Technology

Realtor lies, Russian corruption and a big deal in the works

Investors are swirling around the real estate tech industry

Future-Proof: Navigate Threats, Seize Opportunities at ICNY 2018 | Jan 22-26 at the Marriott Marquis, Times Square, New York

Deal talk

A big deal is cooking in real estate: I feel it in my bones, like I sensed it this summer when Zillow ate Trulia. (But I totally missed Rupert’s realtor.com gulp, proving I am wrong at least half the time.)

Equity funds, venture capitalists and strategic investors (like News Corp.) are swirling around the real estate tech industry like bridge-and-tunnel gawkers outside a nightclub in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District.

Inspired by Z’s valuation and News Corp.’s swift entry (through last month’s acquisition of realtor.com operator Move Inc. for just under $1 billion), lots of rich people and smart companies want in on the action. It does not take a genius to anticipate other powerful investors jumping into the space while the current players continue to act bold as they try to rip each other’s hearts out.

Sometimes deals come out of nowhere, and suddenly a company is on fire. Take online real estate brokerage and referral site Movoto, which is now displaying listings from 100 MLSs in a $20 million expansion. Tokyo-based Recruit Holdings Company Ltd. acquired Movoto a year ago, vowing to make it the No. 1 online real estate service in the U.S.

Who or what is next? You’ll read about it on Inman. My guess is it’s on a mid-January timetable. I am feelin’ it.

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Crazy talk

“My wife has scheduled us to move out of our house in 2036, when we’re 75 years old. That means I have 22 years to make up a handful of lies I can tell about our home — unless we hire a Realtor and let her tell them for us. What’s one more fib to a Realtor? They’re already in trouble with God as it is,” wrote Phil Gulley in his “House Of Lies” article for the Indianapolis Monthly Magazine.

The article caused Realtors to go ballistic. But let’s be honest, this points to the problem we all understand. The barriers to entry to become a real estate agent are too low; consequently, folks who are out there peddling properties should not be, and they give the entire industry a raunchy name.

Footnote: Mr. Gulley is a Quaker pastor. OMG!

Straight talk

This punchy one-liner comes from one of my favorite people in the industry, Teresa Boardman: “There are those in the industry who are righteously indignant about what they call ‘data accuracy.’ To them I say, ‘Welcome to the real world.’ Data is generated by humans, and humans are not capable of 100 percent accuracy,” she noted in an Inman Select report.

Walk the talk

In 1982, the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) was introduced as the standard networking protocol on ARPANET, which launched the Internet. And nothing has done more to transform culture, the economy and real estate in the last three decades. In honor of the 33rd anniversary next year, Inman is recognizing 33 people who are changing the real estate industry. No points for tweeting, schmoozing, maintaining the status quo or defending the past — only those who are true pioneers, who have it in their blood to change the industry and are doing something about it. Does a recognition-worthy person come to mind? Email me … nah, just call me, I like to talk to people: 510-735-7904.

Coach talk

Inman reporter Teke Wiggin is investigating the real estate coaching business. More on that in future editions of STBT. My big Qs for now: What are the numbers, the ROI, the bottom line, the data and the P&L?

Feeling good is fine; straight talk is expected; personal training buffs you up; and accountability is important, but what about the numbers? Is there a payoff? Show me the return, please.

I’m looking forward to interviewing two stars of the coaching biz, Mike and Tom Ferry, on the stage at Real Estate Connect New York City, where I expect to hear some straight talk from this father-and-son rival pair. (I am not Dr. Phil, FYI.)

Shame talk

The corrupt Russian oligarchs make me sick: ripping off the Russian people, looting their economy and propping up one of the scariest and slickest dictators in modern times. The spreading of black money around the world has been obscene. I just finished the book “Putin’s Kleptocracy” by historian Karen Dawisha. Her detailed analysis of what happened with Putin and his cronies is dreadful.

Up until the last year or so, Russian black money was coming into the U.S. real estate market by the billions. And at the time, the U.S. government was letting it happen. During that same period, a qualified, responsible first-time homebuyer, who did not get her money from mob connections or any other nefarious source, often faced insurmountable barriers to buying a home. The U.S. government was letting that happen, too.

Some in the real estate community were complicit in this evil river of Russian real estate money, and shame on them.

“So, Brad, sounds like you have strong feelings about this; lighten up, and please don’t end on that note,” said my anonymous Realtor angel, Marina, who sits on my shoulder every day.

Machine Q&A talk

Are machines taking over the world? No. Well, maybe, if we let them.

Are machines taking over for real estate agents? No. Well, maybe, if we let them.

Is machine learning important to real estate? Yes, absolutely, in so many ways.

What should I do about it? Stay up with the innovations, adopt it when it makes sense and partner with folks doing it.

Will machines take over this column, Brad, so we do not have to read some of your drivel? Nope! Well … maybe not.