Why Clareity Chose Not to Build an App Store

Have you ever wondered why we spell CLAREITY with an “REI”? Well, it’s a form of an acronym and there are a few different interpretations that can be associated with the “REI”. For example, Real Estate Information, Real Estate Integrators and my personal favorite, Real Estate Innovators.  The “E” in Clareity can also stand for E-commerce. All are accurate interpretations of what Clareity does.

At Clareity we truly are Real Estate Integrators. In 2005, Clareity identified an industry challenge as MLS vendors and 3rd party service providers integrated their services on various authentication platforms.  Our CTO, Matt Cohen brought our industry’s leading service providers together in Las Vegas. At the conclusion of the second meeting, all parties agreed to utilize the SAML platform moving forward. The National Association of REALTORS liked what we were doing and provided Clareity a grant to create a SAML tool kit for real estate software developers. Today, Clareity platforms now integrate with over 80 product and service providers.

Clareity Security was formed with great intentions. We wanted to create solutions that added value and solved problems specific to our industry. As an Industry partner we are proud to provide services to over 100 MLSs (and a significantly larger number of Associations), representing 550,000 real estate professionals.

Clareity built a solid business based on providing a higher level of data security and revenue assurance for sensitive and proprietary MLS information.  Simultaneously we began offering a Single Sign on Service to facilitate more secure and convenient access to third party applications.

Two years ago at the request of a few MLS customers we started delivering the Clareity SSO Portal – which leveraged the SAML platform and made Single Sign On (SSO) and the applications offered by the MLS more visible. The Clareity Portal empowered these organizations to demonstrate their value proposition while simultaneously creating a better subscriber experience.

The Clareity SSO Portal translated into immediate success for both the organization and the end user.  The benefits were immediate to our MLS and Association customers:

  • They created a modern, locally branded experience that showed members the full range and value of the services offered
  • They became the secure and trusted point of entry for all services.
  • End users raved that a single User ID and Password provided access to ALL services
  • Adoption of 3rd party site licensed applications increased by as much as 12% within weeks
  • They gained a new channel for pushing custom content to their members
  • They added a mobile optimized entry point for applications and services.

Noting these benefits, our customers came to a natural conclusion for what should come next. They asked us to evolve the Clareity Portal into the Clareity Store to create a trusted place for secure E-commerce transactions.

Feedback we received from customers in 2011 and 2012 indicated a shift in traditional thinking regarding site licenses.  In addition to offering CORE services, our customers wanted to offer a broader choice of products and services to their subscribers, however existing site licensing models were often expensive and were becoming more difficult to manage as the list of vendors grew.   The “country club” model with one price for an all-inclusive experience was failing to offer the flexibility needed to keep up with all the innovation in real estate technology.  It also failed to create a personalized experience for subscribers based upon their unique needs.  Our customers also expressed frustration from licensing a product for every member, when adoption was low for many of the products.  And of course, there were also brokers that yelled STOP using my money to level the playing field – let agents pay for the optional things they want!

The solution to this dilemma is really quite simple:

CORE + STORE = SATISFIED MEMBERS (AND BROKERS)

Offering competitive and meaningful core services plus introducing a Store offers MLS organizations a bridge to the future of the MLS delivery of service.  This goes way beyond offering a stand-alone App Store.  This is about creating a hyper personalized and convenient way for products to be “one-click” ordered and provisioned to MLS subscribers while creating a seamless experience for members to access all of their products and services.

There has been movement by several vendors to develop proprietary APIs to improve access to and transport of MLS data.  Clareity Security, our customers and most of our industry partners believe that the industry is best served by having a single way to move real estate data between the MLS and other products. The RESO organization has worked hard on those standards over the past few years.  The MLS and vendor executive leadership is now in place to get both data standards and standards for transport in place in the very near future.  Clareity has donated hundreds of hours to RESO as have many other companies who are to be commended for their efforts.

Clareity knows that for a Store to be successful, it needs to be part of the end-user’s daily experience and nested in their natural workflow. Hence, the Clareity Store was designed to provide the customer’s CORE services through the SSO Portal and offer deep work flow integration within the leading MLS service providers software. Our approach has been validated by the ten large MLS markets representing an initial 270k actual users fully committed to this experience.

store innovators2

Additionally, we are pleased to announce a new partnership with CoreLogic to offer its MLS customers a customized Store within all CoreLogic platforms.  Clareity’s 550,000 user base combined with CoreLogic’s 650,000 MLS subscribers provides the national footprint that software developers and service providers have only dreamed about  - until now.

When you look at the BIG picture…what Clareity offers is an experience that is much more than just an App Store. Think BIGGER .  Combining CORE services with the choice of HUNDREDS of useful products and services that can be seamlessly ordered and provisioned to create a convenient, personalized experience for MLS subscribers was our design goal for our Store and we DID it!  Clareity offers real estate  organizations the opportunity to brand and evolve their business to the ever changing technology market.  And Clareity helps our customers accomplish this while doing it their way, at their own pace, and by respecting existing data licensing models and business rules while supporting evolving technology.

We hope you will reach out to us and learn more about the Clareity Store – and see for yourself why the App Store component is only a fraction of the Clareity Store offering!

The New National Association of Real Estate Professionals – is this Zulia’s Nightmare?

Many of you have read the “Syndication Bill of Rights” that Clareity Consulting drafted as part of its April 2011 white paper titled Syndication to Real Estate Portals: Problems and Solutions”Clareity’s Bill of Rights laid down 10 rules that would make real estate publishers “industry friendly” and more respective of a the broker’s intellectual property – the listing.  Over the past year, I was invited to present the Bill of Rights notion at many NAR, state, and local broker meetings.  Since that time, we’ve seen several small and large brokers cease syndication to some or all publishers, but we haven’t seen a broker stampede or mass exodus yet. We’ve also seen a few national publishers (e.g. Homes.com and Trulia) respond and begin to improve their behavior by prominently displaying proper attribution and contact information for the listing agent and brokerage “above the fold,” instead of hiding it 4-5 screens deep. Still, on some sites, advertising for other agents – typically buyer’s agents – are displayed all around and even inside the listing detail so it doesn’t look like advertising, thereby deceiving the consumer. For the listing agent or broker, it’s as if someone plastered ads covering the yard sign the agent paid to have placed outside one of their listings. How can this conflict between the listing broker’s interests and the need for increasing quarterly profits of publicly traded companies be resolved?

Two weeks ago, a gentleman named Ben Caballero contacted me and introduced himself as the chairman of the newly created National Association of Real Estate Professionals (NAREP).  Ben said he was a big fan of the Clareity Syndication Bill of Rights, so of course he had my immediate attention.  Ben told me that the NAREP had formally opened for membership in October and is organizing as a 501(c)(6) non-profit trade association. NAREP plans to launch a national real estate listings network of Internet Data Exchange (IDX) websites overseen and managed by individuals who truly understand real estate — licensed real estate professionals. Ben’s goal is to create a competitive listings website that better meets the interests of listing agents and serves consumers better by delivering pure, current, and accurate information.

Following is an overview of NAREP and its objectives Ben sent me:

NAREP’s revenue model involves collecting a nominal $10-$20 total fee at closing from its member listing agents, a sharp contrast to those business models of Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and others (i.e., the “ZTRs”), which typically charge monthly fees regardless of whether any home sale results. NAREP’s listings site would conspicuously display NAREP member agent’s contact information.  NAREP member agents agree to cease syndication of their listings to all websites not adhering to Clareity’s Syndication Bill of Rights (www.narep.net/br). 

 As the controversy surrounding the ZTRs demonstrates, monetization of listing data incentivizes their much-discussed and questionable business practices. The Internet lends itself well to the Pay-Per-Click (PPC) concept when selling a commodity, and the ZTRs have adopted a form of the PPC model (in that they charge their fees on the front end, regardless of the outcome). The ZTRs treat a home as just another commodity, but a home is not a commodity from the perspective of the individual buyer or seller. Rather, it is a personal part of their lives. All homes — and their buyers and sellers — are unique in some way. In short, the buying and selling of a home is a personal experience that is much different than that of buying or selling a commodity.

 Until now, consumers and industry professionals have tolerated the ZTRs’ business practices for lack of anything better.

By introducing a non-profit business model to the Internet real estate space that relies on the Pay-Per-Sale (PPS) concept, NAREP will give real estate consumers and practitioners an alternative to the ZTRs. NAREP will do so: (1) by enabling its practitioners to ensure the integrity of their listings, as the IDX data feed will ensure accuracy since it comes directly from the MLSs; (2) by providing consumers with a simpler, more streamlined online experience; and (3) by satisfying consumers’ hunger for listing data. Because it incentivizes data integrity and promotes customer service from cradle-to-grave of the home buying/selling process, NAREP believes that, for homes, the PPS model of monetization is more compatible with the real estate industry’s long-standing and proven business practices. 

NAREP’s mission is to end syndication abuse, not syndicators or syndication sites. If they wish to remain relevant, they must adopt more responsible business practices than what they currently have in place. Clareity’s Syndication Bill of Rights is a good place for them to start.

So, Ben is a man on a mission.  NAREP is a fledgling trade association, but perhaps it can fill a void that groups like NAR, CMLS and the Realty Alliance have been unable to do for legal fears  - anti-trust or group boycott – and other reasons, including broker fragmentation on this issue.  Some colleagues have told me, “Gregg, NAREP is just a few brokers led by one guy that’s fed up with the system.”  My response to that has been, “Isn’t that how most groups start?”

I find NAREP very interesting as one of the first efforts in a long time focused on the interests of brokers and online publishing.  At Clareity Consulting’s first conference back in 1998 – “Law and Order in Information Commerce” – the content owner’s IP rights were a major topic on the agenda.   Since the beginning of online publishing, the collective voice and IP protection for broker’s content have been fragmented.  No offense to NAR, The Realty Alliance or Leading Real Estate Companies of America, but there has been a leadership void in this specific area, and other than the handful of brokers that have pulled their listings from syndication, 99% of brokers and agents have been forced to put up with the increasingly egregious terms and unfortunate business practices set by the national publishers, or “ZTRs” as Ben calls them.

Ben is not your average REALTOR®.  According to NAREP’s Press Release dated October 10, 2012:

Caballero was the top individual real estate professional in the United States for 2010 and 2011, as measured by unit sales and dollar volume, with more than 4,500 home sales exceeding $1.2 billion in total value. He is the co-founder of the National Association of Real Estate Professionals. He serves as a member of the board of directors of the Greater Metro Multiple Listing System of the MetroTex Association of REALTORS®.”   

So Ben is not some wing nut with an idea who just fell off the turnip truck.  Ben knows real estate and he’s sick and tired of syndication and the publishers looking for ever-increasing profits, made off of his listings.  Can this one man rally the industry?

I love the subject of online real estate advertising and I’ve been involved with it since launching CyberHomes at NAR in Atlanta in 1995.  (Wow, that was 17 years ago this week.)  I was curious what a large brokerage I respect would think about NAREP, so I made an introduction, and Ben met with them last week.   I was impressed when this firm responded very positively and agreed to join and support NAREP and the company’s CEO was invited to join the NAREP board. This brokerage is part of a powerful national franchise/organization and is also a member of the Realty Alliance.  A few large brokers can put a dent in any publisher’s inventory.

Will NAREP grow to fill the aforementioned void and be able to turn the table on the publishers?  Will NAREP be successful enough that the publishers are forced to further moderate their practices in order to receive the broker’s listings? Will the national publishers, with over two billion dollars in market capitalization, and more than $300 million in cash, overwhelm anything NAREP, and a freshly united real estate professional group, do to reach consumers?

NAREP reminds me of a song I learned at bible camp in Minnesota when I was about 10 years old: “It only takes a spark, to get a fire going …”

NAREP will be in booth #422 in Orlando, or you can reach the man on a mission at:

Ben Caballero,Co-Founder and Chairman

National Association of Real Estate Professionals, Inc.

(214) 997-1229 | (214) 616-9222 mobile

ben@narep.net | www.narep.net

Attention Brokers: Regain Control of Your Listing Data

Clareity Security has been leading the charge to improve and simplify the management of listing syndication for MLS organizations and brokers.  With the firm belief that knowledge is power, it has been our mission to continuously educate the real estate community about this ongoing challenge.   REAL Trends recently published the following article that mentions Clareity Security’s new SafeSyndication™ product which we are sharing here with their permission.

Attention Brokers: Regain Control of Your Listing Data

Over the past few years, REAL Trends and Clareity Consulting have been working together to identify flaws in the listing syndication arena and have surveyed numerous brokers in joint studies to identify problems with the current model.  While most brokers would agree that their control has diminished these days, a new technology solution is on the horizon to help broker’s regain control of their listing data.  We are advocates for this new system.  To start the introduction of this solution, we must first identify the problem:

Listing syndication has run rampant and with so many publishers out there, it is virtually impossible for a broker to stay on top of all the sources.  Terms of use is another area that is virtually impossible to monitor and stay on top of a changing environment.  You may think you’re sending your listings to one web site that you really want your listings on, but due to their terms of use you are actually sending to, in some cases, a couple hundred additional sites where data accuracy may not be of utmost importance.  This is causing a problem when the data becomes outdated or posted inaccurately.

The good versus the bad: With so many online publishers and all of them operating differently, how can a broker possibly know all of the defining characteristics and business practices of each publisher?  For example which publishers send you traffic, which post listing agent data, which post listing agent data above “preferred agents,” and which offer you search engine optimization value and which take all of it for themselves?  This list can go on and for a broker this can be overload.

At REAL Trends, we attempt to listen to and empower our broker audience and in a joint study published with Clareity Consulting in 2010, through a national study on this topic, identified these four areas for improvement many of which overlap with the growing problem I have identified above.

1) Provide brokers more insight and control;

2) Enhance MLS security and control over where the listings were syndicated;

3) Enforce syndication integrity and accuracy;

4) Ensure the information wasn’t used to sell leads back to brokers.

Enter SAFE Syndication Proposed Solution from Clareity Security

SAFE Syndication is a technology solution that addresses most of the major concerns and the growing problems that have been identified above. Clareity Security’s SAFE Syndication solution includes an integration partnership with ListHub making it simpler for brokers to benefit from additional reporting on the sites they syndicate listings to. SAFE Syndication delivers value to brokers by offering:

  • Improved data accuracy which improves REALTOR brand and image
  • Consolidated reporting and compliance management as it relates to data display rules and syndication agreements.
  • A publisher report card which can be integrated with ListHub data that measures the listing portals/publishers on criteria defined by the Broker (such as the Clareity Bill of Rights).

How SAFE Syndication Works

The SAFE Syndication system is essentially a solution that allows brokers or franchises to better monitor the portals or publishers that they syndicate their data to.  Clareity has identified a bill of rights (see below) on behalf of real estate brokers that can be used to implement a scoring or rating system.  Brokers can customize their own criteria as well and use this ranking system to determine who is using your data in a manner most advantageous to you and your own interests.  Using an objective set of criteria to measure publishers and portals allows brokerage leaders to make better informed decisions for their business and thus increases the quality control that is a must in our industry.  This scoring system will also bring some of the power and leverage back to the brokers in negotiating their terms of use for sites they syndicate to.  SAFE Syndication also makes auditing and complaint tracking and resolution simpler which ensures the utmost data accuracy for your listings. Listing accuracy is a growing problem as many brokers don’t fully understand the implications or in many cases the number of “other” syndicators that are using their data. From personal experience in my recent home search, I used several listing syndicators to identify homes I wanted to see with my REALTOR.  In multiple circumstances I sent lists of 10+ properties to my REALTOR only to be discouraged that less than half of the listings were current!  This created a frustrated consumer and an inefficient waste of valuable time for my REALTOR.  The SAFE Syndication tool offers easy access to data that helps brokers better monitor their listing syndication agreements and measure how publishers and portals are performing against the criteria established by the broker.  It will become a one stop destination for empowering and informing a broker in the ultimate goal of regaining the control of listing data.

The Future of Your Data

In the next two months, SAFE Syndication will be launching and beta testing with several brokers. Clareity Security has your best interest in mind, it is a great idea to stay on top of this and if you are interested in becoming a beta tester or would like to get more information regarding SAFE Syndication by Clareity Security feel free to contact Travis Saxton at 303-741-1000 or tsaxton@realtrends.com.  As always REAL Trends will continue to monitor and stay on top of the cutting edge trends that impact the residential brokerage industry. We will update this story as more information and the launch of SAFE syndication is complete.

 A note from Clareity:  Thank you to the REAL Trends team for your support!

A New National Identity Card? Most consumers say NO way.

The Obama administration and US Government and have approved investing $56 million towards creating an environment where a single identity or set of credentials could be used for all of a person’s banking and financial transactions conducted online.  This effort is an attempt to raise the level of trust of online identity and reduce cybercrime, online fraud, and identity theft.

The administration plans to take a supporting role and let the private sector build and manage the network.    The plan is officially called the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC).

The vision of the NSTIC is: Individuals and organizations utilize secure, efficient, easy-to-use, and interoperable identity solutions to access online services in a manner that promotes confidence, privacy, choice, and innovation. The full plan can be found here.

The challenge will be to make this ID convenient and secure, while ensuring there is still privacy and anonymity for people on the Internet.   This identity ecosystem or framework is predicted to take many years to develop and will definitely require the cooperation of both public and private sectors for funding and interoperability.

How do people feel about a national identity system?  According to a survey conducted on April 18-19, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports, 60% of adults oppose it, 27% are unsure, and only 13% were in favor.  Three out of four people (76%) said they were not willing to submit their personal financial and purchasing information to receive a government credential for online transactions.   It would appear that this government program is well intended, but will face resistance due to the “big brother” sentiment, or because it feels like a glimpse of “Skynet” for people who have seen the Terminator movies.

It will be interesting to see how the NSTIC initiative plays out over the next few years.   In the mean time, private sector giants including Microsoft, Google, Facebook’s Connect, and others gladly offer to pass your credentials to other accounts for sign-in.  Did you know that many people have had their Facebook account hacked, but didn’t know until somebody wrote something on their wall!  This could be really embarrassing, but at least it’s easy to find and fix.  Can you imagine trying to find out what your ‘Identity’ did on many thousands of sites that accept Facebook Connect – on sites you’ve never even been to?

Keep an eye out for additional posts on the Government ID and online Identity topic.  Clareity Security’s team will keep watching these developments and share our thoughts with you.

New Safe Driver Solution for 2011

Estimates say 6000 people are killed each year due to cell phone distractions, and 1.6 million accidents a year are caused by drivers texting or calling on cell phones (National Safety Council) .  I just returned from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and one product announced last week really impressed me.  TASER, the company that makes the electronic zappers that police carry, announced a new product called the Protector™ Safe Driver System.  It’s designed to prevent kids from texting while driving, and if the system detects a text message being sent or received, it shocks the kid with 2500 volts through their car seat.   Just kidding!!

Seriously, TASER’s new product disables cell phones to prevent distractions, especially texting, while the car is running.   The phone can be locked down only allow making a 911 call, or programmed to allow incoming or out bound calls to select numbers, such as parents.

In addition to locking the phone, the Protector provides real-time GPS vehicle location tracking.  At any time, parents can also review where the vehicle was on a certain day, and how long it was at each location.  No more lying about going to the movies, kids!

Driving reports are also available to parents that include over-speed alerts, excessive acceleration or deceleration, and geo-fence alerts (boundaries parents set on a map that the kids are not supposed to cross).  If the vehicle is in an accident, the Protector will SMS text and email the parent.   Safe trip and good driver reports are also available so a parent can provide positive feedback as well.

An added bonus is the location tracking feature can be used to find a car if it’s stolen – or lost by the kid after a party…(remember  “Dude, Where’s My Car?”).

There are other systems designed to prevent texting or restrict calling while driving, but this is the most advanced one I’ve seen.  It sells for around $200 and there is a monthly service fee since the GPS and Bluetooth device mounted in the car is also a cell phone that sends the alerts and reports to the parent’s “dashboard”.  The system does require a smart phone with Bluetooth since there is an application that must be loaded that locks the phone.

Although a 16 year-old may not want to hear it, this is probably the best gift a parent or grandparent could give them for their Sweet  16th.

Clareity’s 2010 NARlins’ Meeting Wrap Up

Best Booth

Bank of America…had a mega booth with private glass rooms to talk about Countrywide short-sales and counsel/console restless Realtors.  There was only one problem: there was no ATM at the booth.   Seriously, when somebody erects a booth the size of a branch bank, I’d like to see an ATM machine or two.  I stated my complaint to a B of A executive, and to my surprise, he said they are seriously looking at having ATMs in their booth next year!

CoreLogic…..had two rows of diner style booths where salespeople could do presentations or small semi-private meetings could be held.  SUPRA did a diner themed booth several years ago, so this was not completely original, but seemed very practical and comfortable for visitors.  This also gave CoreLogic a place to explain that what RPR said about MLS listings was totally false and dispel the rumor that the WAV Group had merged with CoreLogic!

Best Booth Character

Smarter Agent

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, NO, it’s “LAWSUIT MAN!”  Faster than a speeding bullet, this super hero will deliver you a legal complaint if you even try to do a proximity search based upon your GPS location!

Best Super Hero at NAR

ShowingTime

It’s ShowingMan!  He makes agents lives easier and saves brokers money on showings – and even remains vigilant while attending NAR parties.  I felt safer just having him around.  (Check out the new band on ShowingMan’s ring finger – “Just Married” last month – congratulations Mike!)

Toughest Guy at Show…

…or at least right outside the convention center. Some of you saw this between the Hilton and the Convention Center Friday afternoon.  The guy below T-bones a taxi cab while riding his blue crotch rocket with enough force to knock a wheel off the taxi!  Notice how his handlebars and instruments are now detached.  Tough Guy was pitched through the air and if you look closely you’ll see his pants are torn at the left knee and some road rash on his left elbow.  He seemed to be fine and not seriously injured.  I’m not sure he appreciated me taking his picture, but this is one tough (and lucky) hombre.

Best SWAG

Nueske’s Applewood Smoked Meats!

Nueske’s of Wisconsin makes smoked meat, so the swag at their booth was free samples. Canadian Style Bacon, sausage, ham, wieners, regular bacon, smoked beef, and more..  Good stuff as long as you’re not a Vegan or a heart patient!   At the booth I learned Nueske’s meats are served in high-end restaurants nationwide.  They claim their products make great closing, house warming, and holiday gifts.  I believed ‘em!  If you missed it, check out www.nueskemeats.com.  “WHERE ARE THE BACON SAMPLES?”  asked Amy.

Busiest Booth Returns!

You may recall I reported that the “The Scarf King” was not in attendance at NAR Mid Year in DC last May, and people were concerned that maybe the IRS caught up with him (he only takes cash for his cashmere).   Well, he was back in NARlins with more cashmere scarves than ever, same $10 a throw and was slammed with customers when other booths were vacant.  Some woman was running it for him, so he may still be serving sometime this year!

Best Place to Meet Somebody – Fuji Spa!

The Fuji foot massage booth was a great place to catch up.  While it looks like we’re strapped in for a ride, those shoulder straps are actually back massagers.  The Fuji foot massage machine felt so good, we bought one for Clareity’s Minneapolis office!

Best Parties – Realtor.com, Tarasoft, and CoreLogic

Best appetizer on the party tour – a fried oyster on bread with a tasty sauce and a little strawberry jam under the oyster.  I once lived in Annapolis, so I’ve eaten oysters a hundred different ways, but this was a new one.  Who ever thought strawberry jam would taste great with a fried oyster?  A hung-over chef with a barren refrigerator perhaps?

Realtor.com

Realtor.com’s soiree at the Aquarium was one of the sweetest parties in New Orleans. What a refreshing change of pace to mix and mingle in a refreshing Zen-like setting, complete with exotic fish and after dinner desserts. Guests enjoyed this unique opportunity to wander thru aquatic life and interact with one another as the surrounding wild life actually served as an ice-breaker.  The aquatic maze ended at the Frog Pond exhibit where Realtor.com toasted their guests, celebrated its 15th Anniversary working with NAR, and acknowledged 2010 achievements before the music started.

Tarasoft

Tarasoft started Saturday night off on a great note by renting the top floor of the House of Blues in the French Quarter.  They served a variety of local appetizers, top shelf liquor, and had smoking hot women (and men) dressed in exotic New Orleans costumes roaming the room and available for photo ops.  The Tarasoft party was complete when John Mosey (see below) made a guest appearance as Jake, one of the Blues Brothers!  Incredible job, Mr. Mosey!   Tarasoft entrance into the NAR Party Hall of Fame for hosting this event.

CoreLogic NARdi Gras Masquerade (co-sponsored by Showingtime, Clareity Security, Kurio, and RealtyBid)

The conference was buzzing in anticipation of the NARdi Gras Masquerade at Generations Hall and it didn’t disappoint.  The event was attended by 1200 industry professionals donning masks, beads and boas, who feasted on Cajun fare and danced the night away.  Property Panorama sponsored a Pop Noggins booth at the party and there are sure to be some comical videos forthcoming.  Clareity Security sponsored the VIP balcony which was transformed into a Mardi Gras float and became a prime bead tossing and people watching perch above the crowd.  The prevailing post party sentiments were that it was a raging party!

To view the full report follow this link: http://www.callclareity.com/nar2010/

Listing Syndication 2.0 – New options, improved control and more police!

The 10-year old practice of syndicating MLS listings to real estate portals was largely driven by the brokerage community. MLS operators reacted by offering to syndicate on behalf of their brokers, often letting the listing agent or broker select which sites they want their listing to be sent to. A handful of MLS operators established direct syndication feeds to the end point web sites, while over 400 MLSs partnered with companies like Point2 or ListHub to provide syndication services. Hundreds of brokers also syndicate their listings themselves, or use Point2 or ListHub directly.

Clareity Consulting and Real Trends surveyed the 900 largest real estate brokers in the country and only 53% of brokers – a slim majority – support MLSs syndicating listings to national web portals. Many of the large brokers would prefer to syndicate their listings themselves.

47% of the brokers surveyed rated MLS listing syndication capabilities as “Excellent” or “Good”. The primary areas suggested for improvement of those capabilities were to provide brokers more insight and control and to enhance MLS security and control over where the listings were syndicated, enforcing syndication integrity and ensuring the information wasn’t used to sell leads back to brokers.

Brokers are asking MLSs to give them more control of syndication. Some want to opt out completely because they are doing it themselves and don’t want to deal with the issue of duplicate listings appearing on an end point. Other brokers just want to be able to check a box to select the sites where they want the listings to go. This option is provided in the listing input/maintenance function on some MLS systems and in the Point2 and ListHub products, but the natural action or default for many agents to just select them all, since they have no way of knowing what all these sites do. Point2 and ListHub screen and monitor the syndication partner sites, but it’s not clear that the information about the pros and cons of syndication partner sites is being communicated down to the broker and agent levels effectively, and if issues regarding a site are not communicated to the consumer, there will continue to be consumer pressure to give the listings maximum exposure on all sites, including those that are not strategic for the broker. Further, in a competitive race to claim who has the most syndication partners, syndicators may continue to list non-optimal syndication partners – giving brokers and agents the option to send their listings to them – and again, brokers and agents may just choose them all by default.

Brokers of all sizes are now asking their MLS to step up and provide more security and control of the listing data, and to screen the end point web sites to evaluate whether they truly add value (are good sites with meaningful consumer traffic) or provide little or no value (because they have no traffic or just can’t be trusted). Most brokers don’t have the time or talent on staff to evaluate new syndication partners that approach them directly or are added on by their syndication service provider. They are now asking the MLS to help protect the listing data by not sending it to shady sites in the first place, monitoring the data quality on the approved sites, and policing the web to spot when their listings show up on unapproved sites and take action. Brokers need clear communication about sites with issues, and an easy way to take action on those communications. They’re also going to need communications that can be re-purposed to the consumer, to help them understand why it’s not in their best interests to syndicate to a particular site and relieve pressure on the broker to do so.

Most MLSs have a compliance function for listing data quality, but the bulk of the effort on rules compliance and quality control is focused inward on the MLS subscribers. According to the brokers, they’d like to see a little more help focused outwards. Will MLSs rise to provide enhanced security and policing functions? Will they be able to with limited budgets and resources?

Point2 and ListHub were both acquired by larger companies in the past 30 days. Move.com paid $13M for ListHub and certainly has a plan to make a return on that investment, possibly by syndicating their ad network along with the listings and having the end point site display Move.com’s advertisers for increased exposure to new traffic. Some MLSs and brokers are nervous about this and other possibilities for monetizing syndication as well as whatever other perceived loss of control may come from having Move in charge of their syndication. Will this drive more brokers and MLSs to stop using a service provider and take control of syndication by bringing the function in-house? Will MLS vendors offer on-board syndication engines for a nominal cost? Listing Syndication 2.0 will be interesting to watch – there will some action in the Syndication Arena in 2011. Stay tuned!

Intel’s Acquisition of McAfee = More Emphasis on Security

Last week we saw one of the largest acquisitions in the history of computer security as Intel agreed to buy McAfee for $7.7 billion dollars.  Clareity Security sells and supports McAfee SECURE™ (formerly HACKERSAFE™), a daily security monitoring service for web sites.  Intel must have wanted McAfee badly because they paid a 60% premium over the stock price, which left a few analysts scratching their heads and calling it an expensive acquisition.

Why did Intel do it?  Hans Mosesmann, an analyst at Raymond James Associates said:  “Security is becoming a really big deal. The security threats that are out there are not going away — you could argue that they are going to get worse — and having a tightly coupled hardware and software is a strategic advantage.”   In other words, Intel plans to build more security, malware and anti-virus features right on the PC chip.    Intel’s chips also appear in other devices that connect to the internet such as DVD players, set top boxes, TVs, and even cars, and these devices need to be protected too.

Intel is also looking to diversify itself from the PC chip market as the world moves to the mobile web using smart phones and iPads.  McAfee’s software provides mostly recurring subscription revenue, which will help smooth Intel’s revenue and give them an opportunity to enter the growing market for securing mobile devices.   McAfee now offers smart phone security software, through the recent acquisitions of Trust Digital and TenCube.   These companies make security software for the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and others.  Since people are 15 times more likely to lose their smart phone than their laptop, mobile device security is becoming a big business and this is another strategic reason why Intel paid so much for McAfee.