Just when you thought the heated debate over the “60 Minutes” segment on the real estate industry had subsided, a spoof video has stirred the issue of real estate commissions and discount practices to a boil once again.
The folks at Point2, a Canadian company that offers online marketing tools and services for the real estate industry, said they created the video to poke fun at the May 13 “60 Minutes” news segment, which highlighted Redfin — a real estate brokerage company that offers deep discounts to consumers — and examined the difference in cost and service between so-called discount and traditional business models.
The six-minute satirical video, dubbed “16 Minutes,” was posted to video-sharing site YouTube.com on Friday and had been viewed nearly 5,000 times as of this morning.
A blog post about the “16 Minutes” video at the Inman News Blog surfaced some of the same tensions that flared with the airing of the original “60 Minutes” segment — some viewers felt the spoof unfairly cast discount real estate companies in a negative light, while others offered kudos for striking back at a news piece they felt was slanted against full-service real estate agents and brokers.
Hundreds of viewers of the original news segment have commented at the CBS Web site — some defending and some attacking the real estate industry’s commission practices and the content of the news program.
In the spoof video, a man in a blond wig impersonates “60 Minutes” reporter Leslie Stahl. The reporter in the spoof, named Leslie Stool, interviews a couple who used a real estate service called “Redpin.”
The couple, identified as “happy Redpin customers,” had trouble remembering their agent’s name and said they paid $3,000 to list their home for a flat rate with Redpin. The home spent 74 days on the market and sold for about $300,000, the couple explained. Meanwhile, the couple said a neighbor paid about $21,000 in commission and sold that home for $350,000.
When Stool questioned whether the neighbor actually netted more money on that sale — even after considering the higher commission — one of the Redpin customers replied, “Is this an interview or a flippin’ math test? At least we’re not paying a Mercedes bill for some charismatic, slimy, pinstripe-wearing, highly trained, educated, professional guy.”
Brendan King, a chief operating officer for Point2, said in a blog comment that the spoof video “was just that, a spoof,” and that people shouldn’t read too much into the video.
“I want to make sure that everyone understands that neither Point2 or anyone at Point2 (that I know of at least) has anything against Redfin or any discount broker or alternative business model,” he stated. “It wasn’t intended to make a compelling case against any business model but was simply intended to provide a laugh and poke a little fun at ’60 Minutes’ reporting.”
He added, “That said, from my point of view traditional real estate agents are unfairly getting the short end of the publicity stick. Overtly or not, alternative models and the media seem to be suggesting that traditional real estate agents are not providing a compelling value proposition to consumers. They are also suggesting, overtly or not, that the ‘traditional real estate industry’ is trying to unfairly shut them down by discriminating against them.
“It simply is not true that there is some form of organized systematic discrimination against discount and alternative models. These models have been around, with varying degrees of success, for decades. Secondly, most professionals in this industry are proud of the value proposition they provide consumers and have no problem competing in the field against any of these alternative models. As with most things in life, you get what you pay for,” King stated.
Anthony Longo Jr. of CondoDomain.com commented at the Inman News Blog that the spoof video could be a good thing for real estate companies that offer discounted rates compared to other real estate companies.
“Videos like this are just bringing more exposure and ultimately more success to the ‘discount’ world. I foresee the word ‘discount brokerage’ to slowly disappear over time as all agents and brokers will work at their own rate and perceived value. The only downside I have with traditional brokers right now is that I still have yet to hear … a true, well-communicated message ‘against’ discount real estate services/Redfin,” he wrote.
Morgan Brown, a blogger who owns a mortgage company in Irvine, Calif., stated in a blog comment that that the Point2 video was “uber-lame and unfunny.” He said later that Point2 “did a very shrewd thing” by creating a viral video that was targeted to their customer base. The video “generated buzz and surely won them more business by playing to a sensitive issue. On the flip side, the piece could potentially damage the industry by making full-service Realtors look catty and immature at a time when Realtors need all the ‘image’ help they can get.”
Ron Ares, an Oregon real estate broker, stated in a blog comment that the humorous take on the “60 Minutes” segment “fell a little flat.” He told Inman News that the “tone and content” of the original news program did leave itself open to satire; “the spoof doesn’t exactly provide a cogent response. I trust that enlightened consumers can determine the facts from the fiction … and the farce.”
And Athol Kay, a Realtor for Prudential Connecticut Realty, said the spoof was “unbearable to watch” and questioned whether the video’s discussion of Redpin pricing was “hate-filled smearing.”
A blog commenter identified as “Barb” stated that full-service real estate professionals “have been tolerating some pretty ugly labels of late,” and also offered up a statement that “isn’t mine, but it bears repeating: ‘There have always been consumers who prefer lower cost over quality. And there will always be agents willing to deeply discount their fees in order to gain their business.’ To criticize or disparage another member’s choice of business model is not consistent with the spirit of the Code of Ethics and unlikely to garner respect.”
She also stated, “Concerns about certain other models are best aired to the regulatory authorities, and my energy is better spent on my own business, which is in a different market segment altogether.”