Ryan Schneider said Zillow is competing with agents and lamented they’re still writing checks to the company. “It is a shame our industry let those companies get created,” Schneider said at ICNY.

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Realogy CEO Ryan Schneider on Wednesday described Zillow as a competitor to companies such as his, lamenting that agents are writing checks to the portal giant and that the industry let such firms get a foothold in the first place.

Schneider weighed in on Zillow while speaking with Brad Inman during a session of Inman Connect that was dubbed “What’s Next for the Real Estate Industry?” Right off the bat, Inman asked Schneider what he thought of Zillow, which in recent years has rapidly expanded beyond consumer search tools as part of a Zillow 2.0 push to diversify the company. Schneider didn’t pull any punches.

“Zillow is a competitor,” he said, adding a moment later that “I welcome the competition. But writing checks to them, I just don’t get it.”

Though Schneider didn’t elaborate on the point, the comment seemed to allude to Zillow’s Premier Agent program, which involves agents paying the company for leads. However, Schneider did say that Zillow has “gotten brokerage licenses” and that it is “going direct to consumers to try to get their real estate business directly without the agent involved necessarily.”

Schneider went on to argue that over the years Zillow has “evolved into something different” than it initially started out as, and that “sometimes they’ve said, ‘we will never do X, then they do X.'” He did not elaborate further on what he views as Zillow reversing course, but did lament that in decades past, established real estate players stood by while one-time upstarts like Zillow gained power.

“It is a shame that our industry let those companies get created,” Schneider said.

Brad Inman, left, and Ryan Schneider on stage at Inman Connect Wednesday. AJ Canaria & Mercedes Santiago of MoxiWorks

Brad Inman later asked Schneider about CoStar, a longtime player in commercial real estate that has now taken aim at Zillow and is fueling a heated rivalry with the portal. Schneider replied that while he isn’t under the illusion that CoStar is rooting for Realogy, the entrance of a new competitor is likely a good thing for agents.

“I think CoStar coming into this ecosystem is probably good for the ecosystem because it creates more competition,” he noted.

Several of Schneider’s remarks about industry rivalries drew applause from the audience and illustrate the sometimes-contentious, sometimes-symbiotic relationship between tech giants such as Zillow and everyday agents. That fraught relationship came into focus last year first when Zillow bought popular home showing platform ShowingTime, which prompted a backlash from some agents, and then again when it bowed out of iBuying, a move that sparked some schadenfreude.

For its part, Zillow has insisted that it is a partner to agents, including on Tuesday when company President Susan Daimler described in-the-trenches real estate pros as essential to the business.

“Zillow at this moment in time is more bullish on its partnership with the industry,” Daimler said during her own session of Inman Connect.

Beyond weighing in on rivalries, Schneider on Tuesday presented an overall optimistic vision of the real estate industry. Despite concerns about the economy and unrest in distant corners of the world, Schneider noted that there remains a supply and demand imbalance in the housing market. At the same time, he noted, the largest cohort of millennials is currently hitting its young and middle 30s, which he pointed out is a prime homebuying age. Taken together, Schneider believes such factors will help real estate thrive in the coming years.

“There are some very positive just kind of demographic and social trends,” he concluded, “that are either here or coming.”

Email Jim Dalrymple II

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