Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com. Are they a waste of money?

Real Estate Agent with Richmond Home Sales At EXP Realty 0225221617

 Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com have gotten a bad rap from real estate agents, or have they?  It all depends on who you ask.  Are paid leads a viable way to build and sustain a business?  That depends on who you ask as well.  I am going to give you my personal take on paid leads, and what has worked or hasn't worked for me personally.


When I first started in the real estate business a few years ago I signed up with a brokerage that had lackluster training.  They didn't provide any real viable lead generation techniques. After a few months of not having any leads, I started researching paid leads.  Enter Zillow and Trulia.com.  Every review I had read about Zillow and Trulia was a 1-star review on how horrible they were, and how their leads were garbage.  I watched YouTube video after YouTube video slamming Zillow, and how all the leads they received weren't willing to buy and weren't pre-qualified.  Well after a while I decided that one way or another I was going to have to take the plunge and try for myself.  I picked up the phone and called Zillow to see what it was all about.  I figured since I was new it would be a good way to get myself in front of some prospective clients.  Hopefully, I could convert some of them, and then build a business off of referrals.  At that point, I didn't have much to lose.


The Zillow representative was very nice and tried to get me to buy $800/month of leads.  I filled him in on my lack of budget so I ended up around $230/month on leads.  At the time this was a lot of money for me considering I wasn't making any money.  He told me that he was there to help me out, and his goal was for me to make money because I would inevitably buy more leads which would make him some money.  I happened to get lucky and on my second lead, I closed a house within about 2 1/2 months of being on Zillow.  This is not the norm, and my buyer ended up being more motivated than he originally let on. 


I've been on Zillow for almost two years now, and I've closed over 20 deals.  This last year I had a 10X ROI.   I've increased my spend up to $1,200/month at some points, but on average around $800/month.  I think Zillow is a good source of paid leads if you aren't afraid of nurturing the leads you get.  It's very rare that you get a lead off of Zillow and they buy from you right away.  Most leads take anywhere from 4 months to a year to buy.  I see Zillow as a marketing and paid lead platform.  You appear a certain percentage of time in the zip code that you choose.  Buyers see your face pop up under listings under that zip code.  They can click on your picture and read your profile and bio.  A lot of buyers will read agent bio's and choose their agent based on their bio, profile, sales, and reviews. If you have a decent amount of sales, reviews, or a compelling bio that speaks to someone you have a better shot at someone choosing you over another agent.  Zillow owns Trulia, so you get leads off of Trulia as well.   I look at Zillow as a part of my three-legged stool of lead generation.  It's been a great lead generation tool for me personally.  What works for one realtor definitely does not work for all.


Since I had a good experience with Zillow.com and Trulia.com, I decided to try Realtor.com.  I had read way better reviews about Realtor.com than I had about Zillow.com.  When I originally tried to sign up, they were booked up,, and I was put on a 6-month waiting list.  They finally called me back and I bought the only zip code available.  That was my first mistake.  The leads were not good at all.  They were rental leads, spam, or people that didn't call back.  When another zip code opened up I thought I would buy another one to see if it was maybe the zip code I had chosen.  That one wasn't any better.  I purchased two more zip codes.  You think I would have learned my lesson.  I figured that there was a waiting list, so people must be raking in the dough.  This was not the case for me.  I do know of agents that have had great success with realtor.com, but it didn't work for me.  Here is what I will tell you.  Research your zip codes and don't just take one because it's available.  You have the option to choose exclusive leads or shared leads that you share with another realtor.  The exclusive leads are significantly more expensive than the shared leads.  If you are able to call the leads back within 5 minutes, I suggest going the shared lead route.  I spent $2,000 in realtor.com and closed 0 leads from them.  


My recommendation on Zillow/Truilia.com vs Realtor.com would obviously be Zillow/Trulia.com for a few different reasons.  Way more people use Zillow than Realtor.com.  On Zillow, you are branding yourself, and having your photo shown to a lot of prospective buyers.  Buyers can choose you specifically, and they can read your bio, see how many sales you have, see how many reviews you have,, and they can read your reviews as well. When you receive a lead from Realtor.com they have no idea who you are, and can't read your bio to make a choice.  The quality of lead was not as good for me on Realtor.com.  With Realtor.com you are forced into a 6 month or 12-month contract.  Zillow has changed their policy, and they have a month to month programs, so you aren't locked in.  they will try to get you to lock into a 6-month program because they will give you more leads for "free", but if you are just trying it out, don't lock into that many months.  You do have to spend a decent amount on Zillow.com to be successful.


Here are some tips to be successful on Zillow.com.  Study and analyze the zip codes you want to purchase.  See what the average home sale is in that zip code. Pay attention to how many homes are currently active, how many have sold in the last 6 months, and how many are currently pending.   This will give you an idea if the zip code is an active zip code.  See if there is a lot of new construction in that zip code.  A lot of times Zillow doesn't post agents impressions with new construction, so it may look like there are a lot of active homes in that zip, but your chances of getting a lead are minimized with new construction.  Zillow has given agents the capability of switching zip codes as often as you would like on the back end of premieer agent.  You can move your money from zip code to zip code if you feel your zip code is not working out.  You were not able to do this before, you were locked into a zip code for 6 months.  When you are looking into a zip code, see how many agents are in it.  If there are a lot of agents, you may want to stay away unless you can be top 3 in the zip code.  See if there are any "mega agents" in your zip code.  If there a 3 or more, you may want to look in another zip code, unless you yourself are a "mega agent".   When you get a lead, you will have the most success if you are able to call them within 5 minutes while they are still on the computer.  Your chances of converting greatly diminish the longer you wait.  You can set up direct response texts and emails through Zillow, so no matter what you are contacting them in some form within 5 minutes.  You need to nurture your leads.  As i said before, most leads are not ready to buy right away.  You need to educate them on the process and provide them with information that can assist them throughout the process.  Meet them for a buyer presentation even if they are not pre-qualified yet.  You never know who they may know, and they may be qualified to buy, they just haven't gotten motivated to check.  I have closed a few deals a year after the initial contact, so stay in touch with your leads.


To sum up my blog, internet leads may work for you, but you need to work for them.  Every platform is not for everyone.  I will never look down on someone else's mode of generating leads if it works.  If you have a good ROI, why wouldn't you continue to do what you are doing?  I would love to hear from people who have had success with paid leads, what platform you used, and what you are doing to be successful in nurturing those leads.  If you aren't paying for leads, how are you generating yours?  I am always looking for other ways to generate leads.  Besides paid leads I do open houses on occasion, call expireds, FSBO's, contacting sphere of influence, past clients, and pop by's


I'm sure I will have some naysayers on the paid lead subject.  More power to anyone who doesn't pay for leads, but this is something that has worked for me, and I will continue to do it, until it doesn't.


Francisco Peot


Posted by
Francisco Peot Richmond Home Sales @ ClockTower Realty Group 1561 E Main St Richmond, VA 23219 Cell- 804-617-3397 Office - 804-505-4274 Francisco@richmondhomesales.com Richmondhomesales.com Henricohomesales.com Licensed realtor in the state of Virginia

Re-Blogged 1 time:

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  1. Ricardo Romero 02/27/2018 12:16 PM
Real Estate Industry
lead generation
online leads
real estate leads
paid leads
zillow premier agent

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David Wright
Benchmark Realty, LLC - Brentwood, TN
Real Estate Refined

This is a great article . You are spot on with your information and I have learned several key points from your article. I have advertised with Zillow & Realtor with similar results as yours. Realtor was a complete waste. Zillow was great for about 3 months and then the leads frizzled out. After reading your inside scoop I need to revisit Zillow. Thanks for sharing!

Jan 26, 2018 10:42 PM #2
Joan Cox
House to Home, Inc. - Denver Real Estate - 720-231-6373 - Denver, CO
Denver Real Estate - Selling One Home at a Time

Francisco, you can truly say you were the lucky one.  I had a few REALTOR friends around here that were paying $500+/month and only got worthless leads, and never closed any.    Good job!  

Jan 27, 2018 06:10 AM #3
Joe Pryor
The Virtual Real Estate Team - Oklahoma City, OK
REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties

If the ROI is good then it is worth it but all monies spent need to have metrics to determine if it is worth it.

Jan 27, 2018 07:07 AM #4
William Feela
Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No.

Set up a marketing plan on yourself.  It will bring leads for years to come where as when you buy a lead you MIGHT get a sale and no future.

Jan 27, 2018 08:54 AM #5
Ron and Alexandra Seigel
Napa Consultants - Carpinteria, CA
Luxury Real Estate Branding, Marketing & Strategy


If it works, it works and there is no denying that.  We worked with an agent that spends a lot more than you do, and this person felt that it was a good place for branding oneself.  Like you, she was back East.  

Conversely one of our clients here was paying $800 a month for leads here and did not get a single lead after a year.  Needless to say, this person was very upset, and I have heard similar story from clients in the Western US.  

I like the way your presented your viewpoint.  Personally, if we ever got back to selling real estate or buying other than for ourselves and friends, we would not buy leads,  We would spend time face to face with people and we have found that lunches and coffee are much cheaper than Internet leads.  A

Jan 27, 2018 01:27 PM #6
Roy Kelley
Realty Group Referrals - Gaithersburg, MD

Generate your own leads for the best long term results.

Jan 28, 2018 04:21 PM #7
Beth Atalay
Cam Realty and Property Management - Clermont, FL
Cam Realty of Clermont FL

Hi Francisco Peot, I personally don't buy leads but know a few agents who use Zillow and have a great ROI. If it works, keep doing it. Not everyone has a big SOI and new to the business so it might be for them as long as they work and have a follow-up system.

Jan 29, 2018 09:21 AM #8
Debe Maxwell, CRS
www.iCharlotteHomes.com | The Maxwell House Group | RE/MAX Executive | (704) 491-3310 - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Homes for Sale - Charlotte Neighborhoods

I'm glad this works for you, Francisco! Great explanation of how you've made it work too. You're so right on the nurturing time - most agents want it NOW and lead generation just doesn't work that way...whether you're working by referral only or buying leads. 

Jan 30, 2018 05:34 AM #9
Mike King
Keller Williams - Greenville, FL

Zillow Premier Agent is a joke don’t waste your time or money. You may get leads but they aren’t serious buyers.  Most of them already have an agent and the rest aren’t serious buyers who change their mind the second you try to follow up with them.  I’ve also noticed that I get calls in my zip code for the same lower cost homes.  It’s almost like that’s the only homes displayed online on Zillow.  There are many higher price homes in my zip code but I think those calls are going to more seasoned agents that have been on Zillow longer.

Nov 10, 2018 01:40 PM #10
Terry Dyer
Realty San Diego Inc. - San Diego, CA
Making it Happen

I've used Realtor.com in the past was grossly overcharged.  They refunded $33,000 to my credit card.   Like a dummy and having a few years pass I signed up for some leads.  They tell me it's about 40 a month for a few hundred bux.  I'm thinking why not.  Then .... no leads.  I call and low and behold....it's 40 leads a YEAR.  OMG.  40 shared leads a year @$137.50 per shared lead.   When a week or two went by and I had been charged $697.00 but was not getting the leads.  I called and they're like..."Oh no...that's 40 leads a year."  Whaaaaat?

So I've been trying to call my Rep Nadia...no return calls/emails.  Finally I get someone on the phone today and after he failed to get me to shorten the term or tried to coach me on closing interenet leads I got him back on point and said I want my money back...again.  He told me to go pound sand.  Typical Realtor.com service.  Go "F" Yourself.  Called the bank challenged the charges.  Can't believe I went back to that ripoff place.


Terry Dyer


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