Friday Flash: Bloat, emissions and darkness

So, Market Leader sold for $23 million – $332 million less than Trulia paid for it just two years ago.

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you know that I’ve never been too excited about Market Leader. The software is kind of like a mid-80s Cadillac Deville – big and feature-packed, but woefully clumsy.

I never understood how a real estate business-to-business software company that never really made much profit to speak of did manage to make lots of people rich. Twice. Once when the company went public in 2004 and again with the Trulia acquisition.

That’s not jealousy (in fact, I generally can’t stand when people whine about leaders at high-growth tech companies making tons of money), but rather puzzlement. I just never got it.

I guess if there’s a takeaway here, it is that the vision Market Leader pitched over the last few years – about one MS Office-like software suite to rule real estate – hasn’t panned out. We’re in a fast, light, roll-your-own software world these days, a place where I can hook my Dropbox into my Slack and ditch email so I can run my business from my phone.

Small is beautiful, open is awesome, and mobile is the mantra. Keep that in mind next time you go shopping for real estate software.

I think the real estate industry should set a goal of reducing online lead emissions by 80% by 2020.

Seriously. A while back, an industry friend and I were trying to estimate how many online real estate leads were generated each year. We landed well north of 100 million. The wasted time and value is mind-boggling when you consider that there are only about 10 million sides each year, and only about 10% of those are conceived with a click.

Part of this is due to what I called the “Broken down lead machine” a few weeks back. Part is due to agent laziness and/or incompetence. But I do think it is possible to get the lead mess cleaned up.

I think it’s why we should watch Zillow’s Premier Agent Assist test program really closely. If Zillow can act on behalf of their agent advertisers to respond more quickly and convert more effectively, then everyone kind of wins. Consumers who are serious get what they want fast and agents make more money more quickly.

Lead volume drops, lead value rises.

Forget I even mentioned Zillow here and look at this dispassionately. Isn’t this what everyone should be working toward?

I’m naive. I had no idea until recently that this happens – a lot:

Agent A gets a listing.

Agent A also happens to have a buyer client looking for this sort of place.

Agent A either can’t or won’t represent both sides.

So instead they refer the buyer client to Agent B in their office, who will write the offer…

…for a referral fee.

Agent A’s seller never knows that one of the offers they’re looking at comes with a special treat for their trusted advisor.

Sure, some listing agents disclose this. Many others may genuinely rise above the temptation to steer their clients to the offer that makes them money.

But still… it’s this type of stuff that has always made me cringe at all the “transparency” happy talk in our business.

Enjoy the weekend.