Friday Flash: the seeds of change

Trulia and Zillow reported earnings over the past couple weeks. Top lines continue to spiral upward, the bottom lines remain reddish.

No shockers.

The product releases that came during this period are more interesting.

Zillow released an API for agent reviews. Now any broker can check-off the ratings/reviews box with less than a day’s worth of coding. It’s compelling. To date, most plays here have either been woefully antique or politically doomed.

This seems like an easy way to piggyback on both the content volume and quality safeguards inherent in the Zillow system – at no cost. A plug-and-play solution that can be easily unplugged if needed.

On the flip side, there is Zillow branding involved, as well as a (no-follow) link back to Z. So we’re going to see the typical split: some brokers will jump on it; some will perceive yet another Trojan horse at their gates. We work with brokers on both sides. Experience tells me that positioning and communications are paramount whichever path is chosen.

The other notable product news was both companies’ announcement of significant agent-focused mobile tools. Both Zillow and Trulia have touted their mobile-first approach with consumers for a while now, but haven’t offered too many goodies to agents. Trulia’s “Trulia One” and Zillow’s addition of agent tools to its mobile apps begin to change that.

Keep an eye on this. I have said this many times here: 90% of software for agents and brokers is still built for the wrong computer. Z&T are now acting on this. Realogy’s purchase of ZIP, whose ZAP CRM works great on a handset, was a savvy move in this direction too.
Don’t get caught behind on this one.

Tomorrow morning, NAR’s MLS committee will consider IDX rule changes that propose, among other “no-brainer” notions, that brokers be permitted to display solds without having to require consumers to log in to a VOW.

At 1000WATT, we see brokers hobbled by retrograde MLS rules all the time. It’s maddening. Recently, a big broker client of ours that was allowed to display solds on their website was simultaneously prevented from showing the date of the sale. The address was cool, so were photos. Just no date.



This is just stupid. Let’s hope things change.

So look: many of us in the industry have what I call Zillow-Trulia Obsessive Disorder. I have bouts of it myself, as you can tell.

But believe me: what these soon-to-be-merged companies are doing, whether you think it’s threatening or not, is pretty mundane when looked at relative to some of the larger opportunities and challenges in our industry.

Let me explain. I’ve long believed that real estate, beneath the surface, close to the bone, hasn’t really changed much over the past 20 years.

This is the case, in part, because the key objects in the transaction – the broker, the agent, the lender, the mortgage broker, the title and escrow folks, etc. – remain siloed. This is partly by regulatory design, which is good, but the overall effect is to produce something like what you see at a wedding dance: mostly middle-aged people busting their own idiosyncratic moves with little sense of rhythm.

Sure, there are plenty of tech integrations – forms providers plugged into transaction management systems, title and report ordering baked into LOS software, etc. – but this is hit and miss. And yes, e-signatures are now widely adopted, but why does it still take so long to close, even after we’ve gone “paperless.”

I bring this up because I believe the true real estate game changers will come from what we now perceive to be the least sexy places. Zillow and Trulia say it over and over: we’re media companies that have no intention of getting into the real estate transaction. So why are we getting all worked up about these billion-dollar bus benches?

I have to be a little opaque here, but we all – myself included – should probably look a little deeper into the transaction for the seeds of change.

Hey, look – Amazon just created a black cylinder you can put in your house. It hears everything you say and is always connected to Amazon’s artificial intelligence system up in the cloud. Great idea!

Are we losing our minds?

Unplug and enjoy the weekend!

[Disclosure: Realogy is a 1000WATT client]