As of this writing, there are 837 homes for sale in the Austin MLS for which the “Syndication” choice is set to “no” in the MLS settings. That’s 14% of current Austin single-family homes for sale, a sizable number, spanning all price ranges. I applaud those Broker/Agents for not drinking the syndication Kool-Aid.
This means, specifically, those 837 Austin MLS listings are not being fed by the listing agent through the MLS to a syndication aggregator called ListHub, which in turn is the main provider of listing feeds for most syndicators, including Zillow and Trulia, and 60+ others. I single out Zillow and Trulia only because those sites are the biggest and most well-known syndication websites. They are also the two most notoriously aggressive in their efforts and tactics to sell expensive advertising to the same Austin Realtors who freely gave away their work product (listings) to these media websites.
But what the 14% means in practical terms is that if you are a serious buyer dumb enough to only be looking for a home on a syndication website, you are only finding 86% of available Austin MLS listings. Wouldn’t you rather know about all available listings that match your search criteria?
Conversely, wouldn’t you rather NOT be shown incorrect listing data, specifically, homes you find on Zillow and Trulia and other sites that are not even for sale, or that already sold months or years ago but still appear on these websites? Or a home listed for $500K with an “estimated” value of $423K, but which had multiple offers over list price before the listing even made it onto the syndication website?
These websites might be interesting time wasters for tire kickers, curiosity seekers and nosey neighbors, but they are not trustworthy sources of current, accurate real estate listing information. Maybe they are an easy “first look” for casual listing surfers in the very early stages of “thinking about” buying a home, just to get a general idea of prices in a new city or area of town. But real estate listing syndication websites are not valuable tools for a serious buyer. Nor do they offer a relevant advertising venue for serious sellers or their listing agents. That’s because these sites are not designed to help you as a buyer, or to help sellers sell homes. They are designed to sell advertising to Realtors.
And the 14% Austin listing gap is growing as more Brokers and Agents come out of the fog and realize that these syndicators are not our friends. These websites do not, in any way, cause any home to sell faster or for a higher price. So the question is, why do so many Realtors mistakenly believe that these third-party media advertising websites are a good thing? And why do so many Realtors wrongly presume that sellers want listings shown on these websites?
History of Listing Syndication in Austin Continue reading
As you have no doubt heard, computer analysis Edward Snowden was so appalled by what he deemed to be egregious privacy violations and spying on U.S. Citizens by his employers the CIA and NSA, that he leaked classified information to the press to prove it, then fled to Russia where he remains.
Would he have been happier working at Zillow? No. He would have been just as appalled.
Zillow does not respect your privacy. The lead system at Zillow, through which consumers inquire about listings, surreptitiously records and collects your private communication with Realtors who respond to your inquiry. This isn’t obvious to a typical consumer because of the way Zillow masks where your emails are really going. I’ll try to keep this technical explanation as simple as possible.
How Zillow Plays Games with Email Addresses and Names
When a consumer on Zillow fills out the “I’m interested …” form, the email that arrives is as follows:
From: Zillow <Zillow@email.zillow.com> (this is what Realtors see in the “from” section of the email client)
In the body of the email it says:
New ContactJohn Doe (firstname.lastname@example.org) is contacting you about a property on Zillow:
I am interested in 123 Main St, Austin, TX 78745. Contacted via Zillow.com
The second line above is the default text in the inquiry box. Most consumers don’t type into this box or ask questions, they simply fill in their contact info and click send with the default blurb. A real serious inquiry. (sarcasm intended)
Next, when the Realtor clicks “Reply”, she sees the following in the “to:” section of the email client:
What Zillow does here is cleverly place the consumer’s email address in the “name” section of the send field. Many email clients (the software you use to send and receive email, like Outlook or Yahoo or Gmail) only show the name in this format, not the strange long email address you see after the “name”. Zillow knows this.
The average Realtor is a 57 year old woman. Not tech savvy. When she looks at where the email is going, and sees the email address (placed into the “name” field), she thinks the email address is the destination address of the email. But really, if you look at the long weird email address after the name/email, that is where the email will be delivered, to the Zillow email server. Continue reading
One of the things I struggle with as a real estate blogger is finding the balance between positive, upbeat stories and dreary negative truths about the real estate industry and the people in it.
My sweet wife/Broker Sylvia has reprimanded me in the past for being too negative. So did my former “big name” Broker, multiple times, for crossing the line of polite decorum and calling out what I see as gross incompetence, not only with other Realtors, but the lenders, inspectors and various others who are part of every real estate transaction. I’ve mellowed somewhat, but things have become worse, not better.
This is going to be another of those “negative” writings because, frankly, I’ve had it. I’m sick and tired. I’m wondering if I even want to remain a part of an industry so plagued with completely useless idiots masquerading as real estate “professionals”.
I think it’s important, as a consumer, for you to know how truly terrible so many Realtors are, and how truly stupid you are for hiring them. You research your purchase of a car for months online before making a decision. You scour the internet travel sites looking for even the smallest of savings on your airline flight. You wander in and out of Best Buy, Fries Electronics, Office Depot, etc, plus review websites, investing hours of research, before purchasing that next laptop or refrigerator. I could go on.
But, when hiring your Realtor, according to NAR consumer surveys, 70% of you hire the first one to return your call. Stop that. It’s dumb. You, the consumer, are part of the problem, if not the problem.
Let’s look at some real life examples of the consequences of having lousy agents out in the field, who would vanish were it not for the “first return call” hiring practices of the real estate consumer. Continue reading
Everybody loves Austin. Or so it seems. If the recent Forbes article “Austin Envy” wasn’t enough (though it mistakenly claims we still have Austin Hippies – we don’t. And, please, NOBODY refers to Austin as “Silicon Hills”), the final proof was in the finale of The Office, in which Jim and Pam decide to leave Scranton PA, bound for, of course, Austin, TX.
This makes sense. I mean, what other U.S. city could they have decided upon? Pittsburg? Phoenix? Orlando? No, the writers of The Office got it right. Jim and Pam are likable characters. We want the best for them. They’ve paid their dues in the decaying armpit that is Scranton PA, and they are deserving of a bright and optimistic new life. Austin is the only U.S. city for which this “new beginnings” story line would work. Fans can cheer the decision to move to Austin like they can no other city. It requires no explanation. It’s, like, “of course”. Self-explanatory. And we can feel good about that for them.
And what should Jim and Pam expect when they get here? Where will they live?
Does your Austin Realtor know how to show houses? Maybe not. Ask him or her what “Call and Go” means. The answer might be embarrassing to the agent, once you read this article.
I asked my 10th grade daughter what she thinks “Call and Go” might mean as a showing instruction in Austin MLS listings. She’s not a Realtor and doesn’t know much about the business other than what she absorbs through osmosis from Sylvia and me. But her tart teenage retort was, “well, obviously, if that’s what it’s called, you call and then you go… is this one of your trick questions?”
No, it wasn’t a trick question, but I did have a recent experience which revealed that many Austin Realtors actually DO NOT KNOW what “Call and Go” means as a showing instruction.
I had a new listing for which I expected a tsunami of showings and a quick contract at or above list price. Since the seller was departing on a weekend trip the same day I was entering the new listing, I didn’t want him to be bothered or troubled with tons of showing calls and voicemails during the trip. So I entered my own GoogleVoice voicemail number into the listing as the “call and go” number instead of the seller’s. Thus, the listing had agent showing instructions of: “Owner Occupied”, “Call and Go”, “Key in Lockbox”.
C&G is by far the most common showing method for Austin MLS listings, and the best way to encourage the most showings. The only status that provides easier showing access is “Vacant and Go”. Other parts of the country don’t do this and instead have elaborate appointment setting logistics. Some are even appalled that we have something called “Call and Go”, as they can’t imagine a buyer’s agent having the seller’s phone number. But it’s common in Texas, where we’re not all uptight and where we actually want our homes to be easy to show and sell. Call and Go does the trick.
Austin Buyers, when trying to win a multiple offer situation on a home in Austin, how much is “too much” to pay? It’s a hard question to answer because it’s both personal and subjective. One buyer’s “too much” may another’s “good deal”. One buyer’s “perfect” floor plan may be another’s “it’s just ok”.
That said, if you’re about to write your 5th offer having lost the last 4 multiple offer situations over the past 2 months, you have to wonder if the 4 buyers who beat you were all fools. Were they? Probably not. They all have a house now, and you don’t.
And when you finally do get your own home under contract, you may have to pay relatively “more” than it would have required to win one of those 4 lost bid efforts a few months earlier. That’s ok though. Losing out on multiple multiple-offer situations is a progressive, education process. Losing out on homes does provide value and context as it toughens your resolve going forward, and makes you smarter and, more importantly, braver. Hopefully you have a good agent keeping you sane too.
But here’s how I look at paying “too much” for a home in Austin. There are two kinds of “too much”. There is “irresponsibly too much“, and “responsibly too much“. Or, boiled down to its essence, “responsible risk” vs “irresponsible risk”.
We all make these decisions in life, not just in housing, but in many areas, whether it’s picking one job opportunity over another, or one college over another. Spending $2,500 to repair the 12-year-old car vs buying a new one. Even who you marry.
Sometimes, you have to pull up your A-Game, check your gut, and make the best decision you can in that moment. But in doing so, you are taking a “risk”. And you don’t get to find out of you were “smart” until later, at some point in the future, once all the data becomes known and the dust settles.