BLOODHOUNDBLOG.COM

There’s always something to howl about

Zillow says, “If you will send us your clients as web traffic, we’ll be pleased to sell them back to you, again and again, from now on.”

Q: What do you do when your massive Realty.bot web site, target-marketed to equity-rich home-sellers, finds itself in a real estate market where most sellers are upside down and do not give a rat’s ass what their homes might sell for?

A: Punt.

This is an eyeball play, up front, just pure traffic-baiting. But the genius of it is that it turns into FUD for the agents in the long run: A million necks, one noose.

These sites are just noise, by now, just more “media” — uninformed opinions from people who make their living doing something other than selling real estate. Delivering your clients to them strikes me as a poor idea.

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  • 16 comments

    16 Comments so far

    1. Spencer Rascoff December 3rd, 2010 9:56 am

      Hi Greg,

      Spencer from Zillow here.

      Looks like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning! As you might expect, I don’t share your opinion.

      Zillow’s new feature allows agents to have their past clients leave testimonials and endorsements on their Zillow profile page so that when other people look at your profile on Zillow, they will be more motivated to contact you. And it’s free. Why wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward anywhere that your personal information is presented? I’m sure you’re a terrific agent, and I bet your clients would agree. Why wouldn’t you want them to come to Zillow and say so?

    2. Todd Carpenter December 3rd, 2010 10:09 am

      Hi Spencer,

      I think it’s only natural for a salesperson to be hesitant to send a client to a tent full of other sales people. Especially if the client doesn’t even know that tent exists. I think another option would be to offer a system like Twitter offers when you first sign up. Give agents a chance to scrub a list of their clients against a list of consumers who already have a profile on Zillow. Then let the agent choose to invite only those people who are already visiting Zillow anyway to go back and review them. With all the leads you guys are delivering to agents already, there should be plenty of active Zillow members out there to write reviews.

    3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Real Estate Feeds, Mark Risley and My REALTY, Real Estate Ninja. Real Estate Ninja said: Zillow says, “If you will send us your clients as web traffic, we’ll be pleased to sell them back to you, again … http://bit.ly/fGnr0D [...]

    4. Meg Hurtado December 3rd, 2010 10:36 am

      It’s going to be really interesting to see how the agent rating system plays out . . . . Easy to imagine why agents are upset, but let’s face it, consumer reviews have become the norm these days, for services of every kind – hotels, movies, doctors, salons, whatever. It was only a matter of time before real estate joined the list.

    5. Brad Andersohn December 3rd, 2010 11:12 am

      Hi Greg,

      With all due respect, I think you might be missing the value and benefit this feature will create for agents and for the millions that are already visiting the Zillow.com site.

      It’s just my opinion here, but if I had to move to your city and I didn’t know any agents there who could help me find my new home, I’d find these reviews, ratings and endorsements to be very useful and valuable.

      This is not too far fetched since I currently live in the Bay Area and my Corp office is in Seattle. I’m not just an employee, I’m a live consumer (buyer and seller) as well.

      I really do think that this new feature will assist a consumer like me when the time comes for me to make my move. Just my honest two cents… thanks. :-)

    6. Greg Swann December 3rd, 2010 3:40 pm

      > Looks like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning!

      Fallacy ad hominem in the guise of a jovial remark. You don’t address the argument, but you use a joke to try to get readers to dismiss that argument unanswered. I’m not picking on you, but I’m not letting that kind of stuff slide any longer.

      > As you might expect, I don’t share your opinion.

      I said:

      This is an eyeball play, up front, just pure traffic-baiting. But the genius of it is that it turns into FUD for the agents in the long run: A million necks, one noose.

      Which part of that opinion don’t you share? I think I figured the initiative out perfectly. I’m not faulting you: Traffic baiting is what web sites do. In this case, you’re inducing agents to send you their traffic, then using the content created by those visitors to sell Zillow to new vistors, all at a completely nominal cost. That’s inspired site-building, but it’s not a benefit to agents, nor to consumers. It’s a benefit to Zillow and its advertisers now, and a FUD factor to use on agents later. You have nothing to gain by disputing these observations, but you have my word that I will keep restating them if you want me to.

      > they will be more motivated to contact you.

      Unsupported assertion.

      > Why wouldn’t you want to put your best foot forward anywhere that your personal information is presented?

      Because I don’t control it.

      > Why wouldn’t you want them to come to Zillow and say so?

      Because I want them on my site, not yours. Most especially, I don’t want to pay Zillow in the hope that I might get my own clients back, after having foolishly sent them to you in the first place.

      I’ve not paid any attention to the Realty.bots for 18 months or so, and here’s why: Because I have had no need to. Zestimates are a bad joke, and that’s mostly what I hear about Zillow from clients. I loved the idea of documenting every residence in the U.S., and I liked that idea better when the plan was to retain everything. I think my expectations for the lender portal exceeded the reality of the thing, but I don’t know that for sure. Certainly, I’ve never had a client come to me with a lender they’ve found on Zillow, and almost all of my financed transactions are funded by lenders I refer.

      The bottom line is that I think Zillow — and Trulia, RPR, etc. — are swimming in a red ocean by now, and a red ocean on the other side of the planet at that.

      In another comment, Todd Carpenter cites “all the leads you guys are delivering to agents already,” but I don’t share that impression of Zillow. Y’all have never sent people to us in any significant numbers, neither from the profile nor from the ads we’ve done with you. Certainly, Zillow delivers nothing to us compared to Realtor.com — and I don’t think they’re worth the money, either.

      I end up back where I started:

      These sites are just noise, by now, just more “media” — uninformed opinions from people who make their living doing something other than selling real estate.

      A good comparison would be to RealtyTrac, where the visitors are motivated. I think the Realty.bots are just time-waster sites, by now, fun eye-candy for loosely-motivated people. When they get serious, they come to us. Until then, it doesn’t matter to me what they do.

      Doesn’t mean you don’t have a business, it just means your business doesn’t have much of anything to do with my business, as far as I can see. I have nothing to gain by sending my clients to you — not even for money, much less for free.

    7. Spencer Rascoff December 3rd, 2010 5:53 pm

      Greg,
      You’re the exception not the norm. If you’ve been able to fill your book of business via blogging and referrals, and you generate enough clients that you can’t make any more money by trying to generate leads from other sources, then good for you. You’re unusual in that regard, and if that’s the case then I commend you for it. All agents should be fortunate enough to have more than enough business coming to them from referrals and from their own website such that they can ignore companies like Zillow Inc (which operates Zillow.com, Zillow mobile apps, and Yahoo Real Estate). But that’s unusual, as you surely know.

      For most agents, participation — free or paid — on other websites that have traffic is a good way to grow their business. There are tens of thousands of satisfied real estate agents who get business from Zillow. I’m not sure why when you advertised it was ineffective for you, but here are examples of other agents for whom it works: http://www.zillow.com/advertising/Testimonials.htm

      Back to the point at hand though — our new agent review feature. You describe the feature as “linkbait” and if by that you mean we’ve come up with an idea which we hope will generate traffic by giving consumers something interesting to read, then I agree with you. I don’t particularly like the term, but I do agree that we hope that this feature generates consumer interest (and frankly, after only 24 hours, I can tell you that it already has).

      The bigger question though is: should agents ask their clients to leave endorsements and feedback? I can’t think of any reason why an agent wouldn’t ask past clients to do so, unless they think the client will leave something negative. The two other concerns which have been raised are: 1) are these reviews prone to being gamed, and 2) is Zillow somehow competitive with agents such that helping Zillow is bad for agents.
      On point #1, we have 18 months of experience with ratings on the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace side of our business, and I’m comfortable that the safeguards we’ve created are best-of-breed. On point #2, I don’t know how many times I need to say this, but Zillow isn’t an agent and we’re not a brokerage. We don’t compete with agents or brokers. The comments on Sara’s post here show that most agents are enthusiastic about the new feature. http://activerain.com/blogsview/1995488/zillow-launches-a-free-online-agent-endorsement-system

      Anyway, I’m sorry that you haven’t gotten more business from Zillow in the past. I’m confident that if you were an advertiser today, you would get business from Zillow. Others do. I’m also confident that if you were active in Zillow Advice, you’d get clients for free.

      In the meantime, it’s too bad that you’re not going to invite past clients to leave glowing reviews for you on your profile page because you’re not exploiting a free marketing opportunity. http://www.zillow.com/profile/BloodhoundRealty.com

    8. Greg Swann December 3rd, 2010 6:07 pm

      Very corporate, Spencer. They picked the right guy to captain the ship. I wish we could talk seriously, but I understand the bind you’re in.

      Inlookers: Is anyone picking up a deal a month from Zillow? From any other Realty.bots? I don’t want to hear about hopes, dreams, wishes or promises. Next month is always going to be great. Are there any Realtors out there who are cashing at least one full paycheck a month from inquiries originating at Zillow.com?

    9. Mark Madsen December 4th, 2010 12:28 pm

      Greg –

      “Inlookers: Is anyone picking up a deal a month from Zillow? From any other Realty.bots?”

      I’ve posted a total of 7 or so answers in Zillow’s Free advice section, and have closed one transaction.

      Here’s the breakdown:

      9 phone calls
      3 direct emails from zillow’s contact system
      1 closed purchase transaction

      These are the numbers that I can actually account for, but I have also received several hundred visitors from Zillow to my blog, which may have resulted in closed loans or new agent relationships as well.

      Based on these results, I could probably justify spending a little more time participating on Zillow by adding valuable answers to the mortgage question section.

      However, to address the point of this specific article, I prefer to resist the “Reviews” thing as long as possible, especially if it requires sending past clients to sites that I don’t own.

    10. Mark Brian December 4th, 2010 1:01 pm

      I guess it is easy to say thank you for an article that confirms how I feel, but thank you anyway. The title itself speaks volumes.

      Greg put it best when he said “Because I want them on my site, not yours.”

    11. Greg Swann December 4th, 2010 2:07 pm

      This is Mark the lender, not Mark the Realtor, yes?

      Are there any Realtors out there getting at least one closed sale a month from Zillow?

    12. Mark Madsen December 4th, 2010 4:08 pm

      Yes, thanks for clarifying that, Greg.

      Mark the “Lender” got some action by strategically participating in very targeted high traffic conversations on Zillow.

    13. Jim Klein December 4th, 2010 9:15 pm

      I’m no RE guy, but it seems to me Zillow’s doing Bloodhounds a bit of favor even on the listing side…”culling the market,” so to speak. Sellers who pick their agents the way they buy a washing machine can be sent to agents with good reviews at Zillow, while other good agents can focus on Sellers who don’t.

      I smell efficiency and profit!

    14. Drew Meyers December 5th, 2010 11:02 pm

      Greg-
      I believe Andrea Geller is getting more than 1 deal a month from Zillow, but she’d have to confirm that – http://www.zillow.com/profile/Andreageller/

    15. Marlow December 6th, 2010 2:45 pm

      I just checked my stats and I have 5 listings right now with Zillow, and several are “featured homes”

      http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1206-E-Barclay-Ct-Seattle-WA-98122/49071288_zpid/ with 615 views

      http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/1100-10th-Ave-E-Seattle-WA-98102/49005994_zpid/ with 1133 views

      http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/18012-25th-Ave-NE-Lake-Forest-Park-WA-98155/48911494_zpid/ with 367 views

      http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/216-25th-Ave-S-Seattle-WA-98144/48893633_zpid/ with 743 views

      http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/3223-23rd-Ave-W-Seattle-WA-98199/48824676_zpid/ with 820 views

      So, I’ve had roughly 3600 views of my listings and I’ve had 2 emails from Zillow customers in the past year, no phone calls.

      I advertised as an experiment a few years ago, buying “zipcodes” in about 20 neighborhoods, with mixed results: http://360digest.com/2007/04/18/im-ez/

      Probably better to spend my advertising dollars elsewhere, but am still open to new marketing opportunities if I’m shown that they will work.

    16. Brandon Jenkins December 6th, 2010 9:48 pm

      Who cares about Zillow? I associate them with parachute pants, the Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit, and Members Only jackets. Old school.