Realtor Veronica Figueroa has nabbed 48 seller leads through Zillow Instant Offers since it launched on Monday, and she’s working to see how many she can convert into listings.
“The numbers just keep on coming in,” she said.
She and her team are still sorting out which leads are legitimate, but she’s confirmed that at least a few appear to be motivated sellers. The product has a lot of potential, but capitalizing on it requires commitment, flexibility and support, said Figueroa, broker-owner of Orlando, Florida-based Re/Max Innovation.
Zillow Instant Offers, a test product that Zillow is piloting in Orlando, Florida; and Las Vegas, allows homeowners to receive quick offers from multiple investors alongside a comparative market analysis (CMA) from Zillow agent advertisers such as Figueroa.
Each CMA request is a seller lead for an agent, not just an acquisition target for an investor.
The flood of potential listings reminds Figueroa of the “REO days,” when high-volume agents like herself helped banks offload mountains of foreclosures.
Figueroa was able to discover that one Instant Offers lead has posted a property as a for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) listing on Zillow.
“This person trying to do it on their own has failed,” she said. “I think at this point they’re saying let me try (and entertain offers from investors).”
The FSBO listing has mediocre listing photos and appears to show incorrect square footage. Figueroa’s CMA will suggest to the owner that she could sell the home for $268,000, a few thousand bucks higher than its current list price.
Her goal is: “To give [Instant Offers leads] enough information and ‘wow’ them enough to say, ‘Hmm, maybe I really should consider talking to this agent.'”
She thinks her CMAs will beat investor bids by a high margin and hopes homeowners will be impressed with their look and feel. Her valuations are optimistic, reflecting both comparable sales and her marketing firepower, such as listing homes as “coming soon,” staging and Facebook marketing, she said.
But she isn’t going overboard.
“We also have to stay true and authentic to what the market is dictating,” she said.
The information she sends to homeowners includes a custom-branded CMA, photos and data for all comparable sales, and a slick “seller guide” that she’s been perfecting over the last year.
Figueroa and her team are cross-checking Instant Offers leads against public records and multiple listing service data to sort the good from the bad.
Some leads didn’t upload property photographs with their offer requests, making it difficult to value their homes. It’s unclear how many leads — if any — she’ll be able to convert into listings.
She has not been contacted by any Instant Offers leads so far. She’s only sent CMAs their way. But she’ll begin reaching out to the best candidates in a few days, knocking on their doors and dropping off seller guides.
Zillow only provides agents with contact information for Instant Offers leads if the consumer chooses to proceed with them based on the CMA, but that won’t necessarily stop go-getters armed with lead addresses from getting in touch.
As with any new service, there are some kinks that can be ironed out, Figueroa said. She’ll recommend a few tweaks, such as requiring homeowners to upload photos and a better system for organizing leads by address.
“Since this is a test, I am confident my feedback will be taken into consideration,” she said.
But Figueroa thinks these fears are overblown. She wants to learn from and exploit new business models and technologies.
“This is not the antichrist,” she said.
Institutional investors will sometimes make competitive bids — enough to outdo first-time buyers — on homes generally priced at $250,000 or less, she said.
But most offers from Instant Offers investors will be on the low side, setting up agents sending valuations through Instant Offers to look like the best choice, said Figueroa.
Homeowners who sell to investors are “leaving money on the table,” she said. “Our job as agents is to show our value proposition.”
Even if an Instant Offers user chooses to accept an investor offer, Figueroa will still try to squeeze some business out of the situation.
She’ll offer to shepherd the transaction from investor bid to closing for as little as $1,500.
“In my opinion, I don’t think the agent will be extinct as a result of [Instant Offers],” Figueroa said. “I think that agents just need to sharpen their skills and sharpen their value proposition.”
Zillow Instant Offers raises many questions: How often will consumers choose investor bids over Zillow agent advertisers? If they go with an investor offer, will they use the agent advertiser to close the deal? Is Zillow acting as a brokerage or just a new type of matchmaker?
The answers aren’t clear yet, but Figueroa’s experience appears to prove at least two things: Instant Offers resonates with prospective sellers and will put agents on their trail.