Steak Knives and MLS

Question: What would you offer someone trying to eat a porterhouse steak with his/her bare hands?

  1. Another steak
  2. A sharp knife and fork

Obviously, the logical answer is: 2. a sharp knife and fork. Helping the porterhouse eater by offering sharper instruments with which to cut the steak into bite-sized pieces seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?

So how about this question: What would you offer to the home buying public who has access to Zillow, Trulia,, online tax records, and about 50 other AVMs?

  1. More data
  2. Analysis and interpretation of the data

I think you see where we are going with this.

Marketing Evolution

Guys, we need to evolve as an industry.

It’s not enough to throw tons of data at our clients and assume that helps them. In case you haven’t noticed, they already have the data.

So what do we do? We give them more information — another steak, if you will — and think we are doing them a service.

Sorry, but that isn’t working anymore.

Free Data

Chris Anderson, editor of Wired Magazine, wrote a article in the early 2000’s called “The Long Tail”. “The Long Tail” makes many points (and predictions) about how the web has impacted our lives, especially as it relates to business and information.

Among the predictions he made, many of which have already come to fruition, is that anything that can be easily put online (i.e. housing data) eventually declines in price or value, often times to zero. Just as iTunes and Pandora replaced your favorite record store and Amazon is replacing the mall, Zillow and Trulia have replaced MLS as the provider of housing data to the general public.

Am I saying that MLS is not needed or that no one uses it? Not at all. I’m simply saying that MLS no longer offers Realtors the exclusive advantage of being the sole provider of information about available housing. So when we try to hold MLS and housing data out as our raison d’être, the public just ignores us and goes right back to trying to makes sense of the gobs of publicly available data themselves.

So What To Do?

Analyze. Simplify. Interpret. Connect. Narrate. Explain. Predict.

Don’t give them more data.

When was the last time you sent someone a truly in depth analysis on downtown condo values by floor of a specific project? When was the last time you used statistics in the aggregate to project values in an accelerating spring market that lacked sold comps? When was the last time you used absorption rates to predict the sales cycle for 4 bedroom homes in a school district?

Each of those efforts would prove invaluable to any client and likely endear them to you for a long time. And isn’t that the goal?

So I suggest this: Start offering forks to the legions of forkless steak eaters, not another steak.