Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com: Comparing “The Big Three”

by Chicago Agent

The pricing for the enhanced listings offered by Zillow and Trulia is similar. Zillow Platinum, which allows agents to run 50 featured listings a month, starts at $128 a month. The site’s Silver level, which allows for 25 monthly featured listings, costs $79, while its Basic level, with 10 monthly featured listings, costs $39 a month.

Trulia Pro also has three different levels. Its most expensive allows agents to post 50 featured listings a month and costs $149.99 every month. For $79.99, agents can post 24 featured listings a month. If they spend $39.99, they can post 10 featured listings.

It’s more difficult to determine the costs of Realtor.com’s featured listings, because the company charges different fees depending on a real estate agent’s market location and the number of listings this agent has. As Realtor.com explains on its site, traffic varies in different markets based on the number of potential homebuyers and sellers searching online. At the same time, the more listings that a real estate agent carries, the more circulation they receive on Realtor.com.

This website also offers monthly pricing to those agents who don’t want to pay for a full year of enhanced listings. Monthly pricing, though, does come with a 12 percent surcharge.

Chris Haran, marketing manager for the Chicago and Milwaukee offices of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, is a believer in the benefits of all three sites. Each Coldwell Banker brokerage, in fact, pays for all of its agents to have enhanced listings on Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com.

It was especially important to secure the enhanced listings on Zillow and Trulia, Haran says, because when buyers do a home search on these two sites, the first results that come up are featured results, the listings of real estate agents and brokerages that have paid Zillow and Trulia to boost their residences to prime spots.

Those agents who don’t pay for the enhanced listings on these sites won’t receive nearly as many Zillow or Trulia views of these properties, Haran said.

“Last year we decided to provide enhanced listings for all of our agents. Every time agents place one of their listings on Trulia, Zillow or Realtor.com, they come up as enhanced listings,” Haran said. “This made sense for us so that our listings could be seen and we could get leads coming in.”

The drop-off in views without the enhanced listings was dramatic on all three sites, Haran said.

Zillow also has an annoying quirk that can hurt agents who haven’t paid for enhanced listings on the site. When a buyer finds a listing on Zillow that isn’t enhanced, Zillow will recommend four different agents for that buyer to call. More often than not, Haran says, the actual listing agent isn’t one of those four agents’, which means the lead from that listing will not go to the listing agent.

“We saw that our competitors were showing up on our Zillow listings. That didn’t seem like a good deal to us,” Haran said. “That’s why we pay for the enhanced listings for all of our agents, so our listing leads go back to our agents.”

Matt Dollinger, vice president of strategic development for @properties, said that his firm also pays for its agents to post enhanced listings on all three sites. Dollinger, too, said that this has had a positive impact on his company’s agents.

“By featuring our agents’ listings, they show up ahead of those that aren’t enhanced. There’s a philosophy to this: how often does someone go to the 12th page of Google search results?” Dollinger said. “It’s the same thing when people look through real estate listings. How often are they going to go to the 12th page of a listings?”

Haran takes an analytical approach to the Trulia/Zillow/Realtor.com debate; he says that each site draws in a slightly different audience.

Realtor.com boasts a large built-in user base because it has been operating for so long, Haran said. Its association with the National Association of Realtors helps boost its credibility, and when consumers run a web search for real estate, Realtor.com always pops up high.

But Trulia and Zillow have carved out their own niches, Haran said. The two sites have captured the nation’s desire for celebrity news and sensational stories. The sites also run news stories that tend to be less fawning and more critical of the real estate industry, something that helps drive traffic to these sites.

As an example, Zillow recently ran a feature story that asked if Newt Gingrich’s ties to Freddie Mac could haunt him during the presidential race. It also featured stories on Joan Rivers’ New York City apartment being re-listed and pop star Avril Lavigne selling her Bel Air mansion to Los Angeles Clippers star Chris Paul.

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  • Mike Russo says:

    It is very frustrating to me that brokerages haven’t figured out how to get the traffic to our own sites. But instead, us agents have to pay hundreds and thousands of dollars to buy back our leads. Something isn’t right here.

  • Great information and interesting perspective from three different real estate brokerage offices that run very different business models.Another view from a real estate broker like myself is that two of the three service providers in the article do not display the listing agent information unless you pay for the enhancement. They even go as far as steering the lead to an agent that does pay. Also we agents and brokers are continuing to provide the marketing information such as photos and listing details to these and other service providers, to find that they are taking our information to capture their own lead. They then offer this “lead” to an agent at a fee.As one that has experienced a great deal of evolution in the way our listings have been displayed over the internet, our focus and the evolution of these dynamics will be ground shaking to the industry.
    I think that each agent and brokerage needs to focus on how our listings are indexed and returned for results from the major search engines.As well, since the rate of response is so important, another focus would be how quickly and how efficiently that lead comes to the listing agent as well as the listing agents lead capture and follow-up system. I willing be looking at the release coming out this spring from RE/MAX regarding the international(RE/MAX.com) web site changes.Remember- if we do not pay attention to our business someone else will!

  • Brian Hickey says:


    As you know, people have short memories and most agent domains are long and hard to spell.

    There is, however, a marketing tool that you manage and control yourself – it’s a strong domain that is licensing its brand and system to agents – all the traffic from that brand (which you “own”) is directed back to you and your business.

    There are “riches in niches”




  • Dana Lambert says:

    It’s interesting how Zillow says they only want to give out accurate, up-to-date numbers…but then they don’t give any numbers out. I understand wanting to be accurate, but if there were some averages for Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com ads, it might paint an even clearer picture of which programs are the best for agents’ money. Otherwise, as stated in the article, agents are forced to buy a program to test and measure their results, with no general knowledge of what their click-throughs and lead generation should be averaging upon purchase. Blind leading the blind?

  • I have to agree with Matt and Chris about Realtor.com but overall have to wonder if this is being approached to benefit both the consumer and the agent.

    For me, I do see the most clicks on per listing off of Realtor.com but actually click to contact from the consumer be it to list or buy is much higher for me from Trulia and Zillow.

    What really stands out to me is Mike Russo’s comment. Probably the most intelligent part of this post.

  • I have been an agent at both Re/Max for 22 years and now at Coldwell Banker. Regarding Trulia if in fact you follow the system as well as Realtor.com and Zillow the listed properties that are represented by Coldwell Banker agents always pull up first in the searches and always will due to the fact the Corporation has contracts with all of these companies. That makes a huge difference in the way the leads on properties are generated. Buyers are fickle and will only maybe to to 2 pages on line and they will click on only one listing. Re/Max is a great company however it is a Franchise and does not work as one unit when it comes to marketing. Each individual agent has to market the properties and when you add up the costs of these companies it is very expensive. I agree with Mike Russo as well as the costs can add up to more then $8000 a year if you do this as an individual agent.

  • Andrew Mooers says:

    Thanks for shaking it all out, for the apples to apples, side by side size up.

  • Billy says:

    Awesome article! Where can I buy a waterfront shack on a remaining iceburg? L-cubed!

  • Laurie Ann von Wald says:

    It is a shame that our board of realtors was asleep while Zillow snuck in to compete; and I must say that Zillow did very well with their advertising making the public, and even some realty agents believe that they were the “Godfather or King” of real estate information. I am told by my buyers that the Zillow site is user friendly and I do like the way we can make our Open Houses appear there…..however, we need to blow Zillow off the table. I am always having to “explain” the erroneous information on Zillow & even on trulia. I am hoping that under new ownership, realtor.com , will make Zillow & trulia disappear.

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