Friday Flash: The buzz saw

First of all, I would like to thank the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission for adding yet another “conference” to real estate’s calendar. I think we’re starting to spend too much time together, people. Yeesh.

But seriously: whenever the regulatory gaze falls upon your industry with a focus on competition, it’s a big deal. And given that real estate has been taken to the woodshed by the DOJ before, well, it’s time for maximum discretion.

But I don’t see a lot of discretion. From what I read about the DOJ/FTC workshop this week, it seemed pretty indiscreet, in fact. Competitive jabs. Doth protesting too much-ing. A general prolixity that can and may be used against us.

Maybe I am reading it wrong. I wasn’t there. But I just have a sense, and have over the past couple years, that “the industry” is walking straight into a buzz saw (again!) on the competition issue.

Upstream and the Broker Public Portal have been explained by many in terms of “control” and the benefits to “the industry”. Broker complaints about the MLS (many of which I sympathize with) often take on a retrograde, “let’s take our ball and go home” tone that’s music to the regulatory ear. Most people have gotten over demonizing Redfin (ironically, just as it’s becoming a major, national brokerage), but we still seem bent on self-injury in our treatment of newcomers.

But, of course, the sort of industry-wide restraint I’d like to see would itself be a questionable collective effort.

We’ll see if we avert the disaster visible a mile away.  

Dan Woolley and Greg Robertson’s company, W&R Studios, released Cloud CMA in early 2010. At the time, I wrote that this marked “The downfall of crappy real estate software”.

And it kinda was. Eight years ago the software agents were using was still pretty nasty. Shopworn CRMs, 90s-era flyerware and stuff that didn’t even work on a Mac were widespread.

Greg and Dan raised the bar. They created something manifestly superior to the other stuff on the agent toolbelt. The market responded. There are still some clunkers out there, but for the most part agents today use software that looks like the software the rest of the world uses.

I mention this because the W&R team released a major update to Cloud CMA this week. Not surprisingly, it’s great: clean, usable and powerful.

Like it should be.

I talked with a smart agent this week about brokerage competition in his market – whether Compass would show up, had EXP made a mark yet, etc.

His take:

“None of it matters. It’s all just the same agents, doing the same stuff, under different banners.”


Speaking of agents, I have become convinced that the everyday details of what agents do for their clients is the stuff of great marketing.

I understand all that “start with why” stuff, but I think how a good agent makes a sale or purchase happen is a story no brokerage is really telling. We’re in the ether, talking about dreams and service when the real value lies in the details.

I am going to be co-moderating a new event at the Inman show next month in San Francisco, CMO Connect. If you’re a real estate marketing leader, please join me. The program is looking very strong. And I love that Inman is putting energy into a high-level marketing discussion.  

Enjoy the weekend.