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Zillow to Go Head to Head With, RPR & Your Wallet?

Zillow goes head to head with your wallet

zillowToday, Zillow is announcing that they will begin charging $9.95 to manually upload listings for a period of 180 days and current listings will be given a 30 day grace period in which to opt in or out. Zillow’s move to charge for listings seems like a small price but is just another chipping away at Realtors’ pockets and may be an insurmountable expense for agents whose primary business is lease listings, because as consumers discover an alternative to Craigslist, they will come and agents understand that they must be there to meet them. But, imagine you as a single agent, currently holding 38 listings in the city, you’re expected to shell out $378.10 up front and again at the end of 180 days if your market doesn’t move quickly. In other words, if your listing isn’t fed through the MLS data feed, you’re going to pay for it. Sorry rural or small brokers, give up (your listings) or pay up.

Chloe Harford, Director of Strategic Planning at Zillow, said that this project will grow over time and that Zillow is not yet set up for a bundle package offering for listing entries. David Gibbons, Customer Relations Director told us that Zillow will be examining how to offer a pro account or bundle package because if every agent who wanted to post a listing wanted to discuss the charges, “taking the phone call alone obliterates the margin.” I predict a pro or bulk account will launch sometime after the first 180 days so everyone has to throw their wallets into the wishing well first without a discount (but maybe that’s the cynic in me having watched agents get burned over the years by most tech startups now known as media companies).

Zillow goes head to head with, RPR

Gibbons told us multiple times in a call today that Zillow “pioneered concept of one property record for every home in the country” which sounds a lot like the recently launched Realtors Property Resource (RPR), although it is different in that it faces millions of consumers rather than one million agents in an intranet fashion.

Why is this a threat to RPR? Because RPR is young and although it serves as an inward facing product for people belonging to the National Association of Realtors, Zillow already has a huge chunk the market share as the second largest real estate search site which enjoys over 8 million visitors each month (and they are still growing phenomenally- 60% over 2008 alone).

Why does the announcement of adding lease listings threaten Because on top of being a one stop shop, they already have over 4,000,000 listings currently for sale on the site and a total of 90,000,000 in their database and more feeds continue to be fed into their system along with manual entries (FSBOs, etc) meaning that they’re closing the gap between them and in size. Zillow has consistently owned the “cool” factor over NAR and it’s of no fault of the Association, but because a startup with swag that goes to tech parties will always have more energy and buzz surrounding them than the “establishment.”

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Jim Duncan, Charlottesville, VA Realtor said, “I was struck by David’s repetition of “one property record for any property in the country” – it sounded very similar to RPR. Zillow are the ones who have been able to effectively implement the “one property record” concept. They’re certainly not the first to do it, and clearly aren’t the last, but they are the ones who have implemented this concept. Once someone has critical mass – of records and consumers who recognize said critical mass – then that company is well positioned to be the de facto leader in the space.”

Gibbons noted, “Zillow always planned to differentiate itself as “the database of ALL homes.” As such, knowing which homes were for rent were part of the plan all along but as a startup with constrained resources in a volatile, sequencing these things is important.” This assertion puts a target square on the RPR and

Also as an alternative to existing establishments, Zillow positions itself in advocacy role. “In today’s volatile housing market, many would-be sellers are opting to rent for a few years and ride out the market, while many home shoppers are just trying to decide whether to buy or rent,” said Spencer Rascoff, Zillow Chief Operating Officer. “With the launch of rental listings and search, we are arming our more than 8 million monthly users with information, tools and options to make the right housing decisions for them today.”

Zillow goes head to head with all sites that have maps

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What Zillow should be commended for is their taking on the lofty goal of mapping out neighborhood boundaries which launches today. Gibbons said that this feat is “tricky because there is no regional database with neighborhood boundaries,” but notes that it will lead to stronger search. This feature has received little notice and Zillow barely mentions this tool that allows iterative features and enriches their search function but they even have an intern devoted to implementing the neighborhood outlines. When complete, it will be the first national database of neighborhoods which is a massive undertaking.

To learn the details of the other half of Zillow’s news release, click here.

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Christopher Garcia

    December 15, 2009 at 12:10 am

    Hypothetically speaking, $378.10 up front for 38 listings is only how much of the potential commission on 38 listings? i think most Realtors and/or investors would gladly pay that amount up front, whether they want to or not.

  2. Christina Ethridge

    December 15, 2009 at 1:00 am

    Well, they just lost us. We have an average of 30-50 listings on there at any given time. I will not be paying for Zillow, not in our state (Zillow can’t get our state fully uploaded because sales data is confidential).

    Additionally, people STILL type in city/state/real estate or homes for sale when searching. Putting my listings in Zillow just increased the exposure, it was never a “make or break” thing for me.

    Thanks but no thanks.

  3. Matthew Rathbun

    December 15, 2009 at 7:59 am

    We pay $25 per listing to “enhance” it on so this isn’t an unusual step. However, I don’t think it’s prudent to say it’s just “$10 per listing” because if you’re promoting a property well, there are a number of fees attached to each one. They add up after awhile.

    We’re not going to pay for yet another service. I love what Zillow is doing, but it’s not a dominate tool in our market. When I see more agents getting homes sold through this tool than we’ll consider it.

  4. Ken Brand

    December 15, 2009 at 9:10 am

    I may be wrong, probably.

    The beat goes on. The super smart create a shiny object, agents give us your listings so we can become wealthy, in fact, give us your data, make us relevant. What we’d like to do, is use your data to direct opportunity away from your personal/brokerage site and towards or shiny site, and we want your money too.

    What’s in it for you?

    You might get a phone call (lead) from a stranger. Want more?

    Keep sending us your data, that way we become more powerful, you become more dependent and less relevant (perceived not actual), eventually we charge you more for the very thing that makes us powerful and necessary. Who knows maybe one day, we’ll see you back the leads generated by your handwork.

    Thanks for playing, partner (dope).

    End of rant.

    It’s troubling.

    • Jim Duncan

      December 15, 2009 at 9:48 am

      I second what you said.

      That’s all.

  5. Ken Brand

    December 15, 2009 at 9:12 am

    Misspelled. Should be – Who knows maybe one day, we’ll sell you back the leads generated by your handwork.

  6. Fred Romano

    December 15, 2009 at 9:24 am

    I agree with Ken! It’s sick that we provide rcom, zillow, and all the others with “OUR” listing data, then they have the nerve to ask us for money to brand them. It’s a vicious cycle that we are in. Is there anyway out?

  7. Sara Bonert

    December 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

    Hey all, Sara from Zillow. I wanted to make sure two things were a little clearer:

    1) If your listings come to us via a feed, as 97% of the listings on the site do, those will still be FREE. This only affects the 3% of manually uploaded listings.

    2) When you pay the $9.95 to manual upload a listing for 180 days, it is FEATURED, meaning that it appears at the top of search results. Featured listings typically enjoy 6 times the traffic of our standard listings, so you are getting a lot for your ten dollars.

  8. Fred Romano

    December 15, 2009 at 9:44 am

    Sounds like what Trulia is doing… Same concept, different name.

  9. Christina Ethridge

    December 15, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Featured means nothing – whether it’s Zillow, Trulia, or others. Featured means paying money to appease the seller. Featured “supposedly” means more “traffic” but the “traffic” isn’t bringing more qualified and ready to buy people, it’s just creating busy-ness.

    99% of our bonafide, buying prospects do NOT come from someone emailing or calling us from one of these “big” sites. As the market has gone from normal, to insanely easy to normal again that number has never changed. And we do a heck of a lot more business than most agents, so this isn’t coming from someone who does 5 or 30 transactions a year.

    Our leads come from OUR prospecting, OUR SOI, OUR own website and we track how people get to our site.

    I refuse to spend $500 per listing (and yes, with all of the fees here and there, that’s what it ads up to) just to get it placed in a series of directories when enhancing my own site and SEO brings me (and my sellers) a much better return. Instead, we are taking that money and spending it on higher return marketing.

    Thanks but no thanks Z. You are just another cog in the wheel of “what can we pilfer from the real estate transaction” while at the same time, shooting out the other side of the mouth about how agents don’t “deserve” the commissions they get. Let’s hack away at their fees both in charging them for their own listings AND by perpetuating the myth that we’re all a bunch of over paid monkeys.

    If agents would simply TRACK their business, 99% of the Z’s in the world would be OUT of business. That would be WONDERFUL.

  10. Sara Bonert

    December 15, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Christina- How can you say being at the top of search means nothing? Then why to people buy top result placement on Google? Why do they pay more to be in the front of the newspaper? Why does the first page of a real estate magazine cost more than the middle of the book? Because it gets more eyeballs. And further, sites like Google are able to provide relevant traffic because it is based on USER criteria. Same with a featured listing on Zillow (sure, smaller numbers but same concept).

    No doubt that if you are good Agent, a high percentage of your business is going to come from your marketing/sales efforts and probably enjoy a high referral rate. That is true of most high quality service professionals. I can personally tell you I have never shot “out the other side of the mouth about how agents don’t “deserve” the commissions they get”. That is not true at all, in fact, I hold a license and if I wasn’t working for Zillow there is a good chance I would be full time agent myself.

    Zillow has no desire to be involved in the transaction. We are simply a marketing platform. One that has a lot of traffic and offers a place for real estate professionals and home buyer/sellers/owners (and now renters) to connect.

    • Benn Rosales

      December 15, 2009 at 11:52 am

      The only difference looks like this in relation to search results:



      /agent <- obviously the more valuable.

    • Benn Rosales

      December 15, 2009 at 11:54 am

      not “only”, but most clear cut difference.

  11. Christina Ethridge

    December 15, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Sara – being “featured” on a specific website, such as Z or T or R does NOT = more money in my pocket. It just means a lot more lookie lous to wade through (wasting my time) and more money OUT of my pocket (to pay to be there). Being at the top of an organic GOOGLE search is a whole different story – a search that directs ppl to my site(s).

    I don’t know you and wasn’t talking about you specifically – however, your founder sure did degrade agent commissions, quite loudly and prolifically – until he backpedaled and realized he could potentially get a piece of the commission pie.

    Z DOES desire to be in the transaction, they want a piece of the monetary pie of each listing. Yet another dog biting at my heels for money.

    For what it’s worth – I have NEVER paid for any searches in – from it’s beginning. My (team) listings appear from syndication only. Yet miraculously, we’ve managed to have a big business, with over 40% of it coming from the web (OUR sites) without paying outrageously for “featured” listings. And we have home made sites (well, in a few weeks the professional sites will finally be debuted).

    Since ppl started using the web for house hunting (1995), they’ve always typed in city – state – homes for sale or real estate. In 15 years, R and all the other sites have never been able to change that ingrained way of searching by consumers. Perhaps Z will be able to change it. However, with it’s gross inaccuracies in simple home details and values in the cities it dominates, Z has a lot to do to be considered reliable. Sellers may start heading Z’s direction for perceived value but buyers are still sitting in the search box typing specifics.

  12. Jay Thompson

    December 15, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    Syndicate your listings via a feed to Zillow and it’s still free.

  13. Reggie from RPR

    December 15, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    While I wasn’t on the call with DavidG and the others from Zillow, this sounds to me like some folks are looking for a connection to RPR where one doesn’t exist. Clearly Zillow means to compete with, but there is no relationship between that and RPR.

    More importantly, what Zillow and other consumer sites are able to aggregate is such a thin slice of the data available in MLS and asset management systems, loan servicer, investor, government and other private databases that it’s really not fair to try to make this kind of comparison. Down in the comments SaraB makes note of Zillow’s focus as an advertising platform – that’s an honorable goal in-and-of-itself. But that has nothing to do with compiling a truly complete, parcel-centric database, where they’re not even close.

    • Benn Rosales

      December 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm

      Reggie, is it true that there are three sources for all of this mls data, and RPR uses one and Zillow actually uses two? It’s access to the same data, is it not? A few off record sources ( I consider official) have made this distinction in conversation that the data you’re holding is no more elaborate than Zillows? I’ve also heard that the data Zillow is pulling is actually timely, where RPRs data source is weeks even months behind?

      • Reggie from RPR

        December 15, 2009 at 11:54 pm

        Benn, It seems that they may be confusing RPR with Cyberhomes. Cyberhomes, like Zillow, obtains active listing data from a variety of sources – some of which are very timely, and some of which are not. And Cyberhomes – I’m sure like Zillow and others – puts up the data that it has licensed as soon as it receives it from each source.

  14. Jim Duncan

    December 15, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Reggie –

    Regarding this part:

    While I wasn’t on the call with DavidG and the others from Zillow, this sounds to me like some folks are looking for a connection to RPR where one doesn’t exist. Clearly Zillow means to compete with, but there is no relationship between that and RPR.

    I think there is a comparison to be made between the two – it’s the one record for every property in the country, which is one of the components of RPR, right?

    But that has nothing to do with compiling a truly complete, parcel-centric database, where they’re not even close.

    They have to start somewhere, right? 🙂

    There’s certainly no comparison to the depth that RPR is planning, but from a public perspective, which Z is, it’s a heck of a start.

  15. Thomas Preston

    December 19, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    Dear Sara That sounds fair to me. Lets see perhaps I should copyright the advertising wording and intelectual property that I place on my listing. Then pay you ten dollars per and charge you 20.00 That Sounds fair to me ? Perhaps we all should copy right our listings. Lets see the legal requirment is to just put copy right and your name on it. Where are the great legal minds when we need them. Im really tired of these companies that spring up and try to make money off the backs of us hard working Realtors.everyone wants to sell us leads in one way or another. As long as some of us are willing to pay them they will continue to excist.

  16. Sonia

    December 20, 2009 at 3:53 am

    Thanks but no thanks. My listings are posted on at least 15 sites besides my own site. Most meaningful leads have come through, my site and Have not had any from Zillow. It won’t make a difference to me if I don’t have my listings on Zillow. Ken Brand, above, said it best.

  17. Sara Bonert

    December 20, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Thomas – I’m no lawyer – but I believe any property descriptions you write or photos you take are actually copyrighted, so I am not sure of your point here?

    For years Realtors have been newspapers hundreds of dollars to take their listing content and sell ads around it. Same idea with real estate magazines. So I don’t understand the hostility you have towards someone creating a website with tons of content of it, one of the sections being real estate listings, and giving you the option of paying approximately $1.67 a month to have your lisitng Featured and reach a potential audience of 8.3+ million? And that fee is only if your CHOOSE to have the upgraded services.. I looked at your site and see that you are using the Point2 system, which means they will continue to syndicate your listings for free to the site. The $9.95 business change only affected about 2% of our listings, and you are not in this pool since you don’t manually upload listings to the site.

  18. Steve Hundley

    December 30, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Interesting comments… Jay solves the chatter in one sentence. However pay or no pay, Zillow can be a formidable ally to modern real estate. Consumers expect us as agents to gain as much exposure as possible (actually they expect us to sell the home). The key is first gaining the click (where a featured listing has more possibly of gaining) then converting the lead (this is the tough part for most).

    Craigslist did the same thing in some markets for jobs and that eliminated junk listings and the inventory of opportunities improved dramatically and so did the results.

    The value proposition is in the results. Use your referral link tracking tool and you may find out right away if the value is there. A lot of the result depends on the market location, price point and property type. We find some areas like Vegas and San Diego very hot on Zillow however in our Dallas and DC markets not the same click through rates.

    BTW Zillow, throw in a high page rank backlink with every listing and this is a steal!!


  19. Adam

    July 26, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Has there been any data released over the past 7 months on has this has affected the number of listings zillow has kept? Would be interesting to see.

  20. Sara Bonert

    July 26, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Hey Adam, Sara from Zillow here. No, the listing count has stayed basically the same. It is still free for an agent to send listings to Zillow via a feed, which is how about 99% of the listings got to the site both pre and post the launch of charging for manaully entered, featured listings. For the few who churned off and didn’t want to pay and wanted to manually enter their data – they’d been replaced by those who think paying this is a great value for having their listings featured.

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