A Few Thoughts on Trulia + Zillow – Fear & Opportunity

Too Many Choices
So Many Choices. How to Know What’s Good?

Since I started in real estate in 2001, the fear of being disintermediated, being rendered meaningless or obsolete has been a constant. I’ve chosen to not subscribe to that fear. And still don’t.

Zillow is buying Trulia. For $3.5 Billion. The Zestimate was $2 billion. (ba-dum-bum) Good for them – they’re smart companies that execute well. Truzillia? Zillowia? ZillowTru? None. They’re going to remain two separate companies, drawing advertising from the same constituency as before. They’ll save money, but the ones paying likely won’t.

“We started Zillow as a media property, not a real-estate brokerage,” said Spencer Rascoff, chief executive of Seattle-based Zillow. “We sell ads, not houses.”

A few thoughts, as I truly think it’s too early to draw any credible conclusions:

One of my first questions was “why didn’t Zillow buy Realtor.com?” – aside from the entangling relationship that Realtor.com’s parent Move has with the National Association of Realtors, I’d argue that simply put, Trulia is a better site and business than Realtor.com. Simple.

– How is the consumer affected?

As a friend/client emailed me: “”Now only half of the sites will get the data wrong? ;-)”

Zillow and Trulia have fought and will continue to fight for accurate-enough-to-get-eyeballs data. Accurate enough because the casual consumer doesn’t seem to care about inaccurate data. Smart consumers are well-enough attuned to the market to know when to not trust what they see on Zillow – and when to vet said inaccuracy through the MLS.

Searching for homes will now be easier in some respects and harder in others. One big site to search, one big place on which to advertise.

Will Zillow and Trulia share data and data feeds? If so, good.

The consumer is going to feel even more empowered than they already do, and the savvy ones will acknowledge what Don Rumsfeld said many years ago – they don’t know what they don’t know. There is immense value in hiring a real estate guide, a person to whom you can direct your dumb questions, who’s going to prompt you to ask the questions you don’t know to ask, who’s going to listen and help assemble the right team for your real estate purchase or sale.

Discerning good information from bad is going to become an even more critical skill (that’s relevant for life, too – just because it’s on the Interwebs doesn’t make it true).

I wonder which tea is the best...
Choices, choices.

What’s the impact on real estate professionals? As yet unknown; FUD.

One of the most important skills a great real estate professional practices and possesses is listening, interpreting and advising. Psychiatrists still exist. They listen and help people ask questions of themselves. Attorneys still exist because they have a knowledge base and a skill set that most do not possess. Great real estate professionals will remain.

True (real estate) professionals are the same way – they train, study, practice every day – and associate with fellow professionals. (it’s up to the market to sort out the true pros – the industry itself never will)

Zillow is an advertising and marketing machine. That’s what they do. But they’re also becoming the first stop (despite the inaccurate data) for many real estate consumers.

A client asked me recently – will we be happy here? Artificial intelligence can’t yet answer that, and nor can I, but I can answer with a good, thoughtful conversation about life now and life in 10, 20, 40 years.

– What’s the impact on the National Association of Realtors? As yet unknown; justifiable FUD. The NAR have some BIG(ger) justifiable challenges ahead.

The NAR advocates consumers’ usage of “Realtors” – not “good/competent Realtors” – perhaps this is an opportunity for the NAR to publicly recognize that quality matters and start to differentiate the good from the less good. That, and maybe it’s time for the NAR to more boldly embrace their lobbying abilities.

– How is the local MLS affected?

God help them. Until they force their members to provide great pictures, allow for more room for text and require the best data, they’re going to be trumped by Zillowia. For now, the MLS remains the most credible, best data source, but for how long? How long before cooperation and compensation are no longer useful? Will divorced commissions become a reality?

– How is the local Realtor association affected?

– Seeing as how a lot of Associations’ core competency is the MLS, they’d do well to better define what it is they do. Leadership within such organizations is political – and politics aren’t good enough to save an association. Associations need to define and articulate their value. The Charlottesville association is pretty good, but the “because you have to join” value argument is hopefully short-lived. (for non-real estate folks: the reason many/most Realtors join the local/state/national association is not because they want to, but they have to in order to have access to the MLS)

– Another thought.

– Will Zillow offer a sort of “advanced search” with more options, more powerful search tools for those willing to pay?


I’ll keep doing, and find new things to do, that Zillow can’t (yet).

Will Zillow one day buy brokerages or become a real estate brokerage? They say no. I say maybe. (never say never and all)

I’ll keep recommending my clients to read the best local news and information sources, refine my skills for working with international, out-of-town clients, and working to be the best at what I do, and help Nest become the best at what we do.

Further reading:

Homebuying Gets a Housecleaning

As the real estate world turns

Near-Record Trulia Shorts Crushed After Zillow Acquires Incomeless Company For $3.5 Billion

The Zillow-Trulia Merger: Looks Like It’s Time To Start Selling Your Shares And Go Short

Why Zulia doesn’t mean checkmate

Zillow to Buy Trulia for $3.5 Billion in All-Stock Deal

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  1. Simon Campbell July 31, 2014 at 09:33

    Well in my opinion, it wont really make a hill of beans difference who owns who. Both their databases are out of date and misleading. What really cracks me up is that according to Zillow’s own Zestimate data accuracy report, they have a median error rate of 6.9%. In fact, further down in their report they state that only 38.3% of the time are they within 5% of the actual sales price. The reality is that they are 20% off the actual sales price 84.7% of the time. LOL and its on their own website.

  2. bajamisdeudas August 8, 2014 at 07:45

    I think they just didn’t go with the price that’s the reason why they backout buying realtor.com.


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