Can you believe it?  On The Block Realty Inc. has actually opted into Zillow displaying our listings on their website.  Yes, that’s right - we’ve sold our souls to the devil, surrendered to the enemy and are currently digging our own graves.

But hold up.  Who or what is Zillow?  If you aren’t in the real estate industry worried what Zillow is planning to do to our profession, you may have never heard of this company before, especially if you live in Canada.  In simple terms, Zillow is a real estate marketplace with a serious focus on technology and innovation.   Think of on steroids. From artificial intelligence that gives consumers a better user experience to Zillow’s home price estimate tool (called Zestimate home values), the company is continually evolving and empowering consumers with information.

I recently attended a Zillow event where employees of the company bravely stood in front of a large group of GTA real estate salespersons, brokers, managers and owners and answered the tough questions and debunked many of the myths that Zillow has fallen victim to due to their ‘disruptive’ approaches. 

First, let’s look at some of the company’s most recent stats:

  • 195 million monthly users
  • 80% of US homes viewed on Zillow
  • $1.3 Billion in Revenue for 2018
  • 2 million real estate professionals listed on Zillow

How does Zillow make money?  Their main source of income comes from real estate professionals, property management companies and mortgage brokers paying to advertise to the millions of users flocking to their site daily.  Real estate professionals who pay to be “Premier Agents” can create targeted ads by location (not available to REALTORS® in Canada yet).  The higher the demand for that particular location, the higher the advertising cost.

Whether you are a skeptic or a supporter, Zillow is a company that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  It’s a billion-dollar company that caters to consumers and gives them the ultimate user experience.  For real estate professionals, Zillow provides the opportunity to get in front of potential clients and market your listings to a huge audience.  Yes, it will cost money but what kind of effective advertising or lead generation opportunity doesn’t cost money?  It’s also important to note that you aren’t forced to spend money with Zillow. Free options are available through the site.  A real estate brokerage can opt into getting all of their company's listings added to the site for free.  Real estate salespeople and brokers can also create their own profile (a great way to market yourself), add client testimonials and receive leads on your own listings posted to the site (if your brokerage has opted in).  

Should we be giving Zillow access to our listings?  From our perspective, we currently give access to our listings (for the most part) to other real estate sites that have opted into the listing feed with our local board, so what’s the difference?  More exposure?  More visitors?  Better stats about interest for the home?  How is that a bad thing?  Sure, those other brokerage sites aren’t actively making money by selling buyer leads to other REALTORS® but if a consumer visits a competing brokerage site, sees your listing and contacts a salesperson from that brokerage to see the home, aren’t they stealing your business?  How dare they! Or is this just another opportunity to sell your client’s home faster?

Here’s our perspective.  We can’t be so protective over our listings.  Listings shouldn’t be used as a way to generate more business.  Sure, listings typically generate leads, but that’s not the point, that’s a bonus.  At its core, when a home owner hires you to sell their home, they deserve the best possible service, which doesn’t include fighting over buyer leads.  We should want and be expected to expose a client’s home to the maximum number of buyers and what better way to do that then through a site that is likely going to be one of the (if not THE) top home search destination for consumers?

More importantly, before making a judgement or choice about what to do for your brokerage, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and personally educate yourself on Zillow or any other ‘disruptor’ out there.  There are so many new companies, new approaches and new technologies entering our industry and although they may seem threatening from the outside, once you understand their goals, process and why they exist, you may realize that a lot of these companies were created to address a need that likely is focused on putting the consumer first.  Our brokerage has taken a similar approach and it only makes sense to embrace others who are doing the same.



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