Agents’ love-hate relationship with Zillow, Trulia and realtor.com

by Jason Porterfield

“Those of us who know what we’re doing do not like the fact that they’re essentially taking our hard-earned work, borrowing those listings that we worked so hard on and selling leads to other agents,” says Corinne Guest, the managing broker for Barrington Realty Company in Barrington. “That not only takes away from the agent who listed it, but it also takes away from the brokerages that are having their agents list their properties. They are taking it and switching it around, so that the brokerage that has agents who could work those buyer leads is not able to do so.”

Answering the call, Zillow offers agents the opportunity to purchase a “Premier Agent” package as a means of reaching “26 times more leads” than non-paying agents. Premier agents are automatically the only agents featured on their own listings and are given the opportunity to advertise on local listings provided by non-Premier agents. Agents pay a small fee each time their ads are seen by site visitors. Even at a rate of pennies per view, the cost can add up on a site with more than 100 million visitors per month.

Realtor.com’s recent revamp includes enhancements to its Showcase Listings options, enabling agents to sharpen their approach to consumers. These include the ability to see where consumers are searching, what homes they are saving and also the chance to view recent searches. Agents can also post up to 36 photos for each listing, customize descriptions and post content ranging from open houses to virtual tours.

Realtor.com also offers agents ZIP codes at a premium, giving Realtors the ability to have their photos and contact information shown on select properties within that given area. But for some, the impression websites such as realtor.com give – as though they are selling properties – is a sore spot.

“In reality, they’re not a Realtor site whatsoever,” says Sims. “It makes it seem as if they are selling real estate. In reality, they take our data and make it appear they are the go-to instead of our MLS, because we send it to them. They’ve gotten around that very slickly.”


The Zestimate Problem

Real estate portals are popular with sellers as well. Naturally, sellers want to see what other homes are on the market, as well as compare their own properties to those listings. The end result is that many people come in with a distorted view of what their home and others in a given neighborhood are worth.

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  • Sheryl Duncan says:

    If they could manage to get the home info right…it would be a different story!!!! The home owner thinks the agent has put in the wrong data. They are an ongoing source of problems for the listing realtor. The best one thkugh is when they put a price on the home without ever seeing it!!!!!! Don’t know why realtors put up with it!!!!!!!!!

  • David price says:

    Looks like Chicago agent magazine has drink the Kool-Aid of Trulia and Zillow

  • Thanks for your comment, David! We took a balanced view of the syndication sites, and throughout the story, our terrific sources explain the pros/cons of all three; definitely let us know, though, if there is some aspect of the topic that you think we missed.

  • David Barr says:

    Corrine Guest nailed it. It absolutely blows my mind that agents are actually giving up control of their own marketing to unlicensed 3rd parties like Zillow and Trulia, and then paying for the privilege of paying them to get leads from their own listings. What this article doesn’t mention that Realtor listings and FSBO (for sale by owner listings) are co-mingled on Zillow. The licensed agent has no control over an unreliable FSBO listing in the same neighborhood as one of their listings, which can negatively affect property values.


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