Saul Klein is CEO for two companies: Point2 Technologies and InternetCrusade. He will speak about the future of the multiple listing service system during the Inman News Real Estate Connect conference in New York City, which runs from Jan. 7-9.

A self-described "Internet Evangelist," Klein is a co-creator of the RealTown online real estate information and community site.

He responded to a set of questions posed by Inman News:

What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2009?

A continued slow market. (I expect) the beginning of a recovery in late-2009 to mid-2010, with certain areas recovering sooner than others based on demographics, government intervention and local economies.

What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?

Survive. Generate the income you need to survive. In the 1980s recession I developed my property management business when sales were lagging. Determine what is selling and work in your market. List but list smart. Do not take overpriced listings. Maximize all aspects of marketing, and take advantage of any free marketing you can. Create a comprehensive overall marketing plan and a marketing plan for each listing. This is how you earn your keep, separating you from your competition. Anyone can list a property — it takes marketing skills and plans to sell a property in this market. Syndicate your listings to as many Web sites as possible for maximum exposure and let your sellers know you are doing this.

Contact with people creates opportunity, so be in touch with as many people you can — in person and on the Web. Develop your strategy for marketing properties to Generation X and Generation Y. Retool, take classes, learn how to use the technology you own, become an e-PRO. Create a business plan (and be as specific as possible), a marketing plan (with both an Internet component and a conventional component … "be found") and a technology plan that integrates the technology required to achieve the goals and objectives of your business plan. Become a more effective manager of your time. Time is the one thing most people will tell you that they do not have enough of.

What made you get into real estate?

When I was a young naval officer on active duty in San Diego in 1974, I was introduced to residential real estate by a sailor who was preparing to get out of the Navy and was selling homes. I went out and looked at homes as a prospective buyer and I loved the concept of working with people, driving around with them and helping them acquire the most important asset of their life.

My father and mother always purchased a home when my dad was transferred from one part of the country to another, and they always made a profit (on the resale). I liked the idea of being rewarded in proportion to my efforts and the ability to control my calendar. Prior to my separation from the Navy at the completion of my obligation, I obtained a real estate sales license and began selling part time on the weekends.

When I got out of the Navy I started selling full time. After working for another broker in sales and then management, I obtained a broker’s license in 1977 and teamed up with another agent. We opened our own company with an idea that we could attract an international clientele, which we were successful in doing at just the right moment in the economy in 1979.

What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?

In running the real estate business the biggest challenge was creating the steady flow of customers, year after year: recruiting, training and retaining agents.

At InternetCrusade the challenge has been the marketing of e-PRO to the Realtor community. We have enrolled more than 40,000 Realtors and graduated more than 30,000, but it has been a challenge and is now even more challenging in the down market.

With our community projects, such as RealTown, it has always been a challenge to explain what we do, our vision of the power of online community. Finding programming talent is also a challenge in San Diego right now.

At Point2, the biggest challenge is the commute to Saskatoon twice a month. Also there is a challenge in explaining that listing syndication is not IDX (Internet Data Exchange), and that it is better and that it is the "now" thing in the marketing of real estate.

Can you share any future plans, goals?

With e-PRO, we will be rolling out a new version in the first quarter and also a Web 2.0 e-PRO course. This new course will include "best practices" for getting the most out of sharing and collaboration in a Web 2.0 environment, as we prepare for "Web 3.0" and beyond.

At Point2, we are bringing on more multiple listing services each month. Our (goal) is 500 MLSs in the next 18 months. We are also creating our strategy for expanding our presence in Canada and the rest of the world (we are currently in 106 countries). We will be rolling out an iPhone application in the first quarter, and a new Point2 Homes Web Portal by the close of the second quarter.

What lesson did you learn in the last year?

I have lived through recessions before, and been in the real estate business since 1977. I have always known this, but it was brought home this year: You never know from where your opportunity may arise. The Point2 opportunity was something out of the blue. The goal is part of the journey.

What would your second career choice be and why?

In a couple months I will be 60. I have had the good fortune to have a number of related and successful careers. I served in the U.S. Navy from 1972-76 and got into real estate prior to a medical separation in 1976. I built a brokerage, which included property management, which grew into a securities and financial planning practice, which expanded to a tax practice. I am still a certified financial planner … with no clients, and I like it that way. Also in 1979 I began teaching real estate courses and time management and motivational courses. I love teaching.

Technology in the real estate industry has been my career choice since 1995. With my partners John Reilly and Mike Barnett we have built InternetCrusade, which was awarded the NAR e-PRO contract in 2001. We built the first online domain transfer application in 1998 and began creating online communities in the real estate vertical in 1996. The current community project is RealTown. At InternetCrusade we believe that the Internet is a miracle and RealTown is a big part of fulfilling my vision of what the Web can and will be. We were blogging and teaching people to blog before blogging was a word.

The CEO position at Point2 is a fantastic experience and opportunity. I have been with the company more than a year now, and we have changed strategies and we are moving in some very exciting directions. Working at Point2 is allowing me to take further advantage of the assets, skills and relationships I have developed over my entire working life, and to further fulfill my vision of the Internet, the World Wide Web, people and real estate, which is the central asset of most people’s lives.

What I began as the first national advocate for placing listing information on the Web — which I did for the National Association of Realtors and in the mid-1990s, as the vice president of field marketing for the Realtors Information Network, and then as national sales manager for listing acquisition for (a position that was later broken into four regional positions) — I am now taking to a whole new level with Point2.

My next career choice will be to write more and spend more time with my wife gardening and doing the things we enjoy doing together. For me, the career choices have been made, and I have enjoyed them all. I am very fortunate. They have all been real estate industry-related, and I have worked hard to give back to the industry every step of the way by volunteering and providing tools for associations at no cost for many years.

What is the biggest problem in the real estate market today, and how would you fix it?

Over-encumbered property, nonsensical loan products, and borrowers that cannot make the payments or refinance because there is no equity and they don’t qualify under new loan standards (are the biggest problems). How do you fix them? Let borrowers refinance. This may require some sort of government guarantee, but it would help keep added inventory off the market, which is also a big problem.

What do you most enjoy about working in the real estate industry?

People. My industry work today is serving the industry with technology. I also enjoy industry volunteer work and have been active at all levels of organized real estate since 1988.

When I was selling and investing, I loved real estate — the physical property and the potential. Writing and presenting offers was always a thrill. Being in control of my own calendar was also a lure for me.

Tell us something we don’t already know about you …

Since I don’t know what you know about me, try these:

  • I graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1972, "when ships were made of wood and men were made of steel." I majored in management. Being a midshipman from the summer of 1968 to the summer of 1972 means I missed "most" of the hippie and anti-war events of my generation. It is not so much that I missed them, but spending those years in an institutional and highly disciplined environment limited their effect on me, or at least produced a different effect than many of my contemporaries outside of the academy.
  • I was born and attended elementary school in Honolulu.
  • I took my first computer course in July 1968.
  • My first computer game was played on an "Intellivision" system and my first computer was an Apple II with no hard drive and 48K (yes, "K" for kilobyte) of memory. The first computer I owned with a hard drive was a Kay Pro with a 5-megabyte hard drive.
  • I raised two daughters from my wife’s first marriage (oldest is 40 this month, youngest is 33) and we have a 12-year-old granddaughter.
  • My wife Janie and I have been together since 1976 and married since 1981. She is a big reason I have been able to do the things I have done. She has worked with me in all of our businesses since 1979 and has been the office manager and "heart and soul" of InternetCrusade since we opened our first office. She has put up with my travel schedule and all of the interruptions in our life together over the years. She is a "rock" and I could not have done it without her.
  • We have owned a Five Bay coin-operated carwash in San Diego with two of my good friends from high school and my real estate partner for the last 29 years. It is the best real estate investment we ever made.
  • Our dog is a little 8-pound Bolognese named Harley. I enjoy history.

Saul Klein will speak during the "MLS 2014: Five things to do right now to get ready" session at the Real Estate Connect conference in New York City, which runs from Jan. 7-9.


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