People say there will always be a need for a realtor, but consumers may adapt to new methods:
JG: How is Zillow addressing these different aspects of the consumer journey?
ES: The problem that we are spending a bunch of time on right now is how do you fix the home-touring problem. We’ve noticed that a lot of times we had a consumer who wanted to go see a home, and couldn’t get in. We went and talked to ShowingTime and they told us that there were 92 million showing requests on our platform last year, but only 68 million of those got fulfilled.
This is a boring problem, and what we are doing is attacking it in three different ways.
The first is a new technology that we call “3D Home” and it’s sort of like your next-generation, virtual tour that allows you to walk through the house. What we found is that homes that have these 3D Home tours are viewed 45% more than homes that don’t have them and on average they sold 14% faster.
Then, we’re putting a bunch of technology, resources and engineering into ShowingTime so that when that buy side request comes in to see a home in person, we can make sure that the agents can connect and we can get that person into the house. We also just launched a beta test of a product where you can actually use the Zillow app as a mobile control to get into the house.
So with these three different projects that we have going on right now, we are going to try to fix this boring but incredibly impactful problem of getting into a house.
JG: What other innovation can we expect that will help drive the next generation of Zillow and its business model?
ES: There are a bunch of things that we are doing to simply help consumers buy homes. We have a really sophisticated artificial intelligence engine that sits behind our user search interface.
We’re doing essentially the same thing for listings that Netflix does when it sends users a “here is a show that you’re probably going to like” suggestion. On the second time you come back to the app or site, we’ve looked at not only what you’ve been searching, but also what people similar to you are searching, and our goal is that on that first page of search results to get you a house we think you’re going to like.
The goal is you should never have to go to page two to get a home that you like.
Another thing is we just launched a feature that we call SharePlay, and what it does is set up a FaceTime call and you and another person can use the app at the same time. In our research we found that 86% of our users on Zillow said they were shopping with someone else—either a spouse, housemate or parent.