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Op/Ed

Are Realtors the real loser in the sword fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

What used to be a three horse race became a two horse race, but the entire track changed as Move became News Corp. and Zillow/Trulia became Zillow Group. What does News Corp. have in common with Zillow Group? They’re both media companies.

Anyone still wondering whether Z/T/R intend to become national brokers can now rest easy, as they have both made it so abundantly clear that they’re media companies, period.

3. ListHub and syndication heats up

In January, Zillow announced that they would cut ties with ListHub, then this month, after Zillow and Trulia officially got married, ListHub (remember, they’re owned by News Corp./Move, Inc.) shut off the pipe that feeds listings to Trulia. Yesterday, a California judge granted Zillow Group a restraining order that forces ListHub to continue syndicating at least until their next court date on March 12th. Zillow Group CEO, Spencer Rascoff continues to assert that ListHub sends subpar data to make Move competitors appear to have inaccurate data.

Sources tell us that Zillow Group should have been prepared for the relationship with Trulia to end, given that Zillow already announced their breakup with ListHub, and some indicate that this fight reveals a vulnerability in Zillow’s data quality, otherwise they would have simply supplemented Trulia with their own listing data instead of ListHub’s. One broker told us that she feels this is Move being petty.

Move disavows claims that inferior data is being sent to Zillow, and say they look forward to their day in court (as we’re betting Zillow is as well).

That brings us to today

The swords have been drawn, the lawyers have suited up, and we’re watching a corporate war like we’ve never seen in this sector. And it’s just now heating up. These two juggernauts are battling for the same eyeballs and same dollars, so there will be figurative casualties. I wouldn’t say anyone’s fighting dirty, but that they’re fighting, stabbing, and clawing, and they’ve got deep pockets to back up the fight. That said, because of Move’s affiliation with (thus accountability to) NAR and their dues-paying members, we’re more confident that Move’s interests are aligned with practitioners’and that’s important to note as we move forward here…

In an email to employees obtained by Realuoso, Ryan O’Hara, Move, Inc.’s new CEO said, “Competing in business typically involves trying to be better, cheaper, faster or different than your competition. How will we compete? By continuing to build the best web and mobile experiences for consumers and the best and most valuable tools for brokers and agents, and by providing the market with the most comprehensive, most accurate and most up-to-date listings in the U.S. I can also promise you we will quicken the pace of product innovation and apply more marketing muscle to our consumer and industry outreach. When we do all of this, we execute on our vision of putting real estate at the fingertips of today’s information-driven consumer and enabling real estate professionals to provide their customers with indispensable and personalized service. And that’s how we win.”

Rascoff, on the other hand, has blogged about his open mindedness as to the future of Zillow Group’s direction, and he’s been one of the ballsiest leaders in the industry, so we have no doubt that he’s rallying his teams’ enthusiasm to a fever pitch as they prepare for what we are certain is a delightful and exciting battle for Rascoff and his executive team. He’s a competitor and has never made apologies for it.

A shocking level of apathy in the industry

Some might think that we’re projecting that Realtors are the ones that lose out because of potential changes to Market Leader (many Trulia staffers were laid off from the Bellevue office where sales and support are (that’s Market Leader territory)), which could impact Keller Williams who is their biggest customer. But no, it’s none of that minutiae.

I originally set out to opine that Realtor confusion will put Move on top (some will expect that a Z/T merger means one bill, but operating separately, they’ll still pay two bills and be disillusioned), but then I hit the phones. I called dozens of Realtors across the nation, not just our readers, and the responses were astounding.

Several had no idea that Zillow had acquired Trulia, many didn’t know what ListHub was or how it related to this fight, and not one could accurately tell me any details of the three major points outlined above. Not one Realtor.

Only a select few knew that ListHub had severed ties with Trulia, meaning their listings might not appear on Trulia as of this week, and three actually said they didn’t care one way or the other, even when we discussed the importance of listing accuracy.

One told me that her most important concern is whether there are flyers at her listing because she’s so rural that most people still don’t have internet, so this battle means nothing to her (even though I asked her about the future, to which she said, “I’ll cross that bridge when I get there”).

Every industry has idiots, but for the most part, Realtors are a bootstrapping breed of ingenious ass kickers who live or die by how good they are at every single transaction. So how were so few uninformed, and for those that were, why didn’t they care? Don’t they know that almost every single transaction starts online, and that where they land dictates how they get to you!?

Here’s why Realtors are going to be the loser here

Realtors are going to lose in the Zillow Group battle with Move, Inc. because they’re busy working instead of obsessing over the minutiae of listing syndication and blossoming media company mergers and acquisitions. Realtors are a hard working, honest bunch, but let’s look at it through the lens of politics – there are a few decision makers pushing papers, a few more that approve those papers, a lot that watch news, a larger group that react negatively or positively when they learn of a policy that impacts them, and the largest group which has no idea what the hell is going on at any given time, and couldn’t identify the VP of America if paid $1M.

So here is how I see the industry:
industry involvement

  • True insiders are the handful of people that lead these companies and know every move that is going on, long before even their employees know. In this circle are the Spencer Rascoffs, the Ryan O’Haras, and Dale Stintons.
  • Informed insiders are the small circle of people that work at these companies and know what’s going on, or are talking to the true insiders on a regular basis. These are also the types that are involved (like those leading policy-making committees at a national level).
  • Well informed are those that aren’t directly affiliated with any of the aforementioned companies, but study them. This is most of our readers – you’re a decision maker at your company, so you work endless hours, but you’re good at your job because you’re obsessed with knowing as much as possible to retain your competitive advantage.
  • Somewhat informed are the normal practitioners that read real estate industry news from time to time, may watch some cable tv news, but mostly focus on their continuing education and being good at their job.
  • Uninformed is where an even larger number of practitioners lie. They are not stupid by any stretch of the imagination, but they honestly have no clue what Zillow Group is, and even when told, they don’t care, they have a call to make and you’re wasting their time.
  • Clueless is the large number of people that don’t know what ListHub does or why it matters, and like the uninformed, they’re not stupid, they’re just not interested, and that’s their prerogative.

Because of these levels outlined above, very few people in the sea of practitioners even know what is going on. It is my firm belief that this is exactly why Realtors will lose out – not enough are involved to affect change, fewer care to be involved, and even fewer will ever know that there was even a battle. This means that decisions are being made that they have no awareness of (therefore, no say in), and it’s not like American politics where we all urge each other to vote to be heard – involvement is the only vote here, no matter how busy you or your practice are.

Our industry’s track record of diminished involvement means media companies have increasing power, and hell, they’ve earned it. But until the day comes where I can spend a week on the phone calling Realtors, and they all know what the issues are or why they matter, they’re vulnerable. Realtors are vulnerable, and as an advocate for Realtors, that makes me increasingly nervous.

#ZillowMoveBattle

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The Real Daily and sister news outlet, The American Genius, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

Op/Ed

Social isolation can literally kill you – we need each other

(EDITORIAL) Social isolation and aloneness have bigger consequences than most people realize.

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introspection ask yourself

Can isolation kill you?

Starling birds are often considered a pest because these birds are abundant and usually come in mobs.

Researchers studied the effect of isolation on common starlings and found that when the birds were separated from the flock, it caused increases of the stress hormone, corticosterone. These gregarious birds did not handle isolation very well.

“We live in a society bloated with data yet starved for wisdom. We’re connected 24/7, yet anxiety, fear, depression and loneliness is at an all-time high. We must course-correct,“ said Dr. Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey.

We need other people.

Loneliness and isolation have the same effect on humans. Researchers from Brigham Young University found that loneliness increases the risk of mortality by about 26 percent. Social isolation has a little higher risk, 29 to 32 percent.

Most people tend to feel lonely or become more socially isolated as they age.

Some experts believe that middle-aged men are most susceptible to loneliness and isolation.

Loneliness is a subjective feeling, and it’s just as damaging as being socially isolated.

The researchers pointed out that someone who is happy to be alone still suffers from social isolation and thus, the increased risk of death.

On the other end of the spectrum is a person with a lot of social connections, but who does not actually connect with another person face-to-face. This loneliness is not good for people.

When you’re feeling lonely, it’s not enough simply to interact with others. You have to make an emotional connection. People cannot read your mind.

When you’re lonely, you have to let others know.

If you have a support group, reach out. If you don’t have a network of friends and family, you are going to have to create one. For me, it’s my church and community organizations.

You might find friends at the gym, in a theater group, or through volunteering at your local animal shelter.

Go and play cards with a person in a nursing home or just talk. You might be saving their life through your connection by keeping them from feeling alone while also helping yourself.

This story was first published here in 2018.

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Op/Ed

Career pauses can feel painful but can lead to new avenues

(EDITORIAL) My job pause(s) lead to a complete career change…maybe. While at times nausiating, they can lead to refreshing new outcomes

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Career change

What’s worse than stand-still traffic?

The start-stop traffic.

In a standstill, you know where you stand…still. In stop n’ go n’ stop again traffic, you have no clue. You go from 5 to 50 again for all of three feet then back to 5. Eventually, you don’t even care about getting to your destination anymore just so long as the tedium ceases.

My jobs went almost exactly the same way.

Retail work, career work. Retail work, career work. Retail work, career work. And each time I had to take a pause, I didn’t have enough time, money, or interest to keep up with the rising trend of ‘content creators’ who can film, edit, script, photograph, edit THOSE, AND do blogs and emails replacing copywriter positions. So I just stayed scrambling until I could ‘relax’ into a career gig that ended shortly for one reason or another.

Even though I left each advertising job under different circumstances, in late 2019, I realized ‘Okay, maybe it’s ME. Maybe if I’m this frustrated with the traffic, I need to pull off the road.’

The last shift saw me go from copywriter, to house cleaner, to heavy metal head shop gal, to moderating freight brokerage in the span of two months. Hell of a detour…

Of course now that I’m out of full-time work in the field I sold my credit score to break into, the guilt of having left a career I soured on to break into a field I didn’t need to go to college at all for is…crushing. And new beginnings, with wages to match, are hard no matter who you are.

However, this shame and heaviness is all coming from the inside. My parents are proud, my friends are happy for me, and I have yet to hear anyone actively dumping on my decision to purposely exit the salaried copywriting field. And even if everyone sucked about my choice, it wouldn’t change the fact that so far it’s the best one. At some point, you gotta shake yourself by the shoulders, borrow from Mrs. Knowles-Carter, and scream: Suck on my job cause, I’ve had enough.

Why deal with a stigma when you could deal with stigmata, right? Those are way cooler. And I’m pretty done with wounding myself either way.

Multiple small, panicked hiatuses taught me something. Some things. First thing: truly powerful screaming comes from the belly, not the throat. Most relevant thing: I don’t want to write for other people, nor for brands that can’t use some variant of my own voice.

I thought I was a copywriting mimic octopus who could change colors, shapes, and textures to suit an environment, but this whole time I’ve been a chameleon— always keeping my funky fresh shape, and only changing colors to suit how I feel, or to attract mates. Gentlemen.

I’m not going to act like career pauses are some great thing in which to discover yourself and do some eat, pray, love BS. I quite literally almost died of a bad infection during a time I was on a pause with no heath insurance. The pauses were financially and mentally draining, and if it weren’t for extreme strokes of good fortune in several places, I wouldn’t be in a position to write this piece.

What I will say is that I was able to bid the misshapen phoenix cycle I was on a phrantic pharewell, at least I think so. Anything’s liable to change, such is life.

For now, there is only to bag up the ashes and try to use them in fertilizing my next steps.

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Op/Ed

Women empowering phrases can hurt if they’re not authentic

(EDITORIAL) Who’s the Girl Boss? If you have to ask, it isn’t you…and if you have to answer, it’s not you either. False empowering words for women hurt too.

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women inspiring shirt

Pinkwashing. Noun. The practice of cynically plopping of a pastel shade, a string of lace, or a little glitter on absolute Grade-C bull$#!+, and using it to pry open the wallets of women.

Now I know what you’re all thinking. I’m too Deep ™ to enjoy a little fun flashiness or high-femme shenanigans, so I’m invested in raining on your parade, but I assure you this next truth bomb is coming from my heart, not my massive superiority complex.

“Girl Boss, Fempire, Boss Babe” and more are all empty ass phrases designed to separate us she-beasts from our money, our time, and our sanity as business owners.

I’m not against a bumper sticker or enamel pin here and there, don’t get me wrong. If you think for a second I wouldn’t own a shirt that says ‘Boss Bat’, and wear it to literally every business-type meetup under a blazer, you’re just mistaken.

BUT, I’m not here to rant about trinkets and tees this time. That’s the icing.

The moldy, thumbtack-filled cake we’re slicing up here is about the deeper issue of a toxic ‘hustle culture’ being marketed to women, and how insidious it can be for those of us who have to push back not just against the competition, but the idiotic stereotypes about our gender.

As difficult as it can be for even the straightest, whitest of men to start a business without also being rich, the fact that women still need to prove ourselves in a man’s world is an added hardship.

And now that people have realized there’s money to be made exploiting the railing against that hardship, the same dangerous crap being marketed to business owners has now taken on the mask of feminine solidarity.

‘Babes, it’s SUPPOSED to be this hard, stay up the extra 48 hrs and slap on a sheet mask, you’re building your fempire’.

‘Hey, chica, you can’t let the boys see you slip! Get that mani-pedi while you reschedule your pap smear around your conference calls for the 15th time!’

‘Sis, the only source of light you’ve seen in the last month being your computer screen reduced your fine lines and wrinkles! You GLOW girl!’

This is a gaping, gangrenous wound, and a cute lil hashtag-bandaid isn’t going to help matters.

We are literally breaking, bankrupting and KILLING OURSELVES for this ideal.

Know why selling Scentsy is so difficult? It’s not because you’re on your ‘lady-grind’, it’s because it’s a damn pyramid scheme, and you’re not supposed to do well at it.

It’s girl power to study by the lights in your car so you can pay for that “empowering (prerecorded) womens’ webinar’ in the first place right? Dude…no.

Now look.

I recognize that it’s important to make a big deal out of hardworking, successful women, because we’re still, some-crazy-how, not expected to be successes in the first place. It’s not just tempting to stand tall with your feet on the bloody backs of whatever you’ve conquered and scream ‘The best revenge is my paper and your DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM’, it’s necessary.

We’ve not only got the onus on us to make it happen against the odds as A: An entrepreneur, B: A woman, and C: Any other marginalization “points” you might have, there’s the added responsibility of not being allowed to be quiet about how well we’re doing.

Dangit, someone has to pass the torch. Someone has to be the name little girls pick when they’re asked to name a recent example of a “small-brained femoid” kicking entrepreneurial ass. Someone has to support other gals on their come-up, and take the publication photos, and give the Big Sisters – Little Sisters benefit banquet keynote speech, right?

That’s all very true! The spotlight can’t be abdicated frivolously, though I maintain that we’re ALL due for a vacation.

But we women have to also recognize the difference between being catered to and being sold to.

Having the same fast-fashion, peely-print t-shirt as a whole half the planet sucks anyway.

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