Who Is Zillow Really Targeting? It’s the AGENT stupid – not the consumer….

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This post was influenced by two blogs that were recently posted on Active Rain. The first was Bob Haywood’s excellent  post  – How Did We Let This Happen??? Internet  Real Estate Tough Talk .  Although this blog was a members-only blog –  it was about a mass email sent to agents from Zillow offering us all placement as a Zillow Premier Agent in the zip code of my choice.  The only requirement was that I (and anyone else contacted) be willing to pay for the privilige.   The second was Ron Tarvin’s blog Zillow named in a patent infringement lawsuit.   Unlike Bob’s post, this blog was public-facing.  So the members of the public might want to stop by and see what agents across the country actually think of the Zillow “Zestimate” – for those who feel that a Zestimate is a fairly accurate indication of home value, this should prove illuminating.

Disclaimer – There is no love-loss between Zillow and me:

Those who have been reading my comment threads on various forums know that I have absolutely no love for Zillow whatsoever.  I consider their forums poorly monitored, and  their Zestimates to be pointless bordering on the unethical since any number that is often off by 20% or more that the public tends to implicitly trust has the capacity to cause harm.

The fact that the Zestimate itself is inherently inaccurate doesn’t  bother Zillow one wit.  Their canned responses in Ron Tarvin’s blog regarding the lawsuit is a strong indication of same.  They know the Zestimates are often way off the mark.  They know it causes confusion within the public. They know this has the capacity to harm a seller. They know that agents tear their hair over inaccurate Zestimates that cause the public to put lowball offers on their listings. But they don’t care, because it was never about providing transparent information to the pubic.  It was – and is – all about the traffic.  If it drives people to their site, they simply could care less. The question is why?

For Zillow – it was never really about the consumer:

I have long suspected that Zillow’s  whole point of being is to insert themselves between the client (either the seller or buyer) and the agent as a pointless middleman who has managed to glom onto real estate leads.   Their target was never the consumer – it was always the agent and the brokerage. They have always wanted to charge agents in order to put them in front of buyers and sellers.  Their entire site is set up as “bait” to acquire consumer information – phone numbers and email addresses – to sell to agents.

Checking out  the Zillow Premier Agents:

This week they proved my hypothesis correct.  Now, in addition to the pointless Zestimate they are promoting  the equally useless list of  Zillow Premier Agents to the consumer.  Why is the  list of preferred local experts useless?  Because if you can pay – literally ANYONE can claim to be a local expert on Zillow – so long as they are willing to pay for the privilege.  When I found out about the email (which I threw in the trash) I did a bit of research – and this is what I turned up..

  • First I checked the address of a condo complex where I do a goodly number of transactions.  The names of six agents popped up.  I checked the MLS for each of these agents for the past year. 5 of the six had not ONE transaction in the complex.  No active listings, no contracts, no solds as either a buyer’s or listing agent..no nothing. The sixth had one transaction under contract.   In fact, there were agents on that list I had never heard of before.  How does a list like this serve the public interest? It doesn’t.
  • I then went to two zip codes where I am active but not dominant in any way.  This was less specific in that in involved more than a single complex – but a town and a village.  I ran through a bunch of listings in one particular village and came up with the following:  I turned up 8 agents.   Half of these agents had no sales or listings over the course of the past year.  Nothing, notta, zippo….for four of these agents.  Two of the agents had one transaction over the past year and only the final two had a significant sales history in the area.
  • The town I studied didn’t fare any better. After viewing several listings, I turned up seven agents. Once again , four had no sales in the area over the past year  The agent who was labeled as an area “specialist”  had one sale under their belt. Another agent had participated in two sales over the past year.  Only one had a significant sales presence in the area.

How do you differentiate between the agents that had a goodly number of transactions and those who didn’t? You can’t.  In fact, using that criteria I could be Premier agent anywhere in the country – even if I had never set foot in that neighborhood  or even that state.

© 2010 Ruthmarie G. Hicks – https://thewestchesterview.com – all rights reserved.

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