I have decided to start doing some real estate oriented posts on this blog. I realize many readers are happy in their homes, but others who know me know that I have been a real estate agent since 1996, and I do try to stay very current with the happenings in the industry. If you are currently in the real estate market as a buyer or seller, or if you have done any Google real estate searches in the last few years you have probably noticed that the local real estate companies, even the big ones, are not generally at the top of the search results.
Usually the results take you to the national real estate portals like Zillow and Trulia. You can get all the info you need about properties that meet your criteria as well as demographic, financing, and valuation information, framed by easy links to contact a real estate agent for assistance. Zillow has become the go-to site for consumers shopping for real estate. Consumers can search anonymously, and get a lot of data in one place that might otherwise take a long time to compile, all without the assistance of a local agent. The real estate community has all sorts of complaints about the big portals: inaccurate data, making agents pay for leads, and de-emphasizing the listing agent’s role in the published listing. In my opinion the tipping point has been reached as folks go directly to Zillow to start their search rather than doing a Google search for a term like “condos in 38103”.
So why do some real estate companies hate Zillow?
Without going into thousands of words of explanation, national portal sites like Zillow and Trulia (BTW, Zillow has just acquired Trulia) get their local listing data via local Multiple Listing Services if the MLSs are allowed by local RE companies to share the info. Most companies allow this syndication with the thinking that the more exposure a listing gets, the better chance of its selling. The portals make their money by selling zip codes and shares of zip codes to agents, who get leads from the potential customers who visit the sites and request more information. Some RE companies, including the largest company in the Memphis area, feel that syndicating their listings forces their agents to pay for leads on their own listings, so they do not allow their listings to be syndicated to the portals. Their listings don’t show up on Zillow unless individual agents input them.
Giving Consumers what they want
The real estate establishment seems to be having a rough time coming to grips with 21st Century consumers – how they shop, how they purchase, and how they find the people they need to help them. Consumers are no longer bound to calling the phone number on the for sale sign for information about a particular listing. They don’t have to call a real estate office or listen to an aggressive sales person. They can just go to Zillow. They may become very familiar with Zillow and pretty serious about a purchase before they ever contact an agent. Chances are they will find that agent via Zillow, which provides agent sales histories and reviews by former clients. The information may not be totally accurate and up-to-date, and the Zillow business plan may fly in the face of traditional real estate. Consumers are comfortable with it, and isn’t that what really matters?