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Posted by on Aug 1, 2014 in Jim's Take on the Market | 8 comments | Print Print

Effects of Zillow/Trulia Merger

The folks at Inman News asked people in the business how they thought the ZT merger would affect brokers and agents:

http://www.inman.com/2014/08/01/the-bottom-line-of-the-zillow-trulia-deal-for-brokers-and-agents/

I was one of the agents invited – here are my thoughts:

Realtor.com should be the pre-eminent real estate website on the planet, but instead it just got ran over by Zillow-Trulia.  The people at Move, Inc. and the N.A.R. leadership have failed you miserably, but it is too late now.

Get over it.

What does the merger mean?  It means that Godzillow will be doing more to drive consumers to their websites.  Transparency will increase, and consumers, armed with more knowledge, will be empowered to make better decisions.

At least that’s what the consumers will think.

Have you noticed how consumers can recite the comps off the top of their head now?  Can you do that?  You better hope so, because consumers will expect their agent to know more than they do.

The agents who stay ahead of consumers by immersing themselves in their craft should enjoy a healthy business for years to come.

Other things the merger will cause, and agents should embrace:

1. Agent Rankings – Zillow already allows each agent to list their past sales, and testimonials from past clients.  It is inevitable that they or someone will create a place for consumers to check on individual agents.  Don’t like it?  Increase your production and you will like it more.

2.  Big Real Estate Corporations To Partner with Zillow-Trulia - It will be easier and more cost-effective for the big franchisors to ride on the Z-T coattails, than to fight it.  Their ‘strategic partnerships’ will solidify the legitimacy of Zillow-Trulia in the consumer’s mind.  Realtor.com should join the Zillow-Trulia team while we still have leverage!

3.  Accurate Enough - Agents need to quit bashing Zillow with the ‘wildly inaccurate’ claims.  They are much closer than they used to be, and Zillow is accurate with their other vital information, like the nearby listings and comps, schools, maps, mortgage payments, etc.  The consumers take a zestimate with a grain of salt, and are tired of hearing agents harp on it so much.

4. Transparency – The merger is just the beginning.  Other outsiders are taking direct aim at realtors, hoping to create a fancy internet website to replace us.  Everything about the properties, realtors, and how we do business will be under scrutiny – get used to it.

The merger is just another press release.  The bottom line is that Zillow-Trulia is another place for agents to farm for prospects.  Agents can either get leads from your listings (which are still advertised for free) or they can choose to pay for advertising packages.  Or you can ignore Zillow-Trulia, but at least know that the consumers love their websites.

Agents should acknowledge the existence and benefits of Zillow-Trulia, and keep providing better and more powerful information – that is what consumers want and need.  Realtors who work harder and smarter will keep providing the critical part of the equation – expert help in the moment of need.

8 Comments

  1. NAR finally got around to responding:

    The Fault Lies not in the Stars …

    Much has been made of how technology has and will affect our lives and chosen vocations. Technology speeds things up. Technology provides instant access. Technology feeds the insatiable demand for more and more meaningful information. Information wants to be free. Technology and ‘change’ are often used interchangeably to remind us that our world tomorrow will be very different than it was yesterday. Then you throw in a healthy dose of ‘who moved my cheese’ and all those other consultant driven mantras about adapting to the new world order and quickly your head is spinning and you just want it all to stop. But it doesn’t and it’s not going to!

    The legendary Steve Jobs was described as mercurial, a little crazy, and passionately driven. But one of his favorite quotes tells us everything we need to know about him: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

    So what’s all this got to do with you and your participation in organized real estate? Let’s go back and connect the dots. An industry that’s come together for over one hundred years. Inventors of cooperation and compensation. Inventors of self policing through a strict code of ethics and professional standards. Inventors of MLS. Inventors of RPAC, the countries strongest political force. Inventors of yes, Realtor.com®, the first viable real estate portal, the traffic leader in the space for the first 15 years.

    Here are a few Realtor.com dots. The business case for Realtor.com®, now 18 years ago, was summarized in the popular “lions coming over the hill” speech which has been repeated many many times. In its’ rawest form it said – if others harness the ability to aggregate data from your listings, and capture the consumer upstream, you will be disintermediated. Therefore, in exchange for using your listing data to make commerce, we will cause to be created a Realtor®-friendly, accurate, time sensitive, site with explicit guarantees not to threaten your commission or disintermediate you. To this day, Realtor.com® has kept its promise and it will continue to do so.

    But as in any business, where there is a vacuum, the market will move to fill it. This is a good thing. We need to embrace competitive forces, learn from them and adapt. Competition should strengthen us because of the healthy tension it can create but we must also strengthen our resolve and stand up for ourselves.

    As Realtors®, data does not define us; our insights, experience and expertise run much deeper than that. So as the industry moves forward, we have to look at ourselves – and better define our value proposition.

    NAR believes that a highly skilled and professional Realtor® is and will always be integral to the process of buying and selling real estate. The association and its leadership is committed to promoting and supporting the Realtor® brand and Realtor® value proposition to consumers. In the internet age, consumers are going to go online for real estate information, but they will continue to rely on local experts when they buy and sell property. NAR is committed to ensuring that Realtors® are those local experts.

    So just as data does not define us, nor should we allow service providers to become too comfortable in defining how you conduct your business. In practical, actionable terms – this is what you can do:

    •Demand the brokers and the listing agents identity be prominently displayed
    •Demand timely, ‘fresh’ listing display
    •Do not allow your listings to be modified
    •Do not allow co-mingling of your listings with FSBO’s
    •Demand preservation of copyright notices on your listings
    •Understand the terms of use you agree to for your listings
    •Demand that your provider highlight and promote the term Realtor®
    •AND – NEVER, EVER let any provider threaten your commission!

    This advice is provided as a way to emphasize that your listings, your data were acquired by you through tremendous work and effort, and a heck of a lot of money is being moved around in the marketplace predicated on you continuing to provide it. It’s seed corn – don’t squander it.

    Now comes the hard part – we must be brutally honest – you must change and quickly. Your value proposition is not data – it’s YOU! You must be the best and you must be the most professional and ethical. For too long we’ve allowed the term Realtor® to be bandied about as a low ranking career choice. Your future lies in upgrading and elevating our profession to make you absolutely indispensable to the real estate transaction. Do not fall in the trap of thinking if we just regain control of the data that everything will go back to the way it was. It won’t. A quote from the NAR Strategic Plan says it all – “We need to be totally consumer centric– not what we want but what they want – and be able to adapt quickly.”

    With over 1 million members it’s time, as Steve Jobs said, to trust in something, and that something is a history and a future of which we all can be proud. Connecting a million plus dots is never easy, change can be excruciating – but if not now, when?

    Sincerely,

    Steve Brown
    2014 NAR President

    Dale Stinton
    NAR Chief Executive Officer

  2. So. How much are they going to charge you for bubbleinfo.realtor?

    Pardon my excess but the NAR position sounds way too much like an argument against allowing consumers to pump their own gas.

  3. “The Fault Lies not in the Stars …..”

  4. Maybe they can supply value added. You know like if you uphold the highest principles of the profession you can put the word “Super” in front of your name.

  5. Just an FYI in tech circles Steve Jobs is considered a visionary. But, being that he liked to target Apple products at the Neo-Hippies with lots of $$$. I wouldn’t align my business with Apple demographics. There’s a lot more people that just want something that works over glowing florescent buttons.

  6. “Realtor.com®, the first viable real estate portal,”

    “portal” to some, “smelly orifice” to others.

  7. RE: “There’s a lot more people that just want something that works over glowing florescent buttons.”

    People didn’t even know they wanted glowing florescent buttons never mind couldn’t live without them until Apple showed them.

    [Posted from my Gigabyte mobo i7 PC running OS X 10.9.4]

  8. About the only similarity between Steve Brown and Steve Jobs is they share a given name. That quote about only connecting dots in past-tense is misleading. Jobs’ modus operandi was “nobody can predict the future, so I’m going to build it”, not “we’ve done well so far, so there’s reasonable hope everything will work out”, which seems to be Brown’s core message.

    Zillow/Trulia is interesting but they have a really large bark/bite ratio. “God-Zilia” hasn’t shown a reliable ability to convert eyeballs to revenue. Like Godzilla it can stomp around, break stuff and clamor about all the attention it’s getting, but in the end it’s a bunch of fear (Realtors) and a lot of viewers (Consumers) without really interfering with the connection between the two.

    Most of the hype machine effort has been to financial media to prop up their stock(s).

    I read recently that there’s a shared core ownership group of both companies. This tends to appear as a consolidation to reduce costs and buy some time.

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