The gatekeeper mentality is alive and well in the real estate industry. Some real estate companies sell potential buyers on the idea that they have information about homes for sale that no one else does. They see that as their value in the marketplace.

There are a lot of real estate agents who dislike Zillow because, in many markets, Zillow has all of the listings and then some. Zillow has changed quite a bit over the years. It’s become a valuable resource for buyers, sellers — and their agents. But so many agents stubbornly snub Zillow simply because they don’t like it.

The game has changed

For decades, part of being a real estate professional was about having inside information that consumers could not get on their own.

People would have to come to us with their real estate questions. Now, they can just go to Zillow and find answers. Sometimes they call us after they find the answer on Zillow just for some reassurance.

The internet hasn’t changed the homebuying process, but it has educated consumers. I like working with educated consumers.

According to the National Association of Realtors, 87 percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker — a share that has steadily increased from 69 percent in 2001. Zillow hasn’t even been around since 2001.

I don’t think the portal has been bad for business.

House hunting is only a small fraction of the job

Finding a home for sale or helping to find a home for sale is only a small part of what a good real estate agent does these days. Finding a home for sale doesn’t take an expert or special insider information.

We solve problems throughout the transaction. We bring it all together and make it happen. I see situations where there was a willing buyer and a willing seller, but the sale would never have happened without the help of motivated and talented real estate agents.

Making the largest purchase of your life or selling your most expensive asset isn’t easy. People get all emotionally involved, and they mess things up. The seller takes it personally when the buyer’s inspector says the home is a death trap.

I am not a Zillow agent. I guess it is called “Premier Agent.” Our MLS feeds data to Zillow, which helps Zillow have accurate data. It also helps the Premier Agents capture leads from my listings, and it seems to make my sellers happy.

Even though I don’t send money to Zillow, I use it, and I’m surprised that some agents reject the portal and won’t go near it. They refuse to check it for listings.

When I work with homebuyers and I want to help them find a suitable home, I look on our MLS first, but I also check Zillow. I look for “Make Me Move” listings and “For Sale By Owner Listings” and even the “Coming Soon Listings” that real estate agents use for lead generation.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too

Last year, two of my own listings started as “For Sale By Owner” listings on Zillow. How I personally feel about Zillow has never been part of the conversation that I have with my clients.

As a broker, I have a choice. I choose the maximum exposure for our listings, and that means having them on all of the portal websites and on the websites of my competitors.

The days of agents being gatekeepers and having secret information are gone, and they have been gone for 20 years. People interested in keeping information secret should work in healthcare or network security.

As an industry, we need to stop blaming Zillow and other sites like it. The information age and the internet are to blame. We all exploit both every day as we make money selling real estate.

Zillow isn’t hasn’t changed the job of a real estate agent or a broker. The homebuying process has remained basically the same for decades.

The buyers and sellers that I work with usually understand the market well because they have done their research on the internet, and that is also where they found me.

Decades ago, there were a lot of people who believed that the internet would replace real estate agents, yet there are more of us now than there were 20 years ago. And in many ways, the job of selling real estate has gotten more complicated than ever.

People are not avoiding the real estate agent and buying or selling on their own. Selling real estate is sufficiently complicated and intimidating for most homeowners. In fact, according to NAR, FSBOs only accounted for 8 percent of home sales in 2016.

First time home buyers, in particular, need a lot of information and hand holding to get through the process and most are not comfortable with the idea of purchasing a home without some help.

I’m beginning to seriously question how well agents are representing buyers in this strong seller’s market if they are not willing to hunt for homes for sale on any and all websites that may bring in a seller lead.

Isn’t it our job to help buyers find a home?

If you are a real estate agent, go ahead and look at the Zillow website. Use it as a free resource, let other agents pay for it.  Zillow is a resource that our associations and real estate companies do not have and cannot provide for us — and they do not need to.

Use the site, and stop being the last to know about a home for sale because you won’t check Zillow.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of

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