Friday Flash: Mixed signals

“Discount real estate” angst seems like it should be a long-ago affliction.

But yet, here in 2017, it’s still a trigger for lots of people in the industry, and I’ve noticed an uptick in the discounter talk since Redfin’s IPO.

Done publicly, it telegraphs weakness. Insecurity. A lack of understanding for consumers for whom tens of thousands in fees seems like something at least worth asking about.

When Redfin launched, some industry leaders and writers engaged in a kind of discount-baiting that won lots of Realtor cheers but made them, and the industry, appear foolish. It wasn’t a good look.

Oh, and the DOJ.

Can we not do this this time? Please?

Realogy announced a deal to equip agents within its franchise business with an artificial intelligence assistant powered by a company called Ojo.

Ojo, you may recall, was in play as a complement to Kelle, the AI assistant KW teased at its Family Reunion earlier this year as part of a massive tech initiative, which I referred to as a “Moonshot” at the time. It seems that their Ojo deal is off, though Keller says its AI effort continues.

Big technology plays by real estate franchisors and brokers are about the hardest thing you can imagine. You confront the usual fragmentation, of course, but also your own DNA, which isn’t constituted for speed to market and rapid iteration.

But the times are pushing real estate companies down this uncertain path. There will be many more announcements in the coming months, some wins and, inevitably, some big ugly losses.

Teke Wiggin at Inman had a great article on the land rush around Facebook advertising. People who got results cheaply two years ago are getting squeezed. Everyone’s in the game now.

Instagram’s still wide open, but it, too, will get overrun with agents, brokers and ad resellers flooding the channel. We saw the same thing with AdWords in the early 2000s.

There’s an important difference with Facebook, though. Unlike AdWords, where ads follow specific consumer intent expressed through a Google search, Facebook allows advertisers to get ahead of consumer intent. This is why we’ve written for years now that Facebook will reinvent farming and possibly present Zillow with a serious threat.   

So don’t throw in the towel on Facebook advertising. Get good at Facebook advertising.

I’m not a fan of RPR. Never have been. A couple weeks ago I called for it to be shut down.

Part of my reasoning is that the product just isn’t being used. I can’t tell you how many MLS people have shared their adoption numbers with me over the years, and they have been consistently miserable.

I ran into an RPR rep this week – a person I respect – and had a pleasant talk about this. He asserted that the usage claims just weren’t accurate, and that in some MLSs in which RPR is deployed they are seeing active user numbers as high as 50%.

Okay. Then why hasn’t this story been told loud and proud – especially to haters like me?

Dunno.

I still think RPR was bad move and needs to be jettisoned by NAR. But if people – at least some people – are using the product, then perhaps it can live another life detached from the trade association bosom.

I just left the annual CMLS conference. A great show put on by Denee Evans and company.

But also a bit of a mind-bender.

What I mean by that is there were two parallel narratives at this conference:

First, this show, and CMLS as an organization, has become bigger and stronger in recent years. This is a good thing, and was celebrated as such.

But at the same time, several people on stage, including some longtime MLS insiders, stated their belief that the number of MLSs will shrink dramatically in the next decade.

No one in the audience seemed fazed by this. They appeared totally comfortable in this state of cognitive dissonance. People went to lunch smiling.

I’ve been in this industry for 20 years. You get used to things. This one has me stumped.

Enjoy the weekend.

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