Friday Flash: Quiet time

The Friday before Labor Day is a little eddy in time, a quiet moment at the end of a quiet month. I spent half of August in the mountains fishing, reading and drinking more happy hour gin than I really should have.

I am relaxed. I hope you are too. Because it’s going to be an interesting fall. These late-summer items set the stage.

The portal marketing wars are becoming intense. There’s more money washing around now, and the stakes are getting higher.

Take this post from the Zillow industry blog showing Zillow’s traffic leadership in every major market in the country. Yes, you could point out that a good chunk of that is rentals traffic, or that most people on Yahoo! end up only glancing at real estate on their way to the next Kardashians slide show, but still… this is a dramatic statement.

But here’s another interesting bit: check the comments under the post. “Zillow Premier Agents” tout their presence on Zillow, then CEO Spencer Rascoff joins in.


Even if the agent comments were goaded by Z, this is just damn good industry marketing.

BlockAvenue, a startup that began in the neighborhood review space and competed with Streetadvisor, has pivoted.

The company is now called CO Everywhere, and their product, a mobile app, promises to help you “discover what you’re missing where you work, live and play.”

It’s really, really good.

I’ve tried practically every hyperlocal, location sharing, neighborhood-ish app that’s popped up over the past few years. Almost all disappointed: too much noise, not enough noise, high creepy factor, battery drain, etc.

CO everywhere seems to have gotten it right. I feel like I’m uncovering something meaningful about places – people, conversations, news, photos and more – without getting lost in stupidity and selfies.

The relevance to real estate is obvious. Keep an eye on this company.

Inman published an article this week called “Real estate brokers, fall into line: it’s time to let the MLS lead”, a thoughtful piece written by Sam DeBord, a small broker in Seattle.

Brokers howled, MLS folks cheered and… um, here we go again.

Let’s bottom line this:

Small brokers like the MLS.

Big brokers don’t like the MLS

The Houston Association of Realtors is to the go-to success story or nightmare, depending on your perspective.

There’s not much more to discuss until brokers act on their concerns.

Several plans for a broker-owned portal have come and gone in the past 18 months. A broker aggregated and controlled syndication feed is making the rounds. MLS defection is in the air. Pocket listings are proliferating.

But so far, no big moves. The ball is in the big brokers’ court.

Speaking of pocket listings… we had an internal discussion this week in which this question came up:

When does a listing become a listing?

Like life, the beginning is ambiguous and subject to heated debate.

What about the agent who knows a couple planning to put their home on the market in a few months, when they retire. If that agent encounters a well-suited buyer before they plant the “For Sale” sign in the front lawn, then the home is “listed” in the agent’s mind, isn’t it?

Or not. It’s unclear. Which makes us think that MLS efforts to regulate pocket listings are futile as far as their stated purpose, and harmful to innovation more broadly.

The smart MLS play is to plan now for their role in a more fluid future.

RealScout, a startup with an interesting take on home search and agent-buyer collaboration, came out of the gates last week.

Historically, IDX solutions sold to agents were designed to sit within the agent’s website and carry their look and feel. Most also has basic contact/lead management and analytics baked in.

Today, with many different points of digital contact between agents and consumers, that model is open to rethinking. Sure, many agents still use IDX to generate leads off their websites, but RealScout aims to help agents make use of IDX once the consumer has already become a customer as well.

Zillow is doing the same thing with Agent Folio. We’ll see more entrants soon, so watch this space.

Enjoy the long weekend.