Welcome to another edition of an annual tradition, in which I go back and grade myself on my predictions made at the start of this year. My track record so far:
- 2010 Predictions: 6 for 10 (.600)
- 2011 Predictions: 4.5 for 7 (.642)
- 2012 Predictions: 2 for 7 (.286)
- 2013 Predictions: 4.5 for 7 (.642)
- 2014 Predictions: 3 for 7 (.429)
Longtime readers know that it is customary here at Notorious to make predictions that are sure to go wrong, or your money back! Let’s see how I did in 2015.
1. The Broker Portal Launches: HALF
I think I deserve at least a half point here, because while the Broker Public Portal itself hasn’t launched, it’s taken some major steps in that direction in 2015. BPP even put up a nice website as well full of information at www.brokerpublicportal.com. According to said website, the BPP in 2015 has:
- Selected its initial Board of Managers
- Chose Merle Whitehead — the CEO of Realty World — as the Chairman of the BPP
- Retained legal counsel in Larson Skinner
- Retained a PR firm and a strategy consultant in the WAV Group
- Retained 1000watt as the brand and creative agency (and apparently, they are making “significant progress” on the brand and the official name of the portal)
- Signed up more than 50 Brokers and 50 MLSs
- Raised over $500,000 to date
- Put out a BPP License Agreement for comment to the public
And the list goes on. The folks behind BPP are some of the biggest players in both the brokerage and the MLS industry. The latest composition of the Board is as follows:
MLS Firms – 4
John Mosey, NorthstarMLS
Cameron Paine, Connecticut Statewide MLS
Rebecca Jensen, Midwest Real Estate Data
Kirby Slunaker, REcolorado
Large Firms – 5
Robert Moline – Home Services of America
Merle Whitehead – Realty USA
Hoby Hanna – Howard Hanna Real Estate
Chris Heller – Keller Williams
Joan Docktor – Fox and Roach
Midsized Firms – 3
Craig McCelland– BHGRE Metro Brokers
Richard Haase – Latter and Blum
Dreyton Saunders – Michael Saunders
Small Firms – 3
Mitch Ribeck – Tropical Realty
Paul Wells – RE/MAX Barrington
Christina Ishabishi Bonner – Pacific Union
Outside Managers – 2
Alon Chaver – Independent
That’s a healthy list of significant people. I mean, one of their “Small Firms” is Pacific Union, which was #9 on RealTrends 500 with $6.7 billion in sale volume last year. Mich Ribeck (Ribak?) of Tropical Realty did 301 transactions, $43 million in volume, with a team of 21. Sure, that’s small in comparison to say “Midsized” firms like BHGRE Metro Brokers, which is the largest BHGRE franchisee in the country, who did over $1.1 billion in volume, or Howard Hanna Real Estate, but it ain’t “small” like the average Joe on the street might think of as small. So these are significant, big, BIG players.
As the BPP itself touts, the companies involved in BPP “represent nearly two thirds of the members of the National Association of REALTORS. Makes one wonder why they’re still looking for more companies and MLSs to join. 2/3 of NAR is over 666,000 people.
So I figure, they’re launching BPP. I mean, $500,000 for “seed funding” is about… $450,000 more than the seed funding of 99% of startup companies I’m familiar with, and the time spent by the powerful ladies and gentlemen on the list above is probably worth well over $500K. So with such a gigantic investment and effort throughout 2015, I think BPP could easily have launched in 2015 if they wanted to do so. Looks like they want to take their time, so they didn’t launch the portal itself. I’ll take half-a-bow and give myself half on this one.
2. RPR Emerges As A Serious Player in the MLS Space: YES
We don’t really have to talk much about this, do we? RPR AMP/Upstream was announced in 2015, and is likely the single biggest thing that hit the industry in 2015. There is no question in my mind that RPR is instantly a seriously player in the MLS space, but if you must have further arguments, you can read this post of mine from earlier this year: Win-Win in a Zero-Sum Game.
3. Realogy Triumphant: YES
Here’s what I wrote in January:
The Artist Formerly Known As Realogy has been slowly climbing out of the debt hole that its former owners have put it in. If you’ve been obsessively paying attention, then you’ll know that 2014 might have been a turning point of sorts for the quiet giant who simply dominates real estate.
Consider these numbers from just the first 9 months (we won’t know full year 2014 results until sometime in 2015):
- $4 billion in revenues
- $125 million in net income (remember when people were pooh-poohing Realogy for losing money?)
- $117 billion in sales volume for the company-owned NRT brokerages
- $200 billion in sales volume for Realogy franchisees
Oh, and Realogy refinanced its high-interest debt with lower-interest debt to the tune of $397 million. As Realogy continues to drive down its debt and interest payment expenses, it keeps generating additional cash with which it can pay down more debt, which then lowers interest expenses, which means… yeah, yeah, a virtuous cycle.
Well, in 2015, Realogy kicked some serious boo-tay (I believe that is technical jargon from Wall Street). Again, we don’t have full year numbers, but in the first nine months of 2015, Realogy grew revenues by 10% to $4.4 billion, and Net Income by 42% to $178 million. They’re paying down even more debt, and plan to retire an additional $500 million in debt next year, putting them well on their way to their target of debt at three times EBITDA.
Plus, remember ZipRealty acquisition and the ZAP platform? Here’s Richard Smith from the Q3 Earnings Call:
This represents approximately $5 million to $8 million of incremental new revenue on a run-rate basis. Our franchise operations are always focused on keeping our brands fresh and relevant. And in that regard, the ZipRealty technology rollout, which further enhances the value proposition of our brands, is going exceedingly well. To date, we have deployed the ZAP technology platform to approximately 280 franchisees, and about 700 more are in queue for the technology installation.
We are on target to have 300 franchisees or more on the platform by year-end, and we are the first franchisor in our industry to make available to its franchisees a turn key integrated technology platform as a feature of the franchise. And the CRM technology alone is expected to make our franchisees and our sales associates more efficient, and ultimately more productive. Just to put that in perspective, if half of our franchise affiliates — approximately 135,000 US base sales associates — eventually produce just one more transaction as a result of this proprietary technology platform, the incremental EBITDA to us would be approximately $20 million.
They’re ahead of schedule, apparently, according to that call. I’d call that triumphant, wouldn’t you?
4. Redfin Buys Remax: NO
I got this one completely wrong. I thought that Redfin would want to go public this year, and that the smartest way for them to do that was via reverse-merger by buying REMAX, a public company, that is still pretty small.
Turns out, Redfin chose to raise more money instead at the end of 2014 ($70 million) and go on an expansion tour. They are now in the following states:
Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin
“I’ve been everywhere man. I’ve been everywhere.” Maybe Redfin looked at it, looked at the different cultures, and decided against it. That would give me at least like… a 1/4 point or something? But they didn’t tell me if they thought about it, so I’m gonna go with STRIKE THREE!
5. Disruption Comes to the Listing Agent: NO
I really thought that 2015 would be the year we’d see disruption hit the listing side of the business.
My big bet was on Opendoor.com launching in a major way and showing that the direct-to-company model would work in real estate. I thought given the people involved in Opendoor, it would happen by the end of 2015. Well, Opendoor launched, and… it really was no big deal. They’re in one market in Phoenix, have done a few dozen deals, but work closely with agents so… a big yawn all around. This is not to say Opendoor won’t figure out and prove its model; it is to say that it hasn’t done so in 2015.
Other companies like Allre.com and Jason’s House haven’t done much in the way of disrupting the listing agent either, at least in 2015. So, let’s admit that was a big miss.
6. Agent Teams Cross A Line: NO
At the start of 2015, with KW’s Mega Agent Expansion taking off, I thought that some agent teams would cross the line into doing their own affiliated business deals:
So I don’t yet know exactly how agent teams will cross this line, but I think at least the pioneers will try in 2015. I mean, it wasn’t long ago that the notion of agent teams crossing state lines was unthinkable too.
Well, if they have, I haven’t heard about it. If anything, with the CFPB coming down on some banks and others for marketing service agreements, it seems that affiliated businesses are retreating. Not only are agent teams not crossing the line, but brokerages might also find affiliated businesses under attack going forward.
So, that one was off. No good.
7. Inman News Drops Inman Select: NO
Not only did Inman News NOT drop Inman Select, it’s kicking ass with Inman Select. More and more people are getting subscriptions, either individually (few) or through some brokerage or organization. I know of quite a few Associations and MLSs that have purchased Inman Select subscriptions for all of their members. That’s numbering in the hundreds of thousands.
So yeah, I got that one completely wrong, and Brad Inman is a genius. Apparently, there is huge appetite in real estate for quality information and opinions, and folks are willing to pay for them. Well… hehe… as I wrote earlier this year:
I might be wrong, and I hope I am, cuz all of you reading this now may find yourself coughing up some cash for next year’s version, heh. 🙂
Loosen up your wallets, ladies and gentlemen! (No, I probably won’t, but y’know, I’ll think real hard about it….)
So, all in all, I’m at 2.5 for 7 for a .357 batting average in 2015. Damn, I’m getting worse every year! Time for some batting practice, some more rational predictions, stop trying to be shocking… or not, because shocking can be fun too. 🙂
I’ll do my 2016 Predictions probably after the New Year, and you should expect some major changes to the 2016 Predictions. Wait and see, wait and see. But I think you’ll be pleased.
As I always plan on some extended family time over the holidays, let me say to the best informed readers in real estate that I truly appreciate all of you giving me your time and attention for 2015. Some of you comment and argue with me and tell me I’m an idiot, which I need from time to time, but I also know the vast majority of you never comment for a whole lot of reasons, but you email, call, and tell me. I appreciate you all. Thank you, Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!