When you think of starting a home search where do you first turn?  It’s probably Zillow.com When you want to figure out what your awful neighbor is trying to sell his house for, where do you look first?  Again, it’s probably Zillow.com.  Finally, when you want to know what dream home is selling for in your favorite part of the country, where do you look?  Of course, it’s Zillow.com.  Zillow is a brand.  It has become synonymous with the term real estate search.

Real Estate Agent Views of Zillow

In real estate agent circles, you’ll get differing opinions on Zillow.  Some will say Zillow is the worst.  Others, like me, have a more moderate view.  Here’s why:  Zillow does real estate search better than anyone in the country.  Their user interface is second to none, and if you want to browse homes, which is something like a national pastime, it’s the best place to do that without getting a bunch of calls from random agents.   Unless, of course you put your contact information in…then you will get calls.  And texts, and lots of them.

Zillow And Listing Your St. Louis Home For Sale

If you’re looking for a real estate agent to list your home for sale in St. Louis, how do you find one?  Do you go to Zillow first?  I doubt it.  It’s much more likely that you mention to a “friend” that you are thinking about listing your home for sale, and that friend tells you what a great experience they had with someone who may or not be their second cousin.  We can safely say that Zillow is therefore biased to home buyers.  After all, who would actually trust the Zillow zestimate?  They are laughably inaccurate.  I’m pretty sure most real estate agents know this, but I’m not sure the general public is.  And that’s a problem.  When I go on listing calls, one of the first objections raised on my opinion on asking price strategy is, “but Zillow says….”

Zillow And Search

Do you know the highest volume keyword is at Zillow?  According to a quick search on Niel Patel’s Ubersuggest,  it’s “Zillow”.  There’s over 14 million searches for that keyphrase, and it’s not even close in terms of volume.  The next ranked keyword is mortgage calculator, with 2.7 million searches.  What does this tell you?  People are searching for Zillow to do something:  search for homes.  They aren’t searching for homes to find Zillow.  Therefore, Zillow is a brand.  The brand stands for search.

Leveraging A Brand

If we’ve sufficiently established that Zillow’s brand is all about home search, it stands to reason that the company will look to leverage their brand in closely related spaces.  And, sure enough, Zillow has.  They’ve bought a mortgage company.   They’ve started an ibuying service, Zillow offers.  These are areas where Zillow believes it can dominate like they do in search.  It’s a very risky endeavor.  Here’s why:  When you use Zillow for home search, Zillow doesn’t do anything bad to you unless you enter your contact information to ask for more information on a home.  But, what happens when Zillow does something negative?  For example, what happens when Zillow turns you down for a mortgage, or tries to buy your home for pennies on the dollar?

Understanding Zillow’s Place In Real Estate Sales

The vast majority of people on Zillow are looking at aspirational purchases.  They want to see the million dollar homes that they can only dream of living in.  I’ve explained that maybe Zillow really isn’t the best place to start a home search.  If you are serious about buying a home, you need to be prepared to do so.  For the majority of home buyers, that means finding and then working with a real estate agent who can help guide the process.  Zillow is a brand.  And while they are entering new markets with different products, they are not a substitute for a competent, local real estate agent.