What I love most about blogging is the ability to find people like Jonathan Miller. In my opinion, he’s the smartest guy in real estate.
Hi Jonathan, what made you decide to start blogging?
I was frustrated with the trends we were seeing in the appraisal industry, primarily the issue of appraisal pressure. Appraisers were relegated to form-filler status in the mortgage lending process and were no longer able to provide independent opinions without fear of losing their clients. In 2005 I was enamored with the idea of creating a podcast, but decided that a blog was the better medium for what I was trying to accomplish. I launched Soapbox in July 2005 but then decided I also needed to be able to discussion non-appraiser issues, so Matrix was born a month later.
Soapbox concentrates largely on appraisal ethics. A concept that is very en vogue today, but I imagine it raised a few eyebrows among your potential clients when you created it. How did this blog effect how your business progressed?
I’d like to think it helped get the conversation going. I have received a lot of feedback from various government agencies indicating that it has been a helpful resource in explaining what our industry is going through. As far as impact to my business, I would say that Soapbox helped raise our credibility as appraisers, but Matrix has created exposure for us that has resulted in a lot of business opportunities.
You are very well quoted among main stream media sources. Did your writings on Matrix play a roll in establishing you as an expert in your field, or did the blog follow?
Cart before the horse? 😉 I’ve been around for more than 20 years so I really see Matrix as an additional method of delivering my front line market knowledge in a way that wasn’t possible before, other than formally in speeches, market reports and appraisals. Its been very therapeutic too because I am able to vent and write things with a little humor and personality, something thats not possible when releasing a formal market survey. In other words, its totally addictive.
You provide analytics for a variety of resources from The New York Times, to Radar Logic, to Trulia Trends. Including your blogs, what one service do you provide that would be most helpful to real estate professionals reading this though out the country?
I think that I provide a neutral view point, which is why I am able to affiliate with a wide variety of organizations. Its really cool to be able to opine on what you observe, without retribution from your partners. One of the problems with real estate market reporting is that it is fraught with spin, especially on the extremes (positive and negative). I tend to associate with people or firms that run their businesses from a neutral vantage point.
Real estate professionals should always seek out neutral resources so they can more reliably inform their clients, who now more than ever, see through the spin. I’d also like to think I provide discussion, answers or raise questions on Matrix that buyers and sellers will likely ask of their agents, not just the regurgitation of news.
What’s the biggest misconception about residential real estate?
My favorite phrase is “There is no national housing market.” Every month financial institutions, Wall Street and consumers are pummeled with national housing market statistics. The readers of this information then try to apply these stats to their local markets or a specific property, resulting in confusion and frustration. What happens in LA, doesn’t impact Cleveland. While mortgage rates and the credit markets are a common bond, thats about it. Local market conditions are defined by many factors including, employment and the health of primary employers, the local economy, zoning, housing stock, availability of land, inventory, etc. National housing market stats are often defined by the mix of sales in each particular region that may or may not artificially bias the direction of the trend.
As a regular reader of Matrix, your posts seem to come in spurts. Usually two or three at a time. Do you set aside time for blogging, or do you just suddenly have the inspiration to write several posts at once?
This is a hot topic of mine. The idea of sitting down and writing a post in order to commit to a daily quota defeats the joy of doing this to begin with. Its not homework. Its just fun.
My wife and I have 4 sons, a cat, 2 appraisal businesses and other interests (aka chaos) Our residential appraisal firm is being acquired by Radar Logic, of which I am already serving in some capacity there. There is a lot going on. I used to get up at 4:30 or 5 in the morning to blog. Did that for a year but it was too painful. I usually write something during my commuter train ride in and out of Manhattan. During baseball season, I blog during the evenings when the kids are done with homework and the Yankees are playing (I tend to post more consistently from April to October). When football season is on, I tend to write my posts while watching the games on the weekends. In other words, avoid sitting still at all costs.
What are some of your favorite blogs?
In danger of alienating all my friends out there, here’s just a handful of my regular reads: Curbed, The Stalwart, The Big Picture, Greg Mankiw, Calculated Risk, Floyd Norris, and Global Economic Analysis.
What advice do you have for agents who are just starting a new blog?
Think twice. Its not for everyone. Are you committed to delivering information on a regular basis? Make sure your writing style matches your personal style – in other words, find your voice and stick with it. Do not think of your blog as a brochure for your company, otherwise no one will come back.