Do you need a place to get good real estate leads, the best rate on mortgages, and a really cool new iPhone application at no charge? You’ll never guess where to look.

It may come as a surprise, but Zillow has stepped up to the plate with three great resources that can help your business. While you may not love Zillow’s Zestimates (their online pricing tool that uses mathematical formulas to estimate a home’s value), you may find these other tools to be very useful.

Do you need a place to get good real estate leads, the best rate on mortgages, and a really cool new iPhone application at no charge? You’ll never guess where to look.

It may come as a surprise, but Zillow has stepped up to the plate with three great resources that can help your business. While you may not love Zillow’s Zestimates (their online pricing tool that uses mathematical formulas to estimate a home’s value), you may find these other tools to be very useful.

1. Profile marketing
While everyone seems to be focused on creating leads from social networking sites, there’s a much better approach called profile marketing. Both Trulia and Zillow offer this service. On Trulia, complete a profile and then answer questions posed by Trulia visitors. On Zillow, click on "advice." Next, enter the name of your city and state. To see questions posed by people in your area, click on buyer, seller or a number of other information fields. Zillow aggregates the questions and answers by topic.

What’s cool about this approach is that you can find buyers searching for agents to represent them. Here are two recent posts for Austin, Texas. Note the number of people who answered the question vs. the number of page views the answer(s) received.

Q: How do you figure out the fair market value of a house?
1 reply vs. 52 views

Q: Austin first-time homebuyer looking for buyer’s agent.
2 replies vs. 107 views

Older posts also continue to generate additional page views. The two posts below are a month old.

Q: My rental lease is up at the end of July. How soon prior should I begin looking at homes to buy?
2 answers vs. 203 views

Q: I’m thinking about buying.
4 answers vs. 220 views

Here, the buyers have already identified themselves as being interested in meeting an agent. This takes much less effort than trying to figure out a way to generate leads from Facebook and Twitter. If you regularly provide good answers to consumer questions, you have a high probability that they will contact you. Furthermore, this approach is highly targeted to the area(s) you serve. An important point to keep in mind: Provide a solid answer to the question, but never include the phrase "contact me" or any other type of sales pitch. …CONTINUED

2. New iPhone application
This is an amazing tool. Imagine that you are showing property. Your buyers spot a home that has no brochures in the brochure box. The sign says "appointment only." With a single click on Zillow’s new iPhone application, you can obtain the price, the photos, and all pertinent MLS information. Click a second time to text or e-mail the agent about showing the home. As you view an aerial map of the area using your iPhone GPS, the comparable sales data displays on the roofs pictured on the map. Since Zillow gathers sales data from a variety of sources including public records, this may become the easiest and quickest way to do a comparable market analysis on the fly.

3. Zillow’s Mortgage Marketplace
If your buyers asked you how to get the best deal on a mortgage, what would you recommend? Agents typically suggest a mortgage broker, a favorite bank, or perhaps an online service such as LendingTree. Zillow’s new Mortgage Marketplace provides a fourth alternative.

Finding lenders to finance mortgages continues to be a challenge. The jumbo market has been particularly difficult. Mortgage programs change so rapidly and have so many combinations of rates and fees, that even full-time mortgage professionals have trouble tracking them. Zillow has improved the online loan application process by doing the following:

  • Buyers can remain anonymous
    Both traditional and online lenders normally require extensive information before they will give the buyer a rate quote. Since buyers want to avoid being solicited by a number of lenders, many are reluctant to reveal their identity. Furthermore, buyers are justifiably concerned that multiple inquiries will harm their credit report. In contrast, Zillow gathers enough information to create a legitimate loan quote. They do not, however, require the buyer to provide their name, address, phone number, e-mail address or Social Security number. The buyer remains anonymous until he or she is ready to contact the lender. This also eliminates the hassle of unwanted e-mails and phone calls from multiple lenders.
  • An average of 15 quotes
    The LendingTree model provides the borrower with four quotes. Zillow provides an unlimited number of loan quotes from thousands of competing lenders. In fact, the typical borrower on Zillow receives 15 loan quotes. Each lender sees the other competing bids. This means great savings for the borrower.
  • Apples-to-apples comparison
    One of the most difficult aspects for consumers is choosing which combination of rates and fees is best for their situation. Zillow requires all participating lenders to divulge their rates plus all fees. This allows buyers to do accurate comparisons. Their system also allows borrowers to filter various loans by rate, fees, monthly payment, annual percentage rate (APR), lender rating, and distance to the lender.

The other aspect of this tool that gives consumers additional power is their rating system. As more people use the system, borrowers will be able to quickly spot which lenders are delivering the best combination of rates and customer service.

What do consumers think of Zillow’s tools? In March, Zillow generated almost 9 million total visitors and more than 720,000 loan quotes. In April they averaged 23,000 loan quotes per day.

While Zestimates may still not garner a lot of Realtor fans, these three new Zillow tools can be a valuable resource for both agents and consumers alike.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com.

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