No, I’m not moving back to West Virginia, though that thought does cross my mind more often than some might imagine. I’m referring to my roots in the real estate industry.
Today, I am announcing that on October 1 I will be leaving my full-time position at RealSatisfied (a Placester company) and have accepted the position of North American CEO at immoviewer, the German technology firm that is currently a member of the NAR REach® Class of 2017 and the European market leader in 3-D virtual tour software. I will begin half-time with immoviewer on October 1, and I will continue working with RealSatisfied through the end of November to ensure a smooth transition.
Those of you who know me well can probably stop reading now. You know my roots. For everyone else, perhaps you’ll forgive this journey down memory lane.
The Roots, Late Spring 2003
I remember quite distinctly the moment I realized a new industry was in my future. A one-off “real estate show” I created for my neighbors was playing on their big screen television as a string of REALTORS® meandered through their broker’s open house.
I was not there to witness those reactions, but I was home when the agent running the open house knocked on my door to tell me he would pay to have more of them created for his clients. Of course, I had a feeling that would happen. Experiencing it happen felt better than I imagined. I had a massive grin on my face as he explained how the other agents reacted to the show. And a bigger smile as I imagined busting the pricing models that existed for the dizzying 360-degree tours that were the only game in town at that time. Here’s one of the earliest shows. I had to search through some old DVD’s to find this little gem, a pre-automation version I created for my own home sale.
I’m proud of the role Real Estate Shows played in changing the real estate virtual tour market and how the change in pricing, ease of creation, and the shift in tour style enabled agents to think outside the home. That was the Spring of 2003.
Fast Forward To Late Spring 2011
On the show floor of the Australian Real Estate Conference in Sydney, Australia, I met two guys in matching black polo shirts with an unfamiliar logo. Having never heard of RealSatisfied, I asked them to demo their product.
The same grin that came over my face at the door of my home in Woodland Hills came over my face then. It was evident this was a product that needed to be in the United States. I imagined we could reshape how real estate approached customer satisfaction in North America. And we did. I’m proud of the work we’ve done together.
What I could never have imagined, however, was that those two strangers from Australia, Phil Kells, and David King, would become two of my closest friends, or that our families would grow so close. These are relationships I will cherish the rest of my life. And I will miss working with them and all of the members of the RealSatisfied team. I will miss it very much.
Fast Forward Again To Late Spring 2017
A familiar grin spread across my face as I listened to Ralf von Grafenstein, CEO, and Steve Bintz, VP Sales, talk about immoviewer as we sat in our 30-minute REach® mentor session in Washington, D.C. at the National Association of REALTORS® legislative conference. The same smile returned as I watched them demo the ease of creating a tour using just a consumer level 360-degree camera, a camera three thousand dollars cheaper than a camera used to create similar 3-D tours.
What I did not know at the time was that Ralf would make a long journey from Berlin, Germany to Santa Clarita, California. He would hike with me at Towsley Canyon. He would brave a backyard bbq at my home, dare an evening with my family and neighbors, and survive the pointed grilling of my wife.
I wrote the following lines in November of 2006, “Real estate is about relationships. It always has been. It always will be.” I wrote those words as part of post describing the need and ability to use our shows to create more than just virtual tours of homes. That theme was central to my involvement in Project Blogger in 2007 for ActiveRain, as I attempted to shift focus from SEO to YEO.
“I’m not sure the way SEO works today will be the way it works tomorrow,” I wrote then. “Relationships won’t be impacted by changes in how Google ranks pages.” I was right. What I could not have predicted, however, is how much the next decade of change in social technology would impact our relationships in other ways. Our relationships are more important now than ever.
When Ralf kept batting away my attempts to refuse his offers to join immoviewer as CEO and continued to build the relationship, I realized that immoviewer was not just my next, but also a return to my real estate roots.
The challenge that lies ahead is a worthy one.
I know immoviewer has even greater potential. I’ve been using immoviewer’s software for months in my own home. So I am confident the right plan to move immoviewer forward will materialize in the coming weeks and months. The goal, however, is clear; empower agents and brokers to do more for less.
We are going to put the power of this exciting technology into more hands, improve the quality of local content across the board, not just for high-end listings, and give agents and brokers a tool that helps them tell more and better community stories with less effort and at a sensible price.
I’m ready for the challenge, and I’m looking forward to the ride. If you’re still reading this far, you’ve likely taken other journeys with me. I thank you for that.
I invite you to take one more.
The featured photo, only visible when sharing, is licensed under creative commons: photo by Thomas Kohler