OnBlog: The Onboard Informatics Blog

Conversations on the Art and Science of Information

A response to “The Youth Myth: Why It’s Hip To Be Square in Real Estate Brokerage”

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Falling within the demographic group of real estate’s red-headed stepchild, ages 18 to 34, I felt it necessary to defend my brethren from a realtor that clearly doesn’t understand our relevance. Now, I’m no pied-piper, I’m not a leader of men, but I do know bs when I see it. I think that over the next 7 years, 18 to 34 year olds are going to be buying a significant amount of houses; and, subsequently, realtors should pay us more attention than we’re currently getting-which is where Mr. Brady and I differ. . .

[Brady]

You’re just back from Inman Connect? Forget everything you heard there. Chasing the hip, young 18 to 34 market is gret if you’re selling sneakers but could be detrimental to the health of YOUR business for the next 7 years. here’s why:

1- They ain’t got no money.

[Me] I disagree with my grammatically ignorant friend (“ain’t,” really?), to quote Jay-Z, “I’ve got ninety-nine problems but my bank account isn’t one” . . . or something like that. The monetary situation of 18-34 year olds is what it has been for the last few years:

· According to the report, members of Generation Y command more spending power than preceding generations at the same stage of life “because they are well-educated and have higher starting salaries out of college.””

· In 2006: “first-time buyers, the median age was 32.”

· In 2007: 25 -34 year olds bought more homes than any other demographic group

· These unique home buyers are the youngest of the home buying segment, and are the most likely to purchase a home in the next two years in comparison to any other age group.

· The long-term demand for second homes looks favorable because there are large numbers of people buying second homes. “Currently . . . 40.9 million are between ages of 30 to 39. These younger segments will drive the second-home market over the next decade.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that my age demographic is the only action in town; but to say we “ain’t got no money” is not only offensive it’s just plain wrong. Maybe we don’t have as much money as some other age groups; maybe we don’t have as much money as Mr. Brady would like, but how much money do we need in order to be perceived as “worthy of a realtor’s time?”

 

[Brady]

2- They don’t trust real estate as an investment. This demographic believes that real estate is either perpetually overpriced or that it is dangerous. Some eschewed the asset class, some leveraged it irresponsibly and lost. It’s not that they don’t trust you because you’re a shady REALTOR, they don’t trust your product.

3- They view you as a functionary. Your value hasn’t been established to them because they haven’t had good experiences with real estate. They see you as an over-priced clerk because they watched you make “easy money’ while they chased the overpriced asset.

[Me] I’m addressing both #2 and #3 together because I think they both reek of bitterness. In #2, I think things are a bit backwards. We trust real estate as an investment; we just don’t trust shady realtors. And I think that the mistrust derives from the difficulties, the dragging of feet, that has occurred within the RE community in regards to accessible community data and housing listings on-line. If it’s not public: it’s a secret, it’s private; it’s trespassing; it’s not cool; it’s irritating to a generation of people that (for the most part) don’t know what the world would be like without the internet. And despite all the red tape:

· Fifty-two percent, of the Generation Y age group think a home is a better financial investment than stocks.

In #3, I think someone sounds like their in desperate need of a hug. If it makes you feel any better, I value you Mr. Brady. I wouldn’t buy a house without you and I don’t think I’m alone:

· 82 percent of Generation Y purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker, more likely than any other age group.

[Brady]

4- They need a lot of education…lots of it. Since old is now new (in lending), the young are basically dinosaurs.

[Me] Do we really need an education? If old is now new in the world of lending (with FHA mortgages—a.k.a the first time buyer mortgage—making a comeback) I have to wonder what age group would be fueling such a trend. Because I would assume, if Baby-Boomers wanted to purchase more real estate, they would walk across their summer home’s beautifully landscaped lawn and shake their money tree . . . No lending necessary!!

[Brady]

5- They really don’t have any “pain”. They’ll be focusing on mitigating losses rather than maximizing wealth. Their “pain” is best served by loss mitigation specialists and not wealth maximizers.

[Me] I can’t believe that such a broad generalization could actually be conceived as sound reasoning.

[Brady]

So…if that’s true, why the hell are you screwing around on Facebook and Twitter? Because the fastest growing user groups on those two social networks are the cheese, baby…the 45-65 age group.

[Me] Erroneous!! One particular month is not indicative of Facebook’s overall growth last year. In fact, if you read the article hyperlinked in Mr. Brady’s post, and check the original press release it references, you’ll see that “The most dramatic growth occurred among 25-34 year olds (up 181 percent), while 12-17 year olds grew 149 percent and those age 35 and older grew 98 percent.” Baby-Boomers were the 2nd slowest growing user group. And Twitter never even came up.

[Brady]

PS: I’m generalizing when I categorize the demographic groups. There are a lot of successful and responsible 18-34 year-olds but your odds are better with their parents until 2015. The cool part is that 80% of your competition will buy into the Youth Myth while you clean up on the Boomers.

[Me] I tip my cap for recognizing the generalizations, but I’m still not sold on the Baby-Boomers being in a situation to buy more homes in the next 7 years. I mean, unless the Boomers have severed all ties with their children, I think their situation isn’t exactly “pain free.” If I’m doing the math right, a Boomer’s kid (depending on their age) is in need of College tuition, help with paying for their wedding, purchasing a home, clothes for grandkids . . . good parents do these sort of things so that their kids don’t have to worry about starting their adult lives in debt and they can (for argument’s sake) buy a house. I’d say that Boomers aren’t going to be looking for a retirement home, investment property, or vacation home for . . . about 7 years from now.

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Written by Michael Demetriou

July 31, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Bulldog Pride! …Or Why I Will Never Look at School Mascots the Same Way Again

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bow wow wow

I’ll bet you thought your school mascot was pretty awesome. No other school’s paltry representative could hold a candle to your Mustangs or Lions or Wildcats.

Well, guess what? There are hundreds and thousands and millions (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating) of other Mustangs, Lions, and Wildcats out there. How do I know this? Because I’ve tracked down all of their Web sites.

Well, maybe not all of them (although at times it felt like that). For the past several weeks, part of my work here at Onboard Informatics has included updating our (rather extensive) list of invalid school Web site URLs.

For instance, a link to Willow Grove Elementary School may not lead where it’s supposed to because:

a) there might be a misspelled or incorrect address in our database,

b) the link was correct at one time, but now isn’t because the school district has updated or moved its Web sites, or

c) it actually does lead where it’s supposed to, but takes longer to load and so is coming up invalid.

What to do? Well, since Onboard has the school name, address, and district information available as well, we go out to the Internet to search for that school’s current, working Web site. Oftentimes, searching by district is the easiest way to go about tracking down these schools. Since the data is grouped by district in our file, a group of schools that all come from the same district can be taken care of by finding just one district home page.

But of course, nothing is as easy as it sounds.

For one thing, did you ever stop to think about exactly how many Springfield School Districts there are? (Answer: A lot more than you’d think. One in Massachusetts, Oregon, New Jersey, Missouri, and Illinois, and that’s just the first page of Google results.)

What about those pesky Colorado school districts that follow every normal name with an alpha-numeric code? And don’t even get me started on Missouri and its Roman numerals (Harrisburg R-VIII? Really?).

Then there are the schools that, try as you might, you just can’t find. Maybe they’ve closed, or the district’s Web site really isn’t functioning, or they’re in a rural area whose schools may not have set up Web sites yet. In cases like those, we delete the invalid URL that had previously been misdirecting users, but we leave the field blank — from a data perspective, it’s better not to have a Web site listed for a particular school than to supply an incorrect one.

___________

When the sons of Eli break through the line

All of these school URLs are helpful to have on hand when providing information about the offerings of districts in a particular neighborhood. At Onboard, we have valid, school-specific URLs populated for almost 40,000 of our schools — roughly 33 percent of our total listings. We also have a school or district URL populated for close to 80 percent, or 100,000 schools.

Out of about 36,000 distinct total school URLs that were validated, 3,500 changed their URLs over the last year. Of the remainder, we were able to provide valid URLs for about 15,000 schools for which we previously had no information.

After going through all 36,000+ of those school URLs, we ran the modified data through a check to pull out any links that were still broken — only about 1,000 (a much more manageable number, relatively speaking). And when that 1,000 is compared to the approximately 6,000 invalid URLs we finished with last quarter, that averages out to around 3,500 broken links Onboard deals with over a quarter.

Making sure that the data out there is as clean and accurate as possible is a vital part of what we do at Onboard, and keeping data that is constantly being modified, the way school data is, up-to-date is an ongoing task.

So maybe your school’s mascot isn’t the one-of-a-kind Golden Eagle (or other unstoppable creature) you thought it was, but you can still take pride in the fact that your school has a fully functioning website. Just do all of us data collectors a favor — don’t set all 25 links on your home page to blink simultaneously. Trust me, that’s never a good design…

___________

Quick and Random (and not statistically accurate) Fun Facts:

Most popular mascots — Bulldogs, Eagles, Tigers, Lions
Most unique mascots — Winged Beavers, Atom Smashers, Awesome Blossoms, Fighting Quakers, Cheese Makers
Most “interesting” school names — Slaughter Elementary School, Stalker Elementary School

Written by Tara Powers

July 30, 2008 at 10:41 pm

On Localism & Future of Online Real Estate

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Ajax and Cassandra

Ajax and Cassandra

Over at my personal blog, I started one of those Cassandra deals speculating on the future of ActiveRain network now that Trulia has launched a blog platform. Since that post went up, I had a chance to sit down with Jonathan Washburn, the founder of ActiveRain, and learned a thing or two. A followup post was necessary. But more I thought about it, more it seemed appropriate for the OnBlog, as my thoughts on the situation are relevant to our clients past, present and future.

First, J-Dub (you Washingtonians ought to get the reference) pointed out that ActiveRain isn’t exactly a slouch in the consumer traffic side of things — as he clarified in the comments to the post, ActiveRain and Localism got 2.3 million visits in the last 30 days, and he said some 80%+ of that is consumer traffic. Second, he charted out a future view of online real estate that is rather convincing. It goes something like this (and I’m probably not doing full justice to his views):

  • Consumers want listings above all else
  • But listings are everywhere
  • Hence, listings are a commodity
  • Differentiation can only come from original content
  • ActiveRain has 100,000 dedicated local real estate professionals who love creating original content, especially about their local market
  • Adding listings to ActiveRain & Localism isn’t the most difficult thing in the world, especially if the trend towards aggregation and syndication continue
  • Adding original content, however, is extremely difficult and time-consuming
  • Therefore, Localism will dominate all

You know, that’s a pretty convincing point of view. Strategically, it’s sound. There is a trend towards listings aggregation and syndication — a trend that is taking far, far too long to develop, to be sure, but one that has the force of inevitability behind it.

However, strategy is only as good as the execution. And this is where I, as a member of Onboard Informatics, can offer some thoughts that are relevant to all of our clients (and future clients). Read the rest of this entry »

Data in Real Estate (Part 2): Creating Quality

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Having established a foundational knowledge of data and its application to the geographic sphere of real estate, the ability to determine what sort of data will be most valuable for a company’s business ventures is even more important. In the most basic sense, data quality refers to the degree of excellence in relation to the portrayal of the geographic “phenomena” being examined, all contributing to the data’s fitness for use.

How can we say what makes “good” data? When you talk about a good book or a good movie, isn’t your judgment dependent on certain subjective qualities — interests, mood — that are individual to you? To a degree, yes, but there are also certain aspects that must be present without fail in order for a book or movie to be considered “quality.” A book must be free of unintentional spelling and grammatical errors, for instance, and a movie needs to have clearly identified characters and some form of plot.

The overall quality of data can be thought of in the same way. While the specifics of what makes good data will vary according to the type of data you’re seeking — real estate data as opposed to sports statistical data, for instance — there are non-negotiable elements that apply to data as a whole. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Tara Powers

July 25, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Posted in Informatics

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How many metrics do you need? The metrics rule of minimums.

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The Metrics Rule of Minimums: The number of metrics needed is the minimum to accurately indicate state.

There are a quite a large number of metrics that can be generated from a single project that could end up in a status report (I’ll dig into details in a subsequent post). As the head of Onboard Informatics’ Project Management Office (PMO), I am responsible for developing reporting and measurement standards for ALL projects. There are just too few hours in the day to maintain all those measurements and reports! I needed a guideline for our group to limit metrics development and maintenance effort but report status accurately. The metric rule of minimums seemed to fit the bill. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by James John Wilson

July 25, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Data in Real Estate (Part 1): Creating Accessibility

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The real estate industry has been affected by the nearly infinite amount of information available through the Internet in the same way that all industries have been. Consequently it is now more important than ever that the information clients receive is accurate and reliable. Understanding the nature of this data and the way in which it is interpreted and coordinated by real estate Web sites can contribute to an awareness of the complexity surrounding such data management, as well as the way in which that complexity is being simplified for the clients served.

But what is data, exactly? Raw data, data normalization, aggregate data — the word is thrown around with such frequency that it may prove difficult to come up with a concrete and coherent definition of such a broad term, even when applied to the real estate field.

Before a company can provide the data its clients want — quality data — it is vital that it has at least a basic understanding of what data and terminology associated with data mean in real estate. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Tara Powers

July 25, 2008 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Informatics

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RE Bar Camp Report

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When I first heard about RE Bar Camp, I thought, “Now, this is an event I have to attend.”

The actual event itself did not disappoint.  The gathering of some 100+ people who are on the cutting edge of real estate, of mortgage, of technology in this industry, was really a refreshing breath of air for me personally.  And as a representative of Onboard Informatics, I was happy to see just what the sorts of challenges and needs people were facing out there.  Some of those issues, we may even have a solution for.  Not sure which ones yet, but it was a great learning experience.

It was chaotic, to be sure.  The hall itself was noisy, to be certain.  Perhaps in the future, we’ll find better spaces for the format that RE Bar Camp takes.  Basically, you get a group of people together, then people just post what they want to talk about or present.  Then other people just attend these ad hoc sessions.

One of the best sessions was about usage of Web 2.0 technology in the mortgage business.  Talk about a commodity business where people are nonetheless adding value in all sorts of different ways, and leveraging technology to do it.  I mean, money is the ultimate commodity, right?  Well, not to these guys.  I came away learning quite a bit about how that industry works, what some of the challenges are, and what some of the solutions people have crafted are (Twitter 4TW).

One of the most amazing facts I learned was from an agent, Stacey Harmon from Orange County, CA.  She enters her listings into a total of ten different systems and websites, ranging from her MLS to Zillow to Trulia to her corporate site to her blog to… well, a bunch she couldn’t even think of.  This is one of those things that I look at and go… “We are living in the 21st century… right?”  This is something that I think the industry needs to solve, and quickly, if we are ever to become truly professionalized.  Transporting data from one computer system to another is a challenge, but it isn’t an impossibility in this day and age.  Seeing as how we have an expertise in data, this is something we may have to think about some.

I’m looking forward to the actual Inman conference as well, but this was a fantastic event in and of itself.  Highly recommended, if you’re open to learning and discussion, and can handle the chaos.

-rsh

Written by -Rob

July 23, 2008 at 2:10 am

Posted in News and Events

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