Technology

‘I don’t trust Zillow — but I trust Greg Schwartz’

Schwartz is Zillow's go-to guy for real estate industry

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Takeaways:

  • The real estate industry face at Zillow is Greg Schwartz.
  • He is smooth, but he also has the respect of his industry peers.
  • Schwartz has navigated rocky industry issues like the Errol Samuelson lawsuit, dotloop acquisition and MLS licensing controversy.

At Inman Connect in San Francisco earlier this month, Pacific Union mega broker Mark McLaughlin was asked about a recent blog post in which he criticized Zillow. He said that he had talked to Zillow executive Greg Schwartz after he published his blog rant.

I asked him if he now suddenly trusted Zillow. He said with a laugh, “No, but I trust Greg Schwartz.”

At times, Zillow may be on the ropes with the industry — or even outright despised — but meanwhile, Schwartz is well-liked and respected. He has an uncanny ability to snuff out data fires, calm industry freakouts, and persuade MLSs, franchises and brokers to sign Zillow deals.

Most importantly, as the guy responsible for revenue, he is driving the company’s financial engine, which booked $171 million in revenue in the second quarter of this year.

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The 37-year-old East Coast native faces mounds of controversies, including the contentious hiring of realtor.com executive Errol Samuelson, nasty HR lawsuits in the Zillow sales group that he manages — and, most recently, the swirl around the dotloop acquistion.

But his biggest challenge has been allaying industry fears about the influence of Zillow and confronting speculation that it plans to chew up the real estate business and spit it out.

With an arresting smile, he is personable but direct. His regular-guy personality is more approachable than some of his colleagues, and Schwartz politely challenges those he engages while showing genuine interest and concern — Bill Clinton-esque in his mannerisms.

“Greg has the ability to make an entry-level person feel equal like you are an executive,” said real estate broker and entrepreneur Ben Kinney. “His calm demeanor might make you underestimate how intelligent, calculated and driven he actually is.”

Schwartz navigates the choppy waters of Zillow’s sometime murky relations with the real estate industry. He spins like the best of them, but he is careful not to deceive or misrepresent Zillow’s sometimes unclear motives.

His boss, Spencer Rascoff, is best suited for Wall Street, and CFO Kathleen Philips and COO Amy Bohutinsky stay behind the scenes with the real estate industry. Greg is the go-to guy to clean up industry muck.

Once Samuelson is freed from his legal noose, he is expected to take over industry drama that can overwhelm Schwartz, but where his credibility often perseveres.

Self-deprecating, he will randomly ask, “How are we doing?”

I often hear real estate executives remark, “Greg said …, Schwartz promised …, and we got the word from Greg.” They consider him the trustworthy connection to the Zillow beast.

“He is a class act, a tough but fair negotiator,” said affable Houston Association of Realtors CEO Bob Hale. “Greg is consistently a gentleman, whether wearing a Ralph Lauren suit or a pair of jeans.”

Indeed a master schmoozer, Schwartz speaks French, sits on the board of the Seattle Zoo, and graduated from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, which was ranked 15th in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Notable graduates include Ezra Pound (1905) and psychologist B. F. Skinner (1926).

Schwartz joined Zillow in 2007 and has moved up the ranks to his current role as chief business officer, a title he received earlier this month, the same day Zillow announced that Kathleen Philips was its new chief financial officer and Amy Bohutinsky its new chief operating officer.

Not a common executive title, it is unclear whether this was a promotion or some sort of nod by Rascoff because Bohutinsky was made COO.

Prior to joining Zillow, Schwartz held executive positions at CNNMoney, Yahoo! and DoubleClick. His annual salary is $383,000; before his bonus, he has exercised options valued at $5.1 million and has outstanding options valued at more than $13 million.

MLS executive John Heithaus sums up Schwartz: “He is one of the most focused executives in the real estate business.”

Greg Schwartz compensation at Zillow

Salary with bonus $595,393

Stock options*

Exercised Options 54,465
Exercised Options Value $5,118,511
Exercisable Options 105,079
Exercisable Options Value $9,767,301
Unexercisable Options 90,029
Unexercisable Options Value $3,284,091
Total Value of Options $18,169,903
Total Number of Options 249,573

Email Brad Inman.