Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher
 

NAR’s RPR should RIP ASAP

Hindsight is always 20/20, they say. Unless, of course, you spend most of your time navel gazing. So it’s almost myopic to point out that some ideas’ time has come. And other ideas’ time has passed. On one hand, it’s time for every sale to include in-house ancillary sales. On the other hand, it’s time for NAR to give up the dream of one HAL-like central database. Didn’t they find the bellybutton lint the last time they tried it?

Some of us might recall a time when both of these ideas seemed like a good thing. Creating a central database of properties nationwide – the elusive national MLS – and incorporating ancillary sales like mortgage and warranty into every deal. The first idea resulted in a horribly disfigured experiment. REALTORS themselves came to hate their own national marketing site, REALTOR.COM – for all sorts of reasons. So they punished it by withholding data – or uploading junk, if you consider the quality of most of the photos. As for selling more ancillary services, a few companies successfully deployed such “one-stop” services that are today helping to pay the bills when plain-old home-sale commissions cannot.

At the time, each of these innovations was hailed as the industry’s response to customers’ desires for “one stop shopping.” They were unveiled as centerpieces of REALTORS-at-the-center-of-the-deal strategies. Ancillary sales are keeping the doors open at many companies these days. The national website has become an embarrassing central repository of inaccurate and low-resolution data.

We could use more of the one, and less of the other, these days.

Turns out ancillary service dollars would come in quite handy these days, since selling short sales and foreclosures won’t put gifts under the tree. As for opportunity lost, REALTORS disdain for the site that bears their name keeps them from leveraging what would have been handy cost-savings for agents who cannot afford to pay-per-click these days.

Certainly, don’t blame consumers: we love one-stop shopping. We preview, select, test and finance cars within the same building. We  browse, pick and purchase – with a store credit card – clothing at retail shops. We click, configure, cart and ship computers from one website. We’d prefer to have more of everything integrated; but we really don’t need to see every car, shirt or computer available nationwide in one database.

Really.

I thought all was local, anyway? Oh, never mind. But really, this isn’t a story about saying we should have done more to integrate ancillary sales into every deal. Consumers will force that upon the industry eventually. Rather, this is a story about vision going forward. And unlike selling more ancillary sales – which was simply ahead of its time – it doesn’t look some pet projects will take REALTORS into the future.

And the biggest example of blurry vision is the National Association of REALTORS new “Property Resource” database.

Once again, another centralized database project promises to make REALTORS invaluable by putting every home on the map into a single website. Oh, there will be the usual nooks-and-crannies: tax, zoning and past-sale information. Wow. Really potent stuff.

Can you say abacus?

But this time it will be nationwide! Did nobody at NAR read their own consumer study,  indicating the average person moved a mere 13 miles from his previous address? But the database will include neato-features like forms! As if making the paperwork easier is what ails real estate sales these days.

Did I miss a decade or something? Are there really any REALTORS out there struggling to find such data locally? Could someone point out the big crowds of consumers that are in desperate need of instant parcel and school information from their agent? Or do they have that stuff already…….

Once again it looks to me – an admitted contrarian – that a vision of the future is being obfuscated by the shades of the past. RIN, REALTOR.COM and now RPR. How quickly we forget. Like admitting the bubble will pop someday, but resisting efforts to integrate ancillary sales into every company transaction. So we’d have something to sell when it does.

The National Association of REALTORS is trying to solve a non-problem: They keep trying to create the single biggest housing database in the mistaken belief that it will suddenly solve all of the problems in the business. It’s a glaringly Baby Boomer project – to recreate the Sears Catalog of real estate – with no Gen X or Gen Y consumers on the mailing list.

But it’s got a snazzy acronym: RPR. Maybe they can name the next big project RIP?

Everything about this project is backwards. It’s claimed that RPR will let REALTORS “respond quickly to consumers” who want information on any of the 147 million parcels in the country. Are we talking about the same REALTORS, 50% of whom, according to NAR”s own studies, don’t own a smartphone? The same REALTORS who can’t upload decent photos to REALTOR.COM? The same REALTORS who won’t offer their in-house warranty or mortgage service to buyers, well, just because.

Or is this just a “get even” play – to finally get back at REALTOR.COM or Zillow or Trulia, for beating them to the punch. NAR’s own press release hints at it, saying RPR will offer its members such data, “rather than requiring REALTORS to purchase data aggregated by third parties.”

Further, are any of the data elements RPR will provide actually missing on most websites consumers use today? Do not the top 20 real estate sites online offer neighborhood, tax, demographic, school, and other data today? As for liens, zoning and permits: Find me one buyer who asks for such information, and I’ll show you a builder who already knows it.

NAR says this project is part of their “Second Century” initiatives for the real estate industry.  I can’t really see how. Unless NAR means the Second Century AD.

  • Unfortunately I fear it is already a done deal and the money has been spent, so let’s try to make the most of it and hope NAR can sell some ad space on it 🙂

  • Unfortunately I fear it is already a done deal and the money has been spent, so let’s try to make the most of it and hope NAR can sell some ad space on it 🙂

  • Matthew in your article you make the best point FOR RPR…the fact is that today consumer shopping for a home (average age 28) visits a myriad of online real estate sites to collect information and to gather their own research up front. After the initial research they typically approach a REALTOR for the next step. Understand the way this often unfolds by the consumer walking in to the REALTORS office or calling in with specific questions from what they’ve already collected online. They are calling in because they’re confused around the available market data, trend data, valuation data, etc…and the REALTOR is reactive to that. We need to equip REALTORS with the tools to answer the questions their clients are coming at them with every day…with knowledge and authority.

    It’s not hard to see that there has been a transformative shift in the role of the REALTOR. It’s clearly to position him/her as the interpreter (or trust advisor) of this information which is flying around out there.

  • Matthew in your article you make the best point FOR RPR…the fact is that today consumer shopping for a home (average age 28) visits a myriad of online real estate sites to collect information and to gather their own research up front. After the initial research they typically approach a REALTOR for the next step. Understand the way this often unfolds by the consumer walking in to the REALTORS office or calling in with specific questions from what they’ve already collected online. They are calling in because they’re confused around the available market data, trend data, valuation data, etc…and the REALTOR is reactive to that. We need to equip REALTORS with the tools to answer the questions their clients are coming at them with every day…with knowledge and authority.

    It’s not hard to see that there has been a transformative shift in the role of the REALTOR. It’s clearly to position him/her as the interpreter (or trust advisor) of this information which is flying around out there.

  • Pretty acerbic comments about RPR, but, that is why I like your writing. Although I am a career long member of NAR I am not sure what, if much, they can do to stem the tide of change in the industry. While I agree that the RPR is a boomer approach (and hey, I am a card carrying boomer) it may well pick off enough customers/clients to feed thousands of agents. While I read, travel and try to constanty learn more about the big wide world, I practice real estate in Greater Nashville, where I think this approach (RPR) might just work for REALTORS and clients alike. BTW, I am pretty sure you’ve read what Rob Hann has to say about this topic, if not, I think you would enjoy it…

  • Pretty acerbic comments about RPR, but, that is why I like your writing. Although I am a career long member of NAR I am not sure what, if much, they can do to stem the tide of change in the industry. While I agree that the RPR is a boomer approach (and hey, I am a card carrying boomer) it may well pick off enough customers/clients to feed thousands of agents. While I read, travel and try to constanty learn more about the big wide world, I practice real estate in Greater Nashville, where I think this approach (RPR) might just work for REALTORS and clients alike. BTW, I am pretty sure you’ve read what Rob Hann has to say about this topic, if not, I think you would enjoy it…

  • I keep waiting for NAR to do something that makes sense. Especially when I look at my dues, I wonder, “When will I learn the secret that only the illuminati are privy to?” Is it in NAR owning a majority share of the lockbox company that charges another arm and leg for a box that holds a key of all things? Hmm, a “key”. It makes as much sense as “economists” who have never known a time when it wasn’t a great time to buy. Now where did I leave my slide rule? I seem to have misplaced a decimal.

  • I keep waiting for NAR to do something that makes sense. Especially when I look at my dues, I wonder, “When will I learn the secret that only the illuminati are privy to?” Is it in NAR owning a majority share of the lockbox company that charges another arm and leg for a box that holds a key of all things? Hmm, a “key”. It makes as much sense as “economists” who have never known a time when it wasn’t a great time to buy. Now where did I leave my slide rule? I seem to have misplaced a decimal.

  • I hate to admit it, but I hadn’t even heard of RPR until I attended the NAR Convention in San Diego last month. I equally hate to admit I didn’t attend the NAR presentation of RPR, so I cannot comment from any enlightened point of view. But, as usual, Matthew, your post raises a good point ,or, at least, a good point for debate. Guess I’ll go to the horse’s mouth and see if NAR can convince me you may be wrong–or not.

  • I hate to admit it, but I hadn’t even heard of RPR until I attended the NAR Convention in San Diego last month. I equally hate to admit I didn’t attend the NAR presentation of RPR, so I cannot comment from any enlightened point of view. But, as usual, Matthew, your post raises a good point ,or, at least, a good point for debate. Guess I’ll go to the horse’s mouth and see if NAR can convince me you may be wrong–or not.

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Reggie: Thanks for your feedback; I see what your saying, but I’m not sure how RPR adds anything to the equation. I can get ALL of the information RPR will offer from any agent within 2 minutes NOW if I just call a local one. I can’t find it in my mind to think that a) there really are REALTORS out there en-masse who don’t have access to this info ALREADY and from their COMPANY or MLS, not “third parties” (who might be WORTH paying, actually) b) why a single national system is useful, considering the average buyer moved only 12 miles from their previous residence last year anyway… so, just sayinnnn…… :>

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Reggie: Thanks for your feedback; I see what your saying, but I’m not sure how RPR adds anything to the equation. I can get ALL of the information RPR will offer from any agent within 2 minutes NOW if I just call a local one. I can’t find it in my mind to think that a) there really are REALTORS out there en-masse who don’t have access to this info ALREADY and from their COMPANY or MLS, not “third parties” (who might be WORTH paying, actually) b) why a single national system is useful, considering the average buyer moved only 12 miles from their previous residence last year anyway… so, just sayinnnn…… :>

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Paul: Yes, I may have been a bit acerbic; hope it wasn’t “mean-spirited” though – just sometimes get over-excited about such silly things when I see them. I have NOT read Rob’s blog on it yet – but will do so now; We frequently have similar ideas… Glad you commented!

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Paul: Yes, I may have been a bit acerbic; hope it wasn’t “mean-spirited” though – just sometimes get over-excited about such silly things when I see them. I have NOT read Rob’s blog on it yet – but will do so now; We frequently have similar ideas… Glad you commented!

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Doug – here, here! We’re totally on the same page; NAR is trying to be all things to all people, and ends up being nothing to everyone. As for being a technology provider, I really think that’s a no-no for Associations, especially when such services are a COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE between its members…. it should really not be done with members money….. Thanks for commenting!

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Doug – here, here! We’re totally on the same page; NAR is trying to be all things to all people, and ends up being nothing to everyone. As for being a technology provider, I really think that’s a no-no for Associations, especially when such services are a COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE between its members…. it should really not be done with members money….. Thanks for commenting!

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Ninah – another example of SURPRISE! We’re spending your money! Even if I’m wrong about RPR, the way it was done seems to be unfortunate, considering the average REALTORS knows nearly nothing about it – and it’s supposedly a BIG INITIATIVE…. Thanks for commenting….

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Ninah – another example of SURPRISE! We’re spending your money! Even if I’m wrong about RPR, the way it was done seems to be unfortunate, considering the average REALTORS knows nearly nothing about it – and it’s supposedly a BIG INITIATIVE…. Thanks for commenting….

  • Matt,

    great perspective but you reference the wrong acronym soup…historically speaking, its not RIN, REALTOR.com, etc….its REBIG >>> NARBIG…with membership dues sliding NAR has figured out how to tap in to the deep pockets of Wall Street and Uncle Sam by selling their own version of “ancillary services” …

  • Matt,

    great perspective but you reference the wrong acronym soup…historically speaking, its not RIN, REALTOR.com, etc….its REBIG >>> NARBIG…with membership dues sliding NAR has figured out how to tap in to the deep pockets of Wall Street and Uncle Sam by selling their own version of “ancillary services” …

  • Paul Leys

    to Nina who says she has never heard of this….. have you ever heard of the “gateway’ or the ‘Library’ of the ‘Archive’? Those are all other monikers that this same idea has taken in the past several years when I was attending NAR conventions. I anxiously await what this will be called next year in New Orleans!

  • Paul Leys

    to Nina who says she has never heard of this….. have you ever heard of the “gateway’ or the ‘Library’ of the ‘Archive’? Those are all other monikers that this same idea has taken in the past several years when I was attending NAR conventions. I anxiously await what this will be called next year in New Orleans!

  • I have always been very dissapointed with Realtor.com. it was developed and paid for (twice) by Realtors and all they have done is use it as a way to squezze money from us by pitting one Realtor against the other. Allan Dalton was the worst and I was thrilled to see him go.
    The site is slow, low quality and is not very useful.

  • I have always been very dissapointed with Realtor.com. it was developed and paid for (twice) by Realtors and all they have done is use it as a way to squezze money from us by pitting one Realtor against the other. Allan Dalton was the worst and I was thrilled to see him go.
    The site is slow, low quality and is not very useful.

  • Thomas Wissel

    The RPR grew quite rapidly following a think-tank exercise that I attended in Ft Lauderdale, 2005. The question posed was “Given the technology of today what would develop if there were no such thing as an MLS.”

    I never thought it would be taken seriously, just kind of a crystal ball look ahead given the speed at which the Internet and search engines were evolving. There was so much information of value to real estate agents in the public space, but agents were for the most part unable to easily access it. “How about a Google type product that would return business quality information on any parcel without an individual having to search through poorly designed and maintained governmental databases one by one?”

    And at a subsequent NAR convocation it was announced that, by golly, $3 million was earmarked to develop the thing.

  • Thomas Wissel

    The RPR grew quite rapidly following a think-tank exercise that I attended in Ft Lauderdale, 2005. The question posed was “Given the technology of today what would develop if there were no such thing as an MLS.”

    I never thought it would be taken seriously, just kind of a crystal ball look ahead given the speed at which the Internet and search engines were evolving. There was so much information of value to real estate agents in the public space, but agents were for the most part unable to easily access it. “How about a Google type product that would return business quality information on any parcel without an individual having to search through poorly designed and maintained governmental databases one by one?”

    And at a subsequent NAR convocation it was announced that, by golly, $3 million was earmarked to develop the thing.

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Thomas:
    Thanks for your comment – that’s VERY interesting.

    So, if I read you correctly, NAR is implementing a 2005 idea in 2010…… ??

    Fascinating…

  • Matthew Ferrara

    Thomas:
    Thanks for your comment – that’s VERY interesting.

    So, if I read you correctly, NAR is implementing a 2005 idea in 2010…… ??

    Fascinating…