to authorize the display of their listings beyond the context of IDX and VOW rules.   It is important to note that the ability to display another Participant Broker’s listing will depend on several things:

  • The MLS must adopt the new NAR policy  (it is optional for each MLS)
  • The MLS Participant/Broker must authorize such display
  • The Seller must authorize the Broker to allow Internet display of the property
  • State law must allow for such authorization

There may also be technological limitations that may delay some MLS systems from adopting the policy right away, since the above listed authorizations will have to be put in place if they are not already provided.

Todd Carpenter,  former Director of Social Media for NAR and currently Senior Manager of Industry Engagement at Trulia,  provided some great insight at the Policy meeting on why advertising listings on Social Media sites may not prove successful.     Carpenter pointed out that social sites are for connecting with people, and that many companies have tried and failed to use the sites to sell things.   He did applaud the recommendation for remaining a local option and for allowing a Participant to withhold consent from such display without affecting consent to IDX Participation.

Will NTREIS adopt this policy?   Such policy issues are reviewed by volunteer committees consisting of representatives sent from our Shareholder Associations and ultimately approved by the NTREIS Board of Directors.    If you have input on the pros and cons of any policy changes,  you need to let your MLS Provider Association hear from you.

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