Real estate agents are divided on Zillow’s latest move to bring representation for its own Zillow Offers transactions in-house, taking the role away from partner real estate agents.
While the initial reaction on Wednesday was mixed no agents expressed surprise. Many commenters on an Inman Coast to Coast thread said they expected the move would come eventually.
“This comes as no shock,” commented Coast to Coast reader and real estate agent Rosemary Phinney Buerger on Wednesday. “I’ve thought for a few years they were moving towards this.”
Are agents directly competing with Zillow?
Many believe the move now puts them in direct competition with the Seattle-based real estate tech giant, with it’s $23 billion market cap.
“I wonder when the large national brokerages are going to accept the fact that they need to compete with Zillow online,” Andrew Fortune, the broker-owner of Great Colorado Homes, a Colorado Springs brokerage, wrote in a comment. “Zillow has very little competition because none of the national brokerages are even competing with them.”
Fortune said his own brokerage and many other hyper-local brokerages around the U.S. are already competing with Zillow for eyeballs.
“It’s not magic and fairy dust,” Fortune said. “It’s just zeroes and ones and some code.”
“There’s no excuse for the national brokerages to completely give up all the ground on the first page of Google to a company that has a poor track record of helping the real estate community.”
Javier Alvarez, the founder of Xcellence Realty and Realty Back Office, called the decision a, “soft launch to hiring agents.” But he believes that in a few years Zillow will move to representing traditional sellers, despite the company’s own insistence that it won’t do so.
“We need to once in for all realize that Zillow has an ultimate goal and that goal is to disrupt this industry and take it all,” Alvarez said.
With Zillow now partnering directly with every local multiple listing service to switch the backend to an IDX feed, the company doesn’t need agents, “for squat,” Alvarez said.
Instead of competing with agents for eyeballs, agents should be working to bring all real estate services under one roof and offer a pleasant experience to clients, Alvarez added.
A senior-level Redfin source wondered whether agents were buying Zillow Chief Industry Development Officer Errol Samuelson’s insistence that the company won’t get into traditional brokerage sales. Zillow, the source said, promised for years that it wouldn’t be competing with agents and now this latest move does just that.
Will agents re-consider their spend with Zillow?
Jeff Lobb, the founder and CEO of SparkTank Media, wondered in a comment on Coast to Coast, will Premier Agents continue to spend with Zillow and compete with their own company?
“Make sure you keep renewing your ad budget with Zillow so they have more money to squash you like a bug,” Marvin Jensen, a real estate agent with Windermere Real Estate, said in a comment on the original Inman story.
“And now for a glaring glimpse of the obvious — one might carefully reconsider their advertising spend going forward,” Joe Sheehan, a real estate agent with Century 21, said on Coast to Coast.
Dan Hamilton, a real estate agent and team leader with Coldwell Banker, has never advertised with Zillow, precisely because he thinks Zillow will move beyond having its agents limited to its own iBuyer deals.
“This is one reason I’ve never spent money with them,” Hamilton wrote in a comment on Inman Coast to Coach. “If you do, you may be getting some business in the short term, but you’ll be damaging your business over the long term as you’re basically giving money to a competitor.”
What do Zillow’s current partners think?
Laurie Reader, the founder and CEO of Laurie Finkelstein Reader Real Estate, has been Zillow’s partner broker in the Miami market for Zillow Offers for more than a year and is also a Premier Agent client. Her brokerage will continue to serve as Zillow’s partner, which means valuable seller leads even after the company brings the management of its own transactions in-house.
“We are very excited because our focus is on the seller leads,” Reader said. “Not everybody wants to sell to Zillow. Some people want that option and when they do that’s great, but where we are very excited — and we have felt this way since day one — is that those opportunities to assist sellers with selling their home traditionally is very big for us.”
Reader’s sentiments closely aligned with those of George Laughton, Zillow’s first partner broker.
Jason Farris, an eXp Realty agent and Premier Agent partner with Zillow, is also not concerned about the recent announcement. He told Inman that agents have been competing for the consumers’ attention and trust with Zillow and other search sites for years already.
His advice to agents concerned about this move is to focus on the customer experience and not let it distract you.
“As the market changes, as technology changes, everyone needs to evolve… including Zillow,” Farris said. “At the end of the day, if either of us (agent and Zillow) ceases to provide a consistent exceptional experience to the customer we will be out of business.”