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Reactions to the 60 Minutes story on online real estate that aired May 13 continue to pour in to RISMedia. Here, read some of the many responses to the piece, our coverage of it and how you can get involved.Responses range from outrage over what viewers say was the news magazine’s unbalanced coverage of traditional real estate brokerage, to staunch support for online brokerages and their various models.
Many of our readers have requested information on how to get in touch with 60 Minutes to submit letters. Those interested may write to:

CBS News/60 Minutes:
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
60m@cbsnews.com
PHONE: (212) 975-3247

Or send your thoughts directly to 60 Minute Executive Producer, Jeff Fager:

Jeff Fager
Executive Producer
CBS News “60 Minutes”
555 West 57th, 9th Floor
New York, NY. 10019

To email your responses to RISMedia, send them to realestatemagazinefeedback@rismedia.com.

Letters to the Editor

To the Editor:

Stop the whining – 60 Minutes went easy on “traditional” brokers.

Like most Realtors®, we anxiously awaited the airing of the CBS 60 Minutes segment on real estate (“Chipping Away at Realtors’ Six Percent,” May 13, 2007). Our interest was based on the hope that our company, Assist-2-Sell, would be featured. When interviewed earlier in the year by 60 Minutes, we offered them plenty of examples of the unethical, unprofessional, and anti-competitive practices we’ve encountered over the past 20 years as “discount” brokers. We anticipated a format similar to Dateline NBC’s To Catch A Predator, perhaps entitled To Catch A Realtor®. While we were disappointed, we suspect more than a few brokers breathed a sigh of relief. In fairness, we have no first hand knowledge of 60 Minutes obtaining footage of anyone during their investigation behaving in an inappropriate manner.

The 60 Minutes report was fair and balanced. Both the traditional business model and the Internet based business Redfin model were given adequate opportunity to present their value propositions. It is unfortunate CBS did not discuss other alternatives for consumers, such as our established business model. Our company has more than 600 offices serving all size markets with a proven business model. We offer an alternative consumers can enjoy today in most markets, as opposed to paying high commissions offered by many other firms.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR), in its response to CBS, claims it “supports all business models and favors none.” We respectfully beg to differ. We’ve witnessed numerous rule changes and support of legislation intended to create roadblocks for competitors to the traditional model under the guise of protecting consumers. If NAR truly supported all business models, the DOJ would not need to resort to litigation to get the MLS information opened up to those Realtors ® who use different models. NAR refuses to allow Assist-2-Sell “Non MLS” listings to be displayed on the powerful Realtor.com® Web site. The Web site is not titled MLS.com, but rather Realtor.com®. We believe our franchisees, as Realtors ®, should be entitled to display all their listings on Realtor.com®, which ultimately benefits the consumer.

We continually hear that commissions now average only 5.1%. The truth is the 5.1% number came from an industry trade publication, and was an estimate of average commissions charged by the nation’s top 500 brokerages. John C. Weicher, Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Housing and Financial Markets, found the industry trade publication’s commission data limited by its focus on the largest brokerages and most expensive homes. NAR needs to invest in a commission survey conducted by an independent company and share those results with the media.

Despite challenges to our business model from within the industry, we do very well. We are approaching one billion dollars in commission savings for our home sellers* and the number is growing. Seller’s recognize our “Full Service with $avings!” marketing programs as a legitimate alternative to paying high commissions. Internet models like Redfin should be allowed to succeed or fail based on their business model, not interference through legislation, rule changes or anti-competitive practices.

Lyle Martin and Mary LaMeres-Pomin
Co-founders, Assist-2-Sell
North America’s Leading Discount Real Estate Company

* Savings based on statistics for all Assist-2-Sell offices in North America compared to paying 6% commission, which is used for comparison purposes only.

******

To the Editor:

Just as with other professions, real estate brokerages break down into several models. Traditional, discount, fee for service, menu driven, internet (Virtual Office Website)….and within those models are unique offerings.

The real problem here is confusing the term discount—which relates to the amount of the fee charged; with the level of service provided which is causing the erroneous assumption that if full price isn’t paid, full service isn’t offered-or given.

Are you referencing a ‘discount model’ or a ‘fee-for-service model’ with your May 15th release noting that “…the consumer shouldn’t confuse the value of a full service Realtor with what a discount brokerage offers…”? Because the fee structure in no way guarantees the level of service in either direction.

All discount models are not created equal; Advance Realty is a full service broker that offers a reduced list side commission fee for our clients. We provide all the same services as a traditional broker-we just do it for less-and we should not be penalized by choosing to charge a lower fee for our services simply because we have a new generation formula for success.

The consumer and the government are behind the increased demand for lower real estate commissions and we are simply among the first to answer the call. It does not make us ‘less valuable’ as a service provider for meeting the public’s demand for lower commissions; we provide the same full level of service at 1.75% on the list side as we do at 3% on the buyer side.

RISMedia is the self-proclaimed “residential real estate industry’s definitive source for news and information for real estate’s most profitable and productive professionals-and all those looking to gain a competitive edge.” As the publisher and CEO it defies logic and reason for you to turn your back on a growing segment of the real estate industry and take sides with one model over another that is ‘looking to gain a competitive edge’.

For someone in your position to publicly take sides within the industry sets an unfair precedent. I would encourage you and others who have spoken out on this topic to be better informed before making blanket statements that have a derogatory affect on the reputations of thousands of Realtors nationwide. It is unethical practices such as this that necessitated The Federal Trade Commission’s investigation on Competition in the Real Estate Brokerage Industry.

Respectfully Submitted,

Mike Nace
COO
Advance Realty®
“The Full Service Discount Experts”

****

To the Editor:

I too saw the 60 Minutes special and was not surprised by their outlook on the real estate industry. After all they are just ordinary people not familiar with the legal and financial ramifications of a transaction because the Realtor they used in the past probably made their transaction seem easy without explaining or showing the work he/she was doing.

Our problem in this industry is that most Realtors are not great communicators. They either don’t understand how the process works and therefore can’t explain the process or they feel embarrassed or guilty for taking money for something they worked hard on because as children we were told to give in order to receive and therefore if we work hard we should receive. But, the gap remains, the buyer/seller doesn’t know he received; rather they believe they have found (the house).

I had just had my first encounter with a Redfin. I had listed a home that eventually would sell in Silicon Valley with multiple offers. At the open house where there were over 70 people, a couple approached me and said would I represent them in the transaction for this house. I said no because I felt that would be a conflict of interest but if they didn’t have a Realtor I could recommend a couple who were excellent at handling the buying side of the transaction.

They said they had one and would use that one. Before the offers were presented or delivered, this couple constantly e-mailed with questions concerning the neighborhood, the house even though their was a disclosure package, and also asking how high I thought the house would go for (I said as high as the market would allow).

They wanted me to do a market analysis and I said to use the one I had given out at the open house which showed the recent sales. They used my name as their agent to download the disclosures from the title company (I had wondered who was using my name at the time). When it came time to present I get a call from the Redfin agent who said she has a great offer but doesn’t want to present. I responded that the contract if not presented has to be hand delivered not faxed because too many faxes get lost or don’t arrive on time.

Redfin delivers the contract. The couple’s offer was in the bottom third! What this couple didn’t realize or believe was that because of my fiduciary duties, I could not answer all of their questions. Yet what I did tell them that these questions they were having should be put to their Realtor and allow their Realtor to investigate them because an experienced Realtor would know. So either their Redfin agent didn’t know, or they didn’t believe her.

Yet with their financial qualifications and interest they should have had an offer in at least the top third. They lost big time.

Diana Parham
Realtor
Intero Real Estate Services
Los Altos

****

To the Editor:

Given that there are so many Realtors, why are we not being asked to send our responses directly to 60 Minutes in an email or letter blitz? Would that be helpful or harmful?

Jackie Esielionis
“Your Realtor for a Lifetime”
Keystone Properties Real Estate
Shirley, MA

mailto:Jackie@KeystoneProperties.com
www.KeystoneProperties.com

****

To the Editor:

Alex Perriello’s response to the 60 Minutes newscast was extraordinarily weak. I would also recommend that which ever PR firm that Realogy employs should be fired! Now!

As CEO of the largest real estate corporation, he has left us agents to answer the claims made by 60 Minutes. I would have liked Realogy to have responded with a point by point rebuttal in a letter to the editor at the major newspapers in the top 20 real estate markets. Mr. Perriello’s letter to CBS will never get aired and doesn’t defend the value added service that an agent provides.

Shame on 60 Minutes and shame on Realogy for not aggressively supporting their franchisees or their agents.

Chuck Shattuck
“The Right Ingredient”
Century 21 Kreuser & Seiler
Libertyville, IL

****

To the Editor:

Why doesn’t your organization provide real estate agents with Leslie Stahl’s email address as well as the email address of other 60 Minutes executives, so that we can comment individually to the network and Ms. Stahl. Their credibility is at stake as a reporting TV news magazine program, due to this grossly one-sided story. I wonder how many episodes of other stories are also inaccurately reported on 60 Minutes. I was raised on 60 Minutes, always thinking they were a respected source of (accurate) information — my views have certainly changed!

Let US contact the network.

Best regards,

Carol Jacob
Signature Realty Associates
www.caroljacob.com

192.168.100.61