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ARDELL's Seattle Area Real Estate Blog

Jan. 16, 2010 - Redfin.com Home Search

Redfin.com Home Search for Seattle is still the #1 choice for most of my clients when looking at property in the mls for both Seattle and The Eastside cities of Kirkland, Bellevue and Redmond. 

Congratulations to Redfin for making the Top 20 moving up from #22 to #18 of the top real estate websites. 

I would like to remind people who are searching for homes on the internet in King County that Redfin.com has an mls direct feed and all of the homes listed in the mls. Some of the other Top 20 sites that rank higer than Redfin, do not have an mls feed in the Seattle Area. Realtor.com, Zillow.com, Trulia.com, all useful sites for various purposes. But if you are looking for all property currently on market, Redfin.com is the best search tool, IMO, and my clients agree.

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Nov. 24, 2009 - ARDELL Chatting with Jonathan Miller of Matrix - Housing Helix

Jonathan Miller of Matrix and The Housing Helix interviewed me the other day via Skype. I always enjoy talking with Jonathan about real estate. The sound quality of the podcast was fading in out out, so I have decided to transcribe the bulk of it here in written form. Those who like to scan for highlights vs. listening to a long broadcast, may find this transcription helpful. I also do this for my friend Derek Burress who hates podcasting because he is hearing challenged.

 

The Housing Helix Podcast:

Jonathan J. Miller: I'm Skyping with Ardell DellaLoggia who is an Associate Broker with Sound Realty in Seattle Washington. She is active not only in selling real estate, but she is very active in all kinds of Social Media. A very active blogger, she has her own blog on the RealTown platform and she's also very active on Rain City Guide, Dustin Luther's ingenious blog that was one of the early adopters to the technology, and she's very provocative. ARDELL is the Madonna or Cher of Real Estate, because everyone knows her by her first name. I've been on a few panels with her at Inman Connect and have always admired her candor and her ability to understand housing markets. It's great to have you with me, Ardell.

ARDELL: Great to be here.

Jonathan Miller: After that introduction, why do you think within the real estate circles nationally, you're known, and yet you're covering Seattle. Why does Social Media...what does that do for you? How has that helped you?

ARDELL: I was probably known on a first name basis nationally before Social Media, because I've operated in 5 states on both Coasts, so it gives me a much broader perspective. I started in NJ, I worked in Bucks County (PA), Orlando, FL, L.A., Sacramento and Seattle. So I can speak more broadly about real estate, than most agents who have worked only in one specific marketplace.

Jonathan Miller: That's why you were giving me grief over the Yankee victory over the Phillies? [laughing] From my own perspective, one of the reason's I'm active in Social Media, twitter primarily and blogging, is man it helps you, you learn a lot and get great feedback from people who are out there.

ARDELL: Blogging is to a large extent me working, with people having the ability to look over my shoulder. I have to do these things anyway. I've had the opportunity to speak to agents at Inman and to speak this year at 3 different REbarcamps on blogging, Seattle, Bellevue - the Microsoft side of Seattle and also in Miami Beach. The way that agents think about blogging is often quite different from what blogging actually is. I learned about blogging from Microsoft employees. It seems like the real estate community thinks that they invented blogging, and they did not [laughter]. When you are in front of an audience that is new to Social Media and blogging, they put it into a little box that seems to be about real estate. They often don't realize that we're subject to the social norms that we don't get to create. I don't think they realize that.

Jonathan Miller: What do you mean by "social norms"?

ARDELL: The fear of people who truly understand Social Media is that people will come into their world and ruin it and turn it into a place for marketing to the point where they will always have commercials in their face. Who would watch TV if it were all commercials? Nobody. When you blog, you are not the commercial, you are the show. You have to entertain...you have to educate you have to DO something besides have a commercial. To a large extent you have to have NO commercial, zero commercial, which really boggles the mind of most agents who come to these things wanting to know "How can I make more money".

Jonathan Miller: "Here are my 3 top listings right now"...to me that is a turnoff because I'm not coming there to see their listings, I'm coming there to get their insight.

ARDELL:  I blame this on the seller's of homes, as opposed to the buyers of homes. The buyers of homes probably understand everything [blogging and social media] much better than almost any real estate agent. The whole industry has been very owner-seller oriented, which is still my complaint today. From a seller's point of view, yes a seller would say "yes, use social media to talk about my house". To some extent you really can't do that because the seller will then say "oh, don't let everybody else talk about my house. Don't let the people who don't like my house, talk about my house".

Jonathan Miller:  Right. Exactly.

ARDELL:  It is more the seller's perspective that limits the use of social media. In fact our local mls has just added a new data field to say...they added two new options for blogging and for the use of Automated Valuation Models (AVM's), and they choose the answer for the seller. [laughter] The rest of the form is primarily blanks. But then it says "Prohibit Blogging?: Yes". It doesn't say ALLOW blogging but it does say "Allow AVM? YES". So it's already skewed to say yes you can put my house on Zillow and show the Zillow Zesitmate, but no blogging. I don't get too involved in that, it's a very new data field. I had to re-enter a listing yesterday using those data fields, and even I as a blogger said "yes, prohibit blogging". If I'm going to blog about a listing it's going to be a story about that listing, and that still creates problems. I had a listing where Albert Einstein had attended a party there once. I think that's an interesting story. That is blogworthy; not that it has x bedrooms and bathrooms.

The thing that I think is interesting is the concept of social media and blogging is changing and somewhat killing the news industry. 

Jonathan Miller:  Yes.

ARDELL: They don't like us [bloggers] too much. [laughter]

Jonathan Miller: Of course. Right.

ARDELL:  If you are doing blogging correctly, you are not "creating" news every 10 min. like the poor journalism industry has to. They have to have news. We don't have to blog all day.

Jonathan Miller:  Do you have a routine? Is it just when you are inspired? I find I have a burst where I will be really active for 3 or 4 days and then I'm quiet for a few days. I'm not a daily type person. Is that how you approach it? How do you approach that?

ARDELL:  I've been blogging since New Year's Day, January of 2006. How I blog has changed over time. I have a huge volume of material in place already. When I started blogging I probably wrote 5 posts in the first couple of  hours. The point to remember is that when you are blogging you are doing it for the purpose of saying something that is of value to someone else.

Jonathan Miller:  Yes.

ARDELL: When I was writing my first posts, I was trying to tell people how to qualify themselves for their own mortgage and not walk into a lender and say "How much home can I afford".

Jonathan Miller:  Right.

ARDELL:  To me that is a tool that every person should have, and they should have some idea of how much house they can buy before they go to a lender. If they do their own calculation, and of course I show them how to do that in a blog post,  If they do the calculation and it says they should buy a house for $300,000 and then they go to a lender who gives them a letter saying they qualify up to $450,000, that would raise a question. You shouldn't go into buying a home, or selling a home, without doing some homework beforehand to know what you expect the answer to be. The professional should be confirming that, and if the answer is significantly different than your research told you, you would be asking questions.

Jonathan Miller:  Right.

ARDELL: That to me is what was missing during the crisis years. When I worked in Bucks County, PA and NJ people knew. They would come in and say I want to buy a house for about $350,000, and when we went to a lender to get the pre-approval letter, it would match. I just did this a couple of days ago. I got an email from someone moving here from CA. I asked 3 questions and then said you are probably going to be at $300,000. Then I connected them to a lender who came back with a letter that said...$300,000, SURPRISE! [laughter] Qualifying a buyer, understanding a HUD 1 closing statement, these are things that agents are required to do to get a real estate license. Yet when they get out into the world they are told, probably by their broker, that that isn't something they should get involved in. Well then why did you have to know it to get your real estate license? [laughter]

Jonathan Miller: Right. That actually brings up another question because I know that one of the big issues in New York is the relationship between the firm's Associate Brokers and Agents and the Company that they park their licenses with. You have people blogging about the market's going up, the market's going down, you should buy, you shouldn't buy, and it may conflict with the branding or image message of the Broker themselves. Has that been an issue for you to a certain degree...or no?

ARDELL:  I don't have that issue because I can change my license the way that you change your pants.

Jonathan Miller: [laughter] How do you know the way I change my pants? [laughter]

ARDELL:  People make such a big deal about The Company, The Branding, The Broker. The reality is that what people expect from the agent who is inside of their home. Or in someone else's home if it is a buyer and I am with them inside a home. What people expect from us is in homes is fairly consistent, and hugely different from what happens inside of a real estate office. Those conversations never convey. I'll give you my pet peeve since at one point you wanted to know my pet peeve about the industry as a whole and New York specifically [laughter].

Jonathan Miller:  Yes. Besides the Yankees.

ARDELL:  I like the Yankees...except when they are playing the Phillies...

Jonathan Miller:  Alright. Fair enough.

ARDELL:  When I worked in Bucks County (PA} back in 92, 93, 94...the early to mid-nineties. I had clients from NY, and that is also when Buyer Agency came about. Buyer Agency came about in my world largely because New Yorkers demanded it [bangs on table] in Pennsylvania. So for NYC to not be advanced and to a large extent not have Buyer Agency...

Jonathan Miller: Tell me what Buyer Agency is, for those of us listeners who might not know.

ARDELL:  Buyer Agency which came about probably in 1989, then grew in different parts of the Country at different times, because it is a local issue, it is a State issue. Buyer Agency is the difference between when you come to me and say, "Ardell, I want to buy a house." Historically in the history of the Realtor Organization, I represented the seller when I was talking to you the buyer.

Jonathan Miller:  Right.

ARDELL:  That means the seller of ANY home. From 1989 through the mid-nineties that changed to most state laws will require or at least allow for me to represent you, the buyer, as opposed to the sellers of the homes that we are going to go see. That was a HUGE change, except if you go into any real estate office, almost every one is still operating identically to the way it existed prior to that happening.

Jonathan Miller:  I see.

ARDELL:  The conversations are the same, the meetings are the same, they didn't change the way they think about real estate and what they do inside of the Broker's Office. Outside of the Broker's Office...largely different. The poor newer agents understand that when they are going to see homes with their Buyer Client, they are helping that buyer client make a decision. But then when they go into the office, the chatter inside the office never changed. It's "hey, did you sell a house today?", "Hey, can you sell them MY listing?", "Hey, bring them over to THIS house, because we need to SELL  that." The Broker Support System still supports a seller-based system.

Jonathan Miller: Right, so it's Seller-Centric still, in general. The orientation of the industry is based on sellers. Do you think that what we saw during the Housing Boom, or I like to call it the Credit Boom with a housing boom symptom, we saw different hybrid products like Redfin, we had Foxtons. All different models that seems like the traditional brokerage system is in flux and these other things have emerged. Do you think there is any change in store for us over the next 5 years? Or is this just a natural ebb and flow of alternatives and it will always be there?

[pause] [laughter]

Jonathan Miller:  I want you to cut your own throat, that's what I'm saying.

ARDELL: Here's what I really think. I was quoted back in 1998 or so in national papers on this topic. I said if the Real Estate Industry does not encompass Buyer Agency in a different way... We were already 5 years or more into it, then pretty much it has to go away. It has to be dismantled. In other words if you  can't do it right, then you can't do it at all.

Jonathan Miller:  I see.

ARDELL:  Redfin - my position on Redfin - is probably as much a part of my local notoriety as anything else. I am a huge supporter of Redfin because they recognize the buyer as the person who pays the buyer agent fee. They give the buyer the dignity of their side of the equation and that is hugely important. The industry fights that and has fought that ever since Buyer Agency first came out.

Jonathan Miller: I see.

ARDELL: When you are buying a million dollar home, you know that roughly $30,000 of the commission that's floating around is what you are paying for the agent that is with you, the Buyer's Agent. When you buy the home, that fee is incorporated into the price of the home you are buying. Redfin recognizes that. That's what people don't understand about Redfin. Redfin is Seattle-based...

Jonathan Miller: Exactly, that's why I brought it up.

ARDELL: ...so I saw them from the day before they existed. In many ways I understood them early on better than they did. They didn't seem to fully understand how they fit into the big picture, as much as they understood their own picture. Do you understand that?

Jonathan Miller: Yeah...I think so...but go ahead...

ARDELL: They didn't come out of a real estate background. The original founder had a medical degree, and most of the people were technology guys. We have a lot of that here in Seattle, BTW, because we are the home of Microsoft. [laughter]

Jonathan Miller: Absolutely.

ARDELL: We have a ton of real estate people who used to be technology guys. We have a lot of start up real estate companies who are based from their understanding of technology. The number one thing about Redfin, originally, was they were cool! Their website was super-cool in terms of looking for property. To this day the majority of my clients use Redfin as the tool they use to find property and then send those listings to me via a Redfin link. Redfin is huge here because it is, I would say, the #1 search site when looking for property on the internet. Regardless of which agent the buyer is then going to use to buy that house.

Jonathan Miller:  Okay. So the gist of it's not that the Realtor status quo is against them specifically, but it's the whole Buyer Agency concept where they are coming from a completely different angle. Perhaps because they are not anchored in the history and evolution of brokers...

ARDELL: They are anchored in their perspective as consumers who are or might be buying a home. So they see it from that [consumer-centric] perspective. I have had many meetings over the last 3 years, I go out and poll people, even people I meet on twitter who are local. They don't understand the basic structure of a traditional company. What happened over the years is that by and large the sellers have negotiated THEIR commission. They always have. There has been no question that when you go to a seller's house you talk about, and you negotiate, a commission before you put the house on market. So the listing side, the seller's agent side, has been "negotiated" since...forever. I assume you have sold a house at least once in your life, Jonathan?

Jonathan Miller:  Yes, actually I was a broker for 6 months in Chicago in 1985. I sold...I don't know, like 9 properties. I sold a property on my first day. [laughter] So I have some lineage to brokerage, but ended up as an appraiser somehow, I'm not sure why.

ARDELL: The huge story that no one talks about is that when you list a home [for sale], you tell the seller, yes you can negotiate the fee that you are going to pay me as YOUR agent. But the fee that we are going to buy to the Buyer's Agent, if you try to negotiate that with me, up front [the listing; seller's agent] it could limit the number of agents who show your home.

Jonathan Miller: Yes.

[ 24.39 in the podcast ]

ARDELL: When you list your home, you are really setting 2 separate fees. One for your agent as the agent of the seller,and one for the agent of the buyer. That combination is what people perceive to be the real estate commission.

Jonathan Miller:  ...I see...

ARDELL: Are you following me?

Jonathan Miller:  Essentially, I am. If you negotiate a substandard commission that is not sort of the norm for the market, the concern is that you'll get less exposure for the property...no?

ARDELL: Well, but here's what Redfin is, and this is HUGE, and people just haven't talked about it. I can't use a number, and it's too hard to talk about this without numbers. So let's use a hypothetical number that isn't the one that everyone knows. Let's use 10%.

Jonathan Miller: OK

ARDELL: You go to a seller and say the fee is 10% with 5% of that for me, the agent for the seller, the listing agent and the other 5% is what we are going to offer to Buyer's Agents who come to show your property, if they bring the buyer who buys it.

Jonathan Miller: Right

ARDELL: It's two fees.

Jonathan Miller: I see.

ARDELL: It's two fees. Now the seller says, but I don't want to pay 10%, I only want to pay 8%. I say well, yeah...I'm willing to back up to 3% instead of 5%, but you can't reduce the 5% you are offering out to the world of Buyer's Agents, because that could limit the exposure to your home.

Jonathan Miller: Right

ARDELL: This is the discussion that nobody cares about, but is the crux of the problem. The anger of the people who want to beat up on the traditional system is that they have managed to negotiate the fee for the agent for the seller forever. But when are we going to get that Buyer Agent fee as a negotiable item on the table? Because you keep telling us that if we don't put the highest possible number, people won't come to see our home.

Jonathan Miller: Right

ARDELL: So what Redfin is, is they take that Buyer Agent Fee and they sit down with the buyer and they say OK. Actually as a matter of policy, they say part of that is for us, because our fee isn't 5%, the rest of it goes back to you.

Jonathan Miller: Right.

[ 27:32 of podcast ]

ARDELL: The concept of Redfin has nothing to do with "discounting", nothing to do with "traditional" vs. Redfin. It has to do with Buyer Agency, and giving the buyer the ability to negotiate that portion of the commission and sale price, that was set aside as a retainer. Say you come to me and you are buying a house. I say fine, I don't know how much the seller is offering [since you haven't chosen  a house to buy yet] but my fee is this price that we agreed to. Let's say we agree to a flat fee of $15,000. Then you pick your house, and every seller can have a different number there, though largely it is somewhat the same. Then I say OK Jonathan, this is the house, and the seller is offering $25,000...we already agreed to $15,000, so I get $15,000 and $10,000 gets credited toward your closing costs.

Jonathan: Right

ARDELL: THAT's what Redfin IS [ to me ]. Redfin exemplifies the fact that THE BUYER has some say in the final fee that THEIR agent is to receive.

Jonathan: How is that model being received in Seattle compared to traditional brokers. Are they gaining market share? Is that alternative gaining market share on the buy side?

ARDELL: They're moving around the Country. They're opening in different places. Their original intent was to have 2% market share. Their original stated goal was not to compete largely with the big brokerages that have been in place forever. Just to gain a 2% market share, their whole business model was based on a small percentage.

Jonathan: I see.

ARDELL: The issue that we face here [in Seattle] and there are all kinds of models here because our mls is not part of the Board of Realtors by the way.

Jonathan: Really?

ARDELL: Yes, one of the only ones in the Country. So we can do lots of things. We can change our pants a lot. [laughter]

Jonathan: That's too much information, Ardell. [laughter] I don't believe in too much transparency, especially when it comes to pants.

ARDELL: We try new things here more readily and more easily, without worring so much about being brought up for being against the code of ethics or the Realtor Board...or something [when trying new things]

Jonathan: I guess that's logical because Seattle is sort of a hotbed of technology and that sort of thinking like the difference between when I attend an Inman Conference in San Francisco vs. an Inman Conference in New York. It's a totally different feel. The San Francisco version is very high tech and start uppy and the New York version is sort of traditional and business. Seattle I kind of put in the same box as San Francisco I suppose.

ARDELL:  We're hugely different here. Seattle culture of course celebrates new things, going into the music industry historically, Seattle likes to develop things and being able to do things locally without relying on what are they doing in New York or what are they doing elsewhere. They celebrate privately owned moreso than chain stores...coffee even.

Jonathan: Starbucks

ARDELL:  Yes, even though we may be the home of Starbucks, locals say...oh no, we want to go to Christian's [Chocolati]

Jonathan: [laughter] You start it, and then you want to move on, like Grunge Music and all that.

ARDELL: ...unique. The issue when you say is it traditional vs the alternative business models, of which Redfin is only one, it's really about what is the definition of "full service"?

Jonathan: Right

ARDELL: There's a young fella, he's a funny guy, he's all over social media. He once sold a house. He's in the health care profession. Everybody and their mother has a real estate license.

Jonathan: Of course.

ARDELL: He got a real estate license, he helped his friend buy a house and at the end he got a big check. Between $10,000 and $15,000. Then he went home and his kids jumped up and down like he won the lottery.

Jonathan: Sure.

ARDELL: Then he said, this is terrible, this is just insane. Commissions are too high. He started his own company with a very low commission and said we give "full service" for this price. But the reality is that he doesn't know what "full service" is. He was right to say this is too much, because he went to work every day and then went to escrow...to pick up a check.

Jonathan: [laughter} Right. While we're talking about that, about social media, what do you think about twitter in terms of your business practice? I don't want to get too bogged down in technology, but just sort of this 140 character concept and what does it do for you?

ARDELL: I LOVE twitter. I'd probably give up my iPhone before my twitter. [laughter] That's how much I love twitter. The give and take of learning. Yes, people learn from me and yes, I learn from them. Twitter, if you use it...correctly...and correctly is probably not the right term because everyone's "correctly" is different. I use twitter in a lot of ways. One is I am not unique, I don't know more than a lot of other people in the industry. I am just the one who is willing to say it out loud. So, I can follow a comment steam among various people who have influence on our industry and I can jump in with a couple of tweets and change the direction of that conversation.

[ 34.20 in podcast ]

Jonathan: Right

ARDELL: In my  industry, I am able to change the way people are viewing something, simply by throwing in some well placed 140 character comments that make people at least say...oh... Then the people who were thinking what I was saying, can then get into that conversation and change the whole course of the conversation,  That can change the way an industry develops, and can change the way an industry implements new things that they are doing in the real estate industry. Locally, pretty much the same thing. I interact with interesting local people. We just had a huge change, a 30 year overturn of a policy regarding the Seattle School System that came down yesterday. They were moved back to a geographically based system, which means you can buy a house now and know where your kid is going to go to school.. Yay!

Jonathan: Yeah...what a concept. [laughter]

ARDELL: That's a 30 year old policy change. Well, I blogged about it...

Jonathan: Yes, I saw that. You wrote about it on the Rain City Guide...

ARDELL:  How did I know about it though, Jonathan? From twitter.

Jonathan: Right

ARDELL: So if you develop your twitter accounts, not just your followings, but these new lists. a new and fabulous tool in twitter for listing people into various sections so you can quickly connect to the news sources vs. the local people you follow for other reasons. You can quickly pick up everything that's coming [in real time] I wrote that post I think at 9 o'clock in the morning. The decision was made at 11 p.m. the night before.

Jonathan. Yes. Actually this new list feature is something I just started playing with. It's really cool because you can zero in on different people. Twitter became sort of my new RSS feed where I get a lot of information. It's like Christmas. It's like a conveyor belt of candy. You see some cool stuff and then you start having a conversation about it. I really place a lot of value in the types of contacts and the types of people that I follow. It says a lot about your brand and about you as a person and you as an agent, because the level of content that you push out, that you comment on, how provocative you are. Seems like that is an important component of establishing your identity outside of your bricks and mortar.

ARDELL: ...and people make too much of the 140 character thing. When you think about it, you have blogging, you have facebook and you have twitter. I go into twitter and I see a 140 character statement that has a link to an article in the Seattle Times, so I can read up on everything that happened. Then I go to my blog and write a post, I link to the article that was mentioned in twitter. So the 140 characters has a link to a huge article.

Jonathan: Right It's not just 140 characters. You're giving a heads up in 140 characters, but to me twitter is all about the links. I can see your point. I have one more thing I want to cover before we wind it up here and that is...you were...and this is why you are so different than so many people who are out there. You were on the cover of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer talking about...you were predicting the demise of the housing slump. That would never happen here [in New York]. There is no one that would take that kind of...it wasn't even your firm...it was YOU. Maybe you can tell me...I think they got it off your blog, right? You gave an argument for it. That was pretty cool.

ARDELL: That surprised me. That particular front page above the fold. I've been in the real estate section many times, but front page of the newspaper above the fold...I didn't even realize until I physically saw the newspaper. ...and of course right next to Obama's picture...I love that. Obama gets elected and he's talking about the crises and right next to his face is Ardell predicting the housing slump's demise.

Jonathan: It doesn't even say "housing slump's demise predicted" it says "AGENT predicts"

ARDELL: [laughter]...yes, me. [laughter]

Jonathan: Yes, that's pretty cool.

ARDELL: The subtitle under it said something like "Blog..."

Jonathan: Yes, it says "Blog prompts wave of discussion in real estate circles". Your objective in the blog is to promote discussion.

ARDELL: I didn't know this was happening, because I was working. It was a Saturday...and I saw the bottom. You know how you can just see it. It's like when you are working on an appraisal and a light bulb goes on and you say, yeah...that's the price. Then you keep working to show other people that that is the price. You know at some point what the value is, and you are still working though...right? to finish your display of that. The beginning part of your work is YOUR knowing what the price is and the end part of your work is your conveying what you know to someone else. I'm assuming that for you. [chuckle]

Jonathan: That is exactly correct.

ARDELL: ...that is what I do. It was a Saturday...I was writing a couple of different offers, and I was like these are bottom. These two are bottom. One was a builder and one was a distressed property. So there are different bottoms, the same as there are different prices for different properties that you are appraising.

Jonathan: Right

ARDELL: As I was walking out the door to go to one of the properties with clients, that light bulb went on, I said here's bottom, I found it, and I typed that. I literally on my way out the door, passed my keyboard and said we're at bottom - I'll talk more about it tomorrow, and I left. I was out, on the street, looking at property. I came back and I didn't know anyone was going to look at that and care about what I just said. [laughter] I didn't know it was going to be front page news.

Jonathan: "Apparently people do care about what you say..." [laughter]

ARDELL: You want to know why that is...and again, I can't emphasize enough how the industry has to incorporate the whole Buyer Agency concept. I had a miserable 2008 because I told most of my clients not to buy a house. [laughter] It's not that I didn't have clients. My pipeline of clients that come from the blog doesn't stop. It's just someone calls me and says I want to buy a house, I'm going to be there for two years in graduate school. I want to buy a condo. It's early 2008 and I was like "let me go find you a really nice rental". [laughter]

Jonathan: You're answering the question; you're answering the mission. If they said I expect to be here for the rest of my life, that might be a different answer.

ARDELL: Right. Or if they had 3 dogs and 6 kids and a hobby that required a garage...you can't put your life on hold. Back to the inside of a real estate office. I have never, ever heard in a meeting, someone say "You might want to tell your buyer clients that this might not be the best time to buy a house". [laughter] 

Jonathan: Yeah, it seems like that would hurt revenue at some point.

ARDELL: For an entire year of blogging while most of the real estate sites were saying and putting out big ads saying...there's never been a better time to buy, blah blah... I was tracking the market from around January 1, 2008, every single week, I did Sunday Night Stats. Which I'm not doing now because the market isn't pummeling in one direction or the other. But during the whole decline I was the only agent who you could go to, every week, to see how much it was falling.[laughter] Every single week. Down, down, down, down and down again. Big arrows...down this much from last week. So when I said "bottom!", that's why it was credible.

Jonathan:  ...and it triggered the response.

ARDELL:  it triggered...it's weird but the real estate writer, Aubrey Cohen who wrote that, and it made front page news. Two things. The paper went out of business shortly thereafter and Aubrey Cohen got taken off of real estate entirely [laughter]

Jonathan: So it was the nail in the coffin...[laughter]

ARDELL: That was February of 2009. The median home price at that time, in that article. And they said it, not me, from their sources...from the nwmls they said median home price is $382,500. I called the bottom and the median home price since then is $384,000.

Jonathan: Right. It's sort of bumping along the bottom.

ARDELL: Yeah. If you want to be credible you can't have a consistent message that it's always a great time to buy and it's always a great time to sell. That is the only, only issue that real estate agents can not come to terms with when blogging. They don't want to say it's a bad time to sell and they don't want to say it's a bad time to buy. They always want the answer to be yes you should, and you should hire me.

Jonathan: Yes. Because it's a transactional business. It's not so much about price trends, it's about moving units...transactions.

ARDELL: But it really isn't by and large a transactional business. When someone comes to you and gives you their story and asks for your advice, it is NOT transactional. But from a Broker's perspective, from a Branding perspective from a Brokerage persepective, it's always about transactional volume. So what's going to happen to the traditional real estate company? The agents that are like me either belong to a large company and never go to the office...[laughter]

Jonathan: Right [laughter

ARDELL: ...that's an alternative. They don't go anymore. That's really what happened. A lot of the agents that wanted to keep the Brand, they work from home.

Jonathan: Yes, the bricks and mortar...well, there will always be bricks and mortar. But it's very expensive. A lot of overhead. Having a brokerage company is not a high margin business. The industry has a dilemma now because we are off the levels of transactions from during the credit boom where we had a lot of excess demand created by the loose lending standards. While the market may have bottomed, we are not going to see the transaction levels that we saw 4 or 5 years ago return in the near future. It will be interesting to see how brokerage firms adapt to that change.

ARDELL: The disconnect in the industry is that how we have an office is dictated by State Law, State Licensing Laws.

Jonathan: Really?

ARDELL  Yes. That's where the disconnect is. The State Laws regarding Buyer Agency and bricks and mortar is separate from the real estate industry that has to comply, and for the most part those laws are antiquated. The law says you have to have a certain type of office and a certain type of sign it has to have a door that is separate from any adjoining businesses. I just met with some people who are starting up a Virtual Real Estate company as a Virtual Office. But they still have to have the bricks and mortar office that no one ever goes to. They must have that door [laughter]

Jonathan: How strange [laughter]

ARDELL: They must have that door that no one ever goes in...[laughter]

Jonathan: Right. Great...[laughter]

ARDELL: ...but that's a bigger topic than you and I.

Jonathan: Ardell, this has really been fun. I was not as well versed on Buyer Agency as I am now.

ARDELL: Jonathan, it's always a pleasure to talk with you, and I appreciate your having me on.

"That's it for this edition of The HousingHelix Podcast".

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Mar. 25, 2008 - A snippet from a conversation with Jeff Turner in early 2007

We have not reached the tipping point yet?

Ahhh...we have reached many points of tipping...

The (real estate) industry has about five main bullet points to address, and have already chosen how to address those to a large extent and over a period of say 15 years.  Their chosen course in each disappoints me, obviously.  Some are more problematic for me than others. Are these courses reversible?  More importantly, should I care if they are not reversed or moved forward differently?  Give me a sec.  I have to go ask Jesus.

1) Broker survival-compensation models (becoming landlords of cowboys.  The cowboys is my issue more than the fee structure.  Starting our own company was a huge eye opener though.  I see it...I get it...but I don't care much about the big picture of broker compensation...just the impact on consumers of the cowboys that structure creates.

2) Buyer Agency and all that goes with (disclosure of and negotiation of the Buyer Agent Fee i.e. Redfin.  I may negotiate at full price or more or less...but I never say the buyer agent fee is none of the buyers business...as "the industry" does.  That is why Redfin is the one and only and hated for it.  The buyer agent fee is not supposed to be any of the buyer's damn business LOL.  A huge host of injustices in the everyday market place lies herein...so it is my main focus.  It is also where the consumer's intelligence is highly insulted.

3) Consumer's disgust at the control and arrogance factor (you HAVE TO pay this and you HAVE TO use us and you HAVE TO...just because the industry has gotten away with way too much for way too long, is no excuse for this stance.  Be happy that you "made hay while the sun shined" and move in a new direction people.

4) Realtor.com is a monopoly, and by definition of monopoly, unchallengedly stagnant. Enter Zillow as the response.  You really have to admire Dalton for his Fearless Leader stance...ask yourself, why is Dalton defending Realtor value against Redfin?  Why wasn't it the CEO of another Brokerage.  Where is Dalton vs. Kelman not a match?  He has taken on that role...very wise man....defender of the Realtor.

5) Self Governed Trade Association The Big Kahuna has not met it's obligations that go with privelege.  It did forever...until...all agents stopped representing only sellers.  Their response to the change was to "pretend" change...not "good enough"  The world is rebelling...including the DOJ  And well they should.  Self governance to the point of Courts deferring back to the Realtor Organization, comes with HUGE public policy responsibility.  They blew it...badly...and have given no sign of doing anything but staying that course.  If the Realtor organization only looks out for the Realtor and not the consumer, then they need to be dismantled and have less power.  They were given huge power because all was seller oriented.  Agent wants exactly what seller consumer wants...motivation of agent same as motivation for seller consumer, so large power and self governance given them.  Buyer consumer gaining rights...Realtor Organization not responding in consumer protection fashion...time to take it down to size and no longer defer to their "judgment" and control.

Has there ever before in history been an intervention by government into the affairs of the Realtor Organization?  Why now?  The BIG answer...not the small excuse they found to do so.

Oh, and Jesus says in response to my question at the beginning: "Whatever You Do For the LEAST of My Brethren, You Do Unto Me".  So that leaves me at point #2 where you "found" me :) 

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Mar. 16, 2007 - My Project Blogger Apprentice

As seen this week in Inman News, we are getting ready for the kickoff of "Project Blogger".  The Competition is STIFF and the Coaches will be hard to beat!

Here's the meat of the Inman New story on the event: 

ActiveRain will select 10-15 blogging coaches to each train a real estate blogging apprentice of their choice. Over the course of about four months, the blogging coaches will aim to develop the most successful real estate blogger.

Coaches and apprentices will be chronicling their Project Blogger experiences on their own blogs and the Project Blogger group on ActiveRain. A few coaches who have already signed up are Teresa Boardman, who blogs at the St. Paul Real Estate Blog; Ardell DellaLoggia, who blogs at the Searching Seattle Blog; and Jim Cronin, who blogs at the Real Estate Tomato blog. More about the coaches who have already committed to the project is at the "Meet the Coaches" post at ActiveRain.

Teams will be judged each week and scored according to criteria such as degree of innovation in approach, consistency, quality of postings, the apprentice's community involvement, traffic or reach of apprentice's blog, and more.

The competition officially opens on April 9 and ends July 15. Winners will be announced at Bloggers Connect. ActiveRain will donate $5,000 to the winning team's charity of choice.

Interested observers can track each team's progress and updates on the competition at the Project Blogger Forum on ActiveRain.

Inman News' Bloggers Connect is the first conference for real estate bloggers. The two-day event aims to help real estate bloggers gather insights into best practices and the biggest rewards of real estate blogging.

By now you should be wondering who that handsome dude us up there in the photo.  YUP!!  That is my apprentice, Kevin Tomlinson the King of Miami Beach and South Beach Luxury Townhomes.  Stay tuned!  This could get fun!

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Dec. 6, 2006 - Zillow.com Announces Major Upgrade

I've already written about the new features on Zillow.com, whereby a homeowner or agent can upload their homes for sale, or tempt the buying public with a "Make Me Move" price for people whose home is NOT for sale.  I can't wait to see what people put into that feature.  I wonder if you can ask for things besides money?  Like YES, I will move, but only if you give me season tickets to the Seahawks, along with my asking price :-)

Some of the BIG questions are:

Will agents post their listings?  If not...WHY not? 

If a seller's agent will not post their home on Zillow.com, will the owner do it himself?

How will the owner and/or agent explain the difference between the Zillow Zestimate and the owner's asking price, as both will show side by side?  I can't get into the new site yet tonight to enter one of my listings, but I had a sneak preview last week.  From what I saw, the Zestimate is going to show along side the owner's asking price.  Will this be confusing?  Will buyers think it is being offered at the Zillow Zestimated price?

The Make Me Move part is just going to be fun.  Can't you see some guy sitting back with his six pack in his double wide saying "Make Me Move" for $1.5 Million LOL.  As I said in the RCG Article earlier this evening, I do think there will be some good uses for the Make Me Move Feature.   We all know a few people who keep their resumes on Monster.com at all times...willing to listen to all offers.  Why not do the same with the Make Me Move Feature?  Put a price up there that would make it worth your while.  Kind of like that commercial where the homebuying family knocks on the door of someone's house and says "We'll buy it" even though it's not REALLY for sale!

Anyway you slice it, we will be getting an eyeful and an earful on this one tomorrow!  I'm still waiting for it to go live to get a listing in there...I tried at 9:21.  I'll go try again.

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ARDELL DellaLoggia of Sound Realty on Seattle Real Estate process and market including Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, Green Lake and most areas around the top of Lake Washington North of Downtown Seattle. Phone: 206-910-1000 - Mailto:ARDELLd@gmail.com

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