Tag Archives: Trulia

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!!”

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