Friday Flash: Choose your own controversy

We all know things are, shall we say, untidy in the world of online real estate listings right now.

But the truth is things have always been messy beneath the surface.

Consider this, for example:

When you go to, there’s a link at the top that says, “Homes for sale.” This directs you to, which offers something called the “My Perfect Home Home Scouting Report, a real estate service of Home Buyers Marketing II, Inc.,” a thing or entity which is “Partnered with Quicken Loans.”

Yep, really clear.

But is basically a real estate search site powered by MLS data.

How? I could explain that, but don’t have time to bang out another 1,000 words.

My point is this: Yeah, we have a bit of chaos happening around listings right now, but it’s always been complicated, opaque, uneven and shaded with plenty of grey.

It’s a Choose Your Own Controversy Adventure.


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I can’t resist noting this related tidbit: Zillow announced that it’s flying a bunch of MLS execs into Las Vegas next month, where they will be fed, housed and made to feel very, very important (as indeed they are, at the moment, to Zillow).

There’s a surfeit of MLS conferences, events and boondoggles out there – a repeating mise en scene of free Heinekens, chicken skewers and crudite platters. One wonders if the optics here aren’t starting to look unseemly to some interested parties.

Like brokers.

Just sayin.’

“Live chat” is making a comeback on real estate websites. A few of our clients – those that are serious about committing dollars and time to doing it right – are getting decent results.

But the tech still feels janky to me.

This post on the Intercom Blog (Intercom is a company that offers a customer communications platform) explains that feeling really well. If you’re thinking about live chat, or how you communicate with customers generally, it’s worth reading.

The key to changing the way real estate transactions are done lies in splitting apart the listing side and the buy side. Co-brokerage is the glue that holds the industry together.

You’re probably aware of OpenDoor, the richly-funded startup that launched last year with same-day offers for home sellers. But two companies aimed at the buyers have launched in the past couple weeks.

Open Listings, with the pitch “Buy any home in California, commission free,” helps people create and submit offers on homes they’ve found themselves for a flat fee. No Sunday rides in the Lexus here.

Solo rebates buyers the entire buy-side commission and connects them with partner agents willing to offer a menu of fee-based services.

The claims all of these companies make are bold and big. And their “common sense” appeal to consumers is undeniable. But I remain skeptical.

First of all, our current sellers’ market isn’t exactly auspicious for any of them. Why, for example, would you take a discounted offer from OpenDoor when homes are flying off the shelves? Are you really going to accept the offer presented by some DIY-er when you’re looking at five others?

Plus, “early adopter” behavior may be easy to stoke around many things (Didn’t you feel cool the first time you used Uber or Facetime?), but trying out new stuff when buying or selling a home is a little less alluring.

So, skeptical. But watching. You never know.

A broker in the San Francisco Bay Area told me that he’s never seen a worse time for new agents to get into the business. Worse than even ‘08. The problem: there are no homes to sell. People are staying put because price gains are so out of control that there is essentially no move-up market. Failure rates for new agents are high.

Few markets are as extreme as the Bay Area, but the broad low-inventory situation does seem to be slowing new agent recruitment to the profession. We’ve gained about 100,000 new Realtors since membership bottomed-out in 2012, but are still 250,000 off the 2006 peak.

Don’t get me wrong: I think there are too many Realtors. But we seem to have a lot of veteran agents who delayed retirement because of the crash, and just a trickle of new blood.

Do you think this is a problem?

Enjoy the weekend.