OpinionIndustry News

The Inman Files: House drama, Goldberg and low-tech ‘iBuyers’

This week's important (and amusing) news in real estate and beyond

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The House Drama: Episode 1 (coming soon to Netflix)

When my wife Yaz and I bought a house in Southern California last month, a brown patch in the tiny green front yard annoyed me to no end. It was not that important, and my eager Realtor Byron made sure the gardener fixed it before we moved in.

The homebuying process also had a brown patch; if I’m honest, it was actually two or three big, ugly patches. They too annoyed me and they too can be fixed, but it will take lots more than watering the grass.

Here is the setup for our crazy experience: I found my agent on the internet, confusing a Zillow Premier Agent advertiser for the listing agent. Fancy-pancy real estate expert — me — got duped. We got lucky; Byron is a good agent.

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The house was an off-market– in fact, a premature off-market listing, like a banana that is way too green to eat.

It also became a dual agency listing by a prominent broker in town.

To add to the Hollywood drama, the seller was seemingly having a relationship problem as we closed the transaction, causing his partner to get cold feet about moving out of the house.

The entire deal got icky when the off-market listing + dual agency + a nervous seller added up to an iffy closing.

If this was a treatment for a true-crime Netflix series, we could call it “Blood on the Deal.”

Look out for Episode 2 of Season 1 next week.

Outside/Inside Inman

Drum-beating or beating a dead horse?

Put a bow-tie on Rob Hahn and you get Fox News gadfly Tucker Carlson. Their politics are not the same, though a libertarian streak runs through both. They like to bite the horse. That is what a real gadfly does. And as annoying as they can be, they do it with some intellectual fervor. They are characteristically obsessive, which is common among this particularly persistent but entertaining media archetype.

Take the National Association of Realtors (NAR) CEO search. Hahn carried the cross for mapping out what NAR should do when hiring its new chieftain and then painted the outcome with a single stroke — How could you?

After an initial 5,400-word rant, Hahn followed-up with a post dubbed, “The Silence of our Friends: NAR CEO Edition,” trashing almost anyone who applauded or who didn’t publicly criticize the Bob Goldberg choice. He cast them as cowards.

Then like someone stacking too many pancakes on a single pile, he took NAR president Bill Brown to task for objecting to his first post. The message was “I dare you!” — very Tucker Carlson-like.

All of this was fair fodder. And we should be grateful the industry has Tucker Hahn to remind us that the decision certainly looks like a classic inside job. He is indubitably a smart guy who helps us understand this discombobulated industry.

Who is the X Woman?

Here is what I heard through the Realtor-vine. The NAR search committee recommended at least three candidates to the seven-member NAR leadership team for the CEO position to replace longtime exec Dale Stinton — Bob Goldberg, Alex Perriello, an X-woman, and maybe one outsider. Was there an order to their recommendations? Not sure; I heard two conflicting scenarios.

Then, the NAR leadership team, who made the final decision, voted. But they were allegedly split. As often occurs in these sort of split votes, at the end of the discussion and the vote, the Chairman (2017 NAR President Bill Brown) asked for a voice “acclamation,” which is a form of unanimous consent once one candidate has enough votes (four was the magic number).

This happens so that it can be reported out that everyone agreed, and — technically — they did.

Eventually, someone will get drunk in a hotel lobby bar and spill the beans on all of the details. Transparency, meet your best friend: Alcohol.

Though touted as such, this was not a transparent process. NAR was paranoid enough about keeping the process secret that their legal counsel sent us a letter about our reporting on the CEO selection decisions.

But at this stage, who cares. Goldberg is the choice. Good luck, Bob!

My advice to you: The end is near for top-down leadership trying to rule the roost. The empowered agent runs the real estate industry, no one else. Not brokers, not franchisors, not Zillow and not you and the NAR leadership team.

The old hierarchical system needs some work to adapt to this bottoms-up reality.

Trade groups play an important role, but the days are over for them trying to control the universe.

Outside Inman

The Netflixation of the Economy

Like a deceivingly stable rollercoaster, we see unemployment down, job growth up, interests rates low. The housing market is recovering and the stock market is celebrating some sort of weird Wall Street party. Yet economic growth is anemic, the equity divide is unresolved and consumers are uneasy. We are stuck in that economic middle ground between heaven and hell — limbo. What’s up?

The researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco work late to figure out these economic Rubik’s Cubes.

Their latest: “The Disappointing Recovery of Output after 2009” aka “Why are We in Purgatory?”

They note “the slow growth of total productivity, and the decline in labor force participation,” a trend that started before the recession and is now hurting the economy.

Normally, people pursue employment to get out of their economic ditch. Unemployment comes down and people go back to work after a recession. But not this time, say the researchers.

Interestingly, poorer families went back to work at increased labor participation rates. But not families with higher incomes. And this is what is dragging down the economy and accounts for low rates of growth.

Source: “The Disappointing Recovery of Output after 2009” report

If time spent looking for a job went down, which it did for higher-income families, what were these folks doing with their time?

“Personal care and leisure [went up], which include a large amount of TV watching and other video-based entertainment, especially for men,” say the Fed analysts. “The drop in hours devoted to other activities included a decline in housework for women. Basically, time use shifted toward enjoyment and away from work and investment activities.”

America got lazy.

Inside Inman

(McMansion) Hell on earth: Blogger vs. Zillow 

This fiery but short-lived story is important because the fight over photo intellectual property has just begun. What did we learn?

Zillow can’t sue third parties for photo copyright on the behalf of agents, brokers and MLSs, but it can flex its muscles in the legal land called terms of use with arguably some success. Kate Wagner won’t be taking photos off Z’s turf moving forward and, given the internet’s reaction to Zillow’s threat, I’d be surprised to see more threatening letters anytime soon.

Past post from McMansion Hell

Flop or flop: A new HGTV series about real estate startups

These startups will become relevant if one of the models actually catches on. Hundreds, if not thousands of predecessors, have tried and flopped.

Bots vs. agents

A website chat tool is betting on agents over bots. This face-off is more than a debate, changing the role of agents.

BREAKING NEWS!

Cutting-edge instant offer/iBuyer platforms breaking out all over the country. Talk about convenient.

Comment of the week

“Poaching of agents gets old and makes the industry look like a car lot full of used car salesmen,” said Jim Weix, referring to the brokerage that got punished with a $5M verdict in agent poaching case brought by Douglas Elliman.

Email Brad Inman