The following are some of my own personal opinions along with some anecdotal data about #realestate, #zillow #trulia and #consumers, specific to #homebuyer and #homeseller consumers.
Big news was confirmed recently that Zillow is purchasing Trulia. The two brands will remain separate (for now) but reporting and revenues are about to be combined. Here is an article written by Paul Hagen of Inman News, which follows and reports on the real estate industry with its coverage of the buyout.
There are interesting points about revenues derived from each brand, including Realtor.com (run by Move), which oddly enough, actually is a site that is run for the benefit of Realtor(R) members. If you are part of a MLS that has technology run by realtor.com or if you are a member in your area (the Northwest MLS is not run by realtor.com but is independent) then your listings show on the realtor.com site.
I’ve been in large industry seminars that Zillow has put on where Spencer Rascoff (CEO) emphatically states, ” We (Zillow) are NOT a real estate company! We are a media company!” They happen to focus on real estate information. Here is where I have lost respect for Zillow… they tell the rest of the world that they ARE a real estate company and not that they’re a lead site – first and foremost, selling to an industry that actually doesn’t really need them. At this stage, the general consumer has already been duped so it’s a big uphill battle to change it, especially when stock options and huge dollars (for them) are at stake.
This past weekend, and a month earlier, I volunteered as a speaker for a Washington State Housing Finance Commission seminar that is geared for first time home buyers and those needing assistance in purchasing a home. When I asked all of the attendees where they were currently getting their information about homes they might be interested in, here were the top 3 sources given: Zillow, Trulia and Realty Trac. Each person using these services agreed that the information was outdated, incomplete, or hard to decipher.
Newsflash! NONE of these sites is an actual licensed real estate brokerage. They can put anything they want on their site (agents are bound by laws regarding factual data), their sites don’t have to be current with correct listing status or property information (our MLS does and so do others around the nation) and I could probably go on for a long time about comparisons. All of their data comes from the 3rd party sources and they (Zillow) aren’t required to verify any of it because they aren’t regulated by the real estate industry… because why?… they are a MEDIA company! How convenient… for them.
Unique visitor traffic to most popular real estate networks, June 2014
Network June mobile and desktop unique visitors % of total unique visitors to real estate sites in June
Zillow 53.8 million 56.1%
Trulia 31.6 million 33.0%
realtor.com 23.8 million 24.8%
Source: comScore Note: Traffic to firms’ network of sites included.
I find this information quite interesting… and compelling for real estate agents and the public. While the Realtor(R) organization if finally doing a slightly better job of promoting our industry and our membership, we’re having little effect on the runaway growth of these media companies that feed on the scarce resources of those in our industry. It’s the individual agent who pays their fees, not the big franchises, in general. Not all franchises buy into having their data feeds put into their portals and a lot of 3rd party vendors who collect data (but don’t verify) are adding junk into their site on a daily basis. In particular some of the worst are those that provide foreclosure data.
Zillow used to be a decent site and now it’s junk – but it’s junk that is as shiny as a big Hope Diamond now that the stock valuations are through the roof. I’ll get off my big soap box now and leave you with this parting thought. There’s a reason Zillow grew faster than Redfin (both Seattle based companies) and that’s because Redfin ACTUALLY helps people buy and sell real estate – and they came into the industry with the tech developer mindset of being high and mighty about how things “ought to be” only to find out that real estate is actually highly regulated and there are multitudes of governing bodies over our data and how we treat the public once engaged, and even in how we present data online to anonymous consumers. Redfin finally figured out that they need a strong technology suite WITH strong real estate sales and customer support. It’s a lot more hands on than people think when they look at it from the outside.
With that said, good luck to anyone out there who is considering jumping in and I hope you’ll do a little homework on where you’re going to be getting your information online.