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The unsung heroes of RE BarCamp.

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RE BarCamp SF, 2008

Eight years ago, my friend Andy Kaufman decided that it would be a good idea to bring BarCamp to real estate. BarCamp is an unconference, or a conference without speakers and agendas. I’ll tell you right now that I wasn’t sold on the idea of bringing this radical concept to real estate, but felt that, at worst, a couple dozen of us would get together one day before Inman Connect SF, drink some beer, and geek out about real estate. So I was in.

I helped Andy with the event by promoting it online. I created rebarcamp.com, and started drumming up attention for the event. Because I was a very public part of the original crew that helped organize the first RE BarCamp, many people give me more credit than I deserve for the event. Lots of people helped to make the first event a success and even more people helped to turn the event into a worldwide phenomenon

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RE BarCamp SF 2008

There’s no doubt that I will forget to name some of the key players in the REBC movement, but that’s only because there are so many. However, I thought it might be fun to look back at the unsung heroes of RE BarCamp.

Brad Coy

Besides Andy, no-one committed more time and effort to the original RE BarCamp in San Francisco than Brad Coy. We had funding, venue, food, and other logistics to work out and none of us had done this before, so it was probably harder than it had to be.

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RE BarCamp Denver, 2009

Over 200 people attended the first event. More than double what we hoped for. It was actually a little overwhelming. A big reason it went so well was due to the work Brad put in to make it great.

Jay Thompson

Probably the biggest hassle in organizing the event was funding it. We were lucky enough to generate sponsorship interest for the first event, but we needed a place, or person to manage the money. Jay was a treasurer of sorts for the first REBC. He later went on to plan local REBC’s in Phoenix that generated some of the largest participation in the event’s history.

Keith Garner and Chris McKeever

Keith and Chris were two geeks from NAR’s Center for REALTOR® Technology who not only attended the first event, but helped sponsor it. Having NAR’s backing from the very beginning helped the event to generate even more interest. NAR went on to sponsor and even host several REBC events around the country and encouraged state and local associations to support the effort as well.

Mike Price

While Mike helped quite a bit at the first event, and designed many of the early REBC logos, his greatest contribution to REBC was to plan its second event in Houston. That’s the point when we all started to realize that this was going to be bigger than an annual geek-fest in San Francisco. This was a concept that could work in any market.

Ben Martin

Ben helped out at the first event and later organized the fourth REBC in Virginia. As Ben was on staff at the Virginia Association of REALTORS®, this was the first of many REBC’s hosted by a REALTOR® association.

The Evangelists

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RE BarCamp SF, 2008

There are too many people to list here, but an amazing number of people got involved early on, and would later play large roles in organizing events around the country. This list includes Ines Hegedus-Garcia, Kim Salmons, Bill Lublin, Tina Merritt, Teresa Boardman, Linda Davis, Gia Freer, Sarah Stelmok, Heather Elias, Ginger Wilcox, Maureen Francis, Drew Meyers, David Gibbons, Ricardo Bueno, Rhonda Porter, Greg Afarian, Nick Bastian, Kristal Kraft, Scott Schang, Nicole and Reggie Nicolay, Sara Fields, Jeff Corbett, Derek Overbey, Morgan Brown, Rob Hahn, Jeff Turner and Daniel Rothamel.

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RE BarCamp Philadelphia, 2009

It would have been cool just to get all these people to come to the event. That fact they thought enough of it to spread the idea across the country was amazing to witness.

Sherry Chris and Wendy Forsythe

Lets face it, free events can only happen with the help of sponsors. There were actually quite a few companies that were willing to help sponsor REBC events, but I’m not sure any were more consistent in helping than Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. More importantly, both Sherry and Wendy were extremely respectful of the grassroots movement and never asked for special considerations during the event.

Jim Marks

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RE BarCamp SF 2010

Jim hosted the 2009 RE BarCamp in San Diego. It was the first REBC to take place at the REALTORS® Annual Conference & Expo. Like the events tied to Inman Connect, the audience for this REBC was nationwide. A new generation of evangelists were hatched here and the REBC moment grew even more.

Mike Mueller

While I helped promote the early events on rebarcamp.com, I quickly ran out of bandwidth. Mike picked up the ball (rebarcamp.com) and ran with it. There’s probably no single person that has volunteered more of their time and effort to helping others organize and promote these events than Mike.

Peter Brewer and Richard Silver

Eventually, these events expanded outside of America. Richard played a big role in bringing the events to Canada, while Peter brought the concept all the way to Australia. REBC became an international movement.

Dan Green

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RE BarCamp Philadelphia, 2009.

Dan convinced me that hosting an RE Barcamp at NAR’s headquarters in Chicago would be a good idea. He basically did all the work organizing the event. I just got NAR (my employer) to donate the space. Some of the staff participated, but those that did remained pretty hands off. It was an event for the members. At the end of the day, NAR’s CEO, Dale Stinton, volunteered to participate in an open Q&A with the attendees for anyone who wanted to stick around.

RE BarCamp New York, 2009

RE BarCamp New York, 2009

The crowd asked Dale some pretty tough questions. They made a few remarks about not seeing the value of the organization. They questioned everything from RPR to the Rose Bowl float. Dale spoke about how the association’s agenda is guided by volunteer REALTORS®, and challenged the crowd to play a larger role by participating in the association’s committees and work groups.

Later, Dale and then president Charles McMillan decided that this challenge wasn’t enough. They wanted to specifically invite people from the REBC movement to participate in NAR’s committees. As a result, I worked with Rob Reuter from the Young Professional’s Network to find over 100 members that would bring new ideas and opinions to the committees. Years later, many of those newcomers would go on to chair some of NAR’s committees.

None of this probably would have happened without Dan wanting to do a REBC in Chicago.

Brian Copeland

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Andy Kaufman. RE BarCamp Austin, 2010.

Much of the rise in the popularity of RE Barcamp centered around the disruptive role new media and technology had on the industry at the time. Blogs, social networks, mobile technologies and the cloud were concepts that weren’t really being covered at traditional conferences. There weren’t a lot of proven methods for what to do and what not to do. The collaborative nature of REBC was often the best place to learn.

These concepts are better understood today and it’s probably not a coincidence that the buzz around RE Barcamp has waned over time. Yet Brian Copeland, who leads the REBC event in Nashville every year has continued to produce an event that is highly praised and attended.

In many ways, RE BarCamp Nashville is carrying the torch for the movement. While a lot of the national buzz is gone, it’s awesome to see that people are still getting together to geek out about real estate. I’m looking forward to heading to Nashville in April.

Will NAR’s bold moves with realtor.com pay off?

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for my family. We are in the process of moving back to Chicago, and I haven’t had much time to write. Last week, the National Association of REALTORS® Board of Directors met to approve “historic” changes to their agreement with Move Inc, to operate realtor.com. Inman News provided good coverage here.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 1.05.07 PMBasically, realtor.com will be able to display non-listed rentals, new construction properties, and some distressed properties. Basically, idea 3 from my prior post. I’m a proponent of moves like this.

NAR definitely paid a price to make this happen. REALTOR.com is no longer the members-only club it was a week ago. The site is now offering about the same member benefit as Trulia.com offers every real estate agent, REALTOR® or not. What will NAR receive in return?

These changes should help Realtor.com improve traffic, but will they be enough to regain the lead among real estate portals? I’m skeptical. It would be interesting to know what the BOD’s expectations are, which leads me to a question I would love your input on.

What result should NAR expect from Move Inc, now that it has “let realtor.com soar?”

Furthermore, will Move be able to deliver? The BOD’s decision is definitely a step in the right direction, but at best, they are playing catch-up. Trulia and Zillow have robust rental, new construction and distressed property programs in place. Move’s incorporation of New Home Source listings will likely make them a leader in new construction listings, but by how much? Meanwhile, Zillow is still meeting consumer demand for things that remain taboo for the REALTOR® family (agent ratings, Zestimates, FSBOs…). If NAR is expecting Move to regain the lead in traffic, they have their work cut out for them.

Only time will tell what will happen, but I think NAR will have some interesting decisions to make in the near future. Should the association bet on their horse to win, place, or show? If Move can’t deliver, the next special BOD meeting could be about a partnership with Zillow instead.

 

The REThink – REALTOR.com disconnect

In perhaps, the greatest introspection the National Association of REALTORS® has conducted in their history, the association spent the better part of the last year reimagining their future. I applaud the REThink project, and its findings. Strategic Planning Committee Chair Shannon Williams King, who was a force of nature in making it happen, should be commended. The report will help guide the association in forging strategic policy and keeping them relevant.

However, (you knew the ‘however’ was coming, right?)

introspectionOne of the the most popular ‘crazy ideas’ expressed was the notion to ‘take back REALTOR.com and upgrade it to compete with other national aggregators.’ That’s a tall task. Here’s an idea that’s a little more realistic, ‘take back REALTOR.com or upgrade it to compete with other national aggregators.’ See the distinction?

Unfortunately, what few members understand about the current partnership between NAR and Move Inc to run REALTOR.com is that NAR, a member driven organization, cannot be expected to compete with consumer driven organizations unless it’s members are fully committed to making serious concessions that are currently taboo. What kind of concessions? If NAR were to take back REALTOR.com, here are a few things members would have to accept: Continue reading

How NAR and Google can partner to build a member-centric real estate “portal”

File this under crazy ideas that Todd came up with that are full of risk and not likely to happen. 

According to Dale Stinton, NAR’s leadership is ready to “get in trouble“. That’s great news. Here’s  a way to get started.

outside the boxMany members want a national website that allows a listing agent to post their listings without  ads from competing agents. NAR could pull this off, but it will be really tricky.

NAR currently has a partnership with Move Inc to operate REALTOR.com. I think the partnership is a fair deal. REALTORS® get to publish their listings on REALTOR.com for free. Move funds the site by charging for premium or competing advertising on the site. However, this isn’t good enough for members who essentially want an ad-free platform. The REALTOR.com operating agreement is evergreen and includes non-compete language. Changing the agreement is difficult, and going around it is even harder. Continue reading