Technology

Zillow’s next big move may be to help agents target sellers

Ads around off-market properties would generate listings

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Agents may think of the big home search portals mainly as a source of buyer leads. But sellers are a hot commodity, and Zillow is thinking about building an ad product designed to deliver them to agents.

Ads targeting buyers that brokers and agents purchase on Zillow today show up when consumers look at information about any home in Zillow’s database, whether it’s for sale or not.

In the future, Zillow may separate its ad product into two flavors: ads targeting buyers that appear with for-sale listings, and ads aimed at sellers appearing next to homes that aren’t for sale, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff told investors today on the firm’s third-quarter earnings call.

Zillow added a net of 4,059 agent subscribers in the third quarter, ending the period with a total of 60,877 agents who pay the firm to brand the approximately 110 million homes in its database. Agent subscribers spent a monthly average of $349 in the third quarter with Zillow, a 32 percent jump from a year ago and a record high for the firm.

Most of that increase came from existing advertisers buying more inventory, not from increased prices or increased participation in Zillow’s lender co-marketing program, Zillow Chief Financial Officer Chad Cohen said.

Zillow reduces the number of listings agent subscribers can “feature”

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Zillow reduced the number of listings that agent advertisers can prevent other agents from advertising on from 25 to 10 in the last few months.

Rascoff said this was a way for Zillow to establish more inventory on its for-sale listings.

The move could also be a response to a shrinking amount of inventory Zillow has on for-sale listings as it signs more deals with national franchisors like Keller Williams Realty and large brokerages like Howard Hanna Real Estate and Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Keller Williams, for example, has a deal with Zillow that prevents competing agents from advertising on all of its approximate 144,000 listings on Zillow, Keller Williams spokesman Kevin Priestner told Inman News.

Though Zillow has established itself as the clear Web and mobile traffic leader in real estate, Rascoff says there is reason to believe that it can go bigger. “For perspective, in the U.K. and Australia, visits per capita or per household to the leading online real estate destinations are approximately two times greater than we are currently experiencing,” Rascoff said.

Unique visitor traffic* to most popular real estate sites, August 2014

Website August mobile and desktop unique visitors % of total unique visitors to real estate sites in August Percentage point difference July – August
zillow.com 49.3 million 47.7% 0.9%
trulia.com 30.2 million 29.2% -0.9%
realtor.com 24.1 million 23.4% 0.3%

Source: comScore *Includes traffic from desktop computers and mobile devices (mobile Web and native apps)

Zillow’s third quarter

Zillow reported $88.6 million in third-quarter revenue, the bulk of it, $61.7 million, coming from the money it makes from agent subscribers. While third-quarter revenue was up 66 percent from a year ago, beating analysts’ predictions, Zillow’s projections that it will generate $89 million to $90 million in revenue this quarter fell slightly short of analysts’ expectations.

Zillow booked a net loss of $16 million for the quarter, of which $13.2 million was attributed to costs related to the pending acquisition of Trulia.

Shares in Zillow fell 4.2 percent Thursday, to $99.37, closing below $100 per share for the first time since May.

Shares in Zillow are down 40 percent from a 52-week high of $164.90 seen on July 28, the day that Zillow announced its plan to acquire Trulia for $3.5 billion in stock.

zillow_July28_nov6_2014_yahoo_finance
Zillow’s price per share is down 40 percent since July 28. Source: Yahoo Finance.

As a clear leader in Web traffic among real estate sites and a leading brand with consumers, Rascoff said he is confident that Zillow has the revenue runway to grow into its $4 billion market cap.

He said Zillow is poised to serve “the agent of the future,” who will get an increasing amount of business through lead generation online, like Zillow advertisers who attended the firm’s first-ever national convention in Las Vegas in mid-October.

“These agents invest in and are sophisticated about Internet marketing and Internet lead management, and know how to work leads gained from the Internet,” Rascoff said on the earnings call.

“There will be a time, five years from now when most of (agent) ad spend is online and it’s wherever the mobile shopper is,” Rascoff said. “And most of the commissions are earned by agents who are tech-savvy and understand Internet lead generation and take control of their online reputation and use software to run their business and are part of the team and are sophisticated about Internet marketing.”

Rascoff said Zillow is well on its way to fulfilling its goal of establishing its brand as “the ubiquitous household name in homes and online real estate search.”

Aided by Zillow’s projected $75 million national advertising campaign this year, the Zillow brand now leads the real estate category in “unaided awareness” among consumers, according to a September survey by Ipsos AAU Brand Tracker.

Respondents to the survey were asked to “name a real estate website or mobile app,” and responded with “Zillow” 31 percent of the time, which was tops in real estate, Rascoff said. Before Zillow started its national marketing campaign last year, respondents named “Zillow” 9 percent of the time.

Zillow announces agent-specific features of mobile app

Zillow also announced it has updated its iOS and Android mobile apps with agent-only features today. Any agent who advertises with Zillow or has established a free Zillow profile can use the new features.

New agent-focused features include:

  • Push notifications alerting agents the instant they receive a contact from Zillow.
  • Quick emails: Agents can save custom email templates by inquiry type, so they can tailor messages to buyers within a certain price range, ZIP code or any other differentiator they choose.
  • Auto responder: Agents can enable a customizable instant response with one click when they know they won’t be able to follow up immediately.
  • Request reviews: Agents can now request reviews right from their mobile device. The review request text is customizable, and requests to multiple clients can be sent at once.
  • Upload past sales: Agents can upload past sales whenever they have a few minutes to spare by simply entering the address and clicking “Add sale.”
  • Agents can search and manage all contacts received from Zillow directly within the app. They can also enable drip campaigns, forward contacts to colleagues, leave a note about each contact, and more.
  • Agents can add photos, open house information or price changes to existing listings, and agent subscribers can post “Coming Soon” listings directly from the app.

“(The new agent-focused features in Zillow’s mobile app) improve lead conversion, which in turn improves the ROI for Premier Agents and gives them more reason to buy more impressions from Zillow,” Rascoff said on the earnings call.