Where is the power center of real estate?

Oct 29, 2007  |  Michael Wurzer

I was envious today as I read Marc Davison’s description of a recent Keller Williams think tank meeting. I’ve been impressed with Gary Keller ever since I read his book outlining the process he found successful for real estate sales and turned it into the Keller Williams franchise. I would loved to have participated with this group, yet we’ve been so focused on our MLS clients that we haven’t reached out to the franchises separate from our MLS efforts. As I watch Trulia and Zillow court the franchises hard and fast, I have to wonder if we’ve been making a mistake by not having stronger relationships with the franchises.

At the same time, Jim Duncan writes today that the power center may be shifting to agents, something I’ve long thought. On the other hand, Kris Berg says that size does matter when selecting a broker and that bigger is better. Along that same line of thinking, my friends over at eNeighborhoods have long established relationships with the franchise systems, and, as is often the case with them, that’s starting to look smarter and smarter.

I’ll conclude this post by circling back to the Keller Williams meeting for a second, and contrasting that with one of the key MLS meetings, called Connection, which has now purposely excluded vendors from their discussions. This is a mistake. MLSs need to engage with vendors now more than ever. We need to be having high-level discussions about the future of MLS and the real estate sales process.

I suspect the MLSs feel the vendors will try to sell them something or otherwise prevent them from speaking freely. I can only speak for myself, but my primary motivation in attending these conferences is to participate in the discussions. I no more want to cart a booth or projector or brochures to these meetings than the man on the moon. I want to come with my mind only and engage on the issues and seek better answers together. Keller Williams is inviting Trulia to their event and Google is invited to Connection, which leaves me wondering even more where we should be focusing our attention.

10 Responses to “Where is the power center of real estate?”

  1. Interestingly enough, I’m in the middle of writing a post that is the opposite of Kris Berg’s (at least, her statement about bigger being better).

    On to your true question . . . I agree with your wonder . . . I think you should be engaging with franchises. The same thing is going to happen to franchises nationally that will start happening to brokerages AND agents locally. PERGE AND MERGE. Happens every time we cycle like this.

  2. Kris Berg says:

    Misunderstood yet again! I said that ALL THINGS BEING equal, bigger is better. All things are the agents, and they are never equal. First and foremost, it is the individual agent which is most important to the transaction – the experience, the commitment to their work, the tools they embrace and the resources at their disposal. After that, a big company does offer advantages.

  3. Kris, I didn’t misunderstand you. Your post makes a good case for why a big broker/franchise adds value for you. Of course there are exceptions, and what works for you now might not work for others or even you at another time, but I was referring to why you find bigger brokers better for your practice at this point in time. I just didn’t add all those caveats.

  4. MLS Vendors should be excluded from the Connect discussions, I think. Clearly the solutions vendors have been offering MLSs are not now providing resolution to the problems we as MLS operations are experiencing. In fact, most often the vendor is a part of the problem–which is not just one of software design, or support services, but is also based on the MLS vendor business model which–like that of the recording industy–embraces marketing and pricing behavior which is no longer acceptable or applicable to current online consumerism. Today’s economic circumstances call for some reinvention of business models on the part of the MLS service providers–until that is accomplished and changes implemented, the stalemate will continue. Nothing is to be gained by continuing discussions with the same old dialogue and the same old players.

  5. What reinvented business model are you advocating, Judith? What revolution have MLSs been seeking that vendors have denied?

  6. Also, I’d love to hear your articulation of the problems you see MLSs facing today.

  7. Troy Rech says:

    Come on Judith – coming from anyone else, I would say the post above borders on absurd. The solutions offered by MLS vendors are exactly what the MLS operators such as the Traverse City Association of REALTORS have demanded for its members. To point at a single group of technologists and, effectively, say “its THEIR fault not ours and we can’t adjust quick enough because of ‘them'” is ridiculous. To exclude them from a conference on MLS industry related issues falls in the same category of ‘ridiculous’.

    Judith, I have admired your professionalism and career throughout my very short 8 years in this industry. Your voice is respected and your words carry considerable weight. But, on this issue you are, imho, completely off-base.

  8. […] are those who believe MLS software vendors are obstacles to progress.  All I can say to such naysayers is they should hang around our shop for awhile.  Listen […]

  9. Well, Troy, I am not sure that stirring the MLS vendor pot is a lack of professionalism…and I’m sorry that you want to get personal about the issue at hand. In fact, I am–and have been for the last several years–a strong supporter of Fidelity and its MLS services, particularly in this latest iteration.

    Having said all that, what you seem to be missing in my earlier post was that the industry-wide issues we are talking about are, it seems to me, more vast than a software upgrade or a pricing change. It seems MLS vendors are still thinking in terms of features–a new one here or a new one there. However, these issues require more than just a quick slap at a gnat bite of a problem. The current changes in user expectations are vast and will become even more so when our younger Realtors really do begin to take leadership positions ( if they are still around the organization). These will be the leaders who will be (and are NOW) thinking in terms of seamless compatibility with social marketing concepts, with communication pathways that transcend the distinctions we use today, with business infrastructure which is not based on nickel-and-dime billing programs. They will be the users who grew up with Facebook, and u-Tube, and Amazon technology and that’s what they’ll be looking for in all their software vendors.

    And as an association manager I know one thing: if good members don’t get what they want, they’ll leave us. Yep. There will be better inventory control and marketing products out there for serious professionals, and those folks will go with whatever works best. And we managers have got to know that if we don’t position ourselves to understand the alternatives and make every effort to provide that same quality, we’ll be hollering down the empty rain barrel, as they say.

    So where does all that leave this discussion? Well, vendors individually don’t have nearly the resources to compete with their real competition in the information fields. I think vendors need to be working together to build programs that can provide interactivity, seamless data exchanges, security, and statistical programs that are meaningful. In other words, consistent high quality standards are in order. As is interfacing with user-specific or location-based application software.

    Perhaps it’s a little harsh to dis-invite vendors from the blue-sky thinkers table. If we were to exclude everyone with a personal preservation agenda (and that includes job security)–well, it would look like an empty rain barrel in the conference room. It’s not just vendors who are obstacles to progress….and I don’t think that’s “completely off base”, either.

  10. Judith, welcome to the FBS Blog! I encourage you to read some or all of the early posts as well as the more recent ones. I think you’ll find that the direction you’re seeking is here. We’re all about data standards (been to a RETS meeting lately?) and moving the MLS industry to leverage the power of the read/write web. You’re right that the web is bringing a transformation in all our lives, and embracing and defining that future is critical. Where you’re wrong is in categorizing vendors and our individual minds based on your experience with one vendor. I wish you had been an FBS client, because your view might not be so jaded. I encourage you to consider that vendors as a group and individually have a stake in the future, too, and that we have something to contribute. Ignoring that is perilous.