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Zillow.com jumps the shark, makes a big splash in the dead pool

Cathleen just discovered the hard way that Zillow.com now expects us to pay them $9.95 per listing to populate their database.

So long, Zillovians. It’s been good to know you.

(News at Inman. An obvious workaround at AG.)

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  • Is Zillow.com shutting down? Could the media darling and incipient Double Jeopardy question be headed for the dead pool?

  • 17 comments

    17 Comments so far

    1. David G from Zillow.com December 17th, 2009 10:38 pm

      Hi Greg,

      The really big news is that we’ve added rental listings to the site but let me set the record straight about manually posted for sale homes on Zillow:
      - If your listings are in the 97% of homes for sale on Zillow that come to us via feeds, there is no change and no charge to posting those listings on Zillow.
      - Manually posted listings on Zillow are now Featured listings. Featured listings enjoy 6X the traffic that normal listings do. For that added value we charge $9.95 for 6 months or about $1.50 per month (less than my one-way bus pass.)

      So … it’s not true that you’re now being charged for a once-free product and the free posting service via listings feeds is still very much a feature of out site.

      Let me know if you have any questions. I actually e-mailed you on Monday to try and pre-brief you on all this. I honestly thought the rentals story and our dual-track (rent vs. buy) search may have interested you and Bloodhound readers.

      Happy holidays!

    2. Teri Lussier December 18th, 2009 5:24 am

      Hi David-

      I agree the rental addition is huge, and a great idea for Zillow. I do question how any of this works with Zillow trying to improve quality as stated in Z’s presser:

      “We feel this change will help improve the quality of listings on our site, which will provide a better customer experience for the millions of buyers who visit Zillow each month.”

      You continue to take listings from feeds, so you are gathering data regardless of quality. If the goal is to pay bills, which you tweeted, then Zillow should just say so.

      For me, it’s not the cost, which is nominal, it’s that what you are saying, you want to “improve quality” isn’t consistent with the actions.

    3. Ryan Hartman December 18th, 2009 6:59 am

      I still think charging folks something like 10/month for a really solid co branded, framable version of a zillow property search would be a better play. Wouldn’t have to be limited to agents… Mortgage guys, local newspapers… everyone could play along.

      But $10′s still not a bad deal for the fsbo out there who wants to get some solid exposure…

    4. Thomas Johnson December 18th, 2009 8:47 am

      As a HARMLS member, all my listings get posted to Zillow from the HARMLS feed. This includes my for lease listings which show up with a sale price as the lease price. Fun times explaining why the house can’t be purchased for $1800. All this “quality” is out of the agents’ and brokers’ control.

      I am not sure why I need to pay to install the “for lease” listing in the rentals category. Maybe Zillow could figure out how to place the HARMLS feed into the correct category. It sure gets old having to edit the comments on Zillow so that it is clear that the listing is for lease. Perhaps Zillow could pay us $9.95 to clean up their data.

    5. Greg Swann December 18th, 2009 9:13 am

      > So … it’s not true that you’re now being charged for a once-free product and the free posting service via listings feeds is still very much a feature of out site.

      I got this in email from Zillow, sent to the account I use with y’all:

      Beginning today, in order to post a home for sale on Zillow, you can either buy a Featured Listing for $9.95 per listing for a 180-day period, or, if you have 50 or more listings, you can send us a listings feed, for free.

      Used to be free, now ten bucks. Any other reading requires the optional Trulia headgear, as does your assertion.

      The email continues with this:

      We feel this change will help improve the quality of listings on our site, which will provide a better customer experience for the millions of buyers who visit Zillow each month.

      More Trulia math: Fewer customized listings = better quality.

      > I actually e-mailed you on Monday to try and pre-brief you on all this.

      Didn’t get it. I’m not deleting anything from the iMac right now, so I know I didn’t accidentally send it spamward.

      > I honestly thought the rentals story and our dual-track (rent vs. buy) search may have interested you and Bloodhound readers.

      I had that in my Google feeds, but I didn’t remark on it. It seems pitiful to me, but I could be wrong.

      FWIW, just lately I’ve actually had clients mention Zillow to me. One conceded that she knew the Zestimate on a house had to be wrong — it was, but only by $400,000. Another likes to use Zillow’s faithful accounting of courthouse-steps sales to insist that rental properties should be selling for thirty cents on the dollar. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I’m not in a strong mood to send any money your way.

      My take: Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. We signed up for the free feed flush from ARMLS last night, but we would much rather do hand-tuned listings on Zillow. We may even pay to do so, for some listings, going forward. But charging people to give you much better content than you can get from a feed is dumb.

      The good news: It probably won’t make a difference. If my experience with my clients provides any guidance, Zillow is all eyeballs and no mindshare. After everything: An advertising medium, which just means a cash-sink for the advertisers.

      Bottom line: Dumb.

    6. Michael Fisher December 18th, 2009 9:26 am

      Thank goodness that those feeds that are that are completely inaccurate and out of date will not be charged for the misinformation that is the majority of what is posted on Zillow. It would be terrible to charge for that amount of irrelevancy.

    7. Louis Cammarosano December 20th, 2009 4:48 am

      So much for the Zillow revolution and new 2.0 model etc.

      The latest innovations from Zillow:
      1. Lead Generation
      Mortgage Brokers go to zillow mortgage market place and buy leads.
      2. Featured Listings
      Agents load listings on to their site for fee.

    8. Louis Cammarosano December 20th, 2009 10:15 am

      For all the disrespect tossed at AOL-they still have more Real estate traffic than Zillow! http://tiny.cc/4grUn

      “You’ve got listings” anyone?

    9. Greg Swann December 20th, 2009 10:20 am

      > “You’ve got listings” anyone?

      I started this thread to be pissy, but I’m genuinely interested to know if anyone thinks charging ten bucks to hand-tune listings makes any sense. Is it really just a revenue grab? If it is, does this mean that Big-Z is running out of money to burn?

    10. Louis Cammarosano December 20th, 2009 10:24 am

      “Is it really just a revenue grab?”
      Generally that is what a start up business becomes once the VC money and media adoration run thin…

    11. Thomas Johnson December 20th, 2009 11:20 am

      Zillow gets zestifarming pics from me for free. They give me exposure at ground level. Fair trade. I do not see where there is value in the new deal when I can’t properly edit the listings they have from HARMLS and our ERA portal.

      Texas is a non-disclosure state. When I sell a listing, I can only post it sold on Zillow if I enter a price, a violation of state law. I have to post it as off market or something. Just let me post an asterisk so I can take it off active! This editing normally falls way down on my list of priorities, and because of multiple feeds from every RETS grabbing portal known to man, a listing can sit in multiple iterations on the syndicated portal sites as a current listing for months before we catch it.

      Maybe a better solution would be to give any agent with a live listing an all-access pass to keep their listings current and showcased to the client’s benefit in exchange for featured listing status. This is a win win. The agent on the listing can serve his client and the portal would have a cadre of agents keeping the data clean.

      On the other hand, all that duped garbage is great buyer bait. You just have to overcome the buyers’ suspicions that they have once again been bait and switched by our high integrity industry.

    12. Eric Blackwell December 20th, 2009 12:06 pm

      @Greg’s Question-

      IMO- Yes they are running out of money. Their burn rate combined with a LONG time since the last tranche of venture capital = they need to increase revenue or reduce expenses.

      But that is NOT the end game. Again in my opinion, the $9.95 is NOT the big plan, the big plan is to get the agents to bitch about the %9.95 and get the brokers to capitulate and have the MLS’s give them the feeds. Many MLS’s do this already.

      As cash runs low, then the next move is to charge for something else…say enhanced listings.

      The real end game is dominance followed by charging the REALTOR rates more reminiscent of R.com.

      I think that the agents are being used as a pawn to get the control of the listings away from the brokers who currently legally own them.

      Trulia (in my opinion) is watching this as well. If Z succeeds, then why would not T follow?

      These companies are BOTH running low on cash and owe “guido” a lot in VC repayment.

      This is precisely the scenario that I discussed several years ago. Advertising model fails so Guido smacks the REALTOR.

      Nothing is free…only a matter of who pays and when.. ;-)

      Just my .02

      Eric

    13. Eric Blackwell December 20th, 2009 12:28 pm

      @David Gibbons – “Featured listings enjoy 6 times the traffic”

      Quick question – Six times what? How much traffic are you actually pulling DIRECTLY to a page like Austin TX or Louisville?

      More importantly, how much traffic is actually making it to an individual listing page? That’s the local traffic data we have been asking for for years so that we can actually EVALUATE your advertising product against other options…

      I personally can see much more irrelevant search traffic hitting your highest price listings posts and celebrity listings posts and that kind of thing makes me wonder…

      For the record – I really do like the idea of including rentals –good strategy that probably was overdue. Nice one.

      Not trying to put you on the spot or be unkind David, but these are questions that SOMEONE needed to ask and I guess I might as well be the one to mention the elephant in the living room.

      To me “hand tuned” doesn’t mean a thing until someone PROVES to me the quantity of people who actually see them. It is kind of an “if a tree falls in the forest” sort of question.

      I have asked the same question of R.com and T, with no answer, either publicly or privately.

      Eric

    14. Louis Cammarosano December 20th, 2009 12:49 pm

      @Eric
      Who is “guido”? I think I know -probably an ethnic slur in there somewere…

    15. Eric Blackwell December 20th, 2009 3:58 pm

      NO offense intended whatsoever Louis. It dates back to a funny comment back and forth with Geno Petro. (grin)

      My apologies for those who might have been offended.

      best

      Eric

      I really would love to have answers to some of the questions I posed though… that WAS the intent.

    16. David G from Zillow.com December 21st, 2009 9:22 am

      Greg – glad to hear that you’re now feeding your listings to Zillow; that’s good news! Please note that you can still make manual edits after they’re posted (without incurring a charge) and so naught is lost and some efficiencies will hopefully be found.

      I just checked and my pre-brief announcement was definitely delivered to gswann-AT-bloodhoundrealty on Monday sometime just after 12PM. If you want to do a few tests to ensure you’re getting e-mail to that address, let me know.

      All – 2 issues seem to need further clarification:
      1) Featured listings on Zillow are viewed by 6X as many eye-balls on Zillow than those listings that are not featured. Featured listings have never been free.
      2) The quality issue has a few angles to it; most of which you guys are missing. Yes, it is certainly our hope that having some financial skin in the Zillow listings game will create more incentive for updating manual listings BUT IMO, the greater benefit is that;
      a) I can now cover the cost of an 877-number to take customer support inquiries from listing agents. That alone is a huge step but I also expect to see …
      b) … less abuse / careless / repetitive listings posted. There have unfortunately been a a few instances of abuse of the free listing service both by RE pro’s and by scam artists.

      Teri – Zillow is a business and we make no apologies for that but please don’t take my tongue-in-cheek response to your tongue-in-cheek tweet out of context. Manually posted listings represent 3% of Zillow’s listing inventory and charging $1.50/month for them isn’t going to take us to IPO. In all seriousness, I don’t think you’ll find better value for money in any other featured listing product.

    17. Teri Lussier December 21st, 2009 7:55 pm

      David-

      My tweet wasn’t tongue-in-cheek.

      I don’t expect Zillow to make any apologies for running a business.

      Whether or not it’s a better value isn’t my point.

      Suddenly- my email, (not being influential, I guess I don’t rate for pre-warning emails), my email said “beginning today” which is a poo way to treat loyal customers, but there’s the rub, isn’t it? I’m not your customer, am I? Who is your customer? Because if I’m your customer and you are treating me that way, then it sucks, but if your customer is a buyer, then you are using me, which also sucks. Et tu, Zillow?

      But hey, I was warned about this possibility years ago. I made a conscious but not a wise decision to ignore what smarter brains- @Eric- kept telling me. Lesson learned.