My broker, Jay Thompson, got a job at Zillow.com a few weeks ago. I guess this is a big, fat, hairy deal to a bunch of people who think it’s some kind of traitor move. Apparently, because Zillow is website about real estate that zestily offers some of the services Realtors do, but does not automatically filter leads back to Realtors, some of my fellow agents are super offended. I wasn’t really getting it. There was some serious vitriol on the interwebs revolving around the whole thing. It seemed out of proportion to me.
Then, today I was listening to a piece on NPR about robots and machines taking over jobs of actual humans. As they were discussing how the agricultural revolution and the invention of farm equipment did away with multitudes of labor jobs in the 19th century and how various robots and machines are doing the same thing to the middle class of today, I had an epiphany: Realtors are afraid Zillow is creating a real-estate-agent-bot to replace us. This must be what has everyone up in arms.
Not only can you search the MLS on Zillow to find a potential house to buy or rent, but if you put in your own address Zillow will give you an estimate of what your house is actually worth. It puts information in the hands of the buyers and sellers that had, in the past, been exclusive to real estate agents. ZILLOW IS TRYING TO STEAL OUR JOBS WITH ROBOTS THAT WILL EVENTUALLY RISE UP AND TAKE OVER THE WORLD, I can practically hear the nervous hoards whispering.
But here’s the thing; while I am a little afraid robots might eventually take over the planet (I didn’t see all of I, Robot [which I just tried to spell iRobot], but I did see that scene where The Fresh Prince was interrogating the robot guy and the robot gets all mad even though robots don’t have emotions and it’s super creepy), I’m not actually afraid of Zillow stealing my job. And I think any agent who is intimidated by a website obviously doesn’t have much to offer his clients.
10 Reasons I’m Not Scared of Zillow –
1. Zestimates are not an appraisal. Zestimates are about as accurate as a Tarot card reader. Sure, she gets some stuff right about you, but most of it’s because you have a big mouth and started telling her about your life as soon as you sat down. The Zillow estimate of your home value is based on comps, but it doesn’t adjust for extremely relevant data like condition of property, where the house is situated and about eleventy other vital details. This is sometimes irritating to combat when a seller has seen a Zestimate that inflates the actual value of their home, but generally pretty easy to dispute if you know and are confident of your facts and the market.
2. The MLS is a much more accurate search. The listing information on Zillow is fun for a quick search, but it just pulls from the MLS. Thus, if you want the fastest, most accurate information and the widest capability of search, you gotta go to the source.
3. You can’t pick Zillow’s brain. You can’t look Zillow in the eye, smile sheepishly and say, “So this might be a dumb question, but…” and even if you could, Zillow wouldn’t say, “Not at all!” and tell you a story about a much more embarrassing situation where Zillow asked a dumb question, and then answer your question so that you feel confident you understand.
4. Zillow can’t help you find flaws. Zillow won’t walk you through a home and point out dead scorpions that are almost invisible against speckled beige carpet. (It’s a super power I developed after living in a scorpion house for five years. Ask any client I’ve shown more than 15 houses to.)
5. Zillow doesn’t have years of personal experience you can rely on. Zillow might have a guy to recommend for your every need, but will Zillow also have personally used the guy and can vouch for his services, or did Zillow just take ad fees from the guy? I think we both know the answer.
6. Zillow isn’t personally and financially invested in helping you achieve a common goal. Zillow won’t show you 200 houses over 6 months and go home at night emotionally invested in finding you that perfect house. Of course, Zillow probably also won’t drink a bottle of white wine alone when it feels frustrated and like it’s failing you because the market is so difficult. So Zillow’s liver is probably the winner in this one.
7. Zillow can’t tell you the hard truths you need to hear. Zillow won’t tour the house you’re ready to list and sit you down and tell you gently, “I love your taste in décor. It’s very Martha meets the Southwest in 1983. But if you want to get the extra $10k out of this house, your collection of coyote paintings needs to go into storage and the salmon wall with the mint-green edging needs to be neutralized. Not everyone can think as creatively as you do.”
8. Zillow isn’t there for emotional support. You can’t call Zillow when you’re at the end of escrow and up to your eyeballs in boxes and stress and sob because it’s all just too much. But you can call me. You can even yell for a minute if you need a scapegoat. I’ll say, “I understand this is so stressful and frustrating. I wish it was going more smoothly. But we’re so close to done and in a week you’ll feel so much better,” and bring you ice cream.
9. Zillow can’t rescue you if you need it. Zillow wouldn’t climb over a balcony and scale down the side of a house when you get locked out. Although, to be fair, Zillow probably also wouldn’t get you locked out there in the first place.
10. Zillow isn’t as funny as I am. When you’ve seen 12 houses in one day and you’re so exhausted you can’t see straight and are pretty much over the entire thing, Zillow won’t make a wildly inappropriate joke to break the tension. But I will. It will make you feel better, I promise.
So hey, Zillow and I can get along. It’s cool. If I’m doing my job poorly enough I can be replaced by a Realtor-bot, then I deserve to be replaced. Excellence like this cannot be mechanized.
Although there is the small matter of stealing my broker… you might owe me a beer over that one, Zillow.