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Archive for the 'The Cheez-Whiz Prize' Category

Jay Thompson takes leadership role at


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.


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 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 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.


Say “Cheese!” It’s time to play Business Card Monte

We’ve all seen them. The usual suspects on a line-up across a counter in an empty kitchen. Gathering dust on a convenient window sill. Spread out like an abandoned poker game on a dining table. Ah yes, the real estate business cards left behind at showings. Black, white, red, blue, cheap, shiny, standard issue, each one with a Friendly Neighborhood Expert (FNE) smiling earnestly or stupidly grinning, depending (see tiny mug shot, above). My clients notice them too and they kind of scowl over the line up. When I toss mine onto the pile they say, “Hmm. Yours is different.” At which point I flash my own killerwatt smile and say, “Because I am.” They grin back, we move along.

Business cards are pretty awesome when you think about it. Palm-sized advertisements that you can carry about. A potentially effective way to get your message across, but it seems mostly wasted in the world of real estate.

Recently I saw a business card that was left behind with a printed thank you message: “Thank you for allowing us to show your property.” That’s nice. The message was printed next to the full length image of Mr and Mrs FNE. I wonder if it would be useful to have a showing-specific business card, with space to write a note on it? “Love the floor plan!” “Great job with the kitchen.” “Sorry we accidentally let the cat out.” “What the hell is that smell?” You get my point. Someone more experienced can fill me in on why that would be a disastrous idea for their client.

I’ve had property-specific business cards printed up, that’s an easy item to hand across a threshold if you are door knocking, and I have all purpose business cards I use, (see blurry photo, below) they feature The Brick Ranch logo from my website, and it does stand out in a sea of tiny FNEs splashed across the Formica, but business cards are so cheap, why not have a few on hand for a multitude of purposes?

I remember Russell Shaw commenting on one of the BHB business card posts that your face had better be on the card at Realtor networking events. Okay. I can get those printed for cheap at $18.00/thousand. Done. And at the rate I attend real estate networking events, they’ll still have to throw out the bulk after my funeral.

If I worked heavily in short sales, I’d have all sorts of info on the back of a Short Sale specific card. First-time buyers, luxury market, property management, anything could have its own card with information pertaining to that segment of the real estate world.

For the record, here’s my all-purpose business card, but I’m thinking of diversifying. Real estate business cards are notoriously boring, but tremendously cheap so why not? What about you? Done anything interesting with your business card lately?



Because bloodless revolutions are sexy


Rate-a-Realtor is for Ding-a-Lings

Techie agent types have probably googled their name (or the name of a competitor) only to find a agent review website that says something like:

Barbie Baker is a San Diego real estate agent. Barbie Baker has no reviews. Click here to review Barbie Baker.

If you’re uncommonly lucky, you’ll hit an agent with a review:

1 person has reviewed Barbi Baker. Phoenix Rand said the following about Barbie Baker: “Barbie was a fantastic agent to work with and helped us find the right house! Wow!”

Now, if you’re an agent, you’re saying to yourself “I wish they had a phone number at least,” but if you’re a consumer with half a brain, you’re saying to yourself “One rave review – I bet Barbie wrote it herself.” And, no offense to San Diego Realtors, but odds are she did. It’s easy and jeez – who’s going to catch you?

Everyone likes to compare real estate to other industries (travel anyone?), and the clear direct comparison here is business / restaurant review – sites like City Search / Urban Spoon / Yelp / Menuism. But the comparison is only valid in the most superficial sense.

How many customers will write a review?

Take one of my favorite lunch spots: Kau Kau in Seattle. Say they serve 10 people an hour from noon until 8. That’s 80 people a day or 29,200 people a year. Urban Spoon has four reviews of Kau Kau. Menuism has two reviews of Kau Kau. That’s one review for every 7,300 or so transactions on Urban Spoon and twice that many on Menuism.

That means that the average agent should not have a single review – even Russell Shaw does not do that many transactions per year. And agents who have more than one review are suspect. They’re either reviewing themselves or they’re sitting down with their favorite clients and “helping” them write a review.

Do you see value in these sites for consumers?


In Need of Migration Assistance – Please!

Hi All – I am in need of assistance with the migration of my blog – currently hosted on blogger to my own domain using WordPress.

I have referenced Tom Vanderwell’s post on July 2 asking for help/clarifications.  I’ve attempted to follow everyone’s previous advice and dagnabbit, it still don’t werk.

I currently have a domain setup and hosted on godaddy.  I have successfully installed WordPress on my new host.  I have tried the import function via WordPress to import my blog from Blogger.  When I grant access to Blogger, I get a blank webbrowser – it says done, but it ain’t.

Secondly, I’ve gone into Blogger and directed my blog to my custom domain – again, ain’t nuthin’.

I know I’m missing something, but I can’t figure this out.

Any thoughts?  Thanks!


Do you want Cheez-Whiz with that weenie?

The comparison of the life of man to a race, though it holdeth not in every point, yet it holdeth so well for this our purpose, that we may thereby both see and remember almost all the passions before mentioned. But this race we must suppose to have no other goal, nor other garland, but being foremost; and in it: To endeavour, is appetite. To be remiss, is sensuality. To consider them behind, is glory. To consider them before, humility. To lose ground with looking back, vain glory. To be holden, hatred. To turn back, repentance. To be in breath, hope. To be weary, despair. To endeavour to overtake the next, emulation. To supplant or overthrow, envy. To resolve to break through a stop foreseen, courage. To break through a sudden stop, anger. To break through with ease, magnanimity. To lose ground by little hindrances, pusillanimity. To fall on the sudden, is disposition to weep. To see another fall, disposition to laugh. To see one out-gone whom we would not, is pity. To see one out-go we would not, is indignation. To hold fast by another, is to love. To carry him on that so holdeth, is charity. To hurt one’s-self for haste, is shame. Continually to be out-gone, is misery. Continually to out-go the next before, is felicity. And to forsake the course, is to die. — Thomas Hobbes

There is much to criticize in the But one would hope that we would criticize criminality, venality and intentional transgressions, rather than honest, even if thoughtless, errors. From the former, we want not the correction of the bad behavior, but rather its elimination. For the latter, we can be big enough of spirit to help our brothermen learn to do better where they might have done badly. It is certainly within the bounds of reason to argue that Hobbes was more than unnecessarily dour.

Alas, we have a new candidate for The Cheez-Whiz Prize, a new weblog devoted to derision called “realweenie.” (I won’t link to this for the same reason I’ve stopped linking to Housing Panic.) It’s a Six Apart weblog, which means it doesn’t really qualify as technology, but it’s a “social” site, which mean it does. The social agenda, it would seem, is to make the world safe for high-schoolish exclusion:

The real estate weenie is on a mission, to seek out bad advice for real estate professionals and consumers. With the proliferation of real estate blogs it is getting harder to ignore the weenies, and it is time to recognize them for what they are. They are taking over the internet and now is the time to fight back.

If this is a joke, it’s a poor one.

In any case, I’ve auto-nominated BloodhoundBlog for the site’s “Weenie Roll”:

I think this is a truly ugly idea, so I would appreciate it if you would add BloodhoundBlog to your honor roll at once.

The other day Richard Riccelli pointed out the Groucho Marx quip, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.” I would much rather find my name on a blacklist than be thought to be among or even in support of the blacklisters.

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The Odysseus Medal: Inman’s real estate weblogging coverage

(I was going to award The Cheez-Whiz Prize to Google’s applications suite, but I decided not to bother. I do think it’s silly to go from centralized processing to distributed processing and then back to centralized processing, but I can understand why people might do just about anything to get away from Microsoft.)

This week’s Odysseus Medal goes to Matt Carter of Inman News for his four-part series on real estate weblogging.

Part I appears today, with the other three parts appearing later this week. The articles will go behind Inman’s pay wall, so if you want to see them for free, hop to it.

Dustin Luther at Rain City Guide writes about the series, also, along with details about a Blogger’s Connect later this year at Inman Connect.

Carter’s series explores real estate weblogging at amazing depth, and I would say so even if he hadn’t given BloodhoundBlog a big write-up. The articles explore work being done by many of the better-known names in the, including BloodhoundBlog contributors Kris Berg and Dan Green.

For my own part, my hat is off to everyone who got to be a part of this series, and to the as a whole. And most especially to Matt Carter, who has given us a lovely portrait of where we are now…

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Hugg a house or hug your Realtor? Discerning motivation in the pursuit of residential bliss . . .

We have a searchBot running in the Arizona Regional Multiple Listings Service to find our next home. We’re not actively searching, with a burning urge to move. But we know what we want, and, should it turn up, we may take the leap.

This is not terribly likely. We are professionals, after all. This means, first, that we have a very tightly refined set of criteria for the next home we will move into. And, second, it means that our next home will have to be a better-fit than our current home for our professional needs — a high hurdle to leap. Still, the bot manages to scare up a house or two a week, and we end up taking a closer look at maybe one out of twenty.

We are not unique as move-up buyers. We work with quite a few people who are pursuing this same strategy indirectly, through us. Sooner or later they will move-up to homes selling from $500,000 to $1,000,000 — when the right home comes on the market.

That’s traditional real estate in the age of the computerized MLS system.

Now let’s do the same thing without professional representation. We can go to and and and and look at what may be four different inventories of homes or may be essentially the same homes — with the degree of overlap unknown. Still worse, some of those home will have been off the market for months, since, with some exceptions, there is no penalty for lax housekeeping in the databases. The contact information is what it is, and, obviously, there is no built-in provision for arranging showings.

The idea that the secret power of Realtors is control of the MLS is funny, but funnier still — for now at least — are these goofy alleged alternatives to the Realtor’s way of identifying candidate homes for buyers.

Enter the folks from Incredible Agent with a solution. What if, every time you ran across some dubious candidate home at some dubious, you were to race over to to leave that home a Hugg, which is analogous to a Digg but even stoopider.

(I feel like a cad for picking on the Incredible Agent people. A few weeks ago I beat them up for trying to use BloodhoundBlog to sell their canned RealtorBlogs. They can take solace in the knowledge that, had anyone else come up with the HomeHugg idea, I would be even less forgiving.)

So you find a home you think you like and you give it a Hugg. The you go to some other site where you give another house a Hugg. Then other people can go to and give secondary Huggs to your Hugged homes, reinforcing your belief that you are, in fact, a Hugging genius.


Serious buyers obtain representation — not alone for the benefits a professional using professional home-search tools can bring. Frivolous wannabuyers flit about here and there for the pure joy of window-shopping.

There is no such thing as organized, systematic window-shopping.

And in light of this obvious fact, is this week’s winner of the Cheez-Whiz Prize.

The website has that goofy Web 2.0 look — where Web 2.0 might turn out to be the systemic inability to distinguish fad from phenomenon — and it has had more than its share of fawning coverage. Nevertheless, the underlying idea is beyond stoopid.

This is a dumb question: Why would anyone use HomeHugg? Here’s a better question: Why would anyone seriously interested in buying a home not obtain professional representation?

Steve Leung from Silicon Valley Real Estate Blog offers a very wise answer to that question, drawing the line from perception to motivation:

It’s easy to say that in any real estate transaction, the client’s best interest is paramount. But sometimes pointing out things that may impede a sale but advance a client’s goals is part of the job.

What clients really need when they hire a real estate agent is not someone who is a “closer” but someone who has the wherewithal needed to be a good consultant and Devil’s Advocate. Take care not to choose someone who gets color blind to any color but green when you need a truthful opinion…

Steve has written a fascinating essay, a profound contribution to the debate. In recognition of this, he is this week’s winner of the Odysseus Medal.

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5 comments’s CEO Glenn Kelman: “What if the parasites had to eat the parasites?”

It’s been a Redfin week for us. Kris Berg recorded her podcast with Glenn Kelman last week and I spent much of my spare time this week dealing with it. Allen Butler dealt with the audio quality, and then Cathleen and I went through the recording, pulling out apposite quotes for my own post.

I think we did the BloodhoundBlog idea credit, though: Kris demonstrated that an informed insider can ask much more pertinent questions, digging much deeper, than can mainstream journalists.

I’d like to cite another Redfin post as the first-ever recipient of the Odysseus Medal. Marlow Harris of 360 Digest gave us “Thank you, Mr. Kelman” yesterday, and I think it is a particularly good example of the real estate weblogger’s art.

Marlow has been on top of Redfin from the very beginning. Some of my first links from BloodhoundBlog were to Marlow’s Redfin posts. But all that notwithstanding, yesterday’s post was excellent irrespective of content: Rich in detail, peppered with links, written in an engaging, can’t put it down style. This is a level of quality unsurpassed on the

And the winner of this week’s Cheez-Whiz Prize is… I have never bought Kelman’s charm offensive, and events since Kris Berg’s interview seem to bear me out. (As a side note, Cynthia Pang, Redfin’s PR maven, was nothing but sweet and painstakingly efficient throughout this process.)

First, to claim to have reformed is easy, it’s the actual reforming that’s hard. We are what we do, not what we say we do. A common dodge of recidivist miscreants is the insistence that their behavior is not bad, it is your own misunderstanding of the good intentions motivating that behavior that is at fault. If you listen to the podcast, you will hear Kelman resort to that defense again and again.

Can you hear Eric Burden singing? “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” The song is about a wife-beater. It’s worth your while to remember that style of rationalization for egregious behavior.

Abandoning whatever hope he might have had to extend an olive branch to the rest of the real estate industry, in The Los Angeles Times Kelman said: “Regular folks resent what agents charge. Soon the industry will be seen as bad as Big Oil or the tobacco companies.”

Having listened to the podcast, Steve Berg, Kris’ husband and business partner, came up with his own list of very cogent questions for Redfin. These Kelman dismissed as “talking trash”. This is the fallacy ad hominem, of course. “Trash talk” is white noise, where Berg’s post was devastatingly serious. It is reasonable to surmise that Kelman hopes to dismiss Berg’s questions because he cannot answer them.

By posting Days on Market, is already violating the rules of the nine Southern California MLS systems it just joined. Kelman speculated yesterday about crafting a further violation of MLS rules.

Oh, Lord! Please don’t let him be misunderstood. is less a business than a malicious prank. It cannot exist unless the rules it routinely violates are routinely upheld by everyone else. As an example, how long would Redfin last as a listing brokerage if every buyer’s agent insisted that buyers interested in Redfin listings contact the listing agent directly for a showing? As with every sort of criminal, Redfin’s crimes are only made possible by the nearly-universal honesty and good faith of everyone else. As Kelman himself asked in Kris Berg’s interview: “What if the parasites had to eat the parasites?”

Arguably, this week’s award is really a Sleaze-Whiz Prize. qualifies for the more benign Cheez-Whiz Prize because, at bottom, its business model is absurd. Real estate brokerage is a difficult business even when conducted by people who understand it. is the perfect geek disaster in the making: The hubris of a near-infinite ignorance presuming to reinvent a wheel it never bothered to understand in the first place. Sic semper scelestis…

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The First Honorary Cheez-Whiz Prize:, where play money is play wisdom

When I was a child, I used to love to play Monopoly with my kid sister, Pammy. She was sweet and passive and just wanted to play, where I’m the most competitive. I would routinely put her six figures in debt, then just keep lending her more and more money, so that I could put hotels on absolutely everything.

I think this proves that I am an incomparably talented real estate investor. Kirk Kerkorian owns three of the four corners of the intersection of Tropicana and Las Vegas Boulevards. But the only difference between us, as real estate investors, is that Kirk is playing with real money, where I was playing with play money.

That can’t be much of a difference. Can it?

If you’re thinking, “Who would bother to answer such a dumb question?” — there is an answer:, a brand new wannabe that is even stoopider than an AVM for pricing homes.

The site explains itself in a particularly soft-skulled newage style:

CrowdValue is where we process everyone’s idea of value for specific problems – such as “What is the value of a house for sale” or “what will be the value of a square foot in 6 months in my neighborhood”? So in that regard, CrowdValue is exactly like the stock exchange – it brings people together to coordinate all the different views of value and settle on an equilibrium price, at a point in time. CrowdValue is a trading engine and marketplace.

No, CrowdValue is a silly, masturbatory game. Stock prices are not equilibria, they are a consensus among buyers and sellers about real values. A play money stock market is as dumb as… a play money real estate market.

An AVM is at least rational enough to make guesses about what real traders might do. There is no value whatever in making guesses about what pretend traders will do with pretend money. Most especially since real buyers and real sellers are the only people who can establish the market value of real property, by negotiating to a meeting of the minds.

I’ll award the first Odysseus Medal next week, but this week marks the inauguration of the Cheez-Whiz Prize, the stoopidest application of gee whiz technology to come across my desk.

And is the first winner, of course. The Technorati buzz was deafening, and that alone should put skeptical minds on notice. My feeling is that the Wisdom of Crowds idea is itself hugely dubious, but there is absolutely no reason to expect people to behave rationally where they have nothing of importance at stake.

That is: Anyone can win big at Monopoly. Only Kirk Kerkorian owns MGM/Mirage, Inc. If you don’t get the difference, you don’t have to tell us which side of the Blackjack table you stand on.

Winners of the Cheez-Whiz Prize should feel free to announce their achievement to the world. Virtue is its own reward, so I doubt I’ll do anything special for winners of the Odysseus Medal. But I’m thinking that, at the end of the year, I should award a special Cheez-Whiz Idea of the Year Prize. Maybe I’ll give the winner a Zune, the chocolate Cheez-Whiz treat that only lost $289 million on its way to the social.

Anyway, good on ya’, Yours is probably not the stoopidest idea I’ll talk about in this feature, but it will always be the first…

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