In the wake of Zillow’s acquisition of ShowingTime, Gary Keller, the founder of Keller Williams and executive chairman of its parent company told more than 40,000 virtual attendees of the 2021 Keller Williams Family Reunion that the industry was in for a “fight.”
On Day 2 of the event, Keller Williams revealed its plan of attack: a combination of controlling lead generation for its own affiliated agents and local advocacy that could change the way Zillow displays listings.
“The first solution to making sure we own our destiny is to make sure we own leads,” Keller Williams President Josh Team said, after noting that he believes Zillow’s acquisition of ShowingTime was a way for the company to take more of real estate agent’s commission dollars.
Keller Williams, according to Team, boasts partnerships with some of the top technology companies in the industry, including Facebook and Google. Those partnerships and the artificial intelligence-powered technology the companies employ drive down the average lead cost for Keller Williams agents.
The average cost per lead generated inside Command, the Keller Williams customer relationship management (CRM) tool was $1.91 in 2020, far below the industry average of $12, according to Team. The company generated 2.7 million leads in 2020.
“We’re getting record high leads at low cost and taking control of lead generation with algorithms we built,” Team said.
The second strategy is to call local multiple listing services and Realtor associations and advocate for an end to the ShowingTime partnership, as well as a change to MLS display rules, both Team and Jason Abrams, Keller Williams vice president of industry said.
“This is that moment when we should all be advocating for the industry,” Abrams said.
Team likened the MLS partnership with ShowingTime — in the wake of Zillow’s acquisition of the company — to local boards and MLSs requiring agents to use Command for lead generation and CRM solutions. Both Keller Williams and Zillow operate as brokerages, Team said.
Team also told agents that they should be calling their MLSs and asking for a change to display rules that require the listing agent to be displayed more prominently on all MLS listings.
Since changing the backend of its eponymous listing portal to an IDX website, Zillow is now subject to all local MLS rules and regulations.
“Whatever rules the MLS places, all brokers, including Zillow will have to follow it,” Team said. “If your MLS will change that rule then your picture, your name, your face will be all over that.”
Abrams even imagined a future where the first photo on all Zillow listings is a picture of the home and the second picture is the listing agent’s photo and contact information.
Having the listing agent prominently featured is something Gary Keller has long advocated for, according to Team. On Keller Williams’ consumer-facing listing portal — which the company completely revamped in the past year — the listing agent’s name and affiliated brokerage are displayed under the address on the top left corner of the page, but there’s no contact information for the listing agent.
Compass is the only major real estate brokerage that displays the name and contact information of the listing agent prominently.
The efforts by Keller Williams to take greater control of leads in the real estate industry comes amid of period of acceleration technology disruption, according to Team. The place of acceleration has even increased further lately, with the entrance of CoStar Group into residential real estate on the back of its acquisition of Homesnap for $250 million.
Team likened CoStar entering the residential real estate industry to doing a cannonball into a full pool, creating ripples throughout the industry.
“Disruption is going to be happening faster now,” Team said.
Team also added that he believes CoStar was bidding up the price on ShowingTime, but the fact that Zillow was willing to pay $500 million for the technology shows the company believes it’s going to get a return on its investment. That means, more commission dollars from agents going to Zillow, Team said, with the company potentially selling showings at an even higher price than leads.