We have pitted ourselves, not only against each other, but against a creature that has been effectively working the real estate system for over a decade: Zillow.
To add insult to injury, the strategy Zillow has used to impact the real estate industry has been an obvious tactic that has been ignored since it launched in 2006.
It gave the customers exactly what they wanted for free: information.
Zillow has been, up until recent years, a marketing company. It has been sustained by commission-breathed agents and the coveted IDX feed to prove its concept and boost its attention grabbing mission.
Zillow is a company that has been very strategic in its initiatives and purpose from the get-go. The company’s growth that began in 2011 —and eventually made mortgage companies, dotloop and tech companies part of its group — did not happen by accident.
Today, a majority of the real estate industry is screaming for help to defeat the dreaded beast that we have been feeding for more than 10 years. Begging it to stop doing what it has always been doing.
Accepting our info, money and data that we willingly provide for the promise of a commission check. All the while, using our “donations” to solve client-based challenges.
Zillow is our own fault.
What’s the answer?
Today, our CEOs and leaders are stating that they can slay the beast at its own game. The game that Zillow has been playing for over a decade is, all of a sudden, obvious to us, and we can do it better.
The problem is that the secret weapon is not a CRM, an app nor agent-based technology. None of those things will change the fact that the public would rather use a marketing company’s website over a real estate website to look for homes.
It is the very reason we go to the car lot on Sunday. There are no sales agents there on that day, and we can just look.
The Zillow-killer is not at the CEO level. It is not at the brokerage level. It is not at the national level.
The Zillow-killer is not in the next big app. It is not a better CRM. It is not in the automation of lead generation.
The Zillow-killer is in expertly represented agent brands.
That’s right. The answer is not a new leader, but new leadership. That leadership comes from the agent, not the corner office.
Where’s the win?
On the agent level, technology is like a blank billboard. It means nothing until someone pays to put a message on it and plant it in a high-traffic location. Yet, we have aimed our resources at a battle that won’t, necessarily, win the war.
Agents, for the most part, want to be respected, to serve, to honor our contracts, to build relationships and to gain business based on our expertise. Some agents want a lot of money. Some want a lot of time. Some agents just don’t want to go to meetings anymore. However, no one wants to have to fight technology and each other to do business.
Zillow is not wrong. Sure, some of its information might be wrong, but, again, it is a marketing company not a real estate company for the most part. If you want to know the truth, Zillow is winning because it provides value. Customer based value.
When it comes to value, most real estate companies have none. Meaning, if you were to try to buy a real estate brokerage, it would be more cost efficient, beneficial and tangible to just start your own.
Most brokerages own nothing except the furniture in the room and the promise of a database that may or may not buy a home this year.
Franchises will, if they haven’t already, become even less attractive because the larger brands are less important today. Meaning, no one hires a brokerage, they hire an agent. Wait, we’ve been saying that for years too. We still haven’t done anything about it.
What does have value in the real estate industry?
Branding on the agent level. Why? Because that is how the public makes a decision. The big brands only add value to the agent. They encompass the culture, training, splits and all the bells and whistles that the public, likely, never sees. That equals, virtually, zero market value.
If you want to win, the public has to see your value.
Real estate is a third-party game. We are a service provider. The biggest value that we have to offer is saving people time and money. We don’t own the properties, in most cases, that we represent.
We don’t make decisions based on the sale of a property. We advise, counsel and interject our professional and expert opinions based on data that the public either can’t get or doesn’t want to get.
When Zillow gave the people what they wanted, bypassing agents, the way the public viewed real estate agents changed. The way people shop for homes changed.
Instead of the real estate agent leading the way, we chased the dollars. Now, here we are.
The Zillow-killer award goes to the agents who take control of their future. The agents who add value to the public. The agents who build their own brand. That is the way that I see it.