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

by Chicago Agent

The Data
But more importantly than working the leads, how can agents know whether the programs they are investing in are, in fact, good buys? How can they tell if it’s worth their money?

Unfortunately, contacting each site’s sales representatives for such information, such as how leads are tracked and how many clicks an ad generates, isn’t as easy as it sounds. Chicago Agent’s ultimate goal was to include this information in each chart we have within this story, which details what each website’s programs are and what they include for what price, but we ran into more trouble than we realized when checking prices per advertising package, number of ZIP codes and number of listings.

When comparing the three websites’ advertising packages and what they offer agents (see our charts throughout this story), you’ll notice that the pricing, and what you get for that price, is similar – but when you ask what you get for a specific ZIP code or the type of ad bought and shown within a purchased ZIP code, things start to get trickier, prices start to increase and answers aren’t as clear-cut.

When we tried to get tracking information for ads in each program offered by Zillow, Alison Paoli, a PR specialist with the company, told us it is virtually impossible to tell agents the average number of hits their ad will get depending on placement on Zillow – this is because page views, as well as the market, are always changing.

“We are able to provide historical data on page views by ZIP code to agents directly, but since that number is always changing, we can’t provide you with a number that will be the same next month as it is today, and feel that it is best to give accurate and up-to-date numbers,” Paoli stated in an email. “The market is very seasonal and subjective – you cannot compare one ZIP code to another because they are all unique (in terms of) different types of homes, how many homes are on the market, and how many homes are in the ZIP code.”

What they do tell agents, when selling ad space and explaining the different programs Zillow offers, is the number of contacts varies based on factors such as agent reviews, the listing and the neighborhood. Therefore, they can’t tell agents any sort of averages when it comes to traffic or qualified vs. unqualified leads.

In addition, it can be hard to find information about prices and what you can get for certain programs. Realtor.com, for example, has a link to its programs at the very bottom of the task bar on the left side of the site, and in its “For Realtors” section, there is not a clear explanation of what programs are offered through the website. For that, agents need to find the “Realtor.com Support” page or the “Solution Center” page, and click on the “Product Support” or “Products” tab at the top – the site shows different products and programs depending on which page you’re on.

Click here to view a PDF of the Trulia chart

And pricing for all the sites is difficult to find – calls about specific pricing per number of listings per ZIP code for Realtor.com and Trulia were not returned, and while we did speak to representatives from Zillow regarding price (and the prices are stated on Zillow.com), for the Premier Agent Platinum program, prices start at $128, but can increase depending on the purchased ZIP code or codes and number of listings.

If we can barely find out this information to report to you, we now realize how hard it must be for agents, who need to rely on test and measure methods to determine if a website’s program is worth its return on investment – and agents can only do this after purchasing a program and actively advertising with it for a year.

This seems to be the one caveat with Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com’s advertising programs – as far as actual data and statistics are concerned, the sites can’t provide any evidence that they are worth an agent’s advertising dollars. However, these sites are clearly working for many agents, and those agents will tell you which site is most worth their investment.

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Comments

  • 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!

  • Mike,

    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”

    http://teardowns.com/agent_program

    Thanks,

    Brian

  • 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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