What’s the real estate industry’s worst nightmare? That Zillow Group launches a real estate brokerage, of course.
Zillow Group has vowed never to do this, but a new service from rental listing site Zumper serves as a reminder that the temptation to slide into the brokerage business can be tough to resist for some property-search sites.
In addition to serving up rental home and apartment listings nationwide, San Francisco-based Zumper is now brokering rental deals in the markets of Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston and New York through a new service called “Zumper Select.”
The service’s offerings include rental search, instant chat and personalized concierge service, virtual reality and video tours, and any follow-up required until a lease is signed, all through Zumper, the company told Inman. In launching the service earlier this year, Zumper obtained a real estate license to work directly with renters and ensure legal compliance.
Renters can provide their desired move-in dates and budget, and “experts” on the Zumper team will identify suitable properties, coordinate (and host) listing tours and guide renters through the lease signing (while throwing in a $100 gift card to the renter as a bonus), according to the company’s website.
The service is free to renters and Zumper collects a fee from landlords. The company is paying a growing team of in-house agents to close these deals for a commission.
The move puts Zumper in the middle of the transaction and could upset some brokers who may see it as an attempt to grab some of their business. Zumper says it’s received a “great response” to Zumper Select so far, but the service has already sparked some backlash from New York City brokers.
“[In] the last day since we launched in New York City, we have had a number of brokers sign up for the first time,” Zumper told Inman. “Zumper continues to have hundreds of broker feeds, and we haven’t seen many feeds cancelled.”
The feeds that have been cancelled haven’t caused a “substantial drop of listings on our site,” said Zumper. And many individual agents at brokerages that have canceled feeds are still posting listings to the site directly, according to Zumper. Agents will see no impact on their exclusive listings, the firm added.
Since launching in 2012, Zumper has raised $39.2 million from investors and steadily pushed into more corners of the rental listings market.
In 2016, it acquired competitor PadMapper, a move that expanded its millennial-centric user base and its coverage to Canada.
Inman has reached out to Zumper to inquire more about its in-house agents, the Select commission structure, and how many listings are available for Select service out of Zumper’s total number of listings. We’ll update the story accordingly.
Many agents and brokers have long worried that Zillow Group could leverage its brand and reach to launch a brokerage juggernaut. The company has promised time and again to never do this, pointing out that it might undercut its core business of selling ads to agents.
But Zumper’s venture into the brokerage business shows that a property-search site is capable of concluding that the benefits of directly brokering deals may outweigh the cost of potentially alienating some advertisers.
Movoto is another example of a company that once focused almost exclusively on using a property search site to feed leads to agents in exchange for fees, but later hired a substantial number of agents while continuing to operate its agent referral business.