Let me preface this rant with an admission of guilt. I am guilty of all the things I am about to complain about. I once owned two zip codes and was a premiere listing agent on Zillow.com and owned a zip code and participated in the Listing Showcase program with Realtor.com. Today, our agency provides our agents with premium listings on Homes.com and Trulia. So, welcome to my giant hypocritical rant.
I rarely say hate, but I hate Zillow, Trulia, Realtor (ZTR) and all the other big syndicators out there. Why? Agents work hard and build a business only to have their hard work sold back to them. It’s forced cannibalism. It drives me crazy.
I don’t begrudge ZTR its success. They have taken advantage of the stupidity of the real estate industry.
Let’s take a step back. When was the last time you took a vacation? When it was time to book your flight/car/room, what did you do? What would you have done 10-15 years ago? Most likely, today, you went to Expedia or Travelocity, Kayak or Hotwire, Hotels or Priceline. Fifteen years ago, though, you would’ve called a travel agent. So why don’t you do that now?
Because the same man who killed the travel agency is doing the same thing to the real estate industry!
The travel agent industry died because travel agents thought that as long they controlled the information and kept it from the public, they would be essential. Sound familiar? I guess they learned their lesson a little too late.
Many of you may know of a man named Spencer Rascoff. He is the CEO of Zillow. Prior to that, though, Mr. Rascoff was the co-founder of Hotwire and later a VP at Expedia. He saw the opportunity to do the same thing to the real estate industry. Zillow is now printing money off of the sweat of the people who are paying them for their own damn leads. I demonize Rascoff for the purpose of this post, but he is one of dozens doing the same thing. It’s insane to me.
Why is it insane to me, other than the obvious? It doesn’t have to be that way. Plain and simple.
There is one market in the United States where the local MLS beats ZTR day in and day out. The agents pay nothing but their dues and receive all the leads that come through the public facing site. Information the consumer wants, including sold data, is provided directly to them. The web address is one of the strongest brands in the market. The agents actively inform their clients to avoid the inaccuracies of ZTR and only use their site, thus perpetuating the brand.
What market is this, you ask? Houston, Texas. You know, the hottest market in the United States. HAR.com is the site. Go ahead, take a look around. See what I’m talking about. It is user-friendly, shares tons of info, and even has a great app for your phone or tablet. Sure, we don’t get some of the things that I see members of other getting, but I would much rather have business than lockboxes provided to me.
Here’s the not so funny thing. Representatives of realtor boards from around the country visit the Houston Association of Realtors all the time to learn our processes. We share them willingly. Then they go home and do nothing to recreate our success. Politics and petty prejudices keep them on the brink of putting themselves out of business.
How long do you think it will be before one of these companies strikes a deal with someone like LegalZoom and puts you out of business? Zillow is already circumventing listing agents with their Make Me Move feature. Yet, we, as an industry, sit idly by and pick each other to death with fights over this and arguments over that.
It is time to take control of your own destiny.
Give the consumer what they want, information. Give them access, become the provider and the resource, make it public and reap the rewards that the syndicators are currently stealing from you. Or, ask your travel agent friends what they are up to.