June 10, 2019
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How Realtors Can Avoid Getting Zillow'd

“Oh man, I hate Zillow!” is a common grumbling heard amoung a gathering of real estate agents.

While Zillow (and its competitors like Redfin and Trulia) can be somewhat informative, and at minimum offer great entertainment, it can also be damaging to both real estate agents and those who are in the process of buying or selling a house.

Here are some common problems agents face with companies like Zillow, and some strategies on how surpass these issues.

Inaccurate Values

Everyone wants a quick and reliable home appraisal, and there are a lot of factors that can impact a home’s value. The problem with this, however, is computer algorithms are not perfect, and without a professional appraisal, it’s difficult to truly understand the value of a home. According to Saundra Lieber’s LinkedIn article, “Why Realtors Hate Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com,” there is no legal requirement for Zillow to be accurate. While good intentions may be there, and algorithms for value calculation are constantly improving, there is no real cost to Zillow when they’re wrong.

Instead, real estate agents are left with talking to potential sellers and explaining why they may make way less on a sale than they originally think, according to Forbes, and alternatively, explaining to potential buyers why a home they like may cost much more than they expect.

While it may not be easy, the best way to avoid this issue is through honest conversation and with good backup. Helping buyers and sellers understand that home value is a complex item, and a good professional appraiser, the Federal Housing Financing Agency’s house price index (HPI) calculator, and a comparative market analysis are all great ways to find a true estimate, according to NerdWallet.

Agent Disadvantage

It may take a village to sell and buy a house, but it should not take a small town, and when Zillow is factored into the home buying experience, that can often feel like the case.

For those who are not familiar with the Zillow model, it is important to remember Zillow is a business and needs money to stay afloat like any business - and it does so through selling ad space.

This ad space is purchased by agents willing to pay Zillow - and in exchange can be connected to houses for sale. According to Huff Post, “Realtors also objected when Zillow sold agents “positions” on its website next to listed homes. This redirects some buyer inquiries away from listing agents to agents who pay Zillow. Realtors say this damages their sellers because buyers get information from agents who have never seen the home.”

There are benefits to this approach - it can help sell a house fast and move on with life. But what real estate agents can focus on to avoid Zillow (and its competitors) with these positions and “instant offers” is through client relationship building. A real estate agent goes above and beyond what any quick click can offer, and provide far better information on a listing than any algorithm can.

While sites like Zillow may be appealing to potential buyers and sellers, they don’t foster relationships. With strong knowledge of their listings, tools like Homebot that continue to bring value to buyers long after the purchase is complete, and a proper client relationship, the benefit is clear.

Even Zillow’s website mentions that real estate agents are a great resource:

“Experienced agents can spot serious buyers and guide you toward the strongest offers, which eliminates the burden of calls and negotiations with less motivated shoppers. Agents are extremely familiar with both the selling process and your local market, so they can recommend appropriate counteroffers. Bottom line: They’ll help you get as much money as possible. No wonder 82 percent of sellers surveyed by Zillow said they value their agent’s ability to lead contract negotiations.”

So while people may enjoy browsing Zillow postings in bed at night or while bored at work, reminding potential buyers and sellers the benefit of a relationship with a real estate agent and the tools and value they provide is a great way to keep the right people in the homebuying process.

Outdated Information

In the Internet age, there is no excuse for outdated or slow-moving information. Users expect websites to be as up-to-date as possible, and for information to be accurate. The last thing real estate agents want to deal with is phone calls regarding postings that sold three weeks ago.

Zillow is just far enough removed from agents to display incorrect information to potential customers.

Multiple Listing Services (MLS) are not necessarily high-tech, but they are often the first updated. Since sites like Zillow get information on homes for sale indirectly, and through multiple channels as postings are added, the information is not as relevant or as efficient as an MLS, where real estate agents can directly control the homes they’re selling.

To help encourage people to use real estate agents over sites like Zillow, offering faster, more accurate information through MLS gives buyers more power over their options and can save the agent and buyer significant time that is lost on irrelevant posts on Zillow. While an MLS may not be as pretty as sites like Zillow, according to Investopedia, it is a great resource for agents allowing, “competing brokers to work together toward a common goal of helping buyers find their desired properties, and helping sellers sell their properties.”

Takeaway

Zillow and websites like it are not going anywhere anytime soon. Buyers and sellers will continue to use these sites to learn more about their home value and to start their home shopping / selling process. However, through building good relationships that are long-lasting, utilizing tools like Homebot and the HPI Calculator, and building a strong network, real estate agents can stay well equipped to be go-to resources and the better option for potential buyers and sellers.

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