This post was originally published as a guest post on Inman.com and is being republished here for our audience to discuss.
Love them or hate them, Zillow is not going anywhere. Even with ListHub cutting off their feed to Zillow, their business will not suffer. In fact, it could probably make Zillow even more trustworthy in the consumer’s eyes. I posted a simple question to my Facebook wall today and the replies were very telling of why consumers trust Zillow more than real estate agents.
1) Zillow doesn’t try to sell the consumer.
You know how much you HATE it when Zillow calls you up trying to sell you that popular zip code or talk up that premier agent program? It drives us bananas! How dare they call us and interrupt our day! Guess what we are doing to consumers? Many agents employ those exact same hard sell techniques with consumers. From forced registration on IDX sites to mass cold calling FSBO and expired listings, real estate agents have a bad reputation for being the proverbial used care salesmen of real estate.
But Zillow doesn’t sell the customer like they sell us. There is no forced registration to view properties, no chat popup boxes asking if they need help buying or selling a home, and hiding useful information behind the “contact us for details” button. Sure, their information may not be accurate (much of that is our own fault), but the information is all there for them to research without feeling pressured.
2) Zillow Has Created A Brand For Themselves
When the President of the United States wanted to do a forum on the current housing market, did they call the NAR to set it up? No. Instead Barack Obama sat down with Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff. When it comes to branding, Zillow has done it’s homework and has won on that level. Zillow is near the top of page one on search engines for just about any real estate search. When Google trusts them that much, why shouldn’t the consumer? Zillow has national advertising spots that focus on the consumer and the experience rather than the agent and the benefits of using an agent. They have created arguably the best app for search for homes while on the go. Zillow is a brand about the consumer.
3) Zillow Creates Great Content
Many agents complain how Zillow “steals” their listings and sells the leads back to them, but Zillow actually creates a ton of content on their own and have built a dominating online presence. They have 260,000 followers on Twitter, 1.3 million likes on Facebook, 49,000 followers on Instagram, 25,000 followers on Google Plus, and their website gets over 45 million unique visitors per month. To put this into perspective, Realtor.com has only 111,000 followers on Twitter, 96,000 likes on Facebook, 664 followers on Instagram, 10,000 followers on Google Plus and their website generates just over 22 million unique visitors per month.
They create content that is not only informative and educational, but fun and engaging as well. On Facebook alone, their last 5 posts had a combined 959 Likes and 268 comments at the time of this writing, while the Realtor.com Facebook page received only 179 likes and 9 comments on their last 5 posts.
4) It Educates The Consumer
Sure, we mentioned content being educational, but it has done such a better job at educating the consumer than NAR or it’s members ever will. A quick look at the Zillow blog or social media will show you where rent was the highest in 2014, how much renters are paying compared to homeowners in monthly housing expenses, setting up a home office, and 4 tips for selling your home in the Winter. There is also mention of a newly updated app to help consumers find the perfect home. Looking at the Realtor.com blog, I see mention of a bunch of celebrities that are selling their home. How does that help the consumer? Not to mention that the MLS has been around a long time and we haven’t even educated people enough to know that just about any agent can show just about any home to a buyer and also show just about any home on their website.
5) Zillow Knows When To Stay Quiet
Originally this was only going to be a 4 part list, but I had to add this fifth one. Perhaps this relates to the proverbial car salesman part, but you don’t see Zillow sticking it’s nose into conversations that don’t concern them. You don’t see them going and commenting on a Trulia post or using Facebook or Twitter search functions to find someone looking for real estate and suggesting that they download their app or visit their website. Yet real estate agents do this all the time. My original post clearly stated that I wanted NON-REAL ESTATE friends only to comment. Yet here comes the used car salesman to push her real estate opinion on a topic that specifically asked for non-real estate people only to comment. And in true Realtor fashion, she changes the focus from the consumer back to the agent.
Our industry is so fragmented and competitive, that we have allowed an outsider to come in and create a better website, a better mobile app, and a better user experience. We are lucky that Zillow has no desire to go into the brokerage business because if they did, we would all be in some serious trouble. It’s time that we got our act together and start serving the consumer rather than serving our own best interests, or else we will soon go the way of travel agents and Blockbuster Video.