Bill Flemming

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Real-estate industry

Posted On: February 19th, 2015 5:21PM

Technology has revolutionized the real-estate industry – from listing a home to finding a loan to reviewing a real-estate agent.

Consumers have come to expect it. For example, homebuyers are increasingly looking to the Internet to purchase homes. Forty-three percent of buyers searched online for a property as their first step last year, an increase from 35 percent in 2011, according to a 2014 report by the National Association of Realtors.

Phoenix-based HomeSmart International has been an innovator in real-estate technology since Matt Widdows founded the company in 2000. It has grown into the largest residential real-estate brokerage in the Southwest, Widdows said.

Widdows had a technology background before he became a Realtor, and his experience helped him find efficiencies at a time when Internet access was scarce.

“I think (real-estate technology) was lacking in a big, big way when I came in and launched HomeSmart,” he said. “It really helped us survive during the (Great) Recession since we were so efficient.”

Widdows hired in-house developers to create a mobile app that gave his brokers the ability to do searches from their vehicles. The technology was considered revolutionary in the early 2000s.

The team also developed several systems that allow for paperless transactions, appointment setting, accounting functions and listing tools.

Widdows said the big trend now is the gravitation toward mobile apps ¬– similar to Uber – that locate real-estate agents in any given neighborhood.

“I think technology has evolved,” Widdows said. “We’re doing a heck of a lot better than 10-15 years ago.”

Here’s a look at three ways real-estate professionals are using new tools in Arizona:

Virtual receptionist

HomeSmart’s branch offices utilize a centralized virtual receptionist, who actually works out of the corporate office in central Phoenix.

Even though the receptionist is miles away, she greets customers from a 42-inch LCD flat-screen television. She also can lock and unlock doors and page agents from her location.

The technology allowed Widdows to grow his business and reduce employee-related expenses. The company has more than a dozen locations in Arizona.

HomeSmart was the first brokerage in the country to launch a technology feature such as this, Widdows said.

“The nice thing about it is it’s all integrated,” he said. “Once there is a new trend, we can add it on to our system.”

Keasy

Real-estate professional Meghan Martinez wished there was a better way to control who had access to her rental properties.

“The issue of floating keys concerned me,” the Chandler resident said. “It’s a universal problem. Any time a key or code is given out, it can be copied, lost or stolen.”

Martinez founded Keasy, a digital keyless lock that allows agents to issue an electronic key to a potential buyer or guest for a specific time frame.

“That’s definitely a goal for Keasy is to change the whole way vacant properties are managed from an efficiency and safety standpoint,” she said.

Guests can use a smartphone to access the Keasy door-lock system. The technology behind Keasy is based on light transmission, rather than Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Martinez said people can use Keasy anywhere with controlled access, such as apartments, hotels or houses.

The Keasy app comes with its own security code, similar to an iPhone lock screen, to provide an extra layer of security.

“There’s 10,000 vacation rentals in Arizona, so it’s a pretty big market here in our backyard,” she said.

It took eight months to develop the prototype for Keasy, Martinez said.

“Its funny to see how keyless lock technology is being adopted readily and already used to different areas, but (it) hasn’t been brought to the industry that can use it the most,” she said.

“The real-estate industry as a whole isn’t known for cutting edge innovation,” she added.

Martinez said the response from Realtors has been positive, and the company is taking pre-orders now.

Matterport 3-D Camera

Matterport, a computer vision technology company based in Mountain View, California, last year released a 3-D camera that allows for virtual property walkthroughs and accurate measurements.

Matterport camera operators control the $4,500 camera through an Apple iPad to capture 2-D and 3-D images of a property.

Users can view the property in dollhouse view or see a floor plan they can share through any computer or iPad.

“Watching people navigate through a space and experience that for the first time is so much fun,” said Jeffrey Harris, Matterport’s vice president of sales and business development. “With traditional technology, people don’t really see the full context of how everything fits together, like you would walking through a home.”

Harris said brokerages across the U.S. use the 3-D camera.

Chandler-based photographer Bill Bailey owns Nodal Ninja, a company that sells panoramic photography equipment.

He said there has been a great deal of buzz surrounding the Matterport camera, which he recently purchased and plans to use for real-estate photography.

Bailey said listings that don’t have high-quality photos often go unnoticed.

“I believe this technology will certainly revolutionize the marketing of properties,” he said. “Information is knowledge, and the more knowledge a person has access to, the more informed they’ll be in making a decision.”

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How listings will flow to Zillow, other portals Industry leaders hammer out standardized agreement for direct listing feeds Industry players representing listing portals, MLSs and brokerages have hammered out a model content licensing agreement that could help Zillow obtain more direct listing feeds before its contract with syndicator ListHub expires this spring. The model agreement seeks to standardize the ground rules under which real estate brokerages and MLSs provide information on homes for sale directly to big search sites like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com — and what the portals would be allowed to do with those listings. Intended as a compromise, the model agreement addresses some of the grievances that listing brokers have voiced about the way portals display information about their sellers’ homes. While brokerages sometimes complain about the accuracy of listing data displayed on the portals, what rankles many the most are ads for competing companies’ buyers agents that portals run next to their listings. Portals obtaining listings under the terms of the model agreement would be required to display the listing agent and brokerage, share website traffic information, and provide “unbiased display” of listings, among other things. But the model agreement also recognizes that the portals depend agent ads around listings for revenue, and that the search sites are able to attract consumers by serving up additional information around listings such as home valuation estimates and agent reviews. The model agreement, drafted by Clareity Consulting with industry input, can be used as published. Or brokerages and MLSs are free to take parts they like and modify other aspects. Members of a non-profit real estate intellectual property protection group, REDPLAN, can use the model agreement at no cost. Non-REDPLAN members can license all or part of the agreement for $500. “Whether you use this [model agreement] as a starting point or not, you’re welcome to negotiate any of these points, or others,” REDPLAN said in announcing its publication. But when it comes to sore spots like paid placement for listings, automated valuations, agent reviews, and co-mingling of “for-sale-by-owner” (FSBO) listings, REDPLAN said, “we don’t see MLSs or brokers winning on these points with most major publishers, especially where their business model is already predicated on those points.” Small brokerages and MLSs may be at a particular disadvantage in negotiating with portals. In issuing a previous draft of the model agreement for comment, Clareity said a review it conducted of content licensing agreements signed in recent years revealed that terms varied. “Some of the agreements offered a fair exchange of value, while others did not,” Clareity CEO and REDPLAN Chairman Gregg Larson said in a December email to industry colleagues. More than 20 direct feed agreements signed with portals last year “should not have been signed,” Larson said at the time. In announcing the final version of the model agreement, REDPLAN said the industry “desperately needs” it — so that portals “don’t have to manage hundreds of locally-drafted agreements and so MLSs and brokers can get a much better value exchange than they’ve been getting in the mostly-boilerplate agreements they have signed to date.” Publication of the model agreement comes at an opportune time for Zillow, which has been scrambling to secure direct listing feeds from brokers and MLSs before its contract with ListHub expires on April 7. ListHub, which is owned by realtor.com operator Move Inc., aggregates listing data from brokers and MLSs around the country, syndicating listings to 160 publisher sites including Zillow. ListHub says it provides about 1.75 million listings to Zillow, but the portal says it also gets most of those listings from other sources, including brokers and MLSs. After Zillow announced on Jan. 6 that it was unable to come to terms in negotiations with ListHub and that the contract would not be renewed, ListHub published the terms it had sought. ListHub’s stipulations included a demand that Zillow make available its agent ratings and reviews, for ListHub to provide back to brokers and agents “in a standardized format for further use.” Zillow would also be required to use ListHub data to “auto-create agent profiles and to update existing profiles” for top-level agent attribution on all listings. ListHub also expected Zillow to provide metrics on traffic, leads and engagement, including whether a lead was exclusive and, if not, how many agents it was provided to. In addition, ListHub was calling for “SEO friendly” link backs on each listing to the broker or agent representing the seller.

Posted On: February 7th, 2015 3:32PM

How listings will flow to Zillow, other portals

Industry leaders hammer out standardized agreement for direct listing feeds.
 
Industry players representing listing portals, MLSs and brokerages have hammered out a model content licensing agreement that could help Zillow obtain more direct listing feeds before its contract with syndicator ListHub expires this spring.
 
The model agreement seeks to standardize the ground rules under which real estate brokerages and MLSs provide information on homes for sale directly to big search sites like Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com — and what the portals would be allowed to do with those listings.
 
Intended as a compromise, the model agreement addresses some of the grievances that listing brokers have voiced about the way portals display information about their sellers’ homes.
 
While brokerages sometimes complain about the accuracy of listing data displayed on the portals, what rankles many the most are ads for competing companies’ buyers agents that portals run next to their listings.
Portals obtaining listings under the terms of the model agreement would be required to display the listing agent and brokerage, share website traffic information, and provide “unbiased display” of listings, among other things.
 
But the model agreement also recognizes that the portals depend agent ads around listings for revenue, and that the search sites are able to attract consumers by serving up additional information around listings such as home valuation estimates and agent reviews.
 
The model agreement, drafted by Clareity Consulting with industry input, can be used as published. Or brokerages and MLSs are free to take parts they like and modify other aspects. Members of a non-profit real estate intellectual property protection group, REDPLAN, can use the model agreement at no cost. Non-REDPLAN members can license all or part of the agreement for $500.
 
“Whether you use this [model agreement] as a starting point or not, you’re welcome to negotiate any of these points, or others,” REDPLAN said in announcing its publication.
 
But when it comes to sore spots like paid placement for listings, automated valuations, agent reviews, and co-mingling of “for-sale-by-owner” (FSBO) listings, REDPLAN said, “we don’t see MLSs or brokers winning on these points with most major publishers, especially where their business model is already predicated on those points.”
 
Small brokerages and MLSs may be at a particular disadvantage in negotiating with portals.
In issuing a previous draft of the model agreement for comment, Clareity said a review it conducted of content licensing agreements signed in recent years revealed that terms varied.
 
“Some of the agreements offered a fair exchange of value, while others did not,” Clareity CEO and REDPLAN Chairman Gregg Larson said in a December email to industry colleagues. More than 20 direct feed agreements signed with portals last year “should not have been signed,” Larson said at the time.
In announcing the final version of the model agreement, REDPLAN said the industry “desperately needs” it — so that portals “don’t have to manage hundreds of locally-drafted agreements and so MLSs and brokers can get a much better value exchange than they’ve been getting in the mostly-boilerplate agreements they have signed to date.”
 
Publication of the model agreement comes at an opportune time for Zillow, which has been scrambling to secure direct listing feeds from brokers and MLSs before its contract with ListHub expires on April 7.
ListHub, which is owned by realtor.com operator Move Inc., aggregates listing data from brokers and MLSs around the country, syndicating listings to 160 publisher sites including Zillow. ListHub says it provides about 1.75 million listings to Zillow, but the portal says it also gets most of those listings from other sources, including brokers and MLSs.
ListHub’s stipulations included a demand that Zillow make available its agent ratings and reviews, for ListHub to provide back to brokers and agents “in a standardized format for further use.” Zillow would also be required to use ListHub data to “auto-create agent profiles and to update existing profiles” for top-level agent attribution on all listings.
ListHub also expected Zillow to provide metrics on traffic, leads and engagement, including whether a lead was exclusive and, if not, how many agents it was provided to. In addition, ListHub was calling for “SEO friendly” link backs on each listing to the broker or agent representing the seller.

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