Inc.: Highly Likable People Avoid These 12 Behaviors.

When Marilyn Wilson’s mother moved to California not too long ago, Wilson was tasked with selling her mom’s house in Buffalo, New York. She dutifully listed the house and waited for buyers to come calling.

A few days later, Wilson, a real estate consultant and managing partner of the WAV Group, went to to check on her listing. What she found was disconcerting. She saw four agents mentioned as the listing agent, with her name at the bottom of the list. She called the other three, but none knew anything about the house.

“All of them were from the other side of town,” she recalls. “One was 45 miles away.”

Welcome to what some call the “pay-to-play” world of Zillow, which charges agents a premium to be named on listings that are not their own. Zillow calls it the “premier broker” program, by which agents pay a fee to secure leads from people inquiring about houses in certain ZIP codes.

According to the company website, when a shopper makes an inquiry through Zillow (or the Zillow-owned site Trulia), the company confirms that the prospect is ready to speak with an agent. If so, it hands the would-be client off to the “premier” agent — as opposed to the listing agent, who, ostensibly, anyway, knows more about the property than anyone else, save for its owner.

f the premier agent can’t arrange a showing for the home, or if the buyer doesn’t like it, the agent can take them to other houses on the market — probably his or her own listings first. Now, the listing agent has lost a potential sale, as well as a potential new client.

On its site, Zillow claims premier agents close twice as many sales. And Matt Hendricks, director of broker relations, says it has been not only “an incredible lead generator” for the “tens of thousands” of agents who participate, but also a top revenue producer for the company.

Hendricks maintains that listing agents always pop up in the top spot, no matter how many premier agents are also listed. But the premier agents tend to have a more robust online resume than listing agents, he admits, which is likely to make them more attractive.

House shoppers are free to contact any agents associated with the listing, but consultant Wilson doesn’t like the concept. And neither do most agents who work hard to secure listings and jealously guard them.

“It can be a crapshoot,” said agent Myrl Jeffcoat of GreatWest Realty in Sacramento, California. “More than once, I have heard from buyers who thought they were contacting the listing agent … but (actually) called someone else.”

“When buyers click on a listing, they have no idea they are not going to get the listing agent,” agreed Kat Palmiotti of Grand Lux Realty in Monroe, New York. “Sometimes they get contacted by 10 different agents. It can be frustrating to a buyer.”

Wilson called Zillow’s program “very annoying.” Premier agents are “fishing for new clients,” she said. “They’re trying to buy leads, and they’re using someone else’s listings as bait. There’s no way they can represent the best interests of the seller, or the buyer, for that matter.

“They call back quickly, I’ll give them that. But they do not represent the house. Some have never been inside. Some are not even in that market.”

Wilson and some other angry agents have implored Zillow to remove non-listing agents’ names from listings, but she says the Seattle-based company refused. Zillow’s Hendricks says listing agents used to be able to pay to be the only agent whose name is on the “home details” page, but that feature was dropped a few years ago. Even sellers have been unable to stop the practice. Hendricks says that since sellers want the most exposure possible, most don’t want their agents to be the only ones listed.

So three years ago, a coalition of 65 of the largest full-service realty firms and multiple listing services in the country came together to wrest control of their bread-and-butter listings from Zillow and other third-party business disruptors — sometimes known as aggregators — by creating a public portal as an alternative. You may never have heard of Homesnap, but it is now the No. 1-rated agent mobile app and desktop site, with traffic up 40 percent in the last year.

“The industry-controlled portal has become our industry’s greatest ‘overnight’ success story,” says Wilson, who now advises the portal, but whose experience in Buffalo occurred long before she signed on.

Among other things, Homesnap’s technology allows you to take a photo with your mobile device of any house and instantly be shown all its pertinent details: size, number of bedrooms and baths, property taxes, school district, asking price (if it’s for sale) and even its estimated value (if it’s not). The idea is to give buyers and sellers a better online search experience than the one provided by companies such as Zillow, where agents spend beaucoup bucks promoting their listings.

Better yet, participants adhere to a set of Fair Display Guidelines, which call for search results to be sorted and ranked by the consumer’s search parameters, as opposed to any type of “featured” listing or paid placement. Only the names and contact information of the actual listing broker and agent can be displayed on the “property details” page. No inquiries by potential buyers will be diverted elsewhere.

Let’s look at how a roof is constructed in Cuba. “Mescla” or cement is mixed from a pile of sand, gravel, water, and mortar by a specific formula. Is lifted up a chute and dropped into a  sluice, and wheelbarrowed by hand into position. I had the amazing opportunity to participate in the construction of a home in Rancho Veloz, Cuba

The owner of a California-based mortgage broker finds himself in some trouble with federal regulators for posting sensitive personal information about mortgage borrowers in response to those borrowers leaving negative reviews about the broker on Yelp.

The Federal Trade Commission announced Tuesday that it is fining Mortgage Solutions FCS, which does business as Mount Diablo Lending, and its sole owner, Ramon Walker, for revealing borrowers’ information in comments on Yelp.

According to the FTC, Mount Diablo Lending and Walker allegedly posted borrowers’ credit histories, debt-to-income ratios, taxes, health, sources of income, family relationships, and other personal information in response to negative Yelp reviews. Some of the responses even revealed reviewers’ first and last names.

The FTC complaint states that in one example, Walker wrote on behalf of the company: “Your credit report shows 4 late payments from the Capital One account, 1 late from Comenity Bank which is Pier 1, another late from Credit First Bank, 3 late payments from an account named SanMateo. Not to mention the mortgage lates. All of these late payments are having an enormous negative impact on your credit score.”

In another comment, Walker allegedly wrote the following:

“His mother-in-law was on title but not on the new loan. The new loan was only going to be in his and his wife’s name. This was a cash out loan, he was supposedly using the funds to pay off his kids Med School bills. The notary that sat down to sign was concerned the mother-in-law who was signing her rights off of the property had dementia. This was never mentioned to us throughout the whole process.…The funny thing is he admitted to me in one of our final conversations that his mother-in-law actually did have a ‘slight’ case of dementia. OK SO WHAT THE NOTARY SAID IS TRUE!!!! The title company did try to work with him by saying if he could get a letter from a doctor stating his motherin-law was aware of what she was signing we could proceed. He didn’t want to go that route, evidently she doesn’t have the capacity to understand she is signing away her rights to the property…. I know you feel entitled to the funds from your mothers house as you clearly stated to me but unfortunately that is not the way the law works and there is nothing my company can do about it.”

The FTC alleged that Walker and Mount Diablo’s actions violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the FTC Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

According to the FTC, Walker and Mount Diablo agreed to pay $120,000 to settle the agency’s allegations.

In a statement provided to HousingWire, Mortgage Solutions FCS stated: “We fully complied with the FTC investigation and will implement stronger security measures as a corrective action. We will continue to cooperate with the FTC and its determination.”

Beyond the fine, the company is prohibited from misrepresenting its privacy and data security practices, misusing credit reports, and improperly disclosing personal information to third parties.

Mount Diablo must also implement a comprehensive data security program designed to protect the personal information it collects and obtain third-party assessments of its information security program every two years, the FTC said.

Beyond that, the company must designate a senior corporate manager responsible for overseeing the information security program to certify compliance with the order every year.

“Companies that use credit reports and scores have a legal obligation to keep that information confidential,” said Andrew Smith, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “They should not disclose that information to third parties without a legitimate reason to do so, and they certainly should not post that information on the Internet to embarrass or punish consumers, as happened here.”

[Update: This article is updated with a statement from Mortgage Solutions FCS.]

Source: Mount Diablo Lending owner in hot water for posting borrowers’ personal information in response to bad Yelp reviews – HousingWire How a Note-Taking System Can Make You Look Like the Smartest Person in the Room.