A Few Random Thoughts on BPP/Homesnap

Over at Inman, Leslie Ebersole has 6 questions about the new Broker Public Portal/Homesnap alliance. Read the whole thing, because it’s a solid reflection of the kinds of questions people have about BPP.

The article got me thinking a bit about the BPP/Homesnap thing, and well, I have a few random thoughts about it. This is even more jump-around than usual because Friday.

For the TL;DR crowd, a summary:

  • The BPP isn’t a “portal” (yet) because it’s further down the funnel
  • BPP also isn’t a national MLS in any way, shape or form
  • Homesnap Pro is simply awesome; the major benefit of this may be Homesnap Pro becoming available to all subscribers of participating MLSs (for free one assumes)
  • Most of my original concerns and advice to BPP remain

Heeeere we go!

BPP Isn’t A Portal

One of Leslie’s questions is whether the BPP is a “Zill0w-killer”. She dances around answering the question directly, instead talking about the difficulty of ranking in “SERPS” (Search Engine Results Page) and so on. So let me answer the question: No.

BPP isn’t a Zillow-killer because it is not a portal despite having that word in its name. At least, it isn’t one yet.

A portal is first and foremost a lead-generation vehicle that aggregates audience through marketing, advertising, and of course, the application of the Googliamus Rankus spell, in order to generate leads to brokers, agents, and companies that advertise on it. The first-order value of a portal is in creating connections between two strangers. A portal is at the very top of the consumer acquisition funnel.

BPP’s main traffic generator is the email generated by the MLS. Its second traffic generator is the Homesnap mobile app. Homesnap has 4 million consumer downloads of its app, and has launched HomesnapPro for agents who use it as a mobile front-end to their MLS. And, as Leslie points out, agents can send links of a branded Homesnap app to their clients and prospects.

In other words, by the time that BPP connects two people, they’re not strangers. They’re already prospects or clients of the agent. You can’t send MLS emails to a total stranger, after all, nor can you send them a link to your branded Homesnap app. Doing either to a total stranger is against various laws covering spamming, not to mention a really crappy business practice. So, BPP is not at the top of the funnel; it’s one or two steps below it, closer to the transaction, and valuable for what it is/could be/should be… but a portal, it ain’t.

For the same reason, I don’t think BPP competes with broker or agent lead-gen websites either. Coldwell Banker and Windermere and the rest have nothing to worry about from BPP. Because it’s further down the funnel.

So the BPP is not a portal. What is it then? I think it’s best to think of BPP as a “lead incubation website” in which the agent can utilize it as a way of nurturing leads that she has received from somewhere else. The second important role is a “client service website” through which the agent can help clients find the right house now that they are working with her.

I suspect that the folks over at Zillow, Realtor.com, Homes.com, or any other portal look at BPP and do a giant shrug. Then they’re probably going to ask, “So, do you want us to send your leads over to BPP for you?”

BPP Is Not an MLS

Leslie covered this adequately. Lacking cooperation and compensation, as well as any rules-of-the-road type of regulation of professional-to-professional conduct, BPP is not an MLS, never mind a national one.

Homesnap Pro Is Simply Awesome

One thing to note is that the Homesnap Pro app is simply awesome. I got to see a real live demo of it recently when Guy Wolcott showed off some of the features and functionality and… wow. If you haven’t seen it, go call somebody over there and ask for a demo. This video doesn’t do justice to what Homesnap Pro does and how it does it:

If you’re Black Knight, CoreLogic, FBS, or any MLS vendor and you don’t have Homesnap on your draft board of acquisition targets… you’re not doing your homework.

In fact, I’m tempted to claim that Homesnap is the future of MLS technology. But I won’t, because Matt Cohen and Mike Wurzer and others will probably jump all over me for not knowing jack shit about just how complex MLS platform software actually is. 🙂

Most of My Original Concerns About BPP Remain

Back when BPP was first announced, I wrote a post called “Free Advice to the Broker Public Portal.” None of those concerns, save one, have gone away.

The one concern I no longer have is the whole “build vs buy” thing. BPP didn’t buy Homesnap, but it did enter into a JV which is kind of similar.

Every other concern remains. The corporate governance model of the BPP/Homesnap JV remains the tried-and-true model in real estate of representation. There still isn’t a clear measurable objective of success and failure from what I can tell. The ownership model is a bit more mysterious as well. Certainly Homesnap is a private company backed by venture capital. Those VC’s aren’t doing this for charity or to advance “Fair Display Guidelines” throughout the industry; they’re in it for cash money and presumably expect a return on their investment into Homesnap. The BPP side… not so clear. So we’ll see how that plays out over time.

And finally, I still have no idea what the consumer benefit of Fair Display Guidelines is. If anyone would like to take a stab, please let me know. Guest post spots are available for that topic.

Happy Friday, everybody, and a wonderful weekend to all!



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Rob Hahn

Managing Partner of 7DS Associates, and the grand poobah of this here blog. Once called "a revolutionary in a really nice suit", people often wonder what I do for a living because I have the temerity to not talk about my clients and my work for clients. Suffice to say that I do strategy work for some of the largest organizations and companies in real estate, as well as some of the smallest startups and agent teams, but usually only on projects that interest me with big implications for reforming this wonderful, crazy, lovable yet frustrating real estate industry of ours.

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2 thoughts on “A Few Random Thoughts on BPP/Homesnap”

  1. Homesnap is a product of Sawbuck Realty, winner of “Inman’s 2008 Most Innovative Brokerage” with offices/license in every state. They picked up at least $4M from VCs.

    I think they were in the lead distribution/referral business so this is either a complete pivot or an enhanced channel to funnel (and refer?) leads from the 4 million non-agent connected users. Probably a great lending play here, too.

    Would love to see what was and wasn’t covered in the JV paperwork.

  2. Great post Rob.. A couple of things are becoming crystal clear here. For Homesnap, the false promise of the potential windfall from being “chosen” as a partner / owner to create the “industry BPP” should do the trick to attract more capital to their company or even fuel a handsome exit one day for Homesnap. Sure beats slogging along as they have as “an MLS value add.” Homesnap and the MLS – happily married at last. And for the MLS industry, finally, the BPP provides a hedge for the MLS in two areas. First, and by design, the BPP’s first public agreement for the MLS to provide a listing feed agreement was signed months ago between the MLS industry and the BPP. Unless things have changed, the BPP will not be fed by Upstream because the MLS is wise to NAR / RPR / Upstream’s end run on the MLS. And second, the threatened MLS will have a viable hedge over the brokers. Dump the MLS brokerage boys and girls and your BPP listing feeds go down and your supposed hedge of the bad portal disappears. But, no worries, there are a few definite maybes here than “definites.” First, the MLS industry is far from buying in to the BPP strategy; who’s paying what to whom, is the Zillow and Move media value-add really that bad for the brokers and agents and what about our cool and valued local MLS consumer-facing website? After all, who is screaming real estate is local to preserve the existence of 740 plus MLSs? One BPP validates the need for only one MLS? No way, not that! And I think finally the brokers may just be smart enough now to understand that while the BPP is being “sold to brokers” as a some kind of “hedge”, this is not another “horse getting out of the barn.” That is because this time my friends the “horse”, even before it finds the barn door, is already glue.

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