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Zillow Leads

I also wanted to test the Zillow lead generator.

Now that they have buried the three Premier Agents at the bottom of the listing, how do consumers get more information – and from who do they get it?  They added the Contact Agent box at the top of the listing, which kind of makes you think you will be connected to the listing agent.  But that’s not what happens (though I do get mentioned about halfway down without a phone number or link).

Once Zillow published the listing on Wednesday afternoon, I clicked on the Contact Agent to find out.

Within minutes I received a text – here is the thread:

I was standing next to my phone and didn’t hear any ringing, but it’s possible he called.  I let it go for the rest of the night to see about their follow up, and indeed it began again on Thursday morning. A new guy connected me to Cheri, who didn’t know anything about the house but was very nice.

Once our phone call was complete, I received this by email:

Coincidentally (or not?), one of the agents from The Avenue Home Collection did show my listing yesterday.  Because their office is nearby, their broker Melissa also stopped by. She is a 19-year veteran and was brought up in the business by old-school people like me, so we got along right away.

She confirmed what I’ve been thinking.

Zillow has selected a handful of brokerages with high customer-service ratings as partners.  Zillow has their own phone team make the first contact the consumer, then forward the call to one of the agents.

She didn’t say how much she is paying, but it’s not as much as the top Zillow agent in the area who she suspected is paying around $30,000 per month for the majority of the market share.  It’s a ton of money to invest and be dependent upon the Zillow phone guys to serve up the leads fresh and hot.  The Zillow guy who called me was pathetic, though it was early (around 9am) and every phone solicitor will tell you that they need to warm up first. I was probably his first call?

They have only been Zillow partners for four months, so it’s early. I told her to hang in there, because I am constantly amazed at how casual and naive the consumers are about selecting their realtor.  Because there isn’t any transparency about an agent’s skill level, people just grab one – and with Zillow’s name recognition and horsepower, they should be able to convert viewers into buyers and sellers as well as anyone.

Realtor.com, RPR, HomeSnap, Compass, KW, CB, and others have said they might mount a challenge Zillow’s search portal, but there isn’t anyone close to spending the money on national advertising as Zillow.

It reminded me of this clip – Zillow is just waiting for a challenger – and the likely outcome:

Zillow Buying Houses For Zestimate Value

There are a few Zillow issues to unpack here, so let’s start with them saying they are willing to buy your house for the amount of the zestimate – which is fine, if you don’t care about cashing in on the actual value.

In their press release, the boss claims that the zestimate’s nationwide median error rate for on-market homes of 1.9% which sounds simple enough – for years they have been adjusting their zestimate to the list price once a home goes on the market.

But once my new listing went on the market, they didn’t adjust the zestimate upward.

Would you sell your house for $1,336,035, when Jim the Realtor says it worth $1,599,000?

Factor in that Zillow charges more than I do, and it would mean that hiring me to sell your house would net you about $300,000 more – and that’s if we sell for the list price (it might go higher).

The big difference?

I don’t spend $100 million per year in advertising – they will reach people that I don’t reach.

Tell people to use me instead!

Link to my listing on Zillow

Here We Go!

Unlike the big teams who have clerks do all their listing inputs, I do them myself.

I feel it is the core of the business – it’s important to get the listing input right.

I got a lesson in that today.

I inputted our new listing at 3:45pm yesterday, and this morning the photos had not been uploaded to the search portals – which has never happened before. When I checked with the MLS help-bot at 7am, I got the typical response – blame the customer. She told me that nobody ever uploaded the photos…..literally as I am looking at my listing on my MLS screen with the photos included.

Finally, around noon the photos showed up on the familiar search portals.  By then, Zillow had reported over 700 views of my listing with nothing but a satellite photo, but thankfully I figured it out last night and had included my YouTube video in the first sentence of the property description so consumers at least had that for a reference point.

The snafu didn’t stop agents from alerting their buyers, and by noon I had 11 showings booked – with no photos on Zillow!

Here’s my report from later in the afternoon:

Automated Scheduling of Showings

The industry has been abuzz over Zillow buying ShowingTime, our appointment-scheduling service.

Wouldn’t it be great if Zillow published the number of showings publicly? The intel that could be gathered would be of great interest to buyers, and help enhance the home-selling transparency.

The data is already available.

Buyer-agents who book their appointments to show on the ShowingTime mobile app can see the whole schedule of times already reserved by other agents. It also makes you wonder if listing agents are reserving a bunch of times to make their listing look more popular (no names or other info is given on the app).

If buyers knew how many showings were scheduled, it would help them decide how much to offer.

Same with the number of offers.

The trend is to do less for buyers, so when asked, most listing agents won’t discuss how many offers they’ve received – and they certainly won’t divulge the offer prices.

But they should.

It would give other buyers a number to shoot at, and that transparency alone makes them more likely to hit it, or even offer more.  It’s an old wives’ tale that you can’t divulge – the opposite is stated in the contract:

Another benefit of divulging the number of offers and their terms is you quickly eliminate the non-players.  Most buyers are comfortable offering the list price, and +/- 5%, so why not just tell them that you have an offer that is 12% over list and save them the trouble – and save the listing agent from having to process another offer that’s going nowhere.

You can then concentrate on having the real players compete against one another.

It sounds like an auction, doesn’t it?

JtR’s New Listing

10541 Galena Canyon Rd., San Diego 92127

6 br/5.5 ba, 3,780sf

7,316sf lot

LP = $1,599,000

Enjoy the American Dream of living on a quiet culdesac (rare in 4S Ranch) with big backyard that faces south for max natural light inside! This highly-upgraded and turnkey executive home in the estates by Mission Ranch has FOUR en-suite bedrooms (3 up and 1 down), hardwood floors, new carpet & paint, dual-zone A/C, three-car garage and is around the corner from Liberty Park and 1,000+ acres of open space!


‘No More Showings’

We see it more and more these days – listing agents who shut down showings of their listings. I’m sure most would say, “What do you want me to do? I had 20-30 appointment times available, and they all booked up!”

When faced with having to work harder, smarter, or less, agents always seem to pick less.

  • But they owe it to their sellers to find a way to show their home to every possible buyer.
  • They owe it to their fellow agents too, and their buyers.

Work Harder:

An agent over the weekend was bombarded with requests to show a newer one-story home on a half-acre lot. She TRIPLE-BOOKED the whole weekend, and designated four stations – two inside, and two outside. As visitors arrived, she explained the process, and deftly guided everyone from station to station to keep the parade moving – and it went very smoothly.

Work Smarter:

Can we please require agents to produce YouTube video tours?

If you don’t like the way you sound or you’re afraid you might say something stupid, then just don’t talk. The video is a boost to understanding the flow of the floor plan, and and a way to highlight the biggest benefits. It’s not that hard to do – you’re doing videos of your grandkids every weekend, surely you can walk around a house with a videocam and pretend you’re showing the house to a buyer – of which you have plenty of practice!  Then the buyers who got shut out from an in-person appointment can view the video and have a fighting chance to compete.

Selling homes by video should have been commonplace by now. Let’s do it!

Pandemic Housing Fever…..With Regrets

There will be a whole new wave of lawsuits against listing agents who insist on rushing buyers through the process.  They think it’s a good thing to shorten the contingency periods and then make themselves scarce – and they are going to get what they have coming to them.

Get Good Help!

From the wsj and realtor.com:

Stella Guan spent months searching for a home to buy, getting outbid again and again in the white-hot real-estate market of the Los Angeles suburbs. Finally, her offer on a “beautiful” Santa Clarita house was accepted in August, she said. The graphic designer, 30, paid roughly $600,000 for the house. But after sleeping there for only a few nights, she had an unfortunate realization. “I was like ‘uh-oh, I hate this house,’ ” she recalled. “I hate this house so much.”

Looking back on it, she said, “I should have seen all of the warning signs, but the pandemic housing fever got the better of me.”

A house, unlike expensive jewelry or clothing, can’t be returned if the buyer is unhappy with it, so a cardinal rule of home buying is that you shouldn’t rush into a purchase. But in 2020, millions of Americans did just that.

Fleeing small apartments, buying vacation homes or simply looking for a change of scenery amid the crushing boredom of lockdowns, people scrambled to buy houses amid the pandemic, spurring bidding wars and supercharging real-estate markets across the country. Now, many are discovering the pitfalls of these hasty purchases, ranging from buyers’ remorse and financial strain to damage caused by unexpected problems.

This spring especially, “people were so panicked,” said Priscilla Holloway, a Douglas Elliman agent in the Hamptons, a popular spot for New Yorkers seeking refuge from the pandemic. “Buying a home is a huge commitment. You have to be thorough. But people were getting all crazy, and they weren’t as thorough as they usually are.”

Ms. Holloway said she helped a family move this summer after discovering that the Hamptons house they had just bought had an infestation of wasps nests in the backyard. The family didn’t find the wasps until after closing because they had waived the inspection in the midst of a bidding war, said Ms. Holloway, who wasn’t representing them at the time. Deciding the property was unsafe for their young children, they immediately put the Westhampton Beach home on the market. Ms. Holloway and a colleague helped them find another house to buy.

Nature had an unpleasant surprise in store for Richard and Meaghan Weiss when they bought their first home in Northern California after moving from Brooklyn.

When Covid hit, the couple left their Brooklyn apartment to stay with Ms. Weiss’s parents in Sonoma, Calif. Ms. Weiss was pregnant and they had a toddler at the time. “Being cooped up in an apartment, not being able to see people in New York, sounded like a miserable existence,” said Mr. Weiss, 40, who works in commercial real estate.

After a few months they decided to relocate permanently to the Bay Area, where Ms. Weiss grew up, and started looking for a home to buy. They found the market to be “super-duper competitive,” Mr. Weiss said. They were outbid on one house and backed out of a contract on another when they found out it had serious foundation issues.

Finally, they were able to buy a four-bedroom house they loved in the East Bay, paying about $100,000 over the $1.89 million asking price to beat out another bidder. “We were a little bit overeager because we’d been burned twice,” he said. “We probably didn’t do the due diligence we should have and looked at everything as thoroughly as we probably should have.”

They closed on the hillside house in November. When they returned a few weeks later to move in, “we see all these holes in the siding,” Mr. Weiss said. On closer inspection, they found that the wood on one side of the house was “absolutely devastated,” with some 90 holes in it. It turned out that the culprits were acorn woodpeckers living in the large oak trees surrounding the house. “Come to find out, it’s a systemic problem in the neighborhood,” Mr. Weiss said.

The seller hadn’t said anything about the birds, he said, and coming from Brooklyn, he and his wife didn’t know to ask. Since then, they have tried various deterrent devices and consulted with exterminators, but the only permanent solution is to replace the home’s wooden siding with cement at a cost of roughly $150,000.

If it weren’t for the frothy pandemic market, Mr. Weiss believes they would have discovered the problem before closing. “I think we would have been slower and more thoughtful and more methodical,” he said. “Buying a home becomes emotional. Because we were emotional from losing the first two and the competitiveness, we just kind of dropped our level of diligence and plowed through.”

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Inventory Watch

My theory this week to explain what’s happening today?

The ultra-low mortgage rates are the problem.

Specifically, the decline in mortgage rates over the last two years have caused more of the existing homeowners to refinance, rather than move.  In the graph above, you can see how the supply of homes for sale has declined in a similar trend to mortgage rates. Low rates have spurred more interest from buyers, but the drop in supply hampers their ability to take advantage of it.

If and when rates rise, it won’t change the problem with low supply because the refinanced homeowners have packed it in – they’re not moving no matter what happens to rates. They are locked in forever!

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