Zillow’s new Instant Offers program beta-testing in Orlando and Las Vegas caused an industry wide discussion about its future plans.
On the one hand, it could be a great opportunity for agents to discover potential sellers in an area and win new listings. On the other, it could undermine the value of an agent by connecting investors to sellers without agent representation (and maybe even traditional buyers in the long run).
However, this article is not about speculating Zillow’s intentions. There are already plenty of articles and conversations on social media if you want to explore the varying views. This article is about Zillow showing its loyalty to an industry it publicly states that it loves and supports.
Remembering the purpose of Zillow
Rich Barton, co-founder at Zillow, is a person I greatly admire. His successful career and views on how to disrupt industries inspire me and entrepreneurs across the world.
I had the pleasure of hearing him give one of his “Power to the People” speeches last year. He discussed the companies he founded and how each one tried to change their respective industries.
A common theme among all his companies is empowering the consumer with information so they can make informed decisions. It’s why Zillow exists today. Homesellers want to track the value of their home, but they couldn’t do that prior to the existence of Zillow.
Changing for the better or worse?
Fast forward to 2017, and Zillow is trying a new concept because most of our industry continues to do things the way they’ve always been done.
Is Instant Offers one step closer to removing the agent from the transaction? Greg Schwartz, Chief Business Officer at Zillow, made a public statement last week about how the Zillow Group receives 70 percent of their revenue from agents, teams and brokers that advertise with them — implying that changing business models would undermine that revenue, which investors on Wall Street certainly won’t like.
He also said, “We believe in agents, and we always encourage consumers to work with them. We come in peace.”
If that’s the case, then I think Zillow needs to unequivocally show its loyalty to our industry by empowering us with all the information they obtain from this beta-test.
Zillow, here’s what we want to know
Apart from transaction information that must remain confidential, let the industry see what the beta-test really does or does not do, and what sellers really want or see value in. This will put our concerns about Zillow’s future intentions and where we fit in that equation to rest.
Having spoken with many brokerage owners across the country this past week, every one of them would like to know the following from that beta-test:
- How many sellers signed up without agent representation?
- How many offers were submitted by investors?
- How many investor offers were accepted by sellers?
- At what percentage under or over market did those offers come in?
- How many sellers listed with an agent after receiving the CMA?
Let’s face it, Instant Offers certainly takes Zillow in a direction that no major real estate listing portal — especially one financially supported by multiple listing services (MLS), brokerages and agents across the country — has ever gone.
Now is the time for all MLS executives, brokerage owners, agents, and Zillow Premier Agents to write to their Zillow representative requesting a copy of these results.
When asked to whether Zillow planned to share any of this information, company spokesperson Amanda Woolley said: “As Zillow Instant Offers is just a test, we know we have a lot to learn, both from what works for agents and what works for homeowners. As we are less than a few weeks into the test, we don’t have any data to share right now. We do everything we can to be as transparent with the industry as possible.”
Positive about the future
Whether this program truly helps or hurts the very people supporting Zillow is something any prudent business owner should know. Otherwise, it would be the equivalent of travel agents investing in Expedia.
It’s time for us to learn and change with the times as needed. If Zillow is going to lead that change and support our industry in the process, then I couldn’t be more excited to see the results of this beta test when they become available.
Let’s get all the facts on the table for everyone to see, so we can make an informed decision collectively, putting the speculations to rest.
I know Jay Thompson is tired of repeating himself.
James Dwiggins is chief executive officer at NextHome, Inc.