I published this original take on Zillow in May of 2017. Since then it has been picked up, copied, and parroted by Gary Keller, Inman News, and hundreds of others. If this post strikes a chord with you, please consider sharing with others.
Zillow keeps making the news in 2017, huh?
Last month I shared a story about Zillow’s move to ban agents from manually entering new listingsinto the Zillow database. Not hard to figure out why.
Zillow is playing hardball with the last few MLSs who refuse to cave in and hand over their listing feeds. By banning manual entry of new listings, Zillow is sending a clear message to us agents:
“Hand over the entire MLS feed… or else.”
This is all part of Zillow’s plan — which I described in great detail well over a year ago — and it’s happening right on schedule.
Just as I predicted, this week Zillow is making headlines for something much more ominous. But this time they tipped their hand to agents like you.
According to Inman News, NewsGeni.us, RISMedia, and many other media outlets, Zillow is preparing to launch a new real estate brand.
The new brand will operate under the domain www.realestate.com — a domain that Zillow acquired last year in their buyout of Trulia.
The focus of this new brand is to cater specifically to millennials, which now makes up almost half of the home-buying market.
Zillow to Compete Head to Head with Real Estate Firms
Do you see where this is going? Zillow is giving us their entire playbook.
Zillow is no longer just in the real estate search business. They are now getting into the actual real estate sales business.
I don’t blame them either. Their main business — selling leads to REALTORS — is currently in heavy decline.
In 2016 Zillow lost almost 10% of the agents paying for their lead services, and that was after spending an additional $11M in marketing.
In other words, profits are falling fast, and it appears no amount of additional marketing dollars is capable of turning that around.
However, they still have the ace of spades in their hand. Zillow now reaches 95% of the home buying public. That means virtually everyone who buys a home in the next 12 months will use Zillow at least once. So what’s their next move?
Based on recent events, my guess is Zillow is going to start selling homes. Of course a technology company can’t just start selling homes… can they?
Not exactly. They’ll need your help.
Zillow’s Plan Is to Turn Agents into Uber Drivers
Right now, Zillow sells real estate leads to nearly 100K agents across the country. They charge exorbitant prices for poor quality leads.
But since the vast majority of home buyers start their search on Zillow, many of us feel as though we have no choice. Either buy leads from Zillow or simply starve.
(You do have another choice, by the way. I’ll get to that in a minute.)
Now that Zillow is opening it’s own real estate brand, agents will be presented with a new and more devastating choice.
The old choice was: Buy leads or starve.
The new choice will be: Come work for Zillow or starve.
They’ll compete head to head with old legacy brands such as Century 21 and Coldwell Banker and even newer real estate giants like Re/Max and Keller Williams.
But do you think they’ll continue sharing leads with agents who work for those brands? Unlikely.
Instead they’ll have complete control over the customers. They’ll begin recruiting agents from every brokerage across the country to help them service those customers.
But do you think they’ll pay as well as your current company? Again, unlikely. They’ve already given us a number of clues as to what their business model will look like.
They are putting their focus on millennials. There is one millennial technology company that is in the process of replacing an old legacy industry as we speak. Their name is Uber.
What will the Uber-ization of real estate look like? I’ll tell you.
The Coming Uber-ization of Real Estate
Zillow will capture the customer. Zillow will provide search tools for the customer to find their dream home. Zillow will provide all the disclosure forms, contracts, waivers, etc. Zillow will connect them with an online lender. Zillow will arrange for a home inspection.
They’ll just need you to show homes. Zillow will turn agents like you into glorified Uber drivers.
Is this your future?
*Ding* A home buyer is requesting a showing across town. Are you available?
Of course, just as with Uber, Zillow will be a discount service. Probably a simple flat transaction fee — maybe a thousands bucks. Anyone remember HelpUSell? They were just ahead of their time. What do you think your cut will be?
Agents will earn a few hundred bucks per transaction, and in order to squeak out a meager living, they will have to do 10-20 transactions per month.
Unfortunately this seems to be REALTORS’ destiny. I’ve seen the writing on the wall for several years now.
However, it doesn’t have to be your destiny.
You Have Another Option
What if you decide not to become an Uber driver for Zillow? Well, you’ll need your own source for finding new customers. If you do, you’ll end up doing just fine as a full service real estate agent.
If you have the ability to connect with new home buyers on demand, it’s still possible to crush it. It’s still possible to earn your standard commission. And it’s still possible to earn a “rich life” in real estate.
All you need is effective lead capture technology. I get tired of banging the drum day after day telling agents about Pipeline Pro Tools.
Yes, I’m proud of it. Yes, I made sure that it has all of the various forms of lead capture systems included with it. Yes, it has a sophisticated robocall system built right in. And yes, it’s cheap.
But at this point, I’m more concerned that agents get lead capture from ANYWHERE, even if it’s not from me.
Right now, we as agents are staring down the barrel of a loaded gun — if we continue paying Zillow for leads… if we continue living off of referrals alone (even though referrals are in a slow decline year after year)… if agents don’t take control of their own business and create an on-demand source of customer leads.
So that’s where I believe it’s headed. In a few short years, you’ll either work for Zillow or be forced out of the business. Or you’ll develop your own plan for generating new leads and become independent. I hope you choose the latter.
If you happen to be interested in my lead capture technology, first you’ll need to check availability in your area.