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If it walks and talks like a brokerage, it might be Zillow

Zillow is one of the largest real estate media companies in America, and they have recently made bold expansion plans many are praising, but one industry leader tells AGBeat that these moves are competitive, not praiseworthy.

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Zillow’s expansion plans: compete with brokers?

Real estate media company, Zillow has recently made several big moves, some are being called game changers as they add value to their offering with the goal of better serving real estate practitioners and consumers. Not everyone sees it that way, however, including VHT Chairman, Brian Balduf, who is no stranger to controversy, recently taking on black hat SEO tactics of real estate media sites.

Balduf sees Zillow’s expansion plans as anti-broker and in a statement to be released later today, Balduf outlines why. The statement is featured in full below.

“If it walks and talks like a brokerage, it might be Zillow,” by Brian Balduf, VHT Chairman:

Zillow’s new Agent Hub tool

When Zillow rolled out a new CRM tool for real estate agents on Friday, it hit a nerve with brokers who are already offended by big aggregators’ controversial tactics to get in between them and their customers.  Now it looks like Zillow is also trying to get in between them and their agents.

Zillow describes Agent Hub as a key step in moving Zillow beyond advertising with a suite of tools and services giving agents a central hub for marketing and managing their businesses and becoming more productive.

Agent Hub is said to provide agents with analytics dashboards to monitor listing and agent profile metrics, as well as marketing and social media training and industry news updates.

All this prompted industry observers such as Geekwire to suggest that Zillow’s agent strategy is targeted at competing with Market Leader and other industry outsiders that are aggressively pursuing the billions spent annually by real estate professionals on marketing and advertising.

Brokerages are in Zillow’s crosshairs

But there’s more going on here than competition between two companies in the same space. In this battle, it’s real estate brokerages who are in the crosshairs of Zillow’s ongoing expansion plan.

Understanding why that’s the case requires understanding how the Internet has changed consumer buying habits. Once upon a time, agents were the source of clients for brokerages. But now, consumers have direct access to MLS listings and they’re spending weeks or months shopping for homes on the web without help from agents.

Today, agents have to pay Zillow and other third parties to help them find these online buyers. And these savvy third parties are investing big bucks in developing a range of CRM, lead management and other support services that are easy for agents to access and free or low-cost to use. (Zillow’s plan, the company disclosed this week, also includes opening a new California office and adding 100 employees to its sales force to promote the Agent Hub offering.)

An interesting comparison

Here’s an interesting comparison.  If you look at some advertising by brokers trying to attract agents, and at what these industry outsiders like Market Leader are marketing to agents, you’ll see some interesting similarities:  

The broker’s message in the above ad — about providing the “best tools, training, support and lead generation” to agents — has been borrowed by third party companies like Market Leader. Its brochure ware says it offers agents “integrated websites, contact management, a marketing center, and lead generation services that generate a steady stream of prospects plus provides the systems and training for converting those prospects into clients.”

The only difference in the services is that these third party players aren’t restricted by all the rules and regulations that a brokerage must adhere to.

Zillow undermines brokers’ value to agents

With Agent Hub, Zillow is helping to undermine brokers’ value to agents and eclipsing their role by providing services directly to agents – services that traditionally have been provided by brokers. Like Market Leader, they’re taking money out of brokers’ pockets, undermining agents’ loyalty to brokers, and basically competing for the low hanging fruit – agent marketing dollars.

No wonder agents are questioning the role of traditional brokers and demanding a larger share of commissions.  If the trend continues, will agents need brokers at all?

Brokers CAN actually strengthen their relationship with agents and increase their value proposition. But they need to spend less time trying to recruit more agents and more time using their resources to get leads for the agents they have. They should be helping agents nurture buyers through the sales process so they can close more sales.

This battle is all about trying to help agents generate leads and close deals more effectively. Whoever does it the best, wins, period.

AGBeat is not affiliated with VHT and the above comments expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions and position of AGBeat officers and employees.

The American Genius (AG) is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

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47 Comments

47 Comments

  1. Ken Brand

    April 18, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    “This battle is all about trying to help agents generate leads and close deals more effectively. Whoever does it the best, wins, period.” Absolutely spot on. The odd thing, at least for now, in this simmering competition stew, brokers are providing their ZTR competitor with gunpowder (property data) which is used to sell ads to the brokers agents, which generates money, which ZTR use to manufacture more tools (bullets) to shoo the gunpowder-providers (brokers) in the head. Awareness on all fronts is rising and will rise as the market rebounds and (hopefully) smart brokers move from a survival-mode-mindset to a kick-ass-and-take-names-mindset.

    “But they need to spend less time trying to recruit more agents and more time using their resources to get leads for the agents they have.” I believe to thrive you must do both impressively. Half-assing on lead gen, developing new talent, quality control and attracting new talent will have a broker chasing and lagging instead of leading and reaping.

    I don’t believe a middle ground is possible due to TRZ’s shareholder/investor demands and expectations, growth can only come from disintermidiating brokers. What I’m encouraged by is the fact that (for now anyway – wake up brokers TRZ is a Trojan Horse) brokers can (if they have the will) pull the life support plug on TRZ. In will be interesting to see how brokers react in a surging rebound market.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Benn Rosales

    April 18, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    The entire old guard needs to be pushed – if you’d told me 3 yrs ago top producer would be html5 I’d have called you insane and asked you to step away from the crack.

    IMO this is more threatening to old vendors and new vendors with old tricks – read that again.

    This is a snap in the face to NAR – wake up, we’re taking the reigns as the leader in the real estate industry, and Trulia just solidified my belief last week.

    The fact is, Zillow is a threat to everything that was once normal in real estate, and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that. The arrogance of the old mans club is coming to a head – mark my words.

    • Bruce Lemieux

      April 19, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Benn – Definitely agree that other RE service providers like Move, etc should worry about Zillow, but how is “Zillow is a threat to everything that was once normal in real estate”? It seems to me that Zillow does two things: sells web ads from listing data, and provides web services to agents. This may bring about some industry consolidation in these markets, but I don’t see how this affects much else. This doesn’t seem that revolutionary/disruptive to me. What am I missing?

      What would be very interesting – and cause quite a stir – would be if Zillow setups up brokerages ala Sawbuck — ‘brokerages’ that have access to MLS data and build an agent referral business. This would be a lot more disruptive to traditional brokerages than anything else they’ve done recently.

      • Benn Rosales

        April 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm

        Bruce, got your question, and I’m going to see if I can help paint a better illustration of what I mean than stuffing it into a comment. I don’t think Z will be sticking signs in yards, I think it’s a lot more macro than that and not speculative, but what’s actually happening in real time.

        • Bruce Lemieux

          April 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm

          “I think it’s a lot more macro than that and not speculative” – I have no idea what that means.

  3. Rich Jacobson

    April 18, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Spot on, Benn! Things are desperately in need of a shake up. Local brokerages (and parent companies) have failed to provide meaningful lead gen systems for their agents. Zillow and Trulia are simply fulfilling the need/demands that Realtor.com has failed to provide.

  4. Robert Drummer

    April 18, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    If *any* agent puts their client information in Zillow’s AgentHub, they are an absolute idiot.

    Zillow’s ‘Terms of Use’ let them do anything they want with your client list including sell it to any third party.

    I blogged about here:
    imapp.com/blog/2012/04/zillows-dirty-little-secret/

    • Jay Thompson

      April 19, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Jay T. from Zillow here!

      Thanks for pointing this out Robert. The TOU you cited in your posy was never intended to include info agents and brokers upload to the CRM / Agent Hub. Zillow will not harvest anything from the contacts that agents input into the CRM, and the language of the TOU is being been updated to explicitly state this.

      • David G

        April 23, 2012 at 8:54 am

        Thanks for the clarification Jay T. 😉

  5. Thomas Johnson

    April 19, 2012 at 2:06 am

    Tsk tsk. What would David Gibbons do?

    • David G

      April 23, 2012 at 8:55 am

      He’d probably do exactly what Jay T would do. Good to see you Thomas.

  6. Paula Henry

    April 19, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Agents and brokers woke up too late.

  7. Bruce Lemieux

    April 19, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    All this hand-wringing over Zillow is so tiring.

    So Zillow is providing services to agents just like Market Leader and Move. So what? Agents aren’t forced to use any of this. If Zillow provides compelling products with good value to agents, how is this a bad thing?

    And this incessant worry that Zillow will become a brokerage — ugh, enough already. If Zillow’s evil master plan is to setup brokerages, then let them. Running a profitable brokerage is hard work. If it were simply a matter of turning on a website, Redfin would have taken over the entire industry years ago. And if they do setup brokerages, do it better than everyone else and make tons of money, then good for them. Seriously – what *is* the problem?

    There’s a lot of zillow/trulia/redfin/r.com haters on the REnet who would be better off focusing on how to provide more value to their buyers and sellers – and less time griping about everyone else.

    • Benn Rosales

      April 19, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      I’m not a hater, like I said, competition in the market place especially for associations and vendors is a great great thing.

      • Bruce Lemieux

        April 19, 2012 at 6:16 pm

        Benn – sorry, didn’t mean to infer that you were in the ‘hater camp’. If I understood the original article correctly, you reported on Mr. Balduf’s thoughts on Zillow, not your own. I think we both agree that a more competitive RE service marketplace is all good.

        • ken Brand

          April 20, 2012 at 10:16 am

          I’m not wringing my hands Bruce, I’m speaking up, speaking out, wagging a finger, shaking a fist.

          Fortunately I’m capable of expressing my self and focusing on my business at the same time. A part of business is keeping abreast of competitive forces, listening to opposing views and formulating a positon current issues. Expressing myself in writing is helps to crystalize my beliefs.

          What I’m not doing it sitting quietly in a corner, deaf, dumb and mute. If I did that I wouldn’t be “doer”, I’d be a dud. imo

      • David G

        April 23, 2012 at 8:59 am

        Was Zillow contacted for comment on this story?

    • Drew Meyers

      April 20, 2012 at 7:02 am

      “There’s a lot of zillow/trulia/redfin/r.com haters on the REnet who would be better off focusing on how to provide more value to their buyers and sellers – and less time griping about everyone else.”

      Spot on. Unfortunately, this world is full of “blamers” aka those who will bitch and moan about what everyone else is doing that is so “unfair” but refuse to actually do anything themselves to improve their business. I’ll stick to hanging with the doers of the world..

    • Robert Drummer

      April 20, 2012 at 9:54 am

      It seems there are just as many zillow/trulia/redfin/r.com apologists on the REnet who also would be better off focusing on how to provide more value to their buyers and sellers – and less time griping about everyone else.

      • ken Brand

        April 20, 2012 at 10:01 am

        This is what makes the internet great. It allows us to bitch and moan, even when we want bitch and moan about the bitch and moaners. We can hate on the haters, we can point how unfair and misguided the unfair and misguided are.

        Thankfully because most of us who read and share on AG can walk and chew gum, we can laser focus on growing our business, be a doer and still find time to add to the conversation, even when the haters, moaners, bitchers, unfocused and undoers disagree.

        • ken Brand

          April 20, 2012 at 10:03 am

          PS. I think Redfin is an awesome brokerage. ZTR, not so much, they aren’t a brokerage yet.

      • Bruce Lemieux

        April 20, 2012 at 10:11 am

        @Robert – So we have the Hater Camp and Apologist Camp. How about the Agnostic Camp? Either way – I agree with your point.

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Opinion Editorials

Our five faves for Friday – almost Thanksgiving edition

(EDITORIAL) This week, I have so many faves that I can barely keep it at just five – Unicorns, gophers, tears, science nerdery, and rebellions, oh my!

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I heard a rumor that it’s Friday again, so today we share with you five of the neato-est things that we came across this week – some silly, some serious, all awesome.

1. Brands refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day

It started with retailers opening early on Black Friday, then opening at midnight on Thanksgiving Day, and now retailers are expected to force their staff to work instead of enjoy a bajillion-ish year old American tradition.

But some companies are pushing back, publicly refusing to open on Thanksgiving Day, so even though our home doesn’t care about Black Friday, we’ll be giving some business to those taking a stand.

2. I need you to know about my favorite tv show ever

So there’s nothing new about this, but since you’ve never heard from ME on a Friday Faves roundup, I really need you to know something about me – I have a lot of natural curiosities and history (when not told in a dusty way) fascinates the hell out of me.

Unearthed on the Science Channel is friggen amazing and literally EVERY episode has taught me something that I didn’t know before (like the one about Stonehenge included new discoveries that change how we think about how humans used to operate – seriously mindblowing stuff). All of the episodes are available online, yo, so get to nerding!

3. No one has bought me a Pony Cycle yet

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But I posted this insanely amazing Pony Cycle on my Facebook timeline this week with a request that someone buy me one. Guess what? No takers. My friends are monsters. I mean it comes in horse, unicorn (dibs), and zebra, why not buy me one or three?

ponycycle

4. Video that made me cry

After the recent earthquake hit Iran, there has been a deep need for food for the victims. Watch this video (my fave part is the pat pat on the back) and try to tell me that hate isn’t something we’re taught… also, I’m not crying, you are…

5. My favorite gif of this week

If you know me, you know I love gifs more than the average person. So when I came across this one, I knew I had to award it my fave of the week…

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Opinion Editorials

Is your job inadvertently harming your health?

(EDITORIAL) We often get so consumed with our work that we unknowingly hurt ourselves in the process. Learn how to keep this from happening.

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health at work

With the changes in seasons, we tend to put more of an emphasis on our health. This makes sense as flus and colds have a tendency to run rampant around the holidays.

However, we should be more mindful of keeping track of our health throughout the year. And, given that our jobs are such a large part of our lives, it is important to keep in mind that our jobs can have an affect on our health. Which can often be a bad thing.

For most of us, we are in the same space for eight hours of our day. Sometimes we think that just because it’s ourselves occupying that space, things can’t really get germy. Well, think again.

We have so many things that we touch on a daily basis – our keyboard, mouse, phone, ID badge, etc. These have a tendency to become a house for germs, which can hurt us as time goes on.

Combat this by setting aside some time each week to disinfect all of your most-used items. Also, consider keeping some hand sanitizer at your desk.

Getting up to clean around your office can help take care of another issue – being too sedentary throughout the day. Sometimes we get so consumed with plugging away at our computers that we forget to get up and stretch.

This can be harmful to your weight and your circulation. Keep the blood flowing by getting up and moving a bit every hour or so.

The mindfulness of your health should not stop at the physical, but should also involve keeping an eye on mental health. Your job plays a big part in this as well.

First of all, you start and end your day with a commute. For some, this can be incredibly strenuous – expensive, traffic-filled, etc.

This has been known to lead to depression. Try filling this time with positivity and fulfillment by listening to a quality podcast or an audio book. This will help to give meaning to otherwise wasted time.

The most important thing to monitor with your mental health is making sure to not overwork yourself. It can be difficult to find that perfect work/life balance, but it’s necessary for a happy and healthy life.

Try staying away from work emails and texts after a certain time of the day on weekdays or on the weekends. Think about it this way – you’re not supposed to tend to your personal business during work hours, so why let work interfere with your personal time?

All of this can be helped by checking in with yourself every once in a while, or even by using the buddy system and discussing the topic with a work friend.

Lastly, be sure to check with your company to learn about health and wellness programs that may be offered.

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Opinion Editorials

Do literally anything with your money besides buy an iPhone X

(EDITORIAL) The iPhone X is pretty snazzy, but let me express why your money belongs literally anywhere besides in Apple’s pocket for this phone.

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iphone x

The iPhone X is off to a rocky start, beginning with the fact that no one seems to know whether it’s supposed to be pronounced “iPhone Ten” or “iPhone Ex” and working up from there.

If you’re here, you probably don’t need me to tell you that a 5.8-inch OLED screen, facial recognition, 4K recording at 60 FPS, and an all-glass design are superfluous as hell — but just in the off-chance that I’m wrong, THE IPHONE X IS SUPERFLUOUS AS HELL.

Take literally 30 seconds to think about all of the mega-cool features that convinced you to buy your last smartphone, then think of the last time you used even half of those features without feeling compelled to do so. If you’re one of those people who uses all of the filters on the camera every day, fine, but I’m willing to bet that you just use your phone for Facebook, texting, and calling your grandma.

You don’t need a 5.8-inch, all-glass, basically-a-tablet-of-a-phone to do those things, but if money doesn’t mean anything to you, be my guest.

It’s also worth noting that there is a certain point at which “really fast” and “really, really fast” feel identical to one another. My personal experience with this phenomenon was with the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8; it doesn’t matter how fast your newest processor is if the last one was fast enough.

Apple has a long history of publicly executing things that people are still using. While it’s hard to be too mad about the headphone jack, they hit a soft spot when they nixed ethernet ports—and, more recently, USB 3.0 ports—and the most recent dissident to fall victim to Apple’s indiscriminate chopping block is the Home button.

Yeah, that thing that make the iPhone usable in the first place? Not there anymore. Worse still, the simple display is now flooded with different shortcut hotspots. For example, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open the Control Center — no, wait, that’s how you get home. You swipe from the top-right corner of the screen to open the Control Center, while the top-left corner opens the notifications screen that — hey, are you writing this down?

To make matters worse, Apple added a bunch of different contextual shortcuts to the physical buttons on the sides of the iPhone X, further reducing accessibility. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

Is the iPhone X necessary? Absolutely not. Is it neato? Sure.

But is it worth your time if you’ve got dollar bills to blow? Again, absolutely not — do literally anything else with that money, up to and including burning it. As long as Apple continues to ignore the issues that plague their devices in favor of broken facial recognition and 3D emoji animation, consider spending your money elsewhere.

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