While I Was Sleeping – GodZillow Strikes

Kristn.jpgThis will go down in history as the day my feed reader exploded.

I must be the only real estate agent in the country with a 9:00 PM bedtime. While I was sleeping, the BIG announcement from Zillow came. Agents far and wide were logging midnight posts on the news while I was having Open House dreams. Here’s what I missed (from Inman News):

Home-valuation site Zillow.com, which offers past sales data and other detailed property information for millions of homes across the country, is opening up to real estate agents, brokers, builders and homeowners who want to post information about for-sale properties.

Another feature announced Wednesday allows homeowners to test the waters for a future home sale by posting a “Make Me Move” price for an address. The site facilitates the initial contact between prospective buyers and the owner without revealing the owner’s personal information. And Zillow is also launching a series of real estate articles as a “Real Estate Wiki” that allows site users to update and refine the articles’ content.

I’m late to the party, but for our local West Coast audience, many of which I will assume were also doing other things late last night (like sleeping) when the announcement came, let’s recap.

  1. Agents and homeowners may now place free advertisements for their homes for sale on Zillow.
  2. In ebay fashion, homeowners may float their trial balloons with a “Buy It Now” (or “Make Me Move”) price. Show me the money.
  3. Zillow is looking to become the Wikipedia for real estate, where users can edit a on-line real estate content.
In trademark fashion, Greg Swan posted a comprehensive late-night narrative at the Bloodhound Blog in which he says this:

We are looking at the embryonic form of a de facto national MLS system. There are wrinkles… but there are two things that Zillow.com has by now proved itself eminently willing to do that both the National Association of Realtors and Realtor.com have proved themselves eminently unwilling to do: Change and grow.

And therein lies the problem. Revolutionary, yes, but a national MLS system Zillow will never be, at least not without the cooperation of every local MLS in the country. This will ultimately leave Zillow as yet another home search tool that, while clearly beefier in content than its competitors (the 1000 pound GodZillow), will offer only a piece-meal from the homes-for-sale menu. I have written of my own information-overload-hell, and real estate
consumers are no doubt feeling my pain. It is a full-time job to keep abreast of all of the places I could possibly gain on-line exposure for my listings. With the exception of the MLS, each opportunity can present the homebuyer with an only an incomplete piece of the pie. The on-line customer (most of the population now) can only be frustrated at best and confused at worst with the information fragmentation.

Many real estate professionals, of course, will find Zillow’s announcement threatening, just one more indication that disintermediation is on its way. Inman News quoted Ed Krafchow, president of Prudential CA/NV/TX Realty as saying:

I believe that in the future the market will be much further open to the public, and that doesn’t preclude Realtors from being involved in transactions — they may be much more important, at the end of the day.

Now, while I hate the term “at the end of the day”, today I couldn’t agree more. This should be a huge wake-up call to the National Association of Realtors. Technology has spawned a control-freakish society. Information is at our fingertips. Make it hard or make it easy, but the consumer will not now or ever relinquish that desire for control. That ship has sailed. Why continue to cling to the antiquated theory the survival of the real estate professional is dependent on the MLS being a proprietary system? There
should be no secrets and no secret listings. I continue to believe that agents will always have a role in the home buying and selling process, it is just that that role is changing.

Inman news observes that “The online company is mixing property record data and listing data in a dynamic way. It is using its property record database to establish the baseline for for-sale listings, making it easier and in some cases more accurate”. This integration of property records with listing search engine functionality is what I find the most intriguing and possibly industry-influencing element of the Zillow offering. We will have to see how potent this cocktail proves to be from the consumer’s perspective.

Now I am off to enter all of my listings on the Zillow site, as I have already included all of our listings on Trulia, Edgeio, Propsmart, Google Base, Yahoo!, Craigslist, Backpage, Realtor.com and
many more sites. Jeez, it would just be so much easier (and so much more effective) if the information was aggregated. Then I could get back to representing real people.

Footnote: I think I am going to like the Wiki feature, and my “Make Me Move” price is $2 million. Now here are some other links for those that would like to read up: 360Guide, Ardell’s Seattle Area Blog, Blue Roof, Future of Real
Estate Marketing
, Three Oceans… Oh, forget it. Just go here, and Drew Meyers will link you to just about everybody who is talking.

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