In a culture rampant with fake news and conspiracy theories, many people are easily duped into consuming the latest hoax or biting on link-bait cast by those who peddle fear in exchange for increased site visits and page rank.
Although our industry seems to be ever evolving, some prefer the predictable status quo, and militantly resist anything that would potentially upset the proverbial apple cart of income.
When markets shift, or difficulties arise (including unexpected pandemics!), fear of the unknown is often selfishly manipulated for personal profit or popularity by those who claim to care about our business.
And when our livelihood appears threatened, and revenues begin to dwindle, it can be easier to blame others for our misfortune, rather than acknowledging our own failures or inabilities to adapt to emerging trends or market dynamics.
Nowhere in the real estate space is fear mongering, conspiracy theories, and blame-shifting more abundant than as it relates to the evil empire known as Zillow.
Back in November of 2007, just 18 months after their launch, then President Spencer Rascoff published an article on ActiveRain entitled, "Why Zillow is not "The Enemy!"
I find it interesting to note that many of the arguments Spencer raised nearly 13 years ago are still many of the tiresome claims being leveled against Zillow today.
Allow me to digress, and provide some historical context. As a seasoned veteran of real estate (or dinosaur, if you prefer), I can still recall the old multiple listing service books utilized prior to the advent of the Internet. Back then, quite literally, we held the keys to the kingdom! In order to show a home, you had to physically go to the listing brokerage's office and pick up the key!
From its unveiling at the NAR conference in November of 1995, the Real Estate Information Network (RIN), which included the Realtor.com platform, seemed poised for greatness! We were thankful for an organization that clearly embraced technology, and its potential seemed limitless. Unfortunately, our excitement was short lived! By the end of 1996, RIN had been collapsed, and the operation of R.com was handed over to a 3rd party interest (if you really want a better understanding of what happened to RIN and R.com, seek out my friend, Saul Klein. He was there right in the middle of it all. He was one of the few from within our rank & file who realized the full potential on the Internet, even back then!).
Regardless of who or what was to blame for the miscues and mistakes surrounding the eventual direction of R.com, the years that followed afforded opportunities for others to jump into the listing syndication fray.
Most agents and brokerages were initially very welcoming of both Trulia and Zillow as they began to gain traction. Increased FREE exposure for our listings in exchange for advertising considerations seemed like a fair trade off. Back in those days, one could still generate a decent amount of traffic and eventual leads through your own personal website or brokerage portals.
That was then, This is now.
Regardless of how one feels about Zillow, you have to agree they are an incredibly smart company. Not only does their platform attract more unique monthly visitors than any other home search platform (January 2020 36M per Statista. Twice as much as R.com), but they've effectively established themselves as the online experts for all things real estate.
Zillow hasn't achieved such successes by simply catering to agents and brokers, although the lion share of their revenues are a result of their Premier Agent advertisers. But their dominating accomplishments have come as a result of being laser-focused on understanding and satisfying consumer demands.
While we're busy arguing over logos, or how to best articulate the value proposition of being a REALTOR®, Zillow committed their energies and resources on what was important to consumers, as well as anticipating their future needs.
Who are we to argue about the ills of Zillow when we can't even take time to pick up the phone, or respond to a potential client's question in a reasonable amount of time? Is it any wonder that our collective industry has such an abysmal rating compared to other businesses?
Does the fear of Zillow keep you awake at night? Do you ever wonder what keeps Zillow awake at night? Focusing on how can they make the home buying/selling process easier for consumers.
So, whether you're worried about Zillow opening up a national brokerage, upset that they're buying and selling homes through Zillow Offers, pissed off about those pesky Zestimates, or simply worried you'll end up like one of those extinct travel agents, ultimately, you can only control your own mindset and actions.
The best advice I was ever given came early on in my real estate career, by one of my valued mentors. He told me, "Rich, if you focus your energy on listening to what people want and serving them to the best of your abilities, everything else in life will follow!"
Listening to consumers and serving their interests. What a concept!!