Thursday, April 17, 2014
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Bloggers on ActiveRain moved quickly to choose one side or the other after the site announced last week that it will live on Trulia’s Web domain. Activerain.com has become activerain.trulia.com, and every blog post — more than 3 million that exist on ActiveRain today from about 250,000 bloggers — that appears on the site will be redirected to a new URL with the new structure. (Trulia bought Market Leader, which operates ActiveRain, last year.)
“I was part of a mass migration from Trulia to [ActiveRain] when Trulia started making changes that hurt the agents who helped make their site what it is,” Scott Godzyk, broker-owner of Godzyk Realty Group in Manchester, N.H., writes in an ActiveRain blog post. “I fear that Trulia will do to AR what it has done to its own site — one that does not care about agents, makes changes without thinking how it will hurt the agents, and has a Q&A section that once was the gold standard but now is loaded with spam.”
Godzyk tells REALTOR® Magazine that he noticed “the service started to change” at Trulia a couple years ago when the real estate hub began implementing strategic shifts in its business. He worries that as ActiveRain more closely aligns itself with Trulia, the social site will suffer the same fate. “Trulia was once a great place to get leads for buyers and sellers,” he laments. “Then they started charging for everything. They made changes that affected the most active agents without any thought or care.”
Godzyk notes that ActiveRain’s “unique community” offers a place to connect unlike any other, where he can “reach out to anyone, from local buyers and sellers to a person looking to relocate to my area from 2,000 miles away.” But if the site’s service begins to give way to profit mongering, he says, it will ruin a site he has come to know as a go-to source of industry information.
“I’ll stay at ActiveRain and wait it out” before deciding whether to leave, Godzyk says. “But I speak for many as we wait, see, and pray that Trulia lets ActiveRain continue to be the ActiveRain we have all come to love.”
In its announcement of the merger, ActiveRain says the move is meant to connect its members to a much wider audience: the 35 million monthly unique visitors to Trulia’s domain. “Our own SEO experts, as well as a number of outside experts we have consulted, believe that the two domains combined will be stronger than either domain standing alone,” the site says. “ActiveRain is going to remain as an independent community of real estate professionals that encourages open discourse, sharing ideas, and growing as a community.”
ActiveRain blogger Anita Clark, ABR, CRS, an agent with Coldwell Banker SSK, REALTORS®, in Macon, Ga., agrees that ActiveRain needs the SEO boost from the Trulia domain. “Purely from a blogging standpoint, I think it is a good move,” Clark says of the ActiveRain/Trulia merger. “ActiveRain blogs had been losing traction with Google, and this was a way to help them gain some of their momentum back. As long as Trulia doesn’t mess with the platform, I believe this nearly transparent switch will have very little, if any, impact on the ActiveRain users in the short-term.”
Others are standing steadfastly by ActiveRain during the URL transition. Melissa Zavala, broker-owner of Broadpoint Properties Inc. in Escondido, Calif., says the most important thing ActiveRain has provided her is a way to connect with new friends across the country. And no move that ActiveRain could make will change that.
“I don’t give a lick that activerain.com is now activerain.trulia.com,” Zavala writes in an ActiveRain blog post. “That doesn’t change who I am, what I’ve learned, how I conduct my business, or what I will do on the site. It doesn’t change how we can benefit from the network, and how the network can launch your career. … I cannot even begin to mention all the friends that I have made on ActiveRain. I have established relationships with amazing real estate professionals across the nation — all of whom I can call in a heartbeat if I need something.”
But a good number of ActiveRain users remain uneasy, or at least confused, about what effect the site’s incorporation into the Trulia domain will have. Kat Palmiotti, an ActiveRain blogger and agent at Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty in Central Valley, N.Y., admits that she’s a little lost when it comes to the hype around the move.
“To be honest, I don’t know enough about the backlinks or SEO to be able to intelligently comment on the change,” she says. “What I can say is that I received a call two days ago from a business I had written about three years ago. The three-year-old post showed up in their news feed as ‘new,’ even though I hadn’t made any changes to it. So I’m thinking the URL change may have given some new oomph to older posts. Other than that, I have to admit, I’m clueless on what this change may mean for me.”
A vocal group of ActiveRain users are pulling back on their use of the site. Alex Popovic, founder of Semper Find My Home in Phoenix, announced in an ActiveRain blog post that he would no longer be an active user — at least temporarily.
“I can tell you that I’ll be changing over to my own WordPress blog and cutting back on my participation on ActiveRain,” Popovic writes. “While I choose to accept the merger, my participation is another story. I will let time dictate if the merger is a good or bad thing. I just think [ActiveRain will] become bogged down with Trulia’s history of shortcomings. I’ll be back from time to time, but no longer on a daily basis.
“Trulia, prove to me and us ActiveRainers that you won’t lose us to spam or the experience most REALTORS® have had with you in the past. The ball’s in your court.”
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Foreign buyers are showing a preference for purchasing properties in the U.S. over other countries, viewing real estate here as a safe place to...
Monday, April 7, 2014
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Real estate sales associates operating as independent contractors would seem to be a settled area of law, but three lawsuits were filed last year in which associates claimed they were employees and wanted to be compensated as such.
They argued that, based on the kinds of tasks they were required to do and the supervision they were subject to by their brokers, they were hardly working as independent contractors.
Two of the cases are in California and they’re pending. The third is in Massachusetts and late last year the state’s Superior Court ruled in favor of the brokers, saying state law gives the brokers a choice to classify their associates as either employees or independent contractors, and the brokers had properly classified them as the latter. The case is now in appeal, and the Massachusetts and Boston associations of REALTORS® are filing a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the brokers.
“We’re hopeful when considering the appeal that the state Supreme Judicial Court will reaffirm the lower court decision that real estate agents may affiliate with their broker as independent contractors and should not automatically be viewed as employees under Commonwealth law,” says John Dulczewski, executive director of the Greater Boston Association of REALTORS®.
Given the market’s tough conditions this past year or so, some sales associates might be attracted to the income stability that comes with a paycheck. After all, to succeed today you have to deal with inventory shortages, high home prices, tough financing conditions, and stagnant incomes among buyers.
With this as the backdrop, its helpful for brokers to take care in how they structure and maintain the independent contractor relationship they have with their sales associates.
First, know your state law. In Massachusetts, the lawsuit has exposed two areas of law that are in conflict. The state’s real estate law says sales associates can be either employees or independent contractors and it requires brokers to exercise supervisory authority over them, no matter what their status is. That conflicts with the state’s employment law, which defines independent contractors in such a way that such supervision can appear to undermine a contractor’s independence.
“It’s somewhat impossible to exercise supervision over your sales associate pursuant to the real estate license laws and also maintain the independent contractor relationship in compliance with the state labor and employment laws,” says Lesley Walker, NAR associate counsel.
Second, work with an attorney to draft an appropriate independent contractor contract and be sure your associates have signed it.
Third, be aware of what constitutes independent contractor status in your state. How much supervisory control is appropriate? If associates have to buy their own tools of the trade, including their phone, how much say do brokers have over what they can require? And can associates enter into relationships with other entities beyond the brokerage?
“Whether or not there’s an independent contractor relationship is determined not by the intent of the parties but the reality of how the relationship is playing out,” says Walker.
That means it’s not what you say, but what you do. In the five-minute video above, Walker talks about the cases and what to consider as you look at your own situation.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
NAR President Steve Brown met at the White House with the federal government’s top housing officer, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, and the head of the National Economic Council, Jeffrey Zients, on the reform of the secondary mortgage market yesterday. The effort to replace Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is gaining steam with the release last week of a plan by the bi-partisan leadership of the Senate Banking Committee.
Sens. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., the committee chair, and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, the ranking member, released a plan to phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac over time and replace them with a new entity called the National Mortgage Insurance Corporation that would provide explicit federal backing of loans that meet standards of safety and soundness.
NAR is looking carefully at the plan, which incorporated many principles that the association is calling for. Top among them is the explicit federal backing, but the plan also ensures the continuation of the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage and also paves the way for the return of a robust private market for mortgage-backed securities over time.
Although details are still to be worked out, NAR wants to be sure any mortgage market reform maintains the availability of safe and affordable loans.
After the White House meeting, which also included leaders of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, National Association of Home Builders, Mortgage Bankers Association, and Independent Community Bankers of America, Brown gave an interview with Housing Wire in which he stated that the housing sector will benefit from mortgage market reform if the reform is done carefully, because the market needs the stability that good reform will provide. “By settling this issue, it will bring stability to this market, which is critical,” Brown said in the interview. “The Great Recession shows that there are imperfections [to the current structure].”
One aspect to reform that REALTORS® can take pride in is the bipartisan nature of housing issues on Capitol Hill. Just as both sides of Congress came together earlier this month to pass curbs on escalating flood insurance premiums, members of both parties want reform to succeed so housing can thrive. “It affects every American,” he said. “Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat, people’s financial investments will be protected and maintained.”
With the Senate plan now out, lawmakers in that chamber could start consideration of legislation fairly soon, analysts say.