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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?

9 comments

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…

23 comments

Why Does Zillow Hate my House?

Why Does Zillow Hate my House?

If you are a real estate geek like me, you are obsessed with real estate valuation.  It’s bad enough that I spend most of my day performing real estate valuations for numerous investments, but my passion for real estate sends me off to open houses on Sunday’s just looking.  You know it’s bad when the realtors know your name and worse when they give your that disapproving stare of disdain as you ask them for the 50th time, “how long has this home been on the market”?

To be fair, my fiancé and I are in the process of searching for a brownstone in Brooklyn.  While we probably won’t be in the market for two or three years, I like to stay on top of pricing and opportunities, so I can jump on any wayward / misinformed price.  Plus, I am a real estate nerd.  Given this, I am also considering selling my New York City condo.  It’s too small for a family, and I haven’t lived in it in three years now.  It will make an awesome pied-a-terre when I am 50, but I am not sure I want to keep paying the gap between my rental income and the very large mortgage / ever increasing condo fee.  I dread the day when the fee will be larger than my mortgage payment, but its coming.

This leads me to a very real problem.  How can I determine the true value of my home without putting it on the market?  I work in real estate private equity.  To determine the price of an asset, I can call an appraiser, three or four brokers and ask a friend what he might pay.  Averaging all those numbers gives me a good approximation of the price of my asset and best of all its free and takes about 10 mins, including idle chitchat.

But what about my home?  It has become easier to see what other people have recently sold their homes for.  Websites like Property Shark, Street Easy, etc. offer a good real estate detective past sales data of comparable property.  The major problem is that I cant tell how their home looked compared to mine,  new kitchens, bathrooms, etc, so it becomes rather hard to triangulate on a value.  Let’s look at the issues one by one.

Appraisers…  I would trust an appraiser to value my house as much as I would trust Bernie Madoff to manage my money.  Did you know on many refinances, the bank only requires the appraiser to do a drive by?  What the hell is a drive by?  How can an appraiser tell me what my house is based on by not even taking one step into my home?  Additionally, appraisers use historical comparables sales data as their #1, #2 and #3 valuation metric.  It’s why they are always low when the market is hot and high when the market is awful.

Brokers…  Given the spectrum of people they deal with, they like to err on the side of insanely optimistic.  Where the appraiser will either be high or low, you can guaranty a broker will always be high.  I wish I could strike a deal with a broker where if they didn’t sell the house for the first quote they gave me, they would be forced to buy it from me or pay me some kind of “liar’s penalty.”  I understand their motivation, after all, if they tell me a low number, I am likely going to keep renting the property and they will get nothing anyway.  Too bad they can’t pay their mortgage with my respect and admiration.

Phone a Friend…  I am always shocked at how little people know of the real estate market, often parroting the latest sound bites from the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times.  Aside from that, no one wants to tell their friend that their home is worth 20% less than they paid for it or worse.  Still, this is likely the best option.

All of that leads me to Zillow, a non-biased (or so they say), algorithm that somehow takes a walking tour of my home when I am away and gives me a value of my home.  It is also kind enough to update me every 30 days with the steady, albeit, depressing decline of my home value.  Strange, since home prices are increasing like crazy in my area.  The problem?  I live in New York City.  There are literally hundreds of homes on each block and every building is very different.  Some are pre-war, beautifully, renovated buildings, others are shiny state of the art new construction and still others are shabby 1950’s crap.  And they could be right next door to each other.  On my block alone, there have been sales for $800 – $5000 / sf.

Additionally, while Zillow can see my house, it can’t seem to see my doorman or the building specific new renovations or the fact that I am right outside of the entrance to Central Park on the positive side.  On the negative side, it can’t see that my unit gets very little natural light, sits next to the trash compactor on a low floor with no view and needs several touch up renovations on the interior.

Zillow chooses to make an example of my home and prices it 5 – 10% lower than it should.  Given Zillow’s influence, can I sue them for libel?  I am a minority; is this a hate crime?!  Or is Zillow just an algorithm that works well in areas where there are a lot of very similar homes frequently transacted, if that area even exists?  You be the judge, I am going with libel, hate crime…

6 comments

Zillowpress Agent Premier–(Fairly Nifty)

I just fired up one of Zillow’s new Agent Premier sites and poked around.

It’s pretty impressive stuff.

I run a number of WordPress multisite networks for Real estate, and at a glance, Zillow’s done a really good job of offering a really functional wordpress install, with great design options, idx integration, and of course, easy bloggy wordpress content creation…

Out of the box.

In a few minutes.

For Just $10 Bucks A Month!

But Of Course These Sites Won’t Get You Leads (Yet)

Look, for the price Zillow’s agent premier sites are a fabulous deal. You’ll instantly have a site that’s probably better than what you’ve got going now.

But you’ll still be missing 3 very important things.

  • A Traffic Generation Strategy
  • A Core Lead Capture Element [Your IDX Search doesn’t count, nobody will trade an email address for what they can get for free on the Z :) ]
  • And a Consistent Follow Up Strategy

You can find good help and layer these things on.

And Zillow can make implementing a modern (post 2007 real estate lead generation strategy) easier by looking into these 2 feature quick requests.

  1. Add a “below post” widget area so folks can link out to a lead generation squeeze page, or include some kind of opt in form… (for something, anything other than a property search.)
  2. And/Or include a totally blank page template so folks can build their squeezes on the fly.

There are also some minor things missing like Facebook commenting, advanced SEO options, and other minor stuff that can be added via a plugin here and there.

But otherwise… for $10. You kidding me?

I maybe sorta wanted to not like it…

But geez… we all have to admit. Zillowpress is pretty nifty….

4 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.

26 comments

Zillow partners with Tom Ferry.

To say one word more is one too many.

6 comments

Regarding the Zillow.com IPO: “Since when is a seven year old company with really no large scale growth prospects that has lost money every single year on revenue less than $45 million/year worth half a billion dollars? Am I missing something?”

The question comes from a comment to a post at Seattle-based start-up blog, GeekWire. The news? Zillow.com is bumping the per-share price on its forthcoming IPO to as high as $18, up from the $12-$14 range it started with when the public offering was announced.

I like that question, because it parallels one of my own: What, precisely, can Zillow hope to do — other than provide big paydays for its VCs and founders — with $71 million in new funding? Which parts of the site will require that much build-out?

My take: The web-tech IPO craze that’s going on right now is just the next phase in the rape-the-rubes strategy Wall Street has pursued since internet start-ups came on the scene in the late ’90s. There is plenty of money to be made churning the stock of “businesses” that, in the end, all amount to MySpace.com — all hype, no actual value.

What’s the name for that phenomenon…? Oh, yes — a bubble.

The good news: Cynthia Pang Nowak, formerly Redfin.com’s queen-bee PR geek, is now signed on with Zillow. While she may be both the smartest and most breathtakingly beautiful woman on the Puget Sound, it remains to be seen if she can answer the BloodhoundBlog question: What would David Gibbons do?

Meanwhile, GeekWire.com deserves your daily attention. Run by Todd Bishop and John Cook, formerly the start-up reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a long-time friend of BloodhoundBlog, it’s kind of like TechCruch in the rain — but without the bluster and hyperbole. The daily email digest is quick way to keep up with the wired side of our world.

But: Am I all wet? Does Zillow.com look like a buy to you at $18? Can it go to $36? To $180? To $0.01? I like the people who work there, and the founders have been very good to us from the beginning. But I’ve never seen the value of Zillow.com, except as an advertising play, and I still don’t. As with the comment quoted above, am I missing something?

16 comments

Brett Arends from the Wall Street Journal on Zillow’s morning gloom report: “All this bearish news makes me bullish.”

Our friends at Zillow.com have figured out the secret to getting news coverage: Bad news:

Home values in the United States fell faster in the first quarter of 2011 than they have in any quarter since 2008, when the housing market experienced its worst performance, according to Zillow’s first quarter Real Estate Market Reports(1). The Zillow Home Value Index(2) fell 3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, and declined 8.2 percent year-over-year to $169,600. Home values have fallen 29.5 percent since they peaked in June 2006.

Negative equity reached a new high mark with 28.4 percent of single-family homeowners with mortgages underwater at the end of the first quarter, up from 27 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010. A homeowner is in negative equity when they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth.

Meanwhile, foreclosures(3) rose throughout the first quarter as banks unfroze moratoriums and allowed foreclosures to resume. Foreclosures had fallen in late 2010 due to the slew of moratoriums brought about by the “robo-signing” controversy. In March, one out of every 1,000 homes in the country was lost to foreclosure.

With substantial home value declines, as well as increasing negative equity and foreclosures, Zillow forecasts show it is unlikely that home values will reach a bottom in 2011. First quarter data has prompted Zillow to revise its forecast, now predicting a bottom in 2012, at the earliest.

“Home value declines are currently equal to those we experienced during the darkest days of the housing recession. With accelerating declines during the first quarter, it is unreasonable to expect home values to return to stability by the end of 2011,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “We did expect substantial payback from the homebuyer tax credits, which buoyed the housing market last year, but underlying demand post-tax credit, as well as rising foreclosures and high negative equity rates, make it almost certain that we won’t see a bottom in home values until 2012 or later.”

My own take is that we are at or near the knee in the curve: While supplies of fire-sale-priced homes may be abundant, resale prices are by now so low as to make cash-rich investors completely nuts. In Phoenix in April, our values were up for the homes we track. Doesn’t mean we’ve turned the corner, but big drops from here seem unlikely to me.

Meanwhile, here’s a bullish rejoinder to Zillow from the Wall Street Journal:

Remember Japan’s “zombie banks”? These were the financial institutions that haunted that country’s economic recovery after the 1990 crash. They staggered on with huge losses they could never repay — the walking dead.

Here in America we have “zombie homeowners.” Millions of them. According to Zillow, a record 16.3 million families are upside-down on their home loans. Sixteen million! And many are a long way upside-down. Their homes may never be worth as much as their mortgage. But they are hemorrhaging cash to pay the nut every month.

Recovery? What recovery? This looks a bit like a depression to me.

What does this mean?

All the misery makes me think of a great French general, Ferdinand Foch. He’s the one who defended Paris at the Battle of the Marne in World War I. During the darkest hour of the fighting, he is supposed to have looked around him and said:

“Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent — I attack!”

In other words, when it comes to distressed housing, I’m finding it hard not to be a contrarian bull.

Why? Am I crazy?

Well, maybe. But I’m a medium-bull for all the reasons everyone else is gloomy.

First, prices in many areas are now cheap. They have corrected a long way since the bubble began to burst five years ago. Of course, it depends on where you are. I’m still skeptical of the real-estate markets that have held up best — prime stuff like Manhattan, San Francisco or Beverly Hills. It’s hard to get a deal there.

But in the places that have fallen the furthest, there are deals aplenty. Zillow found only four metro areas in America that have leveled out, or risen, lately. Notably, two of those are in stricken Florida — Fort Myers and Sarasota. Have they fallen so far they’ve hit bottom? Maybe.

Look at this chart. It shows Miami real-estate prices, adjusted for inflation, over the past quarter-century, using Case-Shiller data. The picture is pretty remarkable. The gigantic bubble has been completely wiped out. We’re back to prices seen in the 1980s — when “Miami Vice” was on the air.

The second reason: There are tons of foreclosures and short sales on the market. And there are plenty more sitting in the wings. Banks are holding back big shadow inventories of homes. And that means you can get a great deal. They have to sell. You don’t have to buy. You hold all the cards. Remember, the name of the game isn’t “let’s make a deal.” It’s “take it or leave it.”

Third, in many places rental yields are terrific. It’s cheaper to own than to rent. There have been some forced sales in my building in Miami. Based on my math, the latest buyers have bought condominium units for six times gross annual rents, and maybe 12 times net rents. We’re talking net yields of 7% or more. And rents are rising, because so many former owners are now renters.

The fourth reason I’m bullish is that you can get a very cheap mortgage. Thirty-year conforming loans are going as low as 4.3%. Throw in the tax break on the interest, and you are talking cheap finance. See latest weekly mortgage-rate update.

The fifth reason is that, as painful as this collapse has been, real estate has historically proven to offer very good long-term protection against inflation. Returns have typically averaged about 1% or 2% above inflation. At a time when everyone has been piling into gold, commodities and TIPS bonds to protect themselves against the possibility of inflation, it seems odd that the most popular and successful hedge, namely real estate, goes a-begging.

Thirty-year TIPS bonds are yielding just 1.6% over inflation, and shorter-term bonds offer even lower returns. Short-term TIPS are actually offering negative real yields. How holding TIPS may actually make you poorer.

The sixth reason I’m bullish is perverse, but I’m sticking by it. Everyone else is bearish. You cannot find a real-estate bull anywhere. No one wants to own this asset. No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to hear about it. Everyone seems to agree it’s just going down, down, down — forever.

They said much the same about stocks in 1987, 2002 and 2009; Treasury bonds in 1982; and gold in 2000. I cannot prove this is capitulation, but it sure smells something like it.

As ever, if you aren’t disciplined and patient, this probably isn’t for you.

I have absolutely no idea when real estate is going to hit rock bottom. It may take several years. I suspect it will do so in different markets at different times. But there are good homes out there going really cheap. If you hunt down the bargains, you’re disciplined about price, you get the right financing, and you hold on for five years or more, you’ll probably do pretty well from here.

5 comments

ZestiBerry: Zillow available for your BlackBerry

If you are a Blackberry user, you can now access your Zestifarm on the go.
Thank you, Zillow! Blackberries are industrial strength communicators. They have the best keyboards and battery life in the business. Another reason I like them is that they have insurance available for the time when you drop it and it doesn’t dent the concrete. And one more thing… you can take a call and look something up on your phone without hanging up. That seems to be a big deal these days. Now you can see Zillow on a Blackberry as well. Are there any other happy blackberristas out there?

3 comments

Zillow says, “If you will send us your clients as web traffic, we’ll be pleased to sell them back to you, again and again, from now on.”

Q: What do you do when your massive Realty.bot web site, target-marketed to equity-rich home-sellers, finds itself in a real estate market where most sellers are upside down and do not give a rat’s ass what their homes might sell for?

A: Punt.

This is an eyeball play, up front, just pure traffic-baiting. But the genius of it is that it turns into FUD for the agents in the long run: A million necks, one noose.

These sites are just noise, by now, just more “media” — uninformed opinions from people who make their living doing something other than selling real estate. Delivering your clients to them strikes me as a poor idea.

16 comments

Zillow.com jumps the shark, makes a big splash in the dead pool

Cathleen just discovered the hard way that Zillow.com now expects us to pay them $9.95 per listing to populate their database.

So long, Zillovians. It’s been good to know you.

(News at Inman. An obvious workaround at AG.)

17 comments

Hey Zillow, hey Trulia, hey SmarterAgent: Here’s what I really want in a smart-phone app…

Not for me — for our lenders

Until lately, lenders and title people never really lived in our world. You could get ’em on the phone all day long — so long as it wasn’t Sunday, so long as it wasn’t 9:30 at night.

That’s changing, thank goodness, especially with lenders.

But: If I need a Loan Status Report (that’s Arizonan for a pre-qual form) at 9:30 on a Sunday night, I need it.

So here’s what I want for one (or more) of y’all to make for lenders:

1. Give them whatever kind of pre-qual calculator they need — with internet access, of course.

2. At the lender’s option, issue the pre-qual information in any extant state association of Realtors form, along with something generic and an auto-generated cover letter.

3. Email as a PDF or send an e-page with a URL to a PDF on your server.

As dumb as these forms are, and as perniciously useless as they sometimes can be, it’s getting to be impossible, in Arizona at least, to submit a contract without one.

So: If you would, please make it easy for lenders to make loan commitments.

Feel free to charge ’em for the app, of course. We all know they’re loaded… 😉

3 comments

Zillow’s Zindex of historic Bedrock shows significant gains

Rubbles up, Flintstones down. Is Fred facing foreclosure?

SEATTLE, Jan. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- It's a proud day in Bedrock as the new Zillow Zindex reveals that home prices in that historic city are up 2.5% for the fourth quarter of 2008. Bucking the trend for many American communities, Bedrock seems to be benefitting from a mid-century-modern nostalgia. "Face it," says Sam Slagheap, Grand Poobah of the Bedrock Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, "it's the architecture."

Bedrock notables Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble both saw gains in the Zestimates for their homes, with Rubble seeing the bigger increase -- 2.8%. The Flintstone home grew in value by a more modest 2.3%.

Even so, there are whispers in Bedrock that the Flintstones could be facing foreclosure. Due to a labor dispute with Mr. Slate, Fred Flintstone has not worked in months. And county records indicate that the family may have encumbered the home for more than its present value.

"That's a condition we at Zillow call 'underwater,'" said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow's vice president of data and analytics. "We like to use that term because it gets better headlines than 'upside-down.'"

The Zillow Zindex of Bedrock is one of many recent press sensations concocted by Zillow.com, the Seattle-based real estate start-up funded by advertising but powered by sensational, albeit utterly mindless gossip.

Other recent revelations from the Zillow press release team:

* The White House, which is not and has never been listed for sale, could be worth as much as $308,058,237.19 if it were. And as huge as that imaginary number might be, and as carefully-extracted as it must have been from a Zillow statistician's rectum, nevertheless that number would have been even $23 million higher a year ago. And while reporters might be wondering how far 308 million dollar bills would stretch, if you placed them end-to-end, Zillow's crack team of mathematicians-on-crack have taken on an even more impressive challenge: How much would the White House be worth on Jupiter?

* Ever wonder which celebrity Americans might want to live next door to, if there were no such thing as physics, economics and burly security details? Zillow didn't just stop at wondering, it asked Americans who they'd love to shoot the breeze with over the ol' back fence. The winner? Alaska Governor and failed Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Zillow's pollsters did not ask who was going to shovel America's snow, after it moved to Alaska, because that would have taken the fun out of everything.

* There are massive layoffs in the imaginary caviar industry. Imaginary champagne is being poured by the barrel straight into the sewers. Imaginary yacht-makers are going belly-up all along the briny main. Why? Because American homeowners lost an imaginary $2 trillion on their homes in 2008. After their recent gains of an imaginary $3 trillion, the imaginary $5 trillion reversal has sent then entire imaginary luxury goods market into a tailspin.

Where next for the Zillow press release team? Zestimating the Jetsons? Zindexing Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine? What world can best be conquered when all connections to fact have been jettisoned? You guessed it, the most highly-prized real estate of all: The magazine rack next to the check-out counter at the supermarket. There is nowhere else that Zillow's news could be quite so valuable.

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Last call for end-of-the-year discounts on tickets for BloodhoundBlog Unchained in Phoenix, April 28 – May 1, 2009 — and catch us for free at Zillow’s offices in Seattle on February 12

This is the front

and back

face of a door-hanger we have going out in high-equity neighborhoods starting January 3rd. In most of Phoenix, for now, listing is essentially limited to short sales and lender-owned homes, so most of our time this year will be devoted to buyers. But if this card — or variations on it — can pull the way we want it to, it should be worth around $3,000 a week, net of all expenses. The lord knows we can use it.

Brian and I keep getting mail from people wondering why we’re going to be teaching weblogging at BloodhoundBlog Unchained in Phoenix. We’re not. All we ever teach is marketing — on-line, on paper and face-to-face. There is a piece to this door-hanger that you’re not seeing that should more than double its response rate. That’s marketing — and there is no one else in the real estate industry who teaches the kinds of marketing that Brian and I cover as a matter of course.

You can catch a preview of our marketing curriculum in Seattle on February 12th. We’ll be doing a free Unchained preview at Zillow HQ, 999 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA, on Thursday, February 12th from 1pm to 5pm. Scott Cowan is organizing the event with help from Drew Meyers and David Gibbons from Zillow. Marlow Harris will be joining us, along with some other Seattle blogging luminaries. The grand finale will be a debate between Redfin.com CEO Glenn Kelman and BloodhoundBlog iconoclast Greg Swann, moderated by Brian Brady, American Real Estate’s Number One Marketing Maven.

I gotta go. I’m showing this morning. But I wanted to remind y’all that today is the last day for a couple of big discounts on Unchained tickets. The Early-Bird price — $100 off — goes away altogether today. And the Unchained Alumnus discount will drop from $200 to $100 at midnight tonight. That’s $100 in savings, either way, for acting today.

Click the appropriate button below to sign up now.

CyberProfessionals: $397


















Unchained Alumnus: $497 (you must act on this offer before 01/01/09)


















Early-Bird Price: $597 (you must act on this offer before 01/01/09)


















The full price for admission jumps to $697 tonight at midnight. If you’re planning to be with us, we’re making it worth your while to express that commitment today.

Phoenix? Seattle? Both? Can’t wait to see you in 2009!

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Zillow feels the market’s pain

The market crunch has hit the Seattle real estate scene hard this week.  First there was Redfin announcing it was laying off 20% of its employees earlier this week and today we get Zillow’s announcement that they’re cutting 40 jobs (roughly 25%).   You can read about it on the Zillow blog.

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