Zillow Beginning to Fizzle?

Zillow appears to have strengthened its position as the top-dog of online property search websites with the acquisition of their closest rival, Trulia. However, ongoing legal troubles with Move, Inc.’s Realtor.com® and the severed syndication deal with ListHub highlight some immediate concerns for the most trafficked website in all of real estate.


While Zillow still attracts an enormous amount of users to it’s website (Ranked 35th in the U.S. according to alexa.com), A recent downgrade by Barclays cites “slowing web traffic growth” as the biggest long-term concern for Zillow. Zillow’s impressive valuation was based on the notion of improving web traffic, driving user engagement, and providing a quality marketing platform that allows agents to market their business on the internet in a cost effective manner – So let’s see how they’ve been doing…

Real estate agents are crying foul over Zillow’s outrageously expensive ad offerings.  Many agents have long complained that buyer/seller leads from websites like Zillow and Trulia are low converting and disproportionately expensive.

Over the last few years, dozens of real estate tech startups have formed, promising agents a more effective way to find clients and generate leads.  Websites like Smartzip and My Listings Agent say they use the power of big data and predictive analytics to do just that.

While the successes of big data and predictive analytics are widespread and heavily applied in marketing, it’s particular application for real estate agents remains largely unrealized.  These websites claim to be able to predict who is likely to sell their home next, allowing agents to target their marketing specifically to the homeowners that are most likely to respond to their flyer, mailer, etc.  Vanessa Browne, a Realty One Agent out of Temecula, California says, “I think agents are reverting back to the tried and tested ways of generating, like walking the neighborhood and interacting with homeowners face to face.”

Agents are trending away from expensive and ineffective internet marketing and are instead relying on the innovation of companies like My Listings Agent to generate leads at a fraction of the price. “Instead of knocking on every single door when I go out, I first use My Listings Agent to find the names and addresses of the homeowners that are most likely to sell their home,” says Vanessa.

It is important to recognize the challenge Zillow faces in the future.  Current and future generations of real estate agents and brokers will continue to use the most cost-effective and efficient way to market their services; Zillow seems to be down but not quite out. The rapid pace of technological development forces companies to be constantly innovating or fall by the wayside. Will companies like Smartzip and My Listings Agent revolutionize real estate marketing or will Zillow find a way to buck the trend? One thing is certain, competition sure promotes innovation!

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