When Zillow originally launched, it was seen in some circles as a liberator for consumers who had relied on the judgment of Realtors for too long. But CEO Rich Barton, speaking at Inman’s Real Estate Connect conference, said its mission was, in fact, misinterpreted.
“Years ago, I could see how we might look like (the industry’s enemy) with Zestimates,” which provides independent projections of house values. But “Zillow has been cracked wide open to working with the industry,” said Barton, who was appearing on stage with Dale Stinson, CEO of the National Association of Realtors. “We do a host of things to show the industry we want to work with them,” including, in a couple of months, free brokerage feeds. “Partnerships are necessary and desired.”
Barton noted that 250,000 listings now appear on Zillow, 50,000 agents have created custom profiles, and 350,000 Realtors visit the site each month. “We are trying to create an unbelievable farming environment that isn’t spam,” he said. “We are letting agents show off their expertise.”
Moreover, Zillow’s innovative EZ ads, which allow advertisers to target by locality for a simple $10 CPM, are now being used by 4,600 advertisers after just three months in the field. That’s “10 times the number of advertisers that we thought we’d get [and] more advertisers than many portals,” said Barton. “It is so targeted and so local.” He added that most EZ ads users are agents, but others include mortgage companies and home service providers.
Barton also noted that Zillow has emerged as a major user-generated content company. “We get 25,000 to 30,000 contributions every day. Mobile applications are also high on the list of the company’s set of priorities. “Mobile is certainly one of the most interesting things that will happen in 10 years. We’re doing a ton of stuff.”
Despite Barton’s entreaties to the industry, Stinson indicated that NAR is set to launch a number of its own entrepreneurial efforts, some of which will likely compete with Zillow – although he reiterated that his organization’s “technological” relationship with Move.com’s Realtor.com is going to remain stable. Because of the housing recession, NAR is likely to see a sharp drop off of its roster of 1.4 million dues-paying agents. To build for the future, NAR is going to increase dues and apply $20 million annually for five years to 13 key initiatives, said Stinson. If something pans out, the funding could be increased, he said.
Among the initiatives is a home owners’ user-generated content service called “The Experience” and a national, Zillow-like database that will apply house values to every U.S. property. Stinson said the proposed service is not necessarily a shot across the bow at Zillow. “Competition is good,” he said, adding that “any service that helps Realtors sell a house is a friend” to the industry.