Depending on whom you ask, listing syndicators like Trulia and Zillow are either real estate’s “sliced bread” or they’re the worst industry development imaginable. They make a mess of listings, critics say. They give outdated information and display inaccurate photos, and they send potential clients to the wrong agents. Also, they steal intellectual property from brokers, and they send consumers on wild goose chases through irrelevant advertisements. Bottom line: They’re terrible for homebuyers, and they’re horrible for our business.
We agree with the criticisms. We don’t necessarily agree with the bottom line.
While it’s true that sites like Zillow create some headaches for Real Estate agents, those sites aren’t going away—especially now that Zillow has purchased Trulia. And while we may not be thrilled by the average consumer’s new real estate swagger—particularly since it’s often based on misleading or imprecise information—that’s not going away either. Your clients are using these resources, so your best bet is to figure out how to use them to your advantage.
Listing Syndicators Can’t Replace Real Relationships
Beyond feeling simply annoyed by sites and apps designed for real estate consumers, many agents and brokers actually feel threatened by them. If our clients can do their own research on their computer or smartphone, why do they need us? Why would they pay us to do what they can do themselves? Simple: Business is built on one-on-one relationships, not on technology.
Even Zillow’s CEO, Spencer Rascoff, recognizes this truth. In a Bloomberg article, he said, “when push comes to shove and it comes time to sell their home, the transaction is so infrequent and so highly emotional and expensive—and consumers are so prone to error—that they turn to a professional.”
Your Clients Still Need a Third-Base Coach
In baseball, the third-base coach’s job is to help runners know when to run for home and when to whoa up. In the age of listing syndicators, agents and brokers would do well to see themselves in a similar role. Chris Pullig, a Baylor University researcher, notes, “Consumers continue to be more knowledgeable as a result of all of the information they have available to them. You need to be able to demonstrate value. In this modern age, value is often measured in intangibles. It comes from forming a solid relationship and by being true, genuine, and honest.”
By viewing ourselves as expert coaches or mentors, we can tailor our services to individual clients’ needs and help them sort through the mountain of information they’re gathering online. More specifically, make sure you understand how the sites and apps work so you can guide clients on what information they can trust and what details deserve skepticism. (Example: Zillow’s “Zestimates” are rarely accurate.)
It’s Really Up to You
One of the major criticisms of listing syndicators is that they’re pay-to-play for real estate professionals. In other words, unless you’re paying a few thousand dollars a year to get leads from the apps, another agent’s photo and contact information will show up next to your listings. That’s a bum deal for you, and for clients, who end up reaching out to an agent who has absolutely no idea what listing they’re talking about.
Bad news: Unless you’re willing to ante up, there’s nothing you can do about it. Instead of feeling discouraged or defeated, channel that energy into marketing yourself in other ways. Build relationships. Join a networking group. Host free workshops. Write and share helpful blog posts. Listen to your community through social media, and engage in conversations.
Real estate is hard work. Know what’s happening on consumer sites and apps, but don’t allow yourself to be distracted from your business.
Listing Syndicators: Friend or Foe?
For agents who want to invest the money, syndicators generate huge numbers of leads. For agents who prefer to put their marketing dollars elsewhere, syndicators still market their listings, for free, to millions (literally) of people.
Kaplan, an online real estate education provider, comments, “Our clients’ desire to receive maximum exposure on their listing in order to get the maximum sale price, as well as Zillow/Trulia’s promise to ‘empower consumers with information and tools to make smart decisions about homes, real estate, and mortgages,’ are consistent with one another. Our relationship with Zillow/Trulia is not parasitic, but symbiotic.”
Whether you like it or not, your clients are most certainly using listing syndicators. Handling all the aspects of a real estate deal that these websites simply can’t is the best way to exploit their deficiencies while taking advantage of their capabilities.
Vegas One Realtors put clients’ interests above their own, providing the highest level of honesty and expertise before, during, and after each transaction. Interested in joining our team?