Why Zillow has put itself in the center of the national housing policy debate

streaming video interview with President Obama on housing finance reform. A Google Hangout with Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan.  A Q&A with two Senators on their proposal for Fannie and Freddie reform. These events were brought to you not by CNN, Fox News or CNBC, but America’s most popular real estate listings search portal, Zillow.

It’s all part of Zillow’s “strategy for dominating online real estate,” the Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis reports for the newspaper’s Wonkblog.

“Zillow saw this opportunity, about five years ago, to fill what we perceived to be a massive void in academia, government and in the media,” Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff tells DePillis. “Nobody was providing objective, unbiased data and analysis about what was happening in the real estate and mortgage industries. The people that were providing it represented trade associations with agendas and were advancing particular policy prescriptions for their constituents.”

DePillis marvels that Zillow, “which has no D.C. office and just one lobbyist on retainer to build relationships, has managed to put itself at the center of the conversation about housing in Washington and beyond,” generating a tremendous amount of free publicity in the process.

A joint appearance with the president, DePillis thinks, “beats even an ad in the Super Bowl. For not wanting anything from Washington — [Zillow Chief Economist] Humphries says he only wants the housing finance system to get fixed in some way, declining to name his favorite approach — Zillow certainly has gotten a lot out of it.” Source: washingtonpost.com.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said Zillow did not have any lobbyists on retainer. It has one.