Friday Flash: Down on the farm

Trend alert: beneath all the high-concept talk about “big data” lies this real estate reality:

Farming will be transformed in the next two years.

Lead generation and farming are related, but most definitely not the same thing. Lead-gen can often be passive; farming is active. Lead-gen is where buyer’s agents play; the big boys and girls work the farm to stack up listings.

The massive businesses that have been built in the past 10 years by piping leads to agents pale in comparison to the value still to be unlocked down on the farm.

Companies like SmartZip and Property Radar are showing us where this might lead. But if you really want to track this, there’s one company you need to follow very closely:


No, not because you can now search posts more easily, but because of the brilliant, tentacular world of identity and advertising the company is creating. Dig deep and study up. This is our future.

On the flip side, I do not think predictive data models for matching people with homes online will ever be a big deal. Inman wrote a great piece this week covering some early efforts, but all of this ignores one of the foundational real estate maxims:

Buyers are liars.

Sifting through preferences, resetting expectations, and getting to the reality of buyers’ wants – and, more importantly, needs – is something that’s challenging for even the most adept agent, let alone an algorithm.

I may be proven dead wrong. Time will tell.

Yeah, it’s happening: whispers of another broker-owned portal initiative are wafting through the industry. I’ve seen several proposals for such a thing over the past few years. The right combination of timing, strategy and leadership never quite came together.

This time may be different. In fact, to the extent that that portal world is consolidating, the incentive for brokers to act increases. Additionally, there are now some interesting comps out there. In both Britain and Australia, brokers have launched portals to compete with the non broker-owned incumbents. If you want a primer on what’s happening, read Simon Baker’s excellent overview over at Property Portal Watch.

OpenDoor, the company that will buy your home from you within a day, has officially launched. I’ve written a little bit about them over the past few months, but now their offering is there for all to see.

It’s clear that they are not just a channel through which banks and investors can unload their portfolios; this is a full-on consumer play, an internet company with a vision that makes Redfin look boring.

OpenDoor makes sellers an offer based on its data tech (there’s that Big Data again), and charges a 5.5% “convenience fee.” The fee/commission feels a little bit like a double dip to me, or at least signals that they’re not comfortable relying on their data model yet to reliably lock in a margin for them. Then again, charging the fee perhaps enables OpenDoor to avoid coming at sellers with offers perceived as lowball.

It will be an interesting consumer experiment to watch.

Back in the early days of map mashups, it was kind of a big deal for brokerages or agents to create custom Google maps showing their offices, or local points of interest.

Then Street View, Earth and a ton of other map innovations came about and we kind of forgot about creating our own maps. But there was always something valuable there.

This week, Google announced that it is adding a “My maps” function to Google Drive. Now it’s super easy to create maps for almost anything — property tours, local schools, favorite neighborhood restaurants… heck, you could even create maps of recent neighborhood sales.

Video is cool. Photos are easy. But maps as content is a sleeper.

This week saw the release of these two mobile apps:

Swill, “The liquor store in your pocket,” lets you order booze from your phone and get it delivered within 30 minutes.

Robinhood lets you trade stocks from your phone, for free.

Um, shouldn’t the CFPB be looking into this?

Enjoy the weekend.