Real Estate 2.0 and the Phoenix Real Estate Consumer

Jonathan Dalton, Phoenix Real Estate AgentThose of you not in the real estate industry may read a post like this morning’s about Move.Com’s abortive purchase of Active Rain and wonder, “why should any of this matter to me?” Why should someone looking to buy or sell real estate in Phoenix or elsewhere care who owns what or writes what?

The reason is simple … as much as these third-party companies are trying to make a buck on the backs of real estate agents and brokers, they’re trying to do the same to the public as a whole. Maybe it’s somewhat less blatant but it’s there.

Several months ago, Active Rain added a Q&A section. Most of the questions I’ve seen there should have been directed at the asker’s agent, assuming they had one – in short, they were looking for real estate advice without cost. So be it.

If no one had utilized the Q&A section, however, it would cease to exist. And some of the perceived value of Active Rain would have disappeared.

The same can be said for Trulia Voices, which could be fixed if only the designers finally figured out agents are answering questions not to be helpful but to be able to point to their number of answers and where they rank.

/begin rant

Case in point … this morning someone asked about whether it’s the right time to buy real estate in Casa Grande, a city about one-third of the way between Phoenix and Tucson in Pinal County. The first two agents to answer were from California – one from Mountain View, the other from San Francisco. Aside from pointing to an Altos Research chart, as one of them did, they don’t know a thing about Casa Grande. Probably couldn’t find it on a map if you spotted them the county. But they feel they have sufficient expertise to answer a market-specific question about the area.

Yes, Mike Simonsen and Ed Monaghan, this means you. When I answer questions about your market despite my lack of credentials, feel free to call me out. Except it won’t happen because I don’t give a damn about where I rank in answers given.

/end rant

If no one was asking questions on Trulia Voices (aside from the agents asking questions to boost their count for that category) then that portion of the site would fail to exist.

Redfin’s been duping the public for just over a year, claiming to be the catalyst for the real estate revolution. Comment on a Redfin post and defenders storm to the fore, saying that Redfin is saving the day. Whatever. Redfin’s not doing anything that hasn’t been done in the past. They’re simply counting on the contempt for full service real estate agents and hoping no one pulls back the curtain.

(Except some people are … and the ending’s already being written, barring another round of venture capital.)

It’s almost to the point where as a member of the public, if you hear someone discussing the need for “transparency” in real estate, the need to revolutionize the industry, you’re better off running for the door. Because these groups don’t care what happens to you, the general consumer. They’re only interested in cashing in when someone buys them out.

Active Rain gets credit for generating leads for its agents because the SEO value is fairly strong. But 95% of what’s written there is for other agents, not the public. But they know, as do the rest of us, that high rankings on a search engines equals expertise in most folks’ mind. I was just the same, at least until I started learning SEO.

Neither Active Rain nor Move.Com nor Real Town Communities nor HouseHugg nor Trulia nor Zillow really cares about what happens to the consumer. They don’t have to deal with the public – not on (albeit electronic) face-to-face basis. We do. Real estate professionals, as maligned as we may be, do.

We explain why the Zestimate is off or why the advice you’re getting from agents in North Dakota on Trulia has no bearing on Arizona law. We try to rectify the bevy of errors that are written as fact in the blogs of some newbie whose sole interest in writing the post isn’t public education but rather lead conversion.

I don’t agree with half of what the bubble bloggers write but at least they strive for some form of honesty, aside from the fiasco that is Housing Panic. They’re trying to educate the public with their side of the story. But at least they have an opinion and passion.

Most of the real estate 2.0, transparency-trumpeting companies have neither. Because neither pays, to their mind. They view you as a lead, a piece of inventory to be converted to cash when Mother Google or some other larger company comes along to write the check.

And then they’ll be on the beach with an umbrella in their drink while the rest of us keep picking up the pieces and carrying the banner for what Real Estate 2.0 really ought to be – an effort to educate first and foremost, with possible business running a distant second.

In the interim, hell will freeze over before these groups profit on my intellectual property again. I’ll still list in Zillow because it’s what owners expect … but the blog posts, the heart and soul of my business, are mine. Not Active Rain’s. No one else’s.

(I better go … as soon as this posts, my mother will be calling to ask why I’m so bitter. It’s not bitterness, Mom. It’s the desire to do what’s right in the face of a growing number of folks who believe “right” is measured in the size of their check. And that’s just wrong.)

[tags]real estate blogging, real estate marketing[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Jay Thompson 10 years ago

    Nice work JD. Consider yourself nominated for the Odysseus.

    I was in the process of posting a Trulia Voices rant. I almost threw in the towel on it a few days ago. I’m just oh-so-weary of the completely unqualified answers. But then I thought that quiting wasn’t really fair to the ones looking for the answers, so I will continue. For now.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    We think alike, Jay … that’s the only reason I keep the Arizona feed in my RSS reader.

    I’ve been tempted to widen the net based on the discussion of the “Stupid Trulia Voices Answer of the Day” idea but I’ve not been in the mood.

    Oddly enough, spending that much time criticizing the brethren is a bit of a downer. Not from a karma sense but more from realizing the public’s perception, when it comes to many in the business, probably is more right than we admit.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    And thanks for the vote, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jeff Brown 10 years ago

    Jonathan – Go outside, look due west, and just a bit south. That’s me, standing on my San Diego balcony, giving you a standing ovation.

    Begin rant – ๐Ÿ™‚

    In 17 days I’ll have been licensed for 38 years. Those years have seen me selling homes, then moving into the investment side.

    As much change as we’ve seen in those many years, one thing has remained constant: 90%+ of the agents out there couldn’t (warning: here comes BawldGuy cliche #43) find there asses with two helpers, a map, and a GPS – and that’s no joke.

    I’ve contended from the day I discovered RE 2.0, that all the sites ‘serving’ either the public, agents, or both, were based on that one fact. Agents are the dumbest, easiest led, laziest, Gomers in the business world.

    How some of them have Gumped their way into making more money than a teenager working a summer job at Von’s, will forever mystify me.

    This is how AR, Trulia, Zillow, and the rest have been so successful so quickly – and if not successful, at least credible. The Gumps show up and talk about them as if they’re of real value. Why? Because the ‘leader’ Gumps tell them so.

    If it wasn’t so pathetic it would at least be comical.

    This ongoing fact of life in our business has been something for which I’ve had to bear since learning I passed ‘the test’.

    It’s my contention there are so few bloggers in RE because that’s how many an actually read and write past the eighth grade level.

    End rant.

    Great job Jonathan. You’ve clearly shown – again – the emperor has no clothes. You’ve made my weekend.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    Glad to do it, Jeff … the ovation is much appreciated and I’ll happily translate it into a beverage when I’m down your way in December.

  • Jeff Brown 10 years ago

    Yer on.

  • mike simonsen 10 years ago

    Zowie! That’s a lot of vitriol, but I gotta say that I feel it’s misplaced against me, Dalton.

    It’s funny because I’d just logged into Trulia Voices for the very first time when I stumbled across the “how’s the market in Casa Grande?” question. I get (a version of) that question literally every day. That’s my business, so I looked at our data and answered it.

    I’m sure what ticked you off in this case was my comment that confirmed the questioner’s assumption that the market is dropping.

    But if you’ll notice my answer, you’ll realize what I always tell people — It doesn’t really matter! My advice is consistently: if you find a place that you love at a price you can afford in an area you want to be, then buy it!
    Are you really going to try to time the market?

    So I’ll say this:
    A) I do indeed feel qualified to comment on current market conditions in Casa Grande, despite the fact that I live in California.
    B) My motivation for answering the question was as follows in this order:
    1. Is this Trulia Voices thing worth anything? Does anyone care? Will we get any web traffic? Are there nofollows on the links? [Marginally yes. Apparently so. More than a google adword buy for “Casa Grande real estate”. And unfortunately but not surprisingly yes.]
    2. Help the buyer out with some actual data.
    3. if by some stroke of luck we got huge web traffic from the answers, then I might care about managing the points system. [Alas, that’s not the case.]

    Is Trulia Voices any good for the consumer, ultimately? I’d say, sure, a little. But like any online forum, it’s a serious caveat emptor situation. I recently poked around gardening sites to figure out the best way to trim my fruit trees. About half the answers were irrelevant or incoherent, a third were trying to sell me something, and the last fraction had some nuggets of advice. Seems about the same here.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    You’re right, Mike … it’s probably a bit misplaced though I can’t agree that you are qualified to talk about Casa Grande from California.

    There are several areas in the Valley where homes still are moving and the market hasn’t tanked. Casa Grande isn’t one of them, but it doesn’t change the fact that unless you’re looking at the area on a near-daily basis you do not necessarily know what’s going on.

    As for the vitriol, some was misplaced only because I’ve been seeing this on Trulia Voices from the beginning and it’s silly.

    There was one agent who kept answering “I can help you with your question. Contact me directly.” Of course he’s back east and hasn’t the slightest idea what’s happening here.

    My apologies for tossing you under the bus on this one, especially if it was your first time answering out-of-state.

    I get that question all the time myself but if someone from West Virginia’s the one asking, I’m going to take a pass in favor of someone who knows what the real situation is.

  • Marlow Harris 10 years ago

    The least surprising fact about most of the Real Estate 2.0 companies that have emerged are that they’re lead, not by real estate professionals, but by technology executives. Their main concern is monetization of their site in the form of ads, rather than actually being of service to real estate buyers, sellers or owners. Real estate agents, eager for clients, gladly give them content in the form of blog posts and listings, and then turn around and pay for the leads or ads that are on the websites that they themselves have helped build with their content.

    Agents and brokerages are better advised to get their own webpages and blogs. Rather than making interloper sites stronger by giving them free content, work on making your own site strong and compelling. While I may add posts or listings to some of these sites, I always make sure there’s a link back to my main website or blog.

  • Jay Thompson 10 years ago

    Congrats on the well deserved Odysseus Medal win!

    (And feel free to tip your nominator ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  • Howard Arnoff 10 years ago

    Jonathan, congratulations on winning with your great post, you really nailed a perfect 10.0 landing with this one.

  • Scoot 10 years ago

    Congrats on the Odysseus Jonathan. Very good post.

  • Valorie Bradley 10 years ago

    Great post Jonathan, Congrats on a well deserved win!

  • Dave Smith 10 years ago


    Great piece of writing. Absolutely fantastic. If I were your mom I’d be calling to congratulate you.

    Vitriolic not in the least. To bad some people spend their days looking at them selves in the mirror thinking what they see is just wonderful.

    There is a huge difference between vitriol and righteous indignation and this is clearly the latter.

    It’s way past time someone called out these posers.

    Tobey must be very proud.

  • Jonathan Dalton 10 years ago

    There was a little vitriol toward the two agents on Trulia Voices who in reality are not doing anything different than a couple dozen others. I just don’t agree with it.

    Thanks to all for the congratulations and for stopping by.

  • John Wake 10 years ago

    Very nice. I loved ending of Chris Berg’s follow on post in Bloodhound Blog;

    “(Reprint or retransmission of this blog post is prohibited without the express, written consent of Greg Swann, who retains all ownership and copyrights. In other words, Iโ€™m screwed.)”

    On Brian’s comment above, “Itโ€™s my contention there are so few bloggers in RE because thatโ€™s how many an actually read and write past the eighth grade level.”

    There’s something else to it. I set up two FREE subdivision blogs for a couple of friends who are definitely smart. I automatically post home sales each week to these blogs. I just asked that they blog one post a week. They might blog once a quarter.

    I think blogging is more difficult than we think. We enjoy blogging. But most people do not.