DS + Zillow = A whole Host of Questions

Warning: this post is not within the realm of purely local real estate blogging …

First, Congratulations to the Diverse Solutions team and to Zillow. This is a perfect pairing of two of the most innovative companies in the real estate tech/data space.

Second, when I saw this news I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. One of the reasons I have so loved Diverse Solutions on my site is that they gave me what I believed to be the best tool out there to search for homes in my market. In part, I’ve been competing with Zillow (not really, they’re huge. I’m tiny) But really, I have been. Now they’re together? Zillow, who makes money (as all of the third parties do) selling agents on upsells for $X per month?

But.

Has, Zillow just has purchased sleeper cells on thousands of sites around the country?


1. Is this the next step in the evolution of Zillow becoming/replacing/supplanting the MLS? Maybe. Maybe not.

2. What will Zillow do with my users’ data – the search history, contact information, etc?

2a. Presumably, if I keep using Diverse Solutions to power my real estate search page, I’ll have to update my site’s privacy policy saying that Zillow is likely to start farming my users’ information. That will suck.

3. It would have been nice to have been given a heads-up.

4. Listings, and listing data are a commodity . Everyone has them. I’ve benefited by google indexing the MLS listings found on my site, but I’ve never depended on it. I generate unique, relevant, and occasionally good content. Anyone can get listing data.

5. If Zillow can use this as a back door to get more MLS data on their site, bully for them. There are some real risks in the MLS world right now.

6. See #4. Those depending on real estate search for their SEO are now SOL. It’s the evolution/consolidation of the tech space, and that’s ok. Real estate is about real estate representation – used with technology appropriately. Technology without competent representation and interpretation is merely cool tech.

Update 4 November 2011: Brian at 1000 Watt has one of the best, un-hyperventilating analyses I’ve seen yet. I still think my sleeper cell and defense contractor analogies hold water though. Time will tell.

7. This reminds me of defense contractors who acquire other firms in part because the smaller firms already have the security clearances. Getting employees security clearances one by one is expensive and time consuming; buying a successful, smaller firm that already has the infrastructure and expertise in place is a much smarter move.

In this game of chess, Zillow’s just made a master stroke.  

As I have told my clients for years – If you don’t own it, it’s going to change . I don’t own Diverse Solutions. I’m merely a paying customer. I don’t own Zillow. Not even a share. I have no say in what they do.

I don’t know how I feel now that I’m contributing to Zillow’s success.

From a purely selfish standpoint:

1. Will the product improve? How soon?

2. Will the cost increase?

3. Can I remove backlinks to Zillow if I choose? Will they link to me?

I like and appreciate what Zillow has done since their inception. I just don’t know whether I want to be in bed with them.


*I miss David G & Drew.

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12 Comments

  1. David G November 3, 2011 at 07:23

    Hey Jim – I miss you too! I may be on the other side of the Earth and no longer work through the night when news like this hits but I’m still fascinated by it. When I think about how much time Drew spent with the DS guys, it’s awesome to see this acquisition come together. From my experience of the DS and Zillow teams, these guys are going to work very well together. Let’s see what happens. 

    Reply
    1. Ricardo Bueno November 3, 2011 at 11:29

      We’re really looking forward to it David!

      Reply
    2. Jim Duncan November 3, 2011 at 12:39

      Thanks, David. I have absolutely no doubt that what they do will be great – the question I’m left with is … for whom it be great? 🙂

      Reply
      1. Spencer Rascoff November 4, 2011 at 02:25

        Hi Jim,
        It will be great for DS customers, for DS employees, for Zillow customers, and for Zillow employees. 
        We’re going to continue to provide the best IDX product on the market. I’m glad that you’re a satisfied DS customer, and I hope to keep you as one for a very long time.

        Reply
        1. Jim Duncan November 4, 2011 at 11:07

          Thanks, Spencer. You’re one of the few CEOs who, when making that statement, I’ll believe. :) 

          I re-upped a few days prior to the announcement, so I’m a customer for at least another year.

          Reply
    3. Drew Meyers November 6, 2011 at 20:00

      Jim-
      Miss you too man. It’s been too long since I’ve seen you in person. I’m thinking…Inman in NYC a year ago? Or maybe a random bar camp before that? We gotta figure out a way to change that.

      As I mentioned on Geek Estate, i’m obviously excited to see what Zillow + DS can do given the number of friends I have at both companies and how closely I worked with DS while I worked at zillow. It’s a little crazy that Andrew at DS (now a close personal friend of mine) is now an employee of Zillow though..

      DG-Where is your disqus avatar? 🙂

      Reply
  2. Ricardo Bueno November 3, 2011 at 11:28

    Re: Will the product improve? How soon?

    First order of business is increased Support for our customers so we can expedite issues faster. Can’t have a great product without service. 

    Re: Will the cost increase? 

    When we released dsSearchAgent Mobile, we didn’t charge for it. No sense in changing that now :-) 

    Always appreciate your feedback Jim and will of course update more on the Company Blog moving forward… 


    Ricardo Bueno
    Diverse Solutions

    Reply
    1. Jim Duncan November 3, 2011 at 12:40

      Luckily, I’ve rarely needed support as the product has been great. :) 

      Reply
      1. Ricardo Bueno November 3, 2011 at 12:53

        Thanks Jim, appreciate the feedback! 

        P.S. Regarding one of your other questions, Justin L. addressed it on our blog. I’m quoting him here: 

        “We have no intentions on changing to Zillow branding. These IDX solutions are DS products and will continue to be. With new found resources will be able to add more features and do all the things we have been wanting to. This includes new updates to dsIDXpress. We will also be exploring how the data from Zillow can benefit dsIDXpress and other solutions.  When we do this we may need to add appropriate branding and credit.  Rest assured that if we do we will be giving  you an option to turn the features off.”


        Ricardo Bueno
        Diverse Solutions

        Reply
  3. Anonymous November 3, 2011 at 12:45

    Good post Jim.  You hit all of the questions I had plus some!  Excited/Interested/Anxious to see what happens after the acquisition… 

    Reply
  4. Brian Tercero November 3, 2011 at 13:21

    This is a well thought up reaction and I have many of the same questions that you have Jim. IDXPress allowed a normal agent to outrank the big national real estate web sites and from the outside looking in, this appears to be a brilliant defensive maneuver by Zillow.

    I was really disappointed to hear about the acquisition. I have spent hundreds of hours building landing pages and custom neighborhood scripts to match. My site is completely wrapped  around DS… and now I feel it is all in jeopardy, not a good position to be in.

    We have to give them a shot and see how it all plays out. But I just don’t have a good feeling about it.

    Reply
  5. Anonymous November 3, 2011 at 14:36

    Agreed Brian.  Feel a bit like the hometown hardware store & Walmart just bought the vacant land next door… 

    Reply

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