Zillow goes head to head with your wallet
Today, 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 Realtor.com, 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 Realtor.com? 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 Realtor.com 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.”
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 Realtor.com.
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 mapsWhat 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.