It took about five minutes after the announcement of Zillow’s $3.5 billion planned acquisition of Trulia for the critics to come out in force.  In the past couple of days I’ve seen everything from continued bashing of Zestimates to the obituary of the Realtor.  Rather than continuing the bashing of a company that is capitalizing on our own stupidity, I thought it might be fun to actually propose a few ways to overcome the behemoth that is the collective denial of our shortcomings, er, I mean Zillow.

 5 DIY Solutions For Overcoming Your Fears of Zillow

1) Be More Professional

There’s a reason people go to the web instead of calling you.  It’s not them.  It’s you.  Well, it might not be you because you read awesome blog posts, but it’s people who share your profession that don’t read awesome blog posts.  In the most recent Gallup poll of respectability in professions, only 20% of Americans rated real estate agents as highly or very highly respected.  That means 80% of the country finds us average to low in respectability.  That puts us even with attorneys and just a little above state politicians.  So, to be completely candid, 80% of America would rather get incorrect information from a website than talk to you.  That seems like a problem, no?

2) Push More of the Good

Directly related to #1, is a good ole #2, which is what most people see/hear when it comes to Realtors.  When was the last time you turned on the news and they were covering something awesome that a group of Realtors was doing?  I can’t remember that either.  More likely, it’s an investigative report or a story about something an agent did wrong that got a poor family foreclosed on and they had to give away their dog and their kids didn’t know how Santa was going to find them.  As an industry, we must do a better job of marketing what we do for our communities.  Whether it’s protecting homeowner’s rights through our PACs, doing community service, or highlighting our expertise in certain areas, we fail miserably at getting the word out about how cool we are.

3) Be the Resource

There’s a secret about Zestimates that most people in the real estate industry don’t know or don’t want to admit.  The consumer doesn’t care that the Zestimate is wrong.  You might, but they don’t.  It’s the only place they can find it, so Zillow owns it and you don’t.  Not to be a total homer here, but in Houston we provide more information to the consumer and the result is that we beat Zillow.  Our brand is stronger here because we are the resource.  We are the go-to for the consumer.  Stop being a data hoarder and give it away to the consumer.  If not, they’ll keep getting it from Zillow.  Your choice.

4) Stop Feeding the Animals

Where does Zillow get their data?  From you, your Broker, or your MLS, that’s who (mostly).  What happens when you feed something a healthy diet?  It grows.  There are a lot of arguments on both sides of this issue and I can see the points in both sides.  That being said, we own our own “Zillow-esque” site.  It’s not great, mostly because of our fear of giving up control of the data (see point 3), but it could be.  Until we make it that way, people will continue to go where they can get the data. Unless, of course, the data isn’t there. Side note, Zillow’s commercials are also WAY better than commercials.  We need a better ad agency (PS – Ad agencies tied with state politicians on the respectability survey.  So, they’ve got their own issues).

5) Stop Paying to Eat Your Own Kind

This one should be pretty simple.  Stop paying boatloads of money to Zillow and Trulia for leads generated by your fellow agents.  It is literally forced cannibalism.  For as much bitching that comes out of the industry about these sites, there sure are a lot of agents paying money to them.  You can read more about this on my rant “Realtor Tastes A Lot Like Travel Agent” by clicking here.

There are a lot of issues that we can tackle together, but it is going to take a paradigm shift in our thinking.  We can’t hold information under lock and key anymore and expect people to find value in that.  It just won’t work because someone will give them the information, correct or not, and they won’t care because it’s all they have.  So, if you’re one of those who fear this acquisition is going to put you out of business, you might be right.  You might be wrong though.  Either way, wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to have this conversation?



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