Love it or hate it, Zillow is not going anywhere. Even with ListHub cutting off its feed, Zillow’s business will not suffer. In fact, it could probably make the portal even more trustworthy in the consumer’s eyes.
I posted a simple question to my Facebook wall the other day, and the replies indicated why consumers trust Zillow more than they trust real estate agents. Here’s what I learned:
1. Zillow doesn’t try the hard sell with consumers.
You know how much you hate it when someone from Zillow calls you up and tries to sell you that popular ZIP code or talk up that premier agent program? It drives all of us bananas! How dare they call us and interrupt our day?!
Guess what we are doing to consumers? Many agents employ those same hard-sell techniques with consumers. From forced registration on Internet data exchange sites to mass cold-calling for-sale-by-owner and expired listings, real estate agents have a bad reputation for being the proverbial used car salesmen of the housing industry.
But Zillow doesn’t sell to the customer like they try to sell to us. There is no forced registration to view properties, no chat pop-up boxes asking if they need help buying or selling a home, and no hiding useful information behind the “contact us for details” button. Sure, the information may not be accurate (much of that is our fault), but the data is all there for consumers to research without feeling pressured.
2. Zillow has created a strong brand.
When the president of the United States wanted to conduct a forum on the current housing market, did he call NAR (the National Association of Realtors) to set it up? No. Instead, Barack Obama sat down with Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff. When it comes to branding, Zillow has done its homework. Zillow is near the top of the first search engine results page for just about any real estate term or search. When Google trusts Zillow that much, why shouldn’t the consumer?
Zillow has national advertising spots that focus on the consumer and the experience rather than the agent and the benefits of using an agent. It has created what is arguably the best app for finding homes while on the go. Zillow is a brand about the consumer.
3. Zillow creates great content.
Many agents complain how Zillow “steals” listings and sells the leads back to them, but in reality, Zillow creates a ton of original content and has built a dominating online presence. Zillow has 260,000 followers on Twitter, 1.3 million likes on Facebook, 49,000 followers on Instagram, 25,000 followers on Google Plus, and its website gets over 45 million unique visitors per month. To put this into perspective, realtor.com has only 111,000 followers on Twitter, 96,000 likes on Facebook, 664 followers on Instagram, 10,000 followers on Google Plus, and its website generates just over 22 million unique visitors per month.
Zillow creates content that is not only informative and educational, but also fun and engaging.
On Facebook alone, Zillow’s last five posts had a combined 959 likes and 268 comments at the time of this writing, while the realtor.com Facebook page received only 179 likes and nine comments on its last five posts.
4. Zillow educates the consumer.
Sure, we mentioned that Zillow’s content is educational, but Zillow has also done a better job of educating the consumer than NAR or its members ever will. A quick look at the Zillow blog or social media profiles will show you where rent was the highest in 2014, how much renters are paying compared to homeowners in monthly housing expenses, and four tips for selling your home in the winter. There is also mention of a newly updated app to help consumers find the perfect home.
Looking at the realtor.com blog, I see mention of a bunch of celebrities who are selling homes. How does that help the consumer? The MLS has been around a long time, and we haven’t even educated people enough to know that just about any agent can show just about any home to a buyer — and also show just about any home on their website.
5. Zillow knows when to shut up.
Originally this was only going to be a four-part list, but I had to add this fifth one. Perhaps this relates to the proverbial car salesman part, but you don’t see Zillow sticking its nose into conversations. You don’t see Zillow commenting on a post about Trulia or using Facebook or Twitter search functions to find someone looking for real estate and then suggesting that the seeker download an app or visit a website.
Real estate agents do this all the time. My original Facebook post clearly stated that I wanted only non-real estate friends to comment. Yet here comes the used car salesman to push her real estate opinion about a topic that specifically asked for non-real estate friends only to comment. And in true Realtor fashion, she changed the focus from the consumer back to the agent.
Our industry is so fragmented and competitive that we have allowed an outsider to come in and create a better website, a better mobile app and a better user experience. We are lucky that Zillow isn’t entering the brokerage business — because if it did, we would all be in some serious trouble.
It’s time that we got our act together and started serving the consumer rather than serving our own best interests — or else real estate agents will soon go the way of travel agents and Blockbuster Video.
Brian Rayl is a Dallas real estate agent with Keller Williams and the co-founder of Home Value Leads, where he teaches agents how to generate real estate seller leads quickly and cost-effectively.