Friday Flash: Jumping the tracks

Title is super sexy. 

It’s profitable, veiled in mystery, and clad in a lead jacket of regulation that protects it from change.

Which explains why Opendoor bought OSN National Title this week.  

Outwardly, Opendoor CEO Eric Wu framed the deal in customer experience terms:

Consumers are confused about the status of the close and timeline, overwhelmed by hundreds of documents to understand and sign, and frustrated by the delays due to multiple parties coordinating.”

A true statement. We’ve worked on this problem ourselves here at 1000WATT with our friends at WFG National Title. I’m sure Opendoor will do a nice job smoothing out some of the bumps in the process.

But the real thing is the money. It’s why Redfin got into title. It’s why other high profile real estate tech companies will follow. And it’s why these companies are moving quickly into the mortgage business.  

What seems to be decidedly unsexy is actually selling houses, whether you’re a hot startup or a traditional brokerage. It’s getting harder and harder to make things pencil without bolting better-margined businesses onto the core. 

This isn’t going to end. The historic trend is for commissions to drift upward in a slower market, but I think we’ve jumped those tracks. Daylight is being cast on buyer commissions and a small army of new flat-fee brokerage startups are hammering on the “real estate fees are a rip-off” message. 

More stress on a stressed-out model. The smart and strong among both the new and old guards will figure it out. Many others will not. We are approaching a Darwinian moment. 

A good thing.

“Agents often do stuff for no reason.”

This was uttered with flat certitude by a friend of mine, an agent himself.

I had asked him why agents continue to keep listings private even as the market plateaus, and even if the seller hasn’t specifically requested it.

No reason. They just do. 

There’s a lovely stoicism in that, but I only halfway agree with it.

There is no rational reason perhaps, no obvious benefit that can be mapped to, few explanations that seem inarguable. 

There’s a reason, though.

But it’s irrational, personal — maybe even driven by things one would hesitate to admit. 

It could be that listing agents get a psychic boost from the act of cherry picking the agent they will do business with. Giving something to someone can often be more gratifying than getting, especially if power is involved.

Maybe it’s the feeling produced by being let in the door of a private listing network. If someone tells you you belong among a select group, well, you like the person who tells you that. You enter their room.

Or it could be simpler still: agents may play the pocket listing game because they see other agents do it, mostly successful ones, and feel a little bit of that success when they do it too. 

This conversation was a reminder to me as a marketer that you always start with emotion. 

Does it make sense to refi? 

A simple question that deserves a simple, trustworthy answer. Unbelievably, here in 2019, it’s hard to get one.

Yeah, you could telephone your mortgage broker, the person whose job it is to sell you a new mortgage, and get an answer that you may be unable to understand even if you trust it. Or you could descend into the Kafkaesque world of rate comparison sites.  


DoIrefi may offer the answer. The site (founded, incidentally, by the guy who founded Postlets, a tool that answered the simple question “how do I get my listing onto a bunch of media sites at once?”) is as straightforward as its name suggests. Enter the basics about your current loan and it crunches the numbers using some machine learning and gives you a straight answer, clearly explained.

This isn’t a billion-dollar idea. It’s a feature. But it seems like we sometimes skip over really important problems that are worth solving on the way to fame, fortune and disruption. So I dig this.

Compass acquired Contactually, a really nice CRM product. Agents using Contactually freaked. They were told not to freak. Now it seems they are not getting support for a product they still pay for.

This is hardly shocking, and life is not fair, but I hate to see agents get jacked when the companies they helped build get bought. 

Still waiting for some good vibes from Compass to touch my skeptical soul.

I used to do a fair number of speaking gigs. I’ve backed off the past couple years as we’ve grown 1000WATT, but miss it. I’d like to make time for it again once in a while. If you’re interested in booking a talk on the future of our industry, marketing, branding or things in that vein, hit me up at

Enjoy the weekend.