As the kerfuffle over a San Diego real estate broker pulling their listings from syndication sites is about to enter its second week, I keep seeing something reiterated over and over. I’ve seen it stated in many different ways, but it all boils down to “listing data”. How important, many say critical, that data is. Well, not the data itself necessarily, rather it is the control of that data (or lack thereof) that seems to get so many riled up. Here’s a paraphrase of the argument:
Our listing data is our lifeblood. Listings are the most valuable thing we have to offer the real estate consumer. We’ve got to stop giving our data away!
If you think listing data is all you have to offer the real estate consumer, then I have to respectfully suggest you find another line of work.
“Listing data” is the most valuable thing you have to offer? A pile of photos, some cheesy sales copy (Honey, stop the car!) and a list of amenities is all you have to offer?
We (“we” as in the real estate collective) lost control of listing data long ago. Gone are the days when the only way a potential home buyer could find out what homes were for sale was to go to a real estate broker’s office and flip through printouts in a three-ring binder. Gone are the days when every open house was printed in the Sunday paper. Gone are the days where agents and brokers were the only people with direct access to listing data.
Gone. Thank God.
This whole, “We own this valuable data and shouldn’t be giving it away for free” argument is ridiculous.
First of all, I think I could make a passable argument that the homeowner is the one who provides and owns the data. (Yes, I am fully aware that contractually the broker owns the data and the right to sell the home. But for Pete’s sake, it is the client’s home we are talking about.)
That argument aside, the last time I checked, I am not paid to sell photos, or descriptive sales copy, or a floor plan, or a video of a walk-through. I am paid to sell a home. All that other stuff ”“ all that data ”“ is marketing material.
“Listing data” in and of itself isn’t worth a plug nickel. Listing data is a means to an end. It is there to sell a home. As I mentioned in an earlier post, On Compensation for Listing Data, I’m OK with the commissions I receive from selling a home being full compensation for my listing data.
And I think you should be too. But that’s just my opinion.
So if it’s not the data, what is our “Value Add” in a real estate transaction?
Listing data is ubiquitous, like it or not. The cat is out of the bag. The toothpaste is out of the tube. The ship has sailed. Whatever lousy metaphor you want to use, the simple fact is listing data is out there, we don’t control it. We can’t control it.
Welcome to the 21st century.
Maybe long ago in a galaxy far far away real estate brokers held and controlled the listing data with an iron fist. Maybe back then that was all they added to a real estate transaction. I’ve only been in real estate since 2004, well into the “internet age”. I’ve never experienced being the sole gatekeeper of the golden data.
So perhaps what I think real estate agents bring (or should bring) to the transaction differs from your opinion. Maybe I am short-sighted. NaÃ¯ve even. What I think I bring to the real estate transaction is pretty simple though.
I bring expertise, knowledge, experience and ability to facilitate the real estate transaction to successful closure.
In anything, it’s not the specific data that matters, it is how the data is interpreted and used that makes the difference.
Agents whine, often incessantly, about the “Zestimate” that Zillow generates ”“ that being their estimate of a home’s value. The estimate is derived from public records data about recent sales, squeezed through some algorithm, and like magic some number is spit out the other end. Do consumers believe this number is a rock solid opinion of their homes value? I’m sure some do. It’s the real estate agents job to ADD VALUE by explaining to the consumer why that number may or may not be accurate. And you know what? Consumers are smart. They get it once you explain how it works. YOU are the real estate expert, not them, and not some piece of software.
Did the boys at Case-Shiller just publish some Home Price Index data that loudly proclaims, Home Prices Continued to Decline in November 2011? Yeah? And let me guess, your local newspaper picked up that headline and ran with it. Well, how about you ADD VALUE and actually interpret that data for your client. Point out the flaw in making national proclamations from very localized data. How about you ADD VALUE and run the numbers for your client for neighborhoods they are interested in rather than relying on metro-wide broad brushed strokes of data. You do understand the nuances and variations in neighborhood to neighborhood sales data, don’t you?
If you really want to ADD VALUE, maybe you should be telling that potential home buyer who is looking in Holliday Farms or Higley Groves that it is impossible to turn onto Cole Avenue between 7:30am and 8:00am Monday through Friday because of the horrific traffic flow around the elementary school. Maybe you can ADD VALUE by informing those south Gilbert buyers that while the stink of the Higley dairy farms is getting better, that they need to be aware that on cool nights with a southeast wind, they can expect the air to be filled with the scent of cow feces.
Know the neighborhoods. Understand and interpret the reams of data available to the public. Guide the client through the maze of forms, through the hoops, over the obstacles that present themselves in every real estate transaction. THAT is how you ADD VALUE. Way more value than what your marketing material disguised as “listing data” is worth.
We are making these third party sites the experts!
The corollary to the “we shouldn’t give our data away for free” argument seems to be that by doing this we are establishing these third party sites as the experts in real estate. If they have the data, then consumers will look to them as the experts.
Once again, I think we are selling the intelligence level of the general public short. The day a web site takes over as the expert ”“ in the place of human experience and intelligence ”“ is still a long way off.
Back in 2006, the late great Joe Ferrara coined a term ”“ Unzillowable. It represents all those things about real estate that a piece of software and an algorithm can never capture and consider ”“ traffic noise, smells, the fact your neighbors have a 1963 pickup with no doors up on blocks in the front yard. The cat that jumps the fence to take a dump in your plants, the street light that shines in your bedroom window. The list is endless.
Software can’t “see” that sort of stuff. Listing data can’t define it. You, the kick-ass know-your-stuff real estate agent can ADD VALUE with that sort of information and more.
It’s your knowledge of the real estate transaction, and how to prevent it from falling apart, that ADDS VALUE. It’s the trust you build with your client that ADDS VALUE. Listing data doesn’t add value. YOU add value.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Photo Credit: Pillars of Influence. By David Armano on Flickr. CC Licensed.