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So Regal Group Joins First National Realty - And?

By Phil Butler | February 17, 2011

An article in The Daily News, one of Memphis' most visible online news outlets, shows just how desperate agents there have become. At least desperation is one explanation for First National Realty and The Regal Group LLC announcing a merger as if the deal was anything but a necessity. The two Memphis based groups are playing up Regal being absorbed by First National as some sort of strategic wizardry, while attempting to laud cutting edge services at the same time - when  nothing could actually be farther from the truth in my view.

Let's examine the fee structure

Let's examine the fee structure - once any of us gets paid that is

I don't know about you, but even as a PR I am about sick of the BS. Just what is wrong with relating the facts to people, in this day and age, is a mystery to me. Just like bad PR people, real estate and other professionals are taking it on the chin - and as we see - some deservedly so. Observe this quote from the Daily News:

"The merger will provide agents the ability to compete effectively in a changing real estate market, said Cynthia Murrell, principal broker of The Regal Group. With a new ownership structure, Murrell will offer agents the option of affiliation with a traditional Realtor board like the Memphis Area Association of Realtors or the Mid-South Real Estate Board or remain in business as a non-affiliated independent real estate agent."

What would you glean from this passage? Affiliations with boards - just what every starving real estate broker in the world needs right now. Maybe First National, instead of providing cutting edge digital tools, has decided to start soup kitchens for those 300 agents of theirs? Let me illustrate a bit of their ineffectual corporate dogma, versus the reality of at least their online existence.

The Internet changed the way buyers search for homes so shouldn't you deal with a company that is prepared for the next stage of growth? By leveraging technology, dealing with volume and re-thinking the practice of real estate, First National is leading the Real Estate Revolution one agent at a time.

Now, reading this anyone would naturally assume whoever wrote it to be at the driving razor edge of social engagement - or at least of possessing a killer website chock full of agent tools. Something to this effect, any way. The Internet changed a lot, but obviously not hollow salesmanship.

First National has a decent website, but unfortunately for the brokers who work with them, no one on this Planet ever sees the site. At Alexa 4 million plus, and falling? Compete actually shows about 1,000 unfortunate souls landing there per month, but their metrics lag behind some others as you can see via the Alexa graph below.

Real time Memphis digital awareness

Digitally aware and cutting edge? Not

And then there is Regal Group, the digital equivalent of flowered bell bottoms and a 72 VW van with a peace symbol on it. I almost feel badly about being a bit brutal here, but I promised myself and our readers early on about "tough love." Competition in these trying times is going to take a heavy toll, heavier than we have already seen too. Typical corporate hype will, in the end, prove deadly for many professionals - and more importantly, for the people who depend on brokers. A real estate commission is a real estate commission - this is my dogma. Who gets to earn it? Hopefully the best, that's who.

Put up or shut up

The Regal listings page - flower power under construction

A great many companies broadcast how digitally aware they are, how they have outdistanced their traditional "brick & mortar" competitors - put millions of miles between themselves and competitors. My question is; "Why would anyone buy a home, or anything for that matter, from someone who deceives them?" Think about that used car guy who told mentioned the "as is" disclaimer when the car he sold you fell apart.

Interestingly, but not surprisingly, of the 30 agents covering alphabetically A and B on the First National site, only 4 took the time to actually fill in their profile. As for Twitter or Facebook buttons etc? None I could see bothered. But let's get something straight, being a great real estate person is not all about engaging on Facebook and Twitter. It is about using the available tools for clients, and professing only true capability though. Now that we are straight on the "why" of this article.

Getting down to the brass tacks, First National Realty is the brainchild of Larry Mayall (Facebook), who for those unaware, has been in a bitter feud with the Memphis Area Association of Realtors. He is a sort of pied piper against MLS and association fees. Without helping him toot this horn, let's just say Mayall has lots of irons in the fire, but no red hot ones. At least not as far as I can tell. His son's 9 to 5 Realty site is not even indexed as far as I can tell.

Used car sales and real estate - one in the same

Have I got a deal for you! The end of the used home salesman is coming

The long and short of Mayall's "cowpoke" attitude and endeavors is that he is fairly ostracized from the normal brokerage structures. Being a maverick in trying to form a new system for associations and for the "flat fee" versus traditional commission structure - we have not the space to determine the right or wrong of this. What we can determine is apparent BS marketing hype - which most Realtors are quite frankly, guilty as sin of.

Sell real estate online

Give Twitter and Facebook a try at least

My best advice to Mayall, if he wants to garner the real estate rates scrambling from the sinking ship of traditional realty in Memphis, is to put up or shut up on providing tools - especially digital ones. In the end, Mayall and the Memphis Area Association of Realtors may soon end up fighting over nothing at all - you have to sell houses to pay for things - online or off. This hyperbole seems a bit sad to me, as Mayall (or someone writing for his new blog) appears to be quite eloquent and knowledgeable.

Phil Butler is a former engineer, contractor, and telecommunications professional who is editor of several influential online media outlets including part owner of Pamil Visions with wife Mihaela. Phil began his digital ramblings via several of the world’s most noted tech blogs, at the advent of blogging as a form of journalistic license. Phil is currently top interviewer, and journalist at Realty Biz News.
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