Friday Flash: The foreclosure play, Jay-Z and RIN Redux

It’s been an interesting few days. But before we get into all that, I want to reach back and touch on Zillow’s foreclosure play last week.

“Zillow adds foreclosures” may seem like a ho-hum headline, but this is in fact a pretty big deal.

First off, foreclosure searches on most large real estate websites up until this point were the product of deals cut with RealtyTrac, the leading online foreclosure player.

This resulted in a truly crappy user experience. Let’s say I’m checking out this property on Trulia. If I want details on the place – and buying foreclosures is all about the details – I run smack-dab into the RealtyTrac pay wall.


Zillow paid to license the data directly, circumventing (and perhaps dooming) RealtyTrac, while raising the bar on everyone else.

The second and more significant effect this has is to up the stakes for agents. Those million foreclosure listings represent millions of foreclosure questions from consumers. Zillow states that leads will be sent to “local foreclosure specialists”, but that’s a leap. Even now, many agents haven’t a clue how to navigate a short sale or serve a savvy investor.

Both of these things make me bullish on services like ForeclosureRadar, which offer Realtors better and more data than a consumer ever found on RealtyTrac and will now find on Zillow.

Which, speaking of data, leads me to RPR. If you haven’t read yesterday’s story by Inman’s Andrea Brambila, do so. It’s an excellent piece of reporting.

I never got RPR. I thought it was an ill-conceived defense against marketplace realities. I thought the database RPR envisioned already existed, more or less, within Zillow and in the MLS. I thought this had RIN – NAR’s mid-’90s tech boondoggle – written all over it (indeed, read this 1996 article promoting RIN – the similarities will give you the chills).

But I also thought I could be wrong. That I was missing something.

I wasn’t.

I heard from lots of people about the launch of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. Some thought it was a brilliant move; others thought it was a terrible mistake. About what I expected.

Thinking about it more, while the brand is indisputably powerful, it does present a challenge.

This picture sums it up:

See, Warren Buffet’s admirers are largely white guys my age (41) and above. And that’s great. But the real estate consumer of today and tomorrow – most of them, at least – aren’t these dudes.

The rich incongruity of the Buffet/Jay-Z bromance is amusing for you and me, but it represents the heart of the matter for BHHS: How do you make a revered brand relevant for people it has never needed to touch before?

It will be interesting to watch the BHHS team tackle this.

By the way: I want Jay-Z to launch a real estate brand.

Zillow acquired Buyfolio. I like Susan and Matt Daimler, Buyfolio’s founders, a lot. They’re smart and took the time to really understand the working life of brokers.

Buyfolio never fit neatly into any one category. It’s a little bit lead-gen, a little bit VOW, a little bit CRM and a little bit transaction management. But it is mostly a lot of something more important: a better experience for buyers.

The real estate transaction is still too complicated. That’s a bummer. But within that bummer lies a huge opportunity for those who want to build a better way.

Enjoy the weekend.