Zillow agent sites launch to mixed reviews
Just one day ago, Zillow announced “Premier Agent Websites,” a WordPress solution powered by Diverse Solution’s IDX, at $10 per month for non-Premier Realtors, and free for Zillow Premier Agent program subscribers.
The launch has seen mixed reviews, with some noting that it is a good place to start, while others question Zillow’s methods and motives. Zillow is not the first company to offer websites to agents, in fact, templated sites have been around for decades, but with the integration with Diverse Solution’s IDX and use of the WordPress platform, the offering is in most aspects more high quality, and setup is simple and streamlined, easy for any agent to understand.
[ba-pullquote align=”right”]”You see one template site, you’ve seen them all whether it’s Z-57, Advanced Access, Superlative or now Zillow.” -Jonathan Dalton, Realtor[/ba-pullquote]Jonathan Dalton, Realtor at Thompson’s Realty in Arizona weighed in, noting that “These websites can serve as useful tools at an affordable price for real estate agents looking for a rather quick and easy IDX and internet solution. It’s not one I believe more experienced online agents would prefer as most of us learned long ago that template sites tend to brand the template creator nearly equally as the agent. You see one template site, you’ve seen them all whether it’s Z-57, Advanced Access, Superlative or now Zillow.”
“Template-driven monotony aside,” he added, “I see two potential drawbacks. The IDX listings come with an inherent headache with the inclusion of Zestimates whose inaccuracy buyers’ agents have had to explain to unsuspecting buyers since they first created – that Zillow remains so married to its own flawed Zestimates to this degree even as it branches out beyond them is surprising given the known issues with the numbers.”
Dalton continued, “Secondly, if these IDX feeds also are being indexed the same as the more robust Diverse Solutions IDX products, I’m not certain why agents would be inclined to pay the much higher price for DS. More customization is possible, but if SEO is the end goal, I would question whether the means are justified at the significantly higher price.”
Issue one: exporting and importing content
The fine print is not obvious yet, but what was immediately obvious is that the company had turned off the default WordPress settings that allow agents to export all of their content from blog posts to comments, in the event they wish to move to their own hosting scenario, or to another platform.
[ba-pullquote align=”right”]”We didn’t launch Premier Agent Websites with export functionality for simplicity sake.” -Zillow[/ba-pullquote]Zillow told AGBeat, “We didn’t launch Premier Agent Websites with export functionality for simplicity sake. However, we received a lot of requests for this feature, so the beauty of an online service and a stellar, fast-paced team allowed us to make it happen very quickly. We’ll continue to add more functionality over time based on customer feedback. Now agents can chose to export posts, pages, community pages or all content, which includes posts, pages, comments, custom fields, terms, navigation menus and custom posts.”
The company will also soon add an import feature, but it is suspicious that the export function was turned off in the first place. One source told us that because of such a major oversight or choice to exclude the option to give agents an escape button, the fine print should be analyzed by all agents prior to giving any controls to a third party, particularly one that some see as competitive with the Realtor brand.
Issue two: Zestimates on all search results
Also receiving mixed reviews is the fact that each listing on an agent’s site is data presented through the IDX, thus directly from the original source, but on the same page as the current listing price is a Zestimate, a feature that does not appear to be optional. Professionals with Zillow agent sites will be subject to whatever their consumers think of Zestimates, positive or negative.
[ba-pullquote align=”right”]”We also include numbers from a few other automated valuation models, and our own recommendations for gauging the value of the home based on comparables that the user can evaluate for himself.” -Glenn Kelman, Redfin CEO[/ba-pullquote]Redfin CEO, Glenn Kelman told AGBeat, “Redfin has published IDX and VOW data alongside the listing’s Zestimate for five years, so I’m not sure what is new about this? We also include numbers from a few other automated valuation models, and our own recommendations for gauging the value of the home based on comparables that the user can evaluate for himself.”
The major difference between a brokerage like Redfin publishing Zestimates and agents is the awareness level of what the data is, means, and how it is being used and perceived. Grandma Realtor goes to a conference and hears that for $10 per month, she can have the sexiest Realtor website alive, and she is the least likely to understand the history and ramifications of Zestimates, in fact, may not even know what that is, or do more than click “buy” and let the site do its thing.
The level of understanding of risk differs between Redfin, or brokers who choose to implement the Zestimates alongside every single listing, and independent agents who can barely check email and are just looking to get a web presence because the gurus have told them they’re dead in the water without it.
Issue three: links to Zillow on all search results
What was immediately obvious to us was that every listing in search results on an agent’s new website not only has a Zestimate, but next to the Zestimate is a link to the listing on Zillow, also a feature that does not appear to be optional.
It is brilliant on Zillow’s part to do widespread link building a thousand times over, but unsuspecting agents may not be aware that every listing on their site points to Zillow and gives users a reason to leave, rather than keeping them on the site.
Austin Realtor and Co-Founder of Displet, Eric Bramlett said, “The new Zillow sites are completely decent. They’re obviously a loss leader for the company, so you have to ask yourself what the motive is. In this case, I think it’s increasing their Premier Agent subscriber numbers & increasing exposure of Zillow through badges, logos, and links. It looks like a good move for Zillow and a good, cheap product for agents, if they’re okay with entire value proposition.”
Do agent sites put Zillow one step closer to becoming a brokerage?
[ba-pullquote align=”right”]”The question the agents would surely tire of answering is why on earth do they prominently feature the obviously ludicrous Zestimate?” -Jeff Brown, Investment Broker[/ba-pullquote]Investment Broker, Jeff Brown shared his suspicions with AGBeat, noting that “This is a huge win, at least not a loss, for Zillow. The agent either wins new clients, or is made to look silly, which could indeed drive the customer to Zillow’s future real estate brokerage? The question the agents would surely tire of answering is why on earth do they prominently feature the obviously ludicrous Zestimate? Or, why are they listing the property so far under market value? If I was still on the house side of the business, I’d be disappointed in anyone whose thinking I’d previously respected, opting to participate. Somebody, anybody, please show me what I’m missing.”
Brown added, “Furthermore, if I ran Zillow, when I opened my brokerages around the country in the best markets, I’d never join any MLS. Almost immediately we’d be known as the company ‘with all the listings’. Contrary to the opinion of those born after the ice age, buyers don’t give a tinker’s damn about who has the inventory. They care only about finding THEIR new home. Zillow Real Estate will make it exceedingly easy for them to find. The ‘post ice agers’ will think this is something new under the sun, when instead it’ll be a real life, real time real estate sequel to Back to the Future. This can happen, and a whole lot easier than most may think.”
Zillow says they have no intention of acting as a broker to any real estate deal. Despite statements like this in the present and the past, some still believe the company could change their mind.
Update: Zillow said on May 4, 2012 to AGBeat, “We dropped all licenses in 2008, except for Washington and Texas. Since then we dropped Washington and retain Texas. We decided to keep the license in Texas because it is a non-disclosure state so having the brokerage license allows us to access certain data which helps us produce Zestimates.”
A fast moving company
As Zillow alluded to, they are a fast moving company, so they’ll pivot to address user concerns, and they have already addressed the first issue, but it remains unseen as to whether the remaining two dilemmas are features the company is willing (or able?) to alter, which could potentially hurt adoption rates of their website feature, despite that ridiculously great price tag, and some are asking who benefits the most when agents set up their sites – agents or Zillow?
Unify your remote team with these important conversations
(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.
Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.
According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.
Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.
Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.
With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.
The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.
Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.
This story was first published in November 2020.
How to apply to be on a Board of Directors
(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.
We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.
Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:
1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.
As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.”
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).
The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.
Age discrimination lawsuits are coming due to the pandemic – don’t add to the mess
(BUSINESS NEWS) Age discrimination is spreading despite intentions to help, and employers need to know how to proceed in this unprecedented era.
A 2015 survey found that 75% of older workers found age an obstacle in job hunting. COVID-19 made the situation much worse.
Not only do older workers deal with discrimination, but they are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, older workers were hit the hardest by job loss during the pandemic, which is unusual during a recession. As offices reopen, employers need to be careful to avoid age discrimination in rehiring.
Lawyers expect age discrimination lawsuits to increase.
Last September, Harris Meyer published an article in the ABA Journal that predicted a “flood of age discrimination lawsuits” from the pandemic. Employers who have good intentions by keeping older employees out of the workplace to protect their health are still guilty of age discrimination.
What can employers do to avoid age discrimination?
It may be fine line between making sure you don’t discriminate based on age while offering ADA accommodations. The first thing employers should do is to know what laws apply based on their location. Some states exempt employees over 65 from returning to the workplace out of safety fears, meaning that those employees can still get unemployment. Other states are cutting benefits if employees don’t return to work, regardless of age.
There are some jurisdictions that have passed legislation about which workers have the right to be recalled. Next, review your own policies and agreements with laid off and terminated employees. You may want to consult legal counsel to make sure you’re covering your bases.
As you rehire, whether you’re bringing back former employees or hiring new team members, do not make hiring decisions based on age. Keep good documentation about your decisions to terminate certain employees. If you are citing poor performance, make sure to have a record of that. Don’t terminate older employees who have bigger salaries just because of lower sales. Monitor your words (and that of your hiring team) to avoid bias in hiring and firing.
Provide accommodations or not?
According to the SHRM, “Workers age 40 and older are protected from bias by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; however, that law doesn’t require employers to make accommodations for safety concerns.”
Still, employers can provide flexibility for workers, but it largely depends on the type of job. Reaching an accommodation for an office worker will be much easier than accommodating a sanitation worker.
Employers should assume that workers aged 40 and older can return to work. When the need for help is raised by the employee, enter negotiations for accommodations. Don’t initiate the conversation, and absolutely avoid any references to age.
Know that the environment may change as the pandemic continues to affect workers.
Be thoughtful about your hiring practices moving forward to avoid costly litigation from age discrimination.
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