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?
Fake news? Well, what about fake reviews?
(BUSINESS NEWS) Amazon is swamped with fake reviews, making it harder than ever to trust whether or not a product is legit. How can you spot them and avoid falling victim to this shady practice?
These days, most of us have turned to online shopping in lieu of brick-and-mortar establishments to get our favorite items shipped directly to our front door. With many retailers still closed, and many more of us understandably wary of exposing ourselves to the risk of COVID-19, it’s easier to just click “buy” and then spend the next two days with our noses pressed to our windows in anticipation of the arrival of our new toy or garment. But are we at risk of being tricked by fake reviews?
If you’re like most people, you probably depend on product reviews to make a purchasing decision. Honestly, it’s perfectly reasonable to see what others thought of the item before you buy it. These online reviews are almost like your neighbor, who whipped out his lawnmower and bragged how it goes from 0 to 4 mph in less than thirty seconds. Obviously — obviously — you had to run out to your nearest garden center to pick up one of your own after his glowing review of it, right?
That’s kinda like online reviews, too. You can’t just knock on the purchaser’s door and ask them what they thought of it, which is why you carefully peruse those reviews and weigh those pros and cons. Okay, this shirt fits loose. Fine, these kitchen shears broke after three uses. Whoa, this brand of potato chips puts hair on your chest…? Sweet! And you also probably looked at those 3-star reviews, too, to see what was merely “meh” about the product. With this assortment of mixed reviews, you can be confident that you’re making a rock-solid choice.
Uh, sadly, nope.
Unfortunately, Amazon (as well as other major retailers, such as Walmart) are often fraught with a glut of fake reviews. In fact, there are numerous Facebook pages dedicated to the purchase of these reviews, and many of the reviewers are compensated with a monetary reward (usually the cost of the item, plus a few extra dollars for their work) for posting the glowing 5-star rave.
So what can you do to help protect yourself for falling for these seemingly harmless lies?
Well, first and foremost — a fake review isn’t necessarily harmless. If a defective or dangerous product is boosted by a false review, it can seriously harm you. Sure, there’s a good chance the fake reviews are benign, and the worst you’ll be in for it is losing a few bucks on a crap item. But if something is using counterfeit or unsafe ingredients (such as minoxidil in potato chips because, real talk, chips aren’t supposed to put hair on your chest), then yes, you need to be informed of it so you can make an educated decision about whether or not that item is coming home with you.
So, the question remains: How can you, intrepid shopper extraordinaire, avoid purchasing a lemon? (Unless, of course, your goal was to buy an actual lemon in the first place. Margaritas, anyone?) The good news is that there are a couple things you can do. For starters, common sense goes a long way. Do the reviews offer any context, or is it just line after line of, “Loved it!” without any actual feedback on the item? That’s why those 3-star reviews are so priceless. Usually the reviewer actually used the item and had a valid reason for their tepid review, allowing you to make an educated decision about it.
Finally, there are a couple of websites you can use to help you out. First, there’s Fakespot. This web extension will cull out all the fake reviews, allowing you to see at-a-glance the remaining genuine reviews. It then reviews the item for its credibility, letting you know if the seller was trying to pull a fast one on you. Then there’s ReviewMeta. Unlike Fakespot, this website goes through the views and instead of grading the seller, it actually grades the item based on the average score of the remaining real reviews. And by using both of these websites together to check those reviews? You’ve now got yourself a pretty decent idea if the product is actually worth your hard-earned dollars.
It’s far too easy to get scammed these days. However, by staying alert and remaining mindful about your online purchases (and avoiding the temptation to give into those stress-motivated impulse buys), you can avoid being bilked, too. And hey, instead of looking at online reviews, maybe you should go back to the old-fashioned way of doing it: By asking your neighbor for their opinions of items. Just, y’know, do it from at least six feet away, while wearing a face mask.
Manufacturing is bouncing back, but supply of materials is struggling
(BUSINESS NEWS) As manufacturing demands surge, so do material costs. The pandemic has shifted where we’re putting our money, but supply is struggling to keep up.
As the United States’ manufacturing process comes back up to speed, a surge in demand is creating a shortage of the one thing manufacturers need in order to do their jobs: Supply.
Fox Business reports that, due to a much quicker return to normalcy for manufacturing than some expected, a price hike for materials is affecting everyone from the bottom up: “Prices for steel, aluminum, lumber and other materials are rising in response to higher order volumes. Commodity supply chains are now clogged with orders, causing some producers to add weekend hours and overtime for employees.”
The fast manufacturing rebound seems to be a harbinger of better days ahead, but this supply bottleneck could dampen producers’ resolve.
It should be noted that the spike in demand for goods which use the materials in question isn’t an entire surprise. As Fox notes, much less of consumer money has been going toward travel and dining out. This has resulted in more money flowing into things like appliances, vehicles, and entertainment commodities.
But the toll is hitting producers coming and going as things like depressed oil and the paper used in packaging undergo substantial price hikes, leading some companies to stockpile resources in hopes of having an edge in the future.
Others find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between lower profit margins or higher prices on manufactured products—a choice that is sure to impact consumers, if not the rate of consumption.
Indeed, some companies, such as Northwest Hardwoods, have an upper limit on the price they can charge on a finished product regardless of rising material costs.
It’s not all bad, of course. Global prices for materials like aluminum and scrap steel have gone up, which means people like Brad Serlin—the president of United Scrap Metal—can make a killing. “We can sell everything we have,” says Serlin, referencing “big orders” from recently busy steel mills.
As the pandemic wears on, though, one thing is crystal clear: The high demand for domestic goods coupled with rising global prices for materials is going to make for some severe price hikes in the coming months.
Jeff Bezos steps down as Amazon CEO, moves into space travel
(BUSINESS NEWS) Jeff Bezos is stepping down as Amazon’s CEO in order to focus on other passions, such as his space company, Blue Origin.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will no longer be Amazon’s CEO starting in the third quarter of 2021. On Tuesday, Bezos announced he is resigning and will hand the job over to Andy Jassy, Amazon Web Services’ CEO. Bezos will transition to the role of Executive Chair on Amazon’s board.
“I’m excited about this transition. Millions of customers depend on us for our services, and more than a million employees depend on us for their livelihoods. Being the CEO of Amazon is a deep responsibility, and it’s consuming,” said Bezos to employees in an email. “When you have a responsibility like that, it’s hard to put attention on anything else,” he said.
By stepping down, Bezos says he will have more “time and energy” to focus on “other passions” like Blue Origin, his space company. In 2000, the billionaire started the rocket company to make space travel affordable and easily accessible by using reusable launch vehicles.
Since the company was founded, it has yet to reach orbit and is lagging behind Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX). SpaceX, which began two-years after Blue Origin, has already achieved some huge milestones.
In September 2008, Falcon 1 became the first privately developed liquid-fuel rocket to reach Earth orbit. In May 2020, SpaceX launched two NASA astronauts to space.
Blue Origin has a lot of catching up to do, but, with more free time, Bezos might make sure the company moves full-speed ahead.
I mean, look at what he did with Amazon. In 1994, Bezos founded the multinational technology company. Since then, the e-commerce giant has grown into a trillion-dollar company. It has more than 1 million employees and millions of customers.
“This journey began some 27 years ago. Amazon was only an idea, and it had no name,” Bezos said. “Today, we employ 1.3 million talented, dedicated people, serve hundreds of millions of customers and businesses, and are widely recognized as one of the most successful companies in the world.”
There is no word about how much more involved Bezos will be with Blue Origin, but the company already has things to look forward to.
Last December, NASA selected Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket to “launch planetary, Earth observation, exploration, and scientific satellites for the agency.” This contract will allow the company to “compete for missions through Launch Service Task Orders issued by NASA.”
Last month, it conducted a successful flight test of its New Shepard capsule, and many more tests are, without a doubt, in the company’s future.
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