In this episode of Top 5, Jay Thompson, Zillow’s former Director of Industry Outreach, shares his Top 5 ways to positively impact your business using Zillow.
I’ve actually been working on this post for quite a while now, but just haven’t found the right thing to tie into to make it work. Thanks to the shitstorm surrounding Zillow’s Instant Offers that has happened over the past two weeks, I owe them a bit of gratitude for helping me finish this up. The problem, up to this point, has been trying to put into words a philosophy that can be seen differently through any number of lenses without providing solid context. The aforementioned surge of paranoia about the perceived inevitability of the Zillow takeover of all things real estate has helped put some perspective in place to make the point.
To Answer The Question
Since I brought it up, no, I don’t believe that Zillow Instant Offers poses a very real threat to Realtors. No, I don’t think that Zillow has any intention of becoming a real estate broker and taking over the industry. I believe that Instant Offers is, plain and simply, a big name in the business reacting to a threat from smaller companies like Opendoor. That’s it. I’ll get to that later. That said, I would argue, given the way the platform is set up, that there is real opportunity with Instant Offers for agents that aren’t wasting time complaining about it.
The Real Problem
What the agents bitching about Zillow should be looking at, in my opinion, is why it’s happening, not who is doing it. The real problem is that the home selling and buying processes are arcane, intrusive, and, frankly, a giant pain in the ass. So, in walks an opportunity to take the time, stress, and hassle out of the equation and people like it. Is anyone really surprised? I mean, not to get all dramatic here, but it’s not a hard argument to make that our buyers and/or sellers often end up feeling like a victim by the time they get to the closing table.
For sellers, they have someone come into their house and tell them a bunch of stuff to fix. Then they have to keep it extra clean so a bunch of strangers can trample through at the time of their choosing. Then they usually have to negotiate offers. Then they get a professional inspector, that they don’t choose and have no oversight of, who comes in and tell them a bunch of stuff to fix. Then another professional, also not of their choosing, comes in and tells them if their home is really worth what the market clearly thinks it is. Then they finally, maybe, if another professional, that they also have no oversight of, hasn’t either lied or screwed something up, get to close. Oh, and they get to pay a bunch of money for this pleasure.
For buyers, they usually start looking online, often at sites that have significantly flawed data, yes, like Zillow (there, are you happy now?) for a home. Then someone tells them to go get a financial colonoscopy to make sure they can actually buy it. Don’t even get me started on how flawed the financial world is, specifically as it relates to “credit worthiness”. Then they get dragged around to look at a bunch of homes that usually results in that same feeling you get when your blind date doesn’t look anything like her online dating profile picture. Then they get to negotiate an offer, pay for the inspection, negotiate some more, pay for an appraisal, and possibly have to either negotiate some more or walk away after coming out of pocket for all of these things. Then, maybe, if the professionals they hired did their job, get to close.
Yep, can’t imagine why someone would want to avoid that, can you?
Disruption is Coming
When Barack Obama received the Democratic nomination for President of the United States, there was no such thing as an iPhone. Let that sink in for a second. Now, today, you go through separation anxiety if the damn thing is in the other room for five minutes. The world is changing quickly around us. Uber is quickly killing the cab and black car industries, without owning a single vehicle. Airbnb is the largest hotel operator in the world, without owning real estate. Cable companies are clinging on for dear life because of streaming media. Newspapers are closing left and right because of our need for everything on-demand. Expedia, and others like it, killed travel agents. The list goes on and continues to grow industry by industry. If you don’t believe that change is coming to real estate, please keep believing the way you do so I can take your clients when you aren’t in business anymore. Disruption is coming, and you should be ready, open-minded, and willing to identify where it might be coming from and take advantage.
Do For, Not To
So, because I’ve been waiting a really long time to get to the point these days, here it is. The industries I listed above all have one thing in common (except, maybe, newspapers, but I can make the argument both ways). They are all true service industries. I say “true” because they don’t actually sell a tangible product. Realtors like to fancy themselves as a service industry, but the truth of the matter is that we sell a tangible, consumer good. For most professionals in the industry, service may be what sets them apart from their competitors, but their consumer is still purchasing a brick and mortar product.
How, and when, we begin to see disruption in the consumer goods industry is still to be seen. We are seeing disruption in how the products are delivered, but not really in the products themselves, except in the electronics industry. Companies like Amazon, HelloFresh, and Shipt are dramatically changing the way we take possession of the things we buy, but aren’t fundamentally changing the actual products. I would argue that Zillow Instant Offers and Opendoor are in the same category. They are changing the delivery mechanism, but not the product.
I believe that it is the responsibility of the Realtors in the market, the real professionals, to drive the change needed in this industry on behalf of our consumers and clients. In the scenarios above describing the home buying and selling processes, nearly every step of the way, the client has something being done to them. It is time to change the thinking of the industry to a do for, not to mentality. Yes, of course I mean in the way you service your client. You should already be doing that. More importantly, though, is that we make the process a do for, not to process. Opendoor and Instant Offers are doing that for the people willing to accept their terms. If we want to have a say in how this goes down, then we need to stop running in fear of a make-believe enemy, stop the industry infighting over who controls data, and have a real discussion, with our clients involved, on how to make this process something that people actually want to be a part of when buying and selling real estate. Think about it, we would be the very first industry that didn’t have disruption done to them, but took it upon themselves to do it for them and their end-user!
And, as a side note for anyone in association leadership that might be reading this, no, we don’t need 17 committees and Presidential Advisory Groups to get this done.
Admittedly, there isn’t very much fun about sifting through 70+ pages of statistics and graphs. Those that know me well know that I would rather watch soccer than sit and read stats for a couple of hours. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. I really hate studying stats, but I’d never watch soccer. That’s ridiculous.
That being said, outside of political advocacy, one of the few things that the National Association of Realtors does very well is compile some pretty good stats. If you’re an agent and you don’t read their Profile of Buyers and Sellers, you are missing out on some pretty good info that could help shape your strategic plans. But why would you want to know about the “average” Realtor?
Knowing your competition might allow you to exploit areas of weakness, opportunity, and/or underserved markets.
So, on your behalf, I sat down with the 2015 Member Profile and here are, in no sensible order whatsoever, some of the things that caught my attention:
- This may sound crazy, but one of my biggest surprises of this survey was that only 65% of Realtors use social media. I may be showing my age, but how can that possibly be true? I seriously can’t even imagine a world where an agent wouldn’t use social media in some fashion.
- This stat shows me that if I was over 50 years of age, I’d get really social savvy. For agents under 50, this stat goes up to 80 percent. If you could market to the over 50 crowd that is in the social sphere, I think there could be real opportunity there.
- In 2014, the typical agent did 11 transactions for around $1.7 million in production and made $45k. All three of those are down year over year from 2103. I’m going to go out on a limb and suppose that has something to do with strong member increases and not market conditions. Either way, I never really pay that much attention to these kinds of stats because, like in everything else in your life, the 80/20 rule applies and you aren’t the 80 are you?
- The typical agent received 20 percent of their business from repeat clients and 20 percent from referrals from past clients. If that’s the case, I think that there are a lot of agents doing things wrong. It would also explain the drastic drop in the statistics around repeat business from the Profile of Buyers and Sellers. I would love to see this (combined) number closer to 75 percent.
- Only 5 percent of Realtors reported that real estate was their first career. Nothing really of significance here other than it makes me sad. I’d love to see more universities with residential real estate concentrations.
- Only 18 percent of Realtors have assistants. If that doesn’t prove the 80/20 principle, I don’t know what will. Just a thought: there might be a larger crowd in the 20 percent if more agents had assistants doing the things that keep the agents from their business development. More on assistants here.
- In 2014, 26 percent of agents did more than 20 transactions. Again, the 80/20 rule lives.
- I’ve always thought there was something of a “war of attrition” in real estate and that if you could just hold out long enough you would likely be successful. The stats seem to somewhat back that up, even though the numbers are just kind of disappointing overall.
- More agents reported that finding the right property was a bigger obstacle to closing deals than was financing. I find this both encouraging and concerning. It’s encouraging because it would seem to imply that financing is becoming more widely available to all buyers. It’s concerning because short supply has long-term economic impacts that can be harmful if the shortage remains in place for an extended period of time. I have enormous concerns for Texas in this regard. The fortunate thing about this particular category in the profile is that 20 percent of agents reported no factors getting in the way of them closing business. That’s really encouraging.
- 69 percent of agents still belong to a commission-split model of brokerage. However, if you look at the higher-earning and more experienced agents, they tend to be associated at a higher rate with fee-based or 100% commission model brokerages. Maybe (and I might be biased given that I own a 100% commission brokerage) the younger agents should pay attention to their wise elders.
- Members allegedly brought in three inquiries and two percent of their business from their website. I know that those are small numbers, but I highly doubt the accuracy of these numbers. That’s not on the NAR for the inaccuracy, but rather the agents answering the survey not really reporting correctly. In today’s world, these agents might be getting some business from some websites, but only the truly tech savvy have websites that generate real business. My cynical side is guessing that the agents that reported this as they got business from a website and not necessarily their website. Could’ve been Zillow, their broker, or anywhere else on the ole’ interwebs. Mind you, this question was being answered by a member population with an only 2/3 adoption rate of social media.
- In the frequency of use of communications and tech products, there really weren’t a lot of surprises. But, this is where I think you can find some real opportunities if you look at what isn’t being used. In this case, blogs and podcasts were at the bottom of the list. So, how can you use a blog and/or podcast to grow your market share?
- Similarly, the most underutilized tool in the business software category is the greatest opportunity for any agent. The amazing thing (to me, anyway) is that every marketing/tech/web guru out there has been preaching this tool for a decade. VIDEO!!! If you aren’t using video, start right now. Record a video of how you liked/hated/fell asleep to this post and send it to me. Just do it. We’ve talked about video on here before.
- In the preferred method of communication with clients category, again, the losers show you where the greatest opportunity lies. The bottom three? Blog, podcast, and video chats! Facetime your clients. Record videos from your phone and send them instead of a lame email. Use blog posts in your CRM to communicate with past clients. Same thing can be done with recorded podcasts.
- In the information on Realtor websites category, the two low scoring features that jumped out at me were live chat and appointment scheduler. Those are easy things to put on a website and wouldn’t you want a hot prospect to be able to instantly communicate with you or schedule a time to get together?
- Shockingly (or maybe not), is that more agents reported, by over 10 percent, that they put their listings on third-party aggregators like Zillow, Trulia, etc. over their own local MLS. If that’s not a wake-up call to every single MLS/Association Executive in the country, I don’t know what is. Wake up, dummies!!! Put together a good, consumer website where buyers and sellers can connect with your members. Your failure to do so is the biggest threat to the industry.
- Newspapers suck. Less than 20 percent of agents put their listings on their local paper’s site. Even online, newspapers are useless.
Demographics and Misc.
- If you’re under 40 and thinking about a career in real estate, go for it. Only 11 percent of agents fit that description.
- 85% of Realtors are white. That is nuts! If you aren’t white and thinking about a career in real estate (especially if you are not white and under 40), you should jump all over that.
- Similarly, 85% of Realtors only speak English. So, if you’re white, learning another language might behoove you. Spanish seems to be the language of choice and since only 8 percent of Realtors are hispanic, it would make sense to habla.
- As I mentioned, Realtors tend to be involved in their communities, particularly politically. 96% of agents are registered to vote and 91% actually did in the past election.
- They are also involved charitably. 70% of agents said that they volunteer in their community.
- Realtors tend to put their money where their mouth is. 85 percent own their own home and more than half either own a vacation/second home or investment real estate.
I’d love to see the NAR do a Member Profile of Agents Who Really Produce. I think that would not only be far more telling, but it would give a lot more insight into how producing agents do their business. It could potentially shape how local, state, and national associations set up member benefits and tools. If nothing else, it would be a great tool for new, ambitious agents.
I know, this is a long post, but I promise, despite the boredom you’re encountering now, that it really is the meat and potatoes of the report. Now, go take a nap and when you wake up you’ll be ready to take on the world.
When starting a real estate career, having a sphere of influence can make a huge difference in how quickly you start to see business come your way. It boils down to the old adage that sometimes it isn’t what you know, but who you know. So, what happens if you’re new to town and don’t have a strong network? Maybe you’re a young agent and your sphere hasn’t started buying homes. What is the best way to start your real estate career without a sphere of influence?
Here are my top 3 tips for creating, cultivating, and connecting to a sphere of influence when you’re starting from scratch.
Networking is a necessity for any agent. It is imperative for the agent without a sphere of influence. That being said, what is the right kind of networking to build a client base as quickly as you can? I am a firm believer that you should do what you want and like to do. Lots of people will tell you to join BNI or the Chamber or Rotary or something like that. Those are all great organizations, but are they great for you? Try joining an organization or club for something you like. If you’re into fitness, try a running club or fitness class. Into politics? Try an organization for your particular party or viewpoint. By doing something you like, first of all, you are more likely to continue doing it instead of just trying it for a while and then quitting out of frustration. Also, because you like what you’re doing, you are more likely to be seen as genuine and not someone who is just there trying to get business.
There are a lot places online where people go to seek out an expert in real estate. Unfortunately, what they get sometimes is a lot of things but an expert opinion. So, here’s an opportunity for you to step in and be the answer to their questions, be the expert. Watch the forums on sites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, Homes.com, and your MLS, if it has one. Answer questions, provide advice, and try to score a shot at a phone call or appointment. I have watched one of our agents who didn’t have much of a sphere use this tactic and in less than a year she is one of our top producers.
At the end of the day, when you don’t have much in the way of a sphere, it all boils down to hustle. How many people can you connect with in one way or another and get into your database. Are you working open houses to meet potential buyers? Are you taking the contacts you meet as you create your sphere through joining organizations and building friendships? Are you working the web for new business and, if so, are you getting the contact info and connecting? Are you leveraging relationships in your everyday life? Make your goal to add 3 people to your database or CRM software every day. Then come up with a plan to stay connected and start asking for business and/or referrals.
Starting from scratch is tough, but can be done if you choose to hustle. Like everything else, you just have to make and work a plan that is driven by your goals.
The goal of most Realtors is to get to the point where they are working 100% by referral. It’s a noble goal and one that 95%+ of agents will never reach. That’s not a slight to hard-working agents, it’s just not realistic for most agents, for several reasons. First, in an effort to grow faster, most agents, regardless of the amount of effort put into building a referral engine, will advertise or market one way or another. Second, in the online world and workplace, people will find you out of simple, dumb luck. Finally, because most agents don’t really do the best job keeping in touch with their circles of influence and past clients (numbers proven by numerous NAR and independent studies), they become forced over time to seek alternative lead generation strategies.
Let’s assume for the purpose of this exercise, however, that one of your goals this year is to create a better referral base than you had last year. To do so, we also need to take on a level of empathy with our prospective buyers or sellers. Finally, we need to go back to being a teenager and remember the influence of our peers on us.
Social proof is becoming an increasingly powerful tool in garnering new business and establishing credibility in one’s service.
Consider for a moment the last time you made a major purchase. More than likely you went online and looked at both expert and consumer reviews of the product. Which one had more influence on your purchase decision? Why is it, do you think, that sites like Amazon.com, BestBuy.com, and an increasing number of others publish by the thousands the reviews of their consumers? It’s because they know that consumers take the opinions of other consumers to heart more so than the opinions of so-called experts.
So, let’s consider for a moment that instead of making a major purchase, you are about to make THE major purchase of your life or THE most important sale you’ve ever made. You’re not totally sure how to choose the right provider. So, you ask around, get some ideas and then go online to check it out, right? Just like if you were buying a washer or car or new TV. Now, let’s assume for a moment that you’re online checking out agents and you have two referrals from friends. The first person has a nice website, has all the requisite social media profiles, and looks very professional. The second one has much the same online presence, but also has numerous reviews on LinkedIn, has published testimonials on their website, and has third-party survey results from verified clients published. Which would you call?
If one of your goals for this year is to create a stronger referral base, part of that needs to be ensuring that those referred by your circles of influence and past clients actually want to call you. More than a fancy website, more than posting all kinds of social content, having social proof of your service will paint the picture of what kind of agent you really are. The great news is that getting these reviews is relatively easy. Here are some tips:
- Use LinkedIn – In addition to being a great site to put your credentials on, LinkedIn offers you the chance to let others review you. Invite past clients to leave you a review. Little known fact: LinkedIn is the third highest weighted site on Google, so it’s guaranteed to show up high in search results, making your reviews easier to find.
- Make it Independent – Reviews mean more if they are administered by a third-party and not just something you’ve written on your website. If your local association doesn’t offer a tool for this, there are some third-party companies that can do it for you. Most popular among them is Real Satisfied.
- Make Sure Your Reviews are on Zillow, Trulia, etc. – As much as you may or may not like them, there is fairly decent proof that the more rankings you can get on the aggregators, the more likely you are to get business from them. Like LinkedIn, they show up high on the Google charts.
- Don’t Get Down if You Aren’t Perfect – You aren’t perfect are you? Don’t worry about the occasional less than perfect review. Acknowledge the mistake, learn from it, and do better next time. Also, there is some research that shows that people inherently distrust perfect ratings and find slight imperfection more appealing.
- Toot Your Horn – If you’re going to go to all the trouble of getting the review, make sure they are published and out there for the world to see. Share them on social media and your website.
Social proof can be the difference between a referral calling or not. Fortunately, it is easy to get, easy to display, and easy to use as a tool to promote your services. If, as we have assumed from the beginning, one of your goals this year is to build your referral pipeline, make sure to incorporate social proof in your plans.
Recently, I wrote a blog post about whether or not agent websites were really worth it these days. Given the search engine optimization (SEO) power of the major syndication portals like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor, etc., the chances of an agent website showing up on the first page of Google is rather slim. Add to that the power of local or state associations, major brokerage sites, and the host of other providers out there and the water gets even murkier. I’m not saying that they are useless, but if your goal is to be found online, I am not sure that the agent website is the right tool.
That being said, I could certainly be wrong. It has happened before, once. So, if you’re going to have an agent website, here are my top ten tips on making it something worthwhile.
1) Have a Goal and a Plan
What is the purpose of the site? What are you trying to do to/for a visitor? Is it capture leads, prove your expertise, inform and educate, or maybe be a curator of content? Know what you are trying to do, build the site accordingly, and have a plan to maximize that purpose. Hint: It can serve more than one purpose.
2) Make it Responsive
Every stat we see these days is showing that more and more people are searching on a mobile device rather than a desktop or laptop. If your website isn’t responsive to the screen size that it is being viewed on, you’re lost before you get started.
3) At Least Try to Be Seen
SEO is still important even if you aren’t likely to make the first page of Google. Someone might find you based on a search term that appears on your site. Try a WordPress site or even a theme that has easy-to-use SEO tools built-in. I really like StudioPress. Also, take a class, webinar, or get help with understanding analytics, keywords, meta data, etc.
If you’re going for SEO, information, education, or to prove your expertise, you should blog. Blogging let’s you work a niche, show your experience and expertise, and get found by covering lots of good topics that someone might search for on Google. DO NOT use canned content. Write your own.
5) Make it Simple
It may seem like the best thing you can do is load your site with so much content that the user will never leave. Truth be told, it doesn’t really work that way most of the time. Make your site simple, visually appealing (a.k.a. lots of pictures), and easy to use.
6) Incorporate Video
Want people to stay on your site? Video is the best way these days. People would much rather watch a video than read a ton of content. On that note, great, professional videos are hard to come by and are usually expensive. Don’t be afraid to go homemade. People are hiring you to be their Realtor, not their video producer. Also, don’t be afraid to inject a little personality.
7) Have a Search Function
People want to see homes. Let them. Use IDX or RETS to get the information. I prefer to use those services that make my page own the info for SEO purposes. IDXBroker is a great service for that.
8) Understand Landing Pages
Landing Pages are designed to be used with other marketing campaigns for lead capture. Understand how they work and use them for powerful lead generating activities.
9) Know Your Audience and Adjust Accordingly
Once you understand analytics, pay attention to the demographics. If you’re trying to attract new home buyers and, according to analytics, it is working, have the tools that first-time buyers want. Make your site a resource to the people viewing it.
10) For the Love of God, Make it Easy to Find Your Contact Info
Post your number, email and any other contact info as prominently as possible on every single page. Make sure it is a click-to-call link on a mobile site. I can’t tell you the number of agent sites I see where you have to dig to find the agent’s number. Make it easy for them.
There you have it. Do the majority of these and you will have a good site for what you are trying to do. There are tons of other sites out there that can give you more information on building a great website, but these are based on what I have seen over the years. Like everything else, you’ll get out of it what you put into it, so don’t do it half way. Make it count and make it awesome.
With somewhere around 90% of buyers researching homes online before even calling an agent, many agents think that spending a lot of time and money on a fancy website is going to make an enormous difference in their business. I believe that those agents might be better off investing that time and money somewhere else. Not everyone, but most.
I believe that perspective and strategy are the key to your web presence.
Here’s the deal: most agents believe that by having a website they are all of a sudden going to be the most visible agent in their area online. The truth, unfortunately, is that it takes a lot of time, effort, expertise, and, in some cases, money to get to the top of the search results on Google. As a word of warning, anyone promising to put you on the front page of Google for a fee is full of crap.
Search your name on Google and see what happens. If you have a common name, add real estate afterwards. You might have to add your location. What comes up?
Chances are, not your website. More than likely it comes up with your LinkedIn, Zillow, Trulia, Homes.com, Realtor.com, local association, and maybe state association profiles. Here in Houston, without question, it is going to come up with your HAR.com profile. So, the question comes back to perspective and strategy.
What happens if you Google your town and “homes for sale”? How many pages do you have to go through to get to your website? Will a client do that?
If clients or potential clients are Googling you, wouldn’t it be smarter to step back and take a big picture look at your overall strategy online?
Side Note: Did you know that LinkedIn is the third highest weighted site on the Internet for search engine optimization?
I would submit to you that instead of thinking that a single website is going to change your business, why not go where the clients are going? Make sure your profiles on the top ten (or more) places that show up online are complete, that they have consistent branding (headline, picture, etc.), and, most importantly, that they drive traffic to your agent website. That’s how you’ll capitalize on and make the most of your agent site.
Of course, once they get there, they need something of value. Alas, that’s an entirely different blog post. Until then, let’s take a week or so to examine our online presence, make it consistent across all sites, and put our best (digital) foot forward.
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 Realtor.com 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?
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.