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2007-04-11 15:16:00

Speaking Out -- On Web.2.0, Zillow, and Redfin

"That Was The Week That Was" was a satirical television comedy shown by the BBC in the early 1960's. The title of the show came to mind this week following Zillow's release of "Home Q&A" coupled with Redfin's release of a real estate consumer's bill of rights. Combined, these two things may be remembered as taking place during the week that was the start of a whole new process of purchasing property.

"Home Q&A" positions Zillow as the real estate version of Wikipedia -- the widely popular online encyclopedia created by anyone having the time (and hopefully the knowledge) to contribute to a specific topic. Wikipedia gives anyone in the world the ability to add or edit its content, in multiple languages, any minute of the day. The Zillow version of the idea allows anyone to ask any question about any home, and then to have it answered by the Zillow community.

Redfin's real estate consumer's bill of rights is based on the premise that consumers should have all the information the agent does about a house they're trying to buy or sell, and about how the whole process works. This includes (among others):

  • Choose the services you pay for.
  • Know how your agent makes his money.
  • Know the commission refund you can get before you buy the house . Be sure your agent will show your house to everyone.

I am a firm believer that we are moving towards all property related data being available to all people. Buyers want to know everything about the property they are considering buying, and sellers want their property information marketed everywhere.

Is there a limit to how much information people will want? I don't think so.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where everyone wants everything-and they want it yesterday.

Providing opinion via blogging is nothing new and should be seen as the precursor to Zillow's actions, Zillow has just taken things onto the next level. Only time will show whether the move will have any long lasting impact, but as they say, " ... from small acorns." I just don't think this is such a small acorn.

Allowing everyone to give their opinion on any subject matter is fraught with danger. Most people enjoy contributing their two cents, and of course we all think we are right. Whether or not we are right isn't the issue Regardless of what someone says, there will always be someone with a completely opposite opinion. Now, I am not dumb enough to suggest we restrict a person's freedom to express that opinion, but common sense tells us we can't all be right.

In January, I watched Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman go head-to-head with Allan Dalton, President of Move, Inc.'s Real Estate Division and previous President and CEO of After several hot subjects, I had to give some credit to Kelman, even though I didn't agree with everything he said.

If you have the time, you can see a short excerpt of the debate on YouTube (search for "Kelman" and "Dalton"). It was interesting to watch because Kelman is trying to do something differently for what many see as ethically correct reasons.

I've seen Web 2.0 described in multiple ways. Video is the current darling of the crowd, blogging was (and remains) up there, but whether It's pictures or the written word, at the heart of it all is good old fashioned information. In the next few years, any company looking to lead the real estate industry will need to evaluate how that information is used along with the valuable people skills that some are now leaving out of the total equation.

Changing the subject totally so that we finish on something a little lighter (and because April starts off with a day of fun) let me share something with you that recently made me smile. I thought I knew most of the real estate designations but at a trade show last month I saw several people wearing a "Responsible Broker" pin. Does that mean the rest of us are irresponsible?

(Stephen Fells is CEO of AgencyLogic. This article is reprinted from the company's blog.)

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