The real estate industry will miss you, Joe Ferrara.
When the creators of Sellsius — Joseph “Joe” G. Ferrara and Rudolph “Rudy” D. Bachraty III — first approached Inman News back in 2005 about their plans for yet another property listing site, there were skeptics of the proposed business plan — and the name itself.
But the duo proved visionary — in perhaps unexpected ways — in the conversation, engagement and buzz that they created around their idea and around real estate as a whole. Their Sellsius blog, which preceded the launch of their listings portal, firmly established the pair among the pioneers in the real estate blogosphere, social Web and RE.net as we know it today.
I was a beat reporter at Inman News when I first wrote about their plans in 2005, and would later turn to Ferrara as a source on a range of topics. He could be counted on to deliver educated and thoughtful insights about online ethics issues, the sharing of property data, creative marketing techniques … you name it.
He was a thought leader who helped the industry grapple with — and sort out — a myriad of issues as it found its way online. He was a provocateur of sorts, in a positive, progressive sense of the word. He didn’t mind stirring things up in order to prod the discussion, and the industry, in a forward march. Ferrara died Tuesday after a battle with brain cancer.
In response to the Federal Trade Commission’s call for comments on the topic of real estate competition in 2005, Ferrara weighed in on the “ownership” of property listings information, which has been a historically hot topic for the industry.
“Brokers ‘own’ listings only by virtue of their relationship with sellers, who give them authority to advertise/promote for the purpose of selling. And that authority may be revoked by the seller at any time. Their so-called ownership is merely a temporary right; ultimate ownership of the listing abides with the seller,” Ferrara wrote.
“Since the brokers are agents of the seller, it seems that the seller, as principal, should be heard on this issue. As a seller, I would want my property disseminated to the widest possible audience of potential buyers. I am not a party to the broker/(multiple listing service) contract and should not be bound by it. The MLS does not speak for me. If the MLS restricts my listings dissemination, it is not acting in my best interest.”
He viewed technology as an asset and ally. He tested new technologies, shared his discoveries with others, and generally embraced innovation. He coined the phrase: “Unzillowable,” which he defined as a property that could not be adequately valued by Zillow.com or other automated valuation models.
An attorney for 25 years, and a real estate broker and technology consultant, Ferrara was himself an innovator who worked to launch TheClozing.com, a real estate news aggregator he launched last year with partner Anthony Barba.
He loved writing and had a natural knack for it. He often mixed in humor and quirky tidbits to his real estate posts at the Sellsius blog that offered comic relief for readers and sometimes went viral across other real estate blogs and websites.
Last year, Ferrara began writing a tech column, “Tech Tool Shed,” for Inman.com, and it quickly became one of the most popular columns among our readers. He shared information about new technologies and trends that he viewed as relevant to the real estate industry.
In the summer of 2007, Ferrara and Bachraty toured the country together in an RV — the journey was dubbed Blog Tour USA.
They met with several other prominent real estate bloggers during their cross-country trip, which encompassed 30 cities and 10,000 miles in 31 days, and in the process forged strong and lasting bonds among a core of tech-savvy real estate professionals while promoting the need for more online engagement and interaction by all real estate professionals. (Inman News was a sponsor of their memorable road trip.)
In an interview with Inman News Publisher Bradley J. Inman prior to embarking on the tour (see video below), Inman and Ferrara discussed a post at the Sellsius blog, titled, “The Real Estate King Takes a Gabby Queen.”
That post, featuring a royal portrait, begins, “The fortunes of online real estate sites were based on the notion that property listings were king — the more listings, the more traffic, the more success. Every real estate website chased the almighty listing.”
Ferrara said in the interview, “We’ve all heard the term that the listings are king of the real estate sites, and everyone’s racing to get as many listings as they can.
“But, you know what? There’s a queen … showing up on the scene and we think it’s conversation, it’s user-generated content, it’s interactivity. So we think the queen has entered the stage and (we’re going to see) if her conversation is interesting enough.”
While there have always been real estate discussions occurring offline, Ferrara noted that the Internet has been a game-changer. “Those (offline) conversations — we say it’s like words written on water. They come and they go. But once you put them on the Internet, it’s permanent. It’s like now I’m carving it in my newly laid concrete sidewalk so it’s there for everyone.”
Such concepts seem old hat for the real estate industry because of forward-thinkers like Ferrara and the movement that he drove home.
The real estate industry will miss Joe Ferrara. Let’s remember him with a smile.