In its latest move to bolster its stature with real estate brokers and agents, listing and valuation portal operator Zillow Inc. has hired Phoenix-based broker and blogger Jay Thompson as director of industry outreach and social media.
Thompson, a high-profile advocate of transparency and dissemination of listing data, is the latest addition to Zillow’s partner outreach team.
Last month, Zillow announced it had hired former Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc. CEO Bob Bemis as vice president of partner relations. The company’s partner outreach team team also includes Director of Broker Services Sara Bonert and Industry Outreach Manager Brad Andersohn, who came to Zillow from ActiveRain.
Thompson said he’s known those members of Zillow’s partner outreach team for years. The job appealed to him, he said, because, "I’m a big tech guy — I love the Internet, and I’m a wannabe geek. The opportunity to work with some ridiculously smart people in the real estate vertical is tremendously appealing."
Thompson will relocate to Seattle and said his wife, Francy Thompson, will take over their 4-year-old, 34-agent brokerage, Thompson’s Realty.
Zillow and other third-party listing portals have come under fire from some brokers in recent months over ads and lead forms for competing agents that sometimes appear next to listings on the sites.
A few brokers have decided to stop providing listings altogether to third-party sites not affiliated with a multiple listing service or Realtor association, such as Zillow and Trulia. Two MLSs dropped Zillow subsidiary Diverse Solutions as a provider of Internet Data Exchange (IDX) listings for their members’ websites after Zillow acquired the company in November.
Over the years, Thompson has been an advocate for distribution of listings on the Internet, in some cases even coming to Zillow’s defense on his blog, PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com.
"People have talked about Zillow since the day it launched," he said. "I’ve written frequently on my blog about agents who fear Zillow — I never have, I see them as a partner rather than a competitor."
Writing on the blog today, Thompson acknowledged that his decision to join Zillow "may very well blow a few minds," noting that he once "got yelled at on the (National Association of Realtors’) annual trade show floor for wearing a Zillow T-shirt."
Thompson’s outspokenness has also given him credibility.
In 2009, the National Association of Realtors appointed Thompson to an influential committee that helps determine policies governing the display and distribution of listings data by MLSs nationwide.
Thompson and Bemis were both advocates for less restrictive policies giving brokers and agents more freedom to make listings available to consumers over the Internet.
Although neither will be able to continue serving on the Multiple Listing Issues and Policies Committee, Thompson said it would be a mistake to conclude that their absence will have a big impact on future policy debates.
"Two guys not being on that committee — I can’t see it making that big a difference," Thompson said. "(NAR leadership) is not dumb, and not deaf. They do listen to other industry input."
Bemis, writing on Zillow’s blog on only his 10th day on the job, called Thompson "a highly respected and extremely knowledgeable industry voice. His insight will help agents and brokers learn how best to use Zillow to grow and market their business."