Why Zillow Sucks

Why zillow Sucks

That’s right.  I said it.  They SUCK.  And I also refuse to say their name for the rest of this blog post so I will be referring to them as Z from this point forward  Read on to find out why I’m on a rant about the “largest online real estate network”.

 

If you have ever had a conversation with me longer than 3 minutes, you already know that I think this giant “online real estate marketplace” sucks. I will gladly go into all of the reasons why, but before I do, I want you to know what prompted me to write about it today…

One of my agents: an amazing, competent and experienced Realtor, came to me the other day worried about how she can serve her buyer if he can just find listings on the Z app.  She felt insecure about how she could compete with this monster website.  We had a long conversation about her worth and what she has to offer. It took some pointing out to remind her why a website and its algorithm are no match for her.  

They’re not even close.  

How Z Screws the Agent:

Z simply buys our MLS (that’s Multiple Listing Service for you non-agents out there) information through a syndication agreement and posts it on their own web site. They spend lots and lots of money to be placed as number one on Google search pages so that when a consumer is searching for real estate services, Z comes up first.

Z brags all over the place about how they are number one. All of this Google advertising costs big bucks, so how does Z afford it?  That’s where you and your credit card come in.  If you click on the Z web site and inquire about advertising, this is what you get:  

Become a Premier Agent Today! Get in front of buyers and sellers in the largest online real estate network.

Check out this handy infographic to see how we all get screwed.  But it goes something like this: 

1.  You work your ass off to get a listing.

2.  You put it in MLS (which you pay dues for).

3.  MLS syndicates it to Z (which MLS charges Z for).

4.  A consumer clicks on property and gets matched with a “Premier Agent” – we will call him AGENT X. (X pays Z).

5.  You don’t get any leads from your own listing because another agent paid Z, so you decide to pay Z to become a “Premier Agent”.

6.  Then a consumer clicks on agent X’s property and the lead goes to you.

WTF?!?! You and X each wrote big checks to Z so Z could swap your leads.

I will NEVER write a check to Z. 

They are pitting us against each other and making a giant profit from it. They claim that we are doing a disservice to our clients if we do not syndicate on Z. They claim that is where everyone goes to look at property. But you can go on many agent or company websites, including my own, and search the ENTIRE MLS for free through IDX.

HOW Z Screws the Client:

1.  Poor Matchmaking 

Real estate is a people business, and a client deserves a skilled and knowledgeable agent who is the right fit to guide them through this important and complicated transaction. Z matches clients with an agent without any kind of vetting except for how much money the Premier Agent pays to Z. 

2.  Algorithms in Lieu of Actual Knowledge 

How is this in the best interest of the consumer? It isn’t. It is in the best interest of Z. And guess who founded Z?  No… not real estate agents.  It was tech people. How do tech people know anything about authentic face to face client relationships in real estate?  They don’t.  But they do know a creepy amount about internet technology and algorithms.

3.  Zestimates?? 

While I’m on my soapbox, what the f*@k is a zestimate?  Who made up that word and what does it even mean? How can a website or algorithm know what your house is worth? Real Estate is hyper local.   Clients, whether buyers or sellers, need and deserve an actual human being, who is a licensed professional, to help them figure out how much to sell or buy a house for. Agents don’t apply a formula and guess at the value of your home.   This is quite possibly your largest investment as well as your retirement fund!  Licensed agents take you and your home seriously.  It’s their job to do the necessary specialized research to help you price your home. They go see your home, they view the competition, they’ve probably been inside and may have even sold some of the other houses on your block. What has the largest online real estate network done besides pay Google to be placed at the top of every search page?

4. Leaving out Important Details

Z claims that consumers don’t really want agents; that they don’t need us. I call BS.  If matching buyers and sellers were the only role we play, then sure, a web site could replace us.  

If you’re an agent who thinks that you don’t have added value, or, if you’re a client who doesn’t get why you need a real live agent… let’s make a little list to remind us of just a few of the many things an agent does for a client that no web site could ever do:

    1. Prepare an offer and explain all the moving parts.
    2. Guide clients through the mortgage and inspection process.
    3. Listen to clients and help them figure out what they really want and what their motivations are so you can find them the best home.
    4. Prepare sellers with tough love on how to get their property ready for market.
    5. Offer them emotional support (they often need it).
    6. Introduce them to other professionals on your team that will help them though this process out of best interest for the client rather than for an advertising fee (like Z does).
    7. Have actual experience and first hand knowledge of the neighborhood and the housing stock.
    8. Become a true friend.
    9. Comply with the law and all the legal aspects of the transaction.
    10. Abide by local customs and practices 

5.  Outdated or Just Plain Inaccurate Listing Information

Their information is often outdated and frequently just plain wrong. As a client, this means you might get excited about a property you see on Z that seems to be the right price and checks all the boxes on your list.  You get your hopes up only to find out that the property was already sold or that the listing information is completely wrong.  It’s a waste of your time and energy.  A true Real Estate Agent can easily set you up with an up to the minute search with accurate information straight from the MLS. Some brokers and realtors have IDX, so you can search more accurate listings straight from their websites.  For free.  And at your leisure. 

6.  Falsehoods and Deceit 

Once the consumer is on the Z site and clicks on a property they are interested in, Z matches them with what they call a “Premier Agent” instead of the actual listing agent for the property. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, premier means “best or most important”.   Wait… what?!?  So, a consumer wants to see a property, clicks on it on Z, and, like magic, gets the BEST and most important agent to help them?  Even though this agent probably has nothing to do with the listing?  Ummm….  this just seems wrong.  

So let’s narrow down my rant about Z and other similar “online real estate market places” to a palatable little summary: 

  • Z is horrible to both agents and clients. 
  • The website charges agents for leads then matches them with clients based on how much the agent pays Z, rather than the client’s needs…. This seems like a conflict of interest to me.  
  • They do all of this without being held accountable or by obtaining a real estate license (as required in all 50 states) and without ever meeting the client and discussing their needs.  
  • Real estate is a people business, but Z is all about the Benjamins and nobody else.  
  • Agents are required by licensure law to put the needs of the client ABOVE AND BEYOND THEIR OWN.  This is the basis for the laws of fiduciary. How does an enormous computer algorithm possibly compete with this personal care? Simply said, they can’t.  

Consumers need to be educated on this and not just buy into the expensive technology that Z uses to lure them in to their faceless apps and algorithms.  

So..  What do you think?  Do you love Z or think it’s shady?  I’d love to hear your thoughts. Scroll down past the related posts to leave a message in the comment section

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6 thoughts on “Why Zillow Sucks

  1. Before I became an agent, I for sure thought that Zill…, oops I mean Z :), was the holy grail. Even during my home buying process, I utilized Z. I believed their “Zestimates” and thought that I had hit the jackpot as far as trying to find my forever home. It wasn’t until after hearing Janis explain how Z works that I became aware of a company that is misleading and not worth my time or dollar. During my own research of the housing market (which I am totally consumed in at the moment), I have realized that Z isn’t that holy grail that I once thought it was. It can be misleading and being misled isn’t what this business is about. This business is built on trust and relationships. Z doesn’t have the capability to build either of those foundations with the people who are utilizing their services. Excellent post and hopefully people in the housing market (buyers, sellers and agents) all over are able to see this!

  2. Wow — I had no idea that “Z” removed the name of the listing agent. That is pretty skeezy. I admit, I’ve used “Z” to window-shop houses in places I’d never live … but I won’t any more, don’t want to throw them the ad views. Is there another site that is more reputable for idle window shopping ?

    1. Window shopping houses is so much fun! Go to a local REALTOR web site who has IDX (Internet Data Exchange). It is simply a portal into the local MLS so you get the information straight from the source. Free and no strings attached:) If you are looking in our area, the home page of my web site has the search bar. Window shop to your heart’s content!

  3. I can’t tell you enough how much I agree with this, The one item I don’t think was covered is how much harder Z makes our job. How many times have you heard a client say… “Well Z says my house is worth this amount…”. In the course of conducting business, I have seen incorrect taxes, incorrect estimated values, incorrect bedrooms, etc. My parents home for some reason used to come up having 1 less bedroom in it and the zestimate was off because of that. I haven’t checked recently to see what it says currently but point is their data has been incorrect. Since their data is driven off of syndication electronically one would think then the data in the public record or mls must be incorrect. Since no human hands get into the mix and change that data when the feed syndicates it, How does it get corrupted? I have seen it many times where Z says one thing yet our mls public records (the source of Z’s information) has the correct information listed.

    One final thought on this. I have heard different responses to these questions, but who allowed the information to go to syndication? Was it Nar? Was it the MLS’s? It is supposed to be in our clients best interest to syndicate but to maximize exposure but is that really necessary since all the data comes from each local mls, assuming all brokerages post their listings online… I think most do, People searching for properties in Oakland California would see all the properties in oakland only one time. Instead hundreds of website churn up the same house and try to sell the same leads that normally would have gone to the listing office and listing agent. Which from an efficiency standpoint, wouldn’t that just be easier for everyone than agents having to buy back the lead on their listing or people having many agents who aren’t the one most familiar with the property calling and tormenting them when from each website they visit. This monster that was created essentially created a middle man that hold us hostage. Imagine you own a deli and one day a man walked into your deli and stood in front of the counter and took your customer’s order for a sandwhich and turned around to you and said I have an order for a chicken club sandwhich that you have to pay me for and then you can make it and I’ll move out of the way and they can pay you directly the same price you would sell it to them for. The created an industry and inserted themselves between us and our leads for a large fee. Essentially it’s the same thing. The only difference is my scenario assumes the person will buy the sandwhich. Our scenario they might buy a home or might sell a home. Food for thought… What do you all think?

    1. What a great analogy! If it were up to me, my MLS would not syndicate to z. Thanks so much for your comment. Feel free to share!

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