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Hey, @Zillow: Why are you calling the Realtors and lenders you prey upon #racist?

And why on earth do they continue to do business with you?

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  • 9 comments

    What’s big, dumb, sclerotic and panics on command? A California Association of Realtors member, apparently.

    So this big dumb robot shows up on the front porch this morning:

    Believe it or not, it’s from the California Association of Realtors. The robot exists to support this video:

    Get it? There’s a meet-cute featuring pre-tween pretend robots, and this clunky piece of junk communicates… what…?

    My reaction? “Urf. Now I’m going to have to waste time mocking this nonsense…”

    Okayfine. You will note that the robot seems to be suggesting that California Real Estate is something of a slot machine.

    But at least your CAR member agent has his squarish mechanical head screwed on right.

    And in a batteries-not-included world, your mechano-Realtor comes complete with two enormous D-cells, which must have added considerably to the postage.

    The box didn’t provide a lot of insight into why one should choose a CAR-certified RealtorBot, but it was fun imagery:

    Ultimately, though, it’s the test of the marketplace that matters. And a CAR-approved RealtorBot can panic mindlessly like no other.

    Hey, CAR members: No tar, no feathers in California? This is your money I’m having such a good time with…

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  • 7 comments

    My client went shopping for houses on Trulia.com, and only 75% of those she found were bogus listings…

    My note to her: “Trulia and Zillow both present inactive listings as though they were active to fool the public into thinking that they have more inventory than the agents they exploit for advertising money, even though their listings come straight from the MLS systems. Mere real estate brokers would be fined out of business for pulling these stunts.”

    Despair you nothing, though, hard-working dogs. Every time Trulia or Zillow are caught pulling these bait-and-switch stunts, one more active real estate shopper is turned off of their sites forever. Nice going, suits…

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  • 11 comments

    Things to do in Denver when all you can say is “SMIE!”

    Jay Thompson Earning His Pay

    “Please don’t shoot me! I’m your buddy, I swear…”

    The Knights Who Say “SMIE!”, spewers of beguiling lies, get their heads handed to them in Denver, but like all good shills, they just keep on spewing.

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you

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  • Comments are off for this post

    Are Zillow and Trulia thrashing savagely in a blood-red ocean? Here’s a clue: Both of them are jumping the shark.

    Do you feel like dinner?Is the business model of all the Realty.bots daft?

    It is Citron’s primary thesis that Zillow is a Web 1.0 business presenting itself as a Web 2.0 investment. The entire premise of Web 2.0 is that smart managing and publication of information interactively to users can scale tremendously, while costs remain fixed. But unlike Netflix, LinkedIn, and even Facebook, Zillow isn’t voyaging forth into an ever-expanding horizon of unlimited sized markets opening up on the internet. It generates virtually all of its revenue from U.S. real estate agents. And it does so the old- fashioned way—by cold-calling them on the telephone. It’s been operating since 2006 more or less as it does today, and was consistently unprofitable, until the last two quarters.

    [....] It is a “heavyweight” sales company masquerading as a “web 2.0″ leveraged technology play. The only way it has to grow revenues right now is with the increasing intensity of the sales effort. It’s not light and leverageable like LinkedIn, or OpenTable (Sales and mktg 21.4% of revenues) Zillow is more similar to Groupon than a Web 2.0 company such as LinkedIn or Open Table.

    [....]

    Expressed another way, it is apparent to Citron that Zillow is buying revenues with an intense telesales effort. Put in its simplest terms, they spent an additional $3.8 million on sales expense last quarter, and only generated $4.8 million in new revenues!

    By comparison, Open Table spends 21% of revenues on sales, and even LinkedIn spends 33%. This comparison shows how much Zillow is dependent on old school phone room sales—not Web 2.0 online leverage.

    While management might spin a fun story about their company growing revenues at a rapid pace, the proof is in the numbers. The cost of sales demonstrates that customers do not buy Zillow ads; they are sold Zillow ads, which should be disturbing because they address a target niche market unlike OPEN or LNKD—and cost of sales should be lower.

    [....]

    Citron notes that MOVE.com, formerly Homestore.com, referenced above, could not make money during the real estate boom of the mid 2000′s. At the time, they were the only online destination for brokers to buy leads. (Citron wrote about MOVE when its market cap was over two billion “with a B”; today it is 350 million “with an M”).

    How does anyone expect Zillow to thrive in that identical business, with competition from Realtor.com, Trulia, and a host of smaller competitors, all fighting for wedges of the same finite customer base? The inescapable market reality is that the business model of selling leads to real estate brokers just does not scale…read on.

    Do read on. The Citron report is devastating to all of the Realty.bots.

    Is it true? The suits deny it, of course, but for the minions of publicly-traded companies, it is a felony to tell the truth about business prospects. That Zillow and Trulia have hired a herd of Judas Goats — six-figure flunkies paid to write rah-rah-rah weblog posts — seems telling to me.

    Meanwhile, note these bold new initiatives:

    Trulia.com will give you a chance to win a Mercedes E550 just for building out your agent profile. That’s a car worth something like $75,000 in exchange for contributing free content to Trulia’s site. Why isn’t it worth your while to populate your profile without the incentive? Uh…

    But wait. There’s more. Zillow.com will give you a chance to win a $10,000 Amazon.com gift card just for completing a Zillow Premier Agent web site. And this is not worth doing without the incentive because…? Yeah.

    These are both instances of jumping the shark, and they’re both very loud statements that the big bosses at both Zillow and Trulia think their product — advertising paid for by schmucks like you — isn’t worth the money they charge for it. How can we know that for sure? Because free advertising is not the prize offered in their contests. Not even second-prize. Not even tenth-prize. Instead, your opportunity is to be their bitch and then not win a car or a gift card. The lottery is a sucker bet, too, but at least the lottery doesn’t hold you hostage forevermore.

    Are the Realty.bots really in trouble? I have nothing invested in them in any way you can measure investment. But people who will say things like this

    Think about the possibilities … $10,000 worth of free stuff.

    will say just about anything…

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  • 23 comments

    Jay Thompson takes leadership role at Zillow.com.

    Witness:

    Thompson joins Zillow’s growing partner outreach team, which includes Sara Bonert (director of broker services), Brad Andersohn (industry outreach manager), and recent addition Bob Bemis (vice president of partner relations). Together, the team advances Zillow’s goal of helping real estate agents grow and market their business.

    Grow and market whose business?

    This is precisely the kind of leadership I have come to expect from Jay since 2008 or so: The goat takes a left when the cattle take a right. If you don’t know what that means, you’ll probably be taking the right turn.

    I’m killing comments on this post, because I don’t want you to soil yourself in public just because I’m the only person in this benighted industry who will tell you the truth.

     
    More:

    Table talk from my email: A Judas Goat- yes? Got it.

    Me: What’s the point of having friends if you can’t sell ‘em out?

    Andersohn = ActiveRainiers

    Bemis = MLS systems

    Thompson = TwitBook losers

    Coming soon: Project FUD at REBarCamp: Can you afford to be WITHOUT Zillow?

    The window on integrity in real estate seems to be closing…

     
    Still more…

    Our business is corrupt, so it’s no surprise that this is the only place on the net where you can find the other side of this story. This is me from a comment at Real Estate Industry Watch:

    Whatever job they end up giving him, Jay Thompson has already delivered everything Zillow is paying for: His endorsement of their brand. Now they get to make the fallacious “Even-Jay-Thompson” appeal: Even Jay Thompson thinks you should piss away your money on Zillow’s advertising. Jay has yearned to be the Head Lemming of the RE.net since the passing of Joe Ferrara, but, as we saw in the Denise Lones fiasco, he lacked that sad little man’s taste for blood. Luckily, Zillow has provided him with an even better cliff off of which to drive his credulous “followers.” It’s sad to say, but they deserve each other.

    We’ve seen this kind of self-dealing posturing from Jay Thompson before — and not just from him, alas. But eighteen months from now — when you finally wake up and say, “Wuh happened?!?” — this post will still be here, one of many warnings you chose to ignore.

     
    And still more…

    These are two comments I posted in response to a comment from Jeff Brown in his post on social media in real estate marketing:

    Wow. I can’t think of a single observation in this comment that I can endorse as bearing some relation to fact. As we discussed in November of 2010, Jay Thompson tells some pretty big whoppers about his brokerage.

    > a 1% conversion rate via their IDX leads

    Those aren’t leads. Those are names — a lot of them fake names, I expect. Decent inquiries should convert at 50% eventually.

    > 2011 produced around 7,000 leads

    Somewhere a nose is growing.

    > That’s around 70-75 closed sides

    That is, two per head per year.

    > I do suspect that in his market, Phoenix, a full time agent would probably need to close a side a month.

    Because Starbucks only pays minimum wage.

    Seriously, an agent closing fewer than 20 houses a year, on average, should find another job. He can do a lot better, hour for hour.

    > I’m assuming a $150,000 price at 3% commission.

    Much more likely to be quite a bit lower on price, with a sales commission of 2.5% being very common, often less. Most of Thompson Realty’s listings are short sales, so I would expect 2.5% to the listing broker to be very common.

    > 34 X 12 = 408 closed transactions

    237 for 2011, split across 31 licensees as of today. Shar Rundio, the pick of the litter by far, accounted for 55 of those. For the rest, that leaves about 6 closings per head, on average, half your estimate — but a 150% improvement over 2010. Why isn’t someone telling cloying lies about this remarkable growth in productivity?

    (Nota bene: There may be some transactions closed outside the MLS. I do a few that way now. Note also that the Phoenix real estate market is 100% a Federated Govco basket case. These agents might do better in a market with actual real estate fundamentals in play.)

    > Jay and the exceedingly high quality of agents he hires

    Jay has one good agent — and it ain’t him.

    > I’d love to know what they’re doing on SM

    Schmoozing, like everyone else on TwitBook. They’re not making money.

    > Russ Shaw closed 401 sides last year[....] I strongly suspect most of those were generated by sources other than SM.

    Certainly not much more than 99%.

    > I may be seeing Jay in Georgia next month[....] I bet he’ll have plenty to say.

    No doubt. It will just be the product of elaborate fantasies.

    Here’s my take, an impression that hasn’t changed much in a long while:

    1. Jay Thompson is all hat an no cattle. He doesn’t know much, and much of what he claims to know is undefended gibberish.

    2. TwitBook schmoozing is a terrible real estate marketing strategy. Anyone who says otherwise needs to post real numbers, not impressive-sounding bullshit.

    3. By leading so many agents down the TwitBook path, Jay Thompson has contributed to the destruction of hundreds or thousands of real estate careers.

    And, of course, that’s why he’s bailing on real estate sales.

    As icing on the cake, he can come back to screw up the careers of the lingering survivors with a big Z on his chest.

    The second comment:

    I’m coming back to this, Jeff, because I think it’s important.

    There is nothing personal about this for me. This is business, and this particular item of business — vendors and their shills deliberately leading the grunts on the ground into error — has always been the business of this blog. It’s been your shining grace here, and Russell’s when he wrote here, and it shows up everywhere in our archives.

    Agents and brokers have always told bullshit stories about their results — always. But the impact of their fabrications were limited, both because the meme-stream was local and ephemeral and because any claims that mattered could be easily checked.

    This is what the internet has changed — particularly TwitBook. All the vendorsluts are having a heyday, of course, buying virtual cocktails and signing ironclad contracts. But by now water-cooler exaggerations are turned into Holy Writ by the amplifying power of the echo chamber.

    That much is very bad just by itself, but the whole point of this exercise, from the very beginning, has been to DISINTERMEDIATE THE BEE-HOTCHES!

    I wish Jay and Francy nothing but the best as people, but becoming an old-school Big Promises broker, becoming the NAR’s technology shill, and now selling out his TwitBook following to Zillow — these are all the polar opposite of the kinds of actions we should be taking, encouraging or applauding.

    And with that I move on. I feel like the get of Sisyphus and Cassandra, and I’ve got better things to do with my time. This is my argument to the RE.net: Jay Thompson is now beyond all doubt a vendor. If schmoozing with him puts a warm place in your heart, I hope you don’t come to discover a corresponding empty place in your wallet.

    By now I think I might be beating a dead horse. My objective is to have everything I have written on this topic in one place. Among the many ugly side-effects of the TwitBook phenomenon are back-biting, back-stabbing, clique warfare and broadcast whispering campaigns. I stand, not high it may be, but alone. There is nothing I have to say about anything that I am not willing to say in public, in full view, at full voice — and then stand behind forever. I am sick to death of all of these smarmy games, but I am also more than happy to show you how to oppose them.

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  • 26 comments

    Zillow partners with Tom Ferry.

    To say one word more is one too many.

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  • 6 comments