Tag Archives: selling the sell

The New Alchemy

attachmentWhere were we? Oh yeah, continuing our quest for certainty and search for the Holy Grail of Home Valuation.
Take-away from last week’s Real Estate of Mind?  Online information about your home’s value is often perceived as more accurate and truthi-er than what you get from a local Realtor. Because it’s free!
That seemingly benign real estate website you logged on to isn’t selling you anything right? Ergo:  The info must be true!
Unlike some Realtors who may have an agenda of their own when they come to your house, sit down at the dining room table and tell you what they think your home is worth. 
Prior to pulling out one of those thick brag books that demonstrates how many bazillions of dollars of real estate they ‘ve sold and why they are more Number 1 than all the other Number 2s!
There’s aculturally pervasive, uneasy sense that Realtors are always trying to sell people stuff.  Convince them of things.  Perhaps they are trying to talk you into listing your home for less than it is really worth because there’s already a silent buyer waiting in the wings. 
Or perhaps, in the case of a listing appointment, the Realtor is trying to “buy your listing” as it’s known in the vernacular.  That’s when Agents tell Sellers what they want to hear. Flatter their dreams to secure the listing. 
Proof of the pudding only comes later as days on market accrue and it becomes clear the inflated list price was never close to market value.
The online Zillows, Redfins and Trulias of the world are viewed as different. Outside the realm of human foible. Above temptation.  Fair and impartial.  They employmagic alchemical formulas known as algorithms, that like God, work in mysterious ways. 
These secret formulas transmute ubiquitous everyday information into gold. Aggregating lists of common household ingredients. Real estate facts and data culled from scavenger hunts across the public domain.  Thrown together into a hugemelting pot of information. Subsequently cooked down and clarified through a complex set of brainy mathematical functions. 
Everyone knows numbers don’t lie. And machines can’t lie. It’s simple. You just type in your address, press the return key and voila!  There’s your home value.  Calculus as the New Alchemy.  Good as gold.   
But all magic shows are designed to capitalize (monetize) on an audience’s tacit desire to buy into illusion.  In this case, the trick is a massive misdirection worthy ofHoudini, David Copperfield or the more hip Chris Angel as played by Zillow,Trulia and the much hipper Redfin. 
The entire timemega-Real Estate Sites are ostensibly converting leading information into precious gold, they are doing the exact opposite. Using the promise of gold to turn people into leads. Mining them as raw commodities they peddle back to those very same Realtors that no one quite seems to trust in the first place!
As quoted last week: “ Anytime you are on a site and think the content is free, you are the content.”
If you ran a Zillow Zestimate  on your house recently, pay close attention. You may noticeZillow ads starting to appear regularly on your Facebook page. Or random spam mail about real estate and house-related services showing up in your in-box. All trying to sell you something – because you’ve been punk’d.
Zillow is a giant, 24/7 open house designed to lure visitors in the door. It doesn’t matter whether they are real buyers, neighbors or just lookey-loos.  There’s a sales pitch waiting in every room. Names and contact information are automatically captured. Downloaded to the highest bidder.
If anyone is interested in seeing how Zillow sells you back to us Realtors – e mail me.  I’m happy to share a few examples. It’s not a pretty picture.  Their idea of us is even worse than the norm.  Apparently we are all commission-driven fanatics lusting after their lead(s). 
Thus the inherent irony that lies at the core of consumer culture. The consumer ultimately becomes the consumed.  The new information economy doesn’t offer exemption to anyone.  It just makes it easier to buy a ticket on the A Train.
Close your eyes and think about it for awhile …you can almost hear Charlton Heston shouting “Soylent Green is People!!”



Something about the story in Thursday’s paper sounded familiar. A self-reflexive wave of resonance rippled through my psyche.  I had to laugh.  The world keeps reinventing itself – in exactly the same way.

See if I got this straight…. A giant luxury liner on the open ocean. A small city of people  on board for a seven day (or three hour ) cruise. An unexpected chain of events leaves them dead in the water. Stabilizers gone.  Rocking and rolling side to side in perfect pitch to the perfect storm of events.

Not the happy-go-lucky, love boat, love-fest folks signed on for.  No air conditioning. No working toilets.  No Kathy Lee.  Just interminable games of shuffle board and gin rummy.

But no worries.  Rescue is underway.  They’re turning that big ship around. Towing it back to shore.  Policy-makers are vowing full restitution. Offering free tickets on a future cruise. Most importantly, they’ve helicoptered in thousands of pounds of spam to feed the unwashed masses.

The moral of the story?  When all else fails….there’s always spam. When the going gets tough? The tough get spamming.  Those that can – do. Those that can’t? You guessed it.  They spam.

So whether it’s the Carnival Cruise line,  the USS Minnow or the next upside down, underwater installment of the Poseidon Adventure that is real estate circa 2010….here we are – packed  into the deserted aisles of the marketplace. In the absence of anything close to the real sale-ing we thought we’d be doing when we first started out, looks like we’re going to be dining on spam for a while.

The longer I sit, waiting for good dough to show, the larger the diet of canned spam gets.  A never-ending buffet streaming my way 24/7.   Money really does sleep. It’s spam that doesn’t.

Long ago we made things. Then we morphed into buying things others made. Now, we’re that great hub of virtual industry built on  “selling our sell” to anyone who may or may not even be remotely interested in listening.  Check it out. That’s what all my Facebook , Twitter, and LinkedIn friends, followers and contacts say on their social media pages.

So what does real estate spam look like when you take the lid off?  We’ll let’s just fire up the computer and see what the smorgasbord of mystery meat looks like in today’s in-box:

There’s a Jiffy Lube Franchise for sale in Boca Raton!  I can Maximize My Exposure with Smarter Agent!   Learn the 5 Must-Do Things that Top Producers Already Know! There’s a Gourmet Fruit Basket – a house-warming gift for satisfied clients!  A thousand Personalized Refrigerator Magnets to hand out to new ones.  I can make $67,000 in Six Months Doing Short Sales!  Or test drive a Certified Distressed Property Expert  (CDPE) Training Course!  There’s a Secret Market that Sizzles! An opportunity to become a Forensic Loan Auditor!  Another that will Double My Sphere of Influence!  I can earn Outrageous Commissions from REO’s ! Join a Discount Brokerage where there is No Split! Maybe it really is time to Jump Start My Marketing and Qualify for Unlimited Buyer Leads in my area!

But wait a minute…Mortgage Fraud is an Epidemic.  And the NAR has issued a Warning about Short Sale Legal Issues.  And apparently it is tough to Crack the FHA Appraisal Code,  Are they really doing Live Home Auctions on Television?  And I’m not sure I need any of those Black Friday Specials.  And what is Skip Tracing vs Cyber-Tracing?  I don’t think I want to Understand UCC Article 9.  Or Throw Money Out the Window. And Redfin is claiming that our Bay Area Market is a Twilight Zone!

Man, it’s only 9:30am and I’m exhausted . I feel like Gilligan running aimlessly through the coconuts without a compass.  This is harder than real work.  I think I’m going to rename this Perfect Storm the “Perfect Maelstrom.” That’s kind of like a storm on steroids  with a lot more whirlpool action  whipping it up into an incomprehensible frenzy.

The trouble with maelstroms is, you can’t tell whether they will eventually come full circle and pass. Or whether they will just spiral around under the weight of their own gravity and  head further down the drain.  In the meantime…stay hungry my friends.