Category Archives for Business and Technology

Is Live Answer Worth the Investment for Businesses?

Do missed calls cost money?

As the owner of a business where 100% live answer is not possible or cost effective, I do receive my fair share of angry voicemails from people wanting to talk to a human right now. It’s kind of interesting actually. I received this one just recently.

Many would just delete it, as I usually do with rude voicemail tirades. We receive all manner of unbelievably incoherent, garbled and plain crazy voice messages from people.

But as a blunt-spoken no-BS type of person myself, I appreciated this voicemail. I played it proudly for my wife. And I played it for my assistant, “listen, … this is great!” And now I’m blogging about it.

The caller scolds me with the blunt, to the point assertion, “if no one is available you get no sales“.

Listen to it again yourself. It’s perfect! It’s the kind of communication I respect. Clear, concise, to the point. No fluff. I like people who communicate like this.

So, is he right? Am I losing sales?

Of course I am. I just don’t know how many, or if setting up a 24/7 live answer would capture enough lost sales to offset the cost of outsourcing to a live answer call center. To dig into the question a bit more, I’ll go into my call logs for my phone system and dig up some stats, then discuss the pros and cons of live answering services. Read more …

Posted by Steve
a couple of weeks ago

The Crossland Team is Back at Keller Williams Realty Austin SW Market Center

Crossland Team at Keller Williams Realty Austin

And the real estate journey continues …

Sylvia and I started Crossland Real Estate in Jan 1993, and remained independent until we sold our property management portfolio in 2004 and “retired” for a year. We didn’t actually formally retire … more of a sabbatical … as we were still in our 40s with kids 9 and 12. But we did take a year off from active real estate “production”.

We weren’t sure whether we wanted to remain in real estate forever or not. I started a telecom services company and dabbled in Business Brokerage, both of which were interesting pursuits worthy of a full effort, and which I could have succeeded at doing, but after some time off from the daily real estate routine, something happened… The phone rang. It was Real Estate. It wanted us back.

Sometimes distance from something brings perspective and a renewed appreciation of it.

So, in 2005, we decided to return to real estate full time, but also to operate under the Keller Williams Realty brand. We’d operated as a “mom and pop” independent real estate Brokerage for over a decade, and wanted to see what it was like to be part a big office Brokerage.

Not just big, but the biggest single location real estate office in the world (currently 800+ agents operate out of our SW Austin location). The “KW Mother Ship”. Talk about going from one extreme to the other!

It went well. We consistently ranked in the “Top 5” Teams. We joined the leadership team, felt a “part of”, and our business thrived. We grew as professionals. We drank the “KW Kool-Aid” as some would say. And it tasted good.

But after 4 years, we left, to become independent again. Ostensibly, to slow down and work less, to focus more on Listings and to grow the Property Management side of the business, both of which we accomplished. But something was still missing.

Read more …

Posted by Steve
a few months ago

New Realtor.com Agent Beta Profiles now Live in Austin

Map Showing Realtors who closed the sales

I attended the Presentation in Austin this week announcing the Beta rollout of Realtor.com’s new Agent Profiles. Austin is the only city in the US with this live, though it will soon also be turned on in the state of Rhode Island.

Though not fully baked, I’ve set up my profile. The “Sold Listing are not yet populating, but should be on the map by mid October. There will also be a Team Profile. Here is what it will look like when viewing a map of Sold Listings in Austin.

Map Showing Realtors who closed the sales

Map Shows Which Agents were involved in closed sales. Coming to Austin in Oct

Pretty cool, right? Are Realtors happy about this? Many are not. The Realtor online forums are ablaze with ignorant complainers, moaning and griping about this, and how it’s “unfair” to populate Realtor profiles or Sold Maps with actual closed sales because it makes the Newbies and part timers look bad.

Those of you agents complaining are missing some important data points. Namely, consumers want this. That is a settled question, supported by research and surveys of consumers. Realtor Reviews are here, whether we like it or not.

It was gross neglegence when the real estate industry fought online listings back in the late 1990s/early 2000s. It was the height of stupidity to do so. The void was instead filled by portals. Thus we have the useless but popular Zillow.

Zillow is not consumer-friendly. It exists for one purpose only, to sell advertising space to Realtors so they can appear next to listings they know nothing about. That does not create an informed consumer, nor connect a consumer to a “good” agent in their area, nor is it supposed to. Zillow is NOT consumer friendly. But consumers like the entertainment value Zillow. It’s fun to surf and look at houses.

Realtor.com can be way better for the serious consumer though, as its data comes directly from MLS feeds, and now instead of finding an “Advertiser” agent, you’ll be able to quickly rule in those agents who are actually active and relevant in the area in which you live or wish to live. Read more …

Posted by Steve
11 months ago

Austin Realtors: Time to Pull the Plug on Zillow and Trulia

No Austin MLS Syndication

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 Read more …

Posted by Steve
a couple of years ago

Would Edward Snowden Work For Zillow?

Edward Snowden

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 Contact

John Doe (johndoe@johndoeemail.com) 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:

“johndoe@johndoeemail.com” <reply-fe591075766702787312-359747_HTML-535847118-64517-44712xx@email.zillow.com>

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. Read more …

Posted by Steve
3 years ago

Should Every Realtor Have an iPad ?

Steve Jobs with iPad

Sylvia and I have two children. We didn’t want three, only two. So after the second daughter, I visited Dr. Chopp (really his name) and that was that. Although I admire and love my friends with bigger families of 3, 4 and 5 kids, I like having just two offspring. We didn’t want a third, for many reasons.

What’s this got to do with iPads? Well, I don’t want a 3rd digital device to haul around either. I have a laptop and an iPhone. I don’t want a 3rd electronic thing, simple as that. Enough is enough. I have enough digital overload, I don’t need something else to plug in and care for. I refuse to add a third device, period.

That said, the geeky side of me really, really wants an iPad, but I can’t match the emotional desire to have one with any relevant productivity benefits. To me, it would have to prove itself as a productivity tool, first and foremost. I don’t need a toy. Until a tablet can function like a laptop replacement, I have no use for one.

Does this hurt our productivity as Realtors? If you believe all the hype, yes. But as I’ll explain in this article, no, there is nothing that Sylvia and I need to do as Realtors that would get done better, faster or easier with an iPad.

Let’s look at some of the benefits of iPad for Realtors that I see and hear about most often.

Listing Presentations Tool
In the old days, Realtors used notebooks and flipped the pages while sitting with a seller. Later, PowerPoint came along, which required a laptop. And now, agents can dazzle prospective clients with presentations on the iPad. Read more …

Posted by Steve
4 years ago
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