At Zillow’s virtual Unlock event, two company executives emphasized the importance of their partners as they build digital tools.

Homebuying and selling customers are expecting a fully digital path, but despite that changing consumer behavior, agents are as important as ever, Zillow executives agreed during the company’s virtual Unlock conference, Wednesday.

“While technology can do a lot, in the current situation where people have a lot to navigate, professionals remain super important to the journey,” Ravi Kandikonda, Zillow’s senior vice president of integrated marketing.

Zillow has seen an increased interest in home shopping on its website — it reported record traffic last month — which includes a lot of people that are serious about buying homes and not just looking for inspiration for their home office, or daydreaming about buying a home.

“[That traffic increase is] driven by the fact that people are re-thinking space,” Kandikonda said. “Home is no longer just a place where we live.”

Kandikonda said the company recently surveyed homebuyers who are super excited about the process, but feel stuck. One prospective buyer specifically reported just that the thought of going through the process isn’t “mentally possible.”

Buyers are often on tight timelines, getting the financials together is hard, lending restrictions are increasingly growing tighter and inventory is sparse. On top of that, there’s still a pandemic raging with different restrictions and safety concerns in each area.

“That is the stuff that technology alone can’t solve,” Kandikonda said. “In these types of situations, we absolutely need our partners to make it mentally possible for our customers and make it possible for them to buy.”

Zillow isn’t solely building technology tools for consumers either, the company explained. It’s various industry partners — including agents and homebuilders — can also take advantage of things like 3D tours, or a more seamless transaction process to bolster their own business, according to Zillow Present Jeremy Wacksman.

“We’re hearing this loud and clear from our customers,” Wacksman said. “As an industry, we need to make available the digital tools because customers are expecting it and we need to make them available so our partners can shine.”

A recent survey of Zillow’s Premier Agent customers found that one-third of those surveyed are expecting fewer in-person showings when things return to normal.

The company’s data, Wacksman said, shows that moving was hard before the pandemic and it’s even harder now. Consumers want simple, seamless transactions and digital tools to help them take the next step down the path of the transaction.

But like Kandikonda, Wacksman also emphasized the need for the company’s partners and the importance of those partners for consumers, as Zillow continues to digitize different parts of the homebuying experience, from searching for a home to the transaction process.

“[Consumers] want the phone to do more for them but they need the partner more than ever,” Wacksman said. “They need the expert guide that’s done this hundreds of times, is going to get them through the process, and knows how to navigate the unexpected because the stakes are higher now.”

“Our focus at Zillow is building those digital tools so that you all can shine as their partner, as their coach, through the transaction,” he said.

Email Patrick Kearns

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