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

by Chicago Agent

Lead Quality
Chris Pequet, a broker with Hinsdale’s Crawford Group Sotheby’s Realty, said that the leads coming from the three sites aren’t always solid, though she did say that the leads generated from Realtor.com tended to be the strongest.

The key to making a Trulia, Zillow or Realtor.com lead work lies in the follow-up, Pequet said. That’s something, of course, that holds true for all leads, whether they’re sent to agents from their brokerages, past clients or mortgage loan officers.

Online leads, though, have to be handled especially quickly, Pequet said. Visitors from Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com expect agents to call them back quickly when they send these real estate professionals email messages, Pequet said.

“Everyone expects immediate gratification these days,” Pequet said. “If they don’t hear from you soon, they’re calling someone else. I try to get back to people as quickly as I can. When I do get a call or email from one of my online listings, I get back to those people right away.”

Wirth describes the leads that she receives from all three sites as being like the cold calls she’d receive during her earlier days in the real estate business.

Real estate agents would take cold call leads when they’d sit in their offices and wait for consumers to call. Often, these consumers would be just starting to think about buying a home and only wanted to ask real estate agents a few quick questions. Other cold calls would come in from serious buyers or sellers who were ready to work with a real estate agent that day.

The same holds true for the leads that Wirth receives from Zillow, Realtor.com or Trulia: some come from buyers or sellers who are ready to make a move now or relatively soon, at least. Others come from consumers who aren’t ready to buy a home or sell their residences for at least a year. Like Pequet, Wirth says that the key to converting leads from Realtor.com, Trulia and Zillow is to respond to these leads quickly.

“A quick response is what the consumer is looking for,” Wirth said. “We have had some good success with leads that came to us from the online sites, but some are better than others.”

Haran also said that he hasn’t seen much difference in the quality of leads from the three sites. He, too, admitted that the leads from all three sites could be, as he said, “tricky things.”

He pointed to patience as the key to making online leads, whether from Trulia, Realtor.com or Zillow, work.

“In today’s economy, real estate agents are working to make money now,” Haran said. “A lot of online leads, though, have a long incubation time. Some people have no problem filling out a lead form when they have a simple question and have no plan to buy for months. Agents have to be patient, and they have to be willing to give that information and stay in touch afterwards.”

This requires a good contact-management plan, Haran said. Again, this isn’t much different from how real estate agents turn any lead, online or offline, into future business.

“In our market, the amount of rentals has risen,” Haran said. “The goal of following up on some of these online leads it to take these rentals and turn them into buyers in the next couple of years. That goal is crucial to the agents who want to stay in this business.”

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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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