Friday Flash: Inman Eve

Next week is the big Inman show. Bottom line: It’s going to be off the hook.

My informal Inman Connect Cocktail Party Invite Index has broken its previous high, set in 1999 at the apex of the dot-com boom. If you like free drinks, this is your year.

Seriously, the show will be great and energy will be high. The real estate people are feeling good, the tech people are feeling good and there’s lots of interesting tension in the air.

There will also be a lot of hype, noise and BS. When things get giddy like this, a reality distortion field develops wherein things that aren’t that important get blown up, and things that really matter get shrunk down. Absorbing the pitching, tweeting, press-releasing and partying is like walking through a house of mirrors. Don’t get too taken with it.

Anyway, here are just a few of the things I’m thinking about as I head into next week:

We need more great mobile software for agents

I want to see more mobile-first software for agents. An agent or team should be able to manage their business from a mobile device in 2015, period. There are some quality players out there (e.g., HomeSnap, HomeSpotter, Spacio, etc.) but we need more, fast. A whole category of business-to-business software must transition from one form factor to another.

This may not be as exciting as 3D imaging or new tech-driven real estate brokerage models, but it’s arguably more important.

We need decent software for brokers

Brokers shopping for software enter upon a sad flea market of options. There are some gems, but the merch is mostly crap. Some newer entrants are raising the bar, like BoomTown and Boston Logic, and both LoneWolf and Real Estate Digital, more established players, have new financial backing. But who else is going to bring the innovation to Brokerland? I hope to see something new next week.

The Zillow Divide

The blowback from Zillow’s acquisition of Dotloop is playing out much like I thought it would. I’ve gotten an earful over the past 10 days.

The divide between those in the industry who love Zillow and those who loathe Zillow is hardening. At this point, the company could hire Beyonce to lead industry relations and still struggle to move hearts and minds.

It is what it is. But the net effect of this is the creation of a class of agents and teams you might call the “Zillow 10%” – the 100,000 or so agents that are all-in on Zillow because it makes them money. The other 900,000 Realtors that can’t afford to play ball, or simply don’t want to, will continue as always but face growing competition from the 10%, who will be armed with good software like Dotloop, leads from the top real estate consumer destination, plus whatever else Zillow builds into its Premier Agent program over time.

If there’s a positive dimension to this, it’s that conflict drives action and change. Zillow will continue to make bold moves and “The Industry” will accelerate strategic initiatives like Upstream and the Broker Public Portal to change the current power dynamics.

So next week I’m not going to waste any time “debating” Zillow. I’ll just be looking for the next play.

The “lost” social cause

If you went to the Inman show in 2007, the hottest company going was Active Rain, the social network for agents. Brokers were setting up private social networks for their agents using tools like Ning. Everybody was told to “get social or die”.

Then it kind of fizzled – not social platforms generally of course, but the idea that there would be a place, platform or app where a good chunk of working agents could connect with each other. Yes, there are some good real estate Facebook Groups out there. And there are other places where digital real estate congregation happens, but it has never been quite the same.

These days, while some agents do really well connecting with clients on social platforms, the sort of community that marked the early “Web 2.0” days has yet to reappear. I am hoping Ben Kinney re-ignites Active Rain, and others keep trying to figure this out, because it’s a good opportunity.

Enjoy the weekend.

Disclosure: 1000WATT has worked with HomeSpotter, Boston Logic, Dotloop and Real Estate Digital. We are also involved in the Broker Public Portal Project.