An Open Invitation to the NYC Buyer Graph: A Response to Rob Hahn

I wanted to write a response to Rob’s article to shed some more light on the details of the Buyer Graph, and to address some of the questions he raised. Rob, who is a great friend and someone I respect immensely, has graciously allowed us to publish our response here. Thank you, Rob.

Fundamentally, the question Rob raises is whether or not the Buyer Graph is an exclusive, closed “cabal” of brokerages, or an open platform where any party is welcome to participate. From the very beginning, the Buyer Graph has been designed as open platform. In my open letter published hours ago, I made it clear that today marks an invitation to brokerages nationwide to reach out and join our growing platform.

For some background on the NYC Buyer Graph: As part of our national expansion, we first started speaking with brokerages in New York City over two years ago to gauge interest in adopting the RealScout software. At that point, we didn’t have the idea of a Buyer Graph in place, as we were focused on our core functionality in helping agents collaborate with their clients around home search.

As more brokerages decided to sign-on with RealScout, however, it was clear that there was an opportunity to build a data network between brokerages, thereby providing an additional benefit to our customers.

It was there that the Buyer Graph idea was born. After the idea came together, we continued conversations with more and more brokerages in NYC to invite them to the network, which is how we got to our 7 inaugural members — a process spanning 27 months and involving our standard customer acquisition process and agreements.

In many ways, this launch process is similar to other platform and network launches, even those in other industries. Think about how Apple Pay was launched. Apple speaks to major retailers around the country to see if they’d participate in their payment platform, launches with a certain group of retailers, and continues to sign-up partners post-launch.

Our brokerage partners have been enthusiastic supporters of a open platform, and have in fact helped us by inviting their peers (large and small) to join. This is because there’s a strong advantage to our existing members (and for RealScout as a company) for this network to grow. Similar to any network — think LinkedIn or eBay, where the more participants in a network or market, the better it is for members.

I think one of the key questions Rob asked is whether or not we’d welcome Zillow or Redfin when it comes to the Buyer Graph, and whether that would eliminate the benefit of the Buyer Graph.

For the reasons above, we would absolutely welcome Zillow, Redfin, Compass or any of the other real estate brokerages onto the Buyer Graph. Having a broader-base of the market to collaborate with is a benefit to our members.

Does having an inclusive Buyer Graph negate its benefits? Not at all. The point of the Buyer Graph isn’t about building yet another walled garden in real estate, it’s about breaking them down.

11 Comments

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  1. Interesting but who gets all the value of buyer graph when the agents post their content? Who owns the content?

    1. Hi Ryan! I’d argue that consumers are the ultimate winners here, because their agents are now equipped with real-time buyer demand data instead of the historical data most agents rely on today. But, as you can imagine, the agents see a lot of value by having these tools in their arsenal. Broker owns the data.

  2. So essentially this is an alternative client portal branded to the brokerage and with listing inventory beyond MLS borders (similar to Home Snap in that manner) with live data that will help buyers and agents act with data happening now versus last month and you are going brokerage by brokerage for sign ups rather than Home Snap’s route of MLSs?
    Not knocking it, just wanted to book down to what it is.

  3. So essentially this is an alternative client portal branded to the brokerage and with listing inventory beyond MLS borders (similar to Home Snap in that manner) with live data that will help buyers and agents act with data happening now versus last month and you are going brokerage by brokerage for sign ups rather than Home Snap’s route of MLSs?
    Not knocking it, just wanted to boil it down to what it is.

    1. Yes, more or less. The kicker, and what makes us a bit different, is we reveal aggregated and anonymized buyer demand insights to listing agents on our platform. For instance, you can see how many more buyers you’d attract if you lower the listing price by $50,000, or what % of consumers are looking for a home near a park vs. how many active listings are near a park. Even once your listing goes live we can share insights about what buyers think of it. Finally, and this really strikes at the heart of the Buyer Graph concept… you, as a listing agent, can identify and market your listing to buyer agents on RealScout who have a matching buyer for your listing. Think modern day reverse prospecting. Feel free to email for more information, would love to chat!

      1. Andrew – thanks for this.
        To better my understanding: brokerages sign up for the Graph, and then RealScout aggregates, anonymizes, etc. the buyer behavior data and then reveals that data to:
        A. Only those within the Graph (through their own brand)?
        B. All RealScout users (through the RealScout brand)?
        Why not sign the brokerages on to the RealScout platform as users and aggregate all data and disseminate to all users? Does it come down to timing (ability to leverage real-time data vs sold data)?

      2. @Austin: If I understand your question correctly, we do in fact pursue (b) — but let’s connect offline so I can clarify how we think about privacy and network access.

  4. While some in this industry cling to the “mandated cooperation and compensation” policy that was scribed onto granite tablets centuries ago, others are perfectly entitled to apply different competitive strategies.
    In a free enterprise system, all businesses are free to produce, manufacture and sell their own products. Enjoining others, especially competitors, to take part in a sales transaction of their product is extremely rare to non existent for reasons that are very obvious to every other business. But not in real estate?
    I say bull.
    I get that Andrew is promoting an open platform here, but leaving that side for a moment, even if these companies agreed to work together to openly distribute and make their own data transparent to the consumer violates NO laws in a free enterprise system.
    If you say, wrong, I say this.
    If Mercedes agrees with BMW to sell each other’s vehicles, Hyundai would have no right to “cry wolf” and to then claim an unfair advantage. That would be considered insane. In fact, the same holds true with any and all businesses in this Country. Cooperation and compensation from a competitor are not in anyway consider to be “rights” to any third party.
    So why is this not the case in real estate?
    It is because those in this industry, that contribute little and expect a lot in return, have enjoyed the obvious benefits provided by a leveled playing field fostered by all aspects of organized real estate. Their objective? It’s simple. To sell more memberships.
    Bottomline. It is way past the time that productive brokers and agents discover ways to demonstrate their clear competitive advantages by applying THEIR data to the growth of THEIR businesses.
    As the market evolves, I sense that the days of the “uncanny, charitable contributions” industry leaders have made with their data and assets that have contributed to the betterment of their direct competitors are fast coming to an end.
    Listing brokers donating more than 55% of their gross transactional service fees to another broker that simply buys a membership in the MLS and “shows up to the MLS potluck with a fork” is insane.

  5. (Cross posting this over here, from Rob’s)
    This seems like the start of a Black Swan event. I’ve been wondering how those will take shape in the industry. Could Compass command so much market share that they can exclusively retain listings to develop a competitive advantage? What if the largest 50 national franchises banded together to take on Zillow?
    The problem with it all is the ultimate end-user is mis-assigned. Here, it’s the brokers, when it needs to be the consumers. Exclusives, sneak-peeks, etc. all benefit the brokerages and the intended transparency is only visible to the aforementioned, not their clients.
    Real estate technology that is coming on fast with the goal of disintermediating the agent misses the boat as well, placing their technology > agents > consumers. RealScout gets this. Not everyone does.
    Let’s connect and bring it offline, would love to learn more.

    1. Hi Austin. Happy to chat. aflachner [at] realscout dot [com].

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