On Being Included in the Zillow Agent Advisory Board

J Philip Faranda June 21, 2012

As anyone who knows me will attest, I have had my struggles with Zillow. I have always tried to be fair, but at times Zillow has frustrated me, and at times I have had to give them credit. In the past year, the world of brokerage has become more polarized about Zillow, with factions of companies ending syndication and decrying their data issues and pay model, and others, if not supportive of Zillow, certainly eyeing the anti-syndication crowd with skepticism.

The debate became more heated around the time that Abbott Realty Group in San Diego released their video explaining why they were ending syndication.  I felt dismay as accusations of dual agency and not looking out for the best interests of clients collided with lamentations about data accuracy and hijacking content. It was ugly, and remains so.

This past May, I decided to reach out to the folks at Zillow whom I know. I sent an email to CEO Spencer Rascoff, whom I first met at Raincamp in 2010, and Jay Thompson, their Director of Industry Outreach. I felt, that as both a paying customer in the Premier Agent program as well as a user of Diverse Solutions IDX, I could make some constructive suggestions about how to make peace. To his credit, Spencer did respond very earnestly, and what followed was a discussion that Mr Rascoff generously shared with other people on the Zillow team.

I’ll summarize some points.

  • The idea that a companies who are at odds with Zillow only want to engage in dual agency is a terrible argument.
  • Data accuracy is something that has to be tackled.
  • There has to be a way to reconcile the Zestimate with the agent community.
  • The complaint that paying Zillow for advertising is somehow coercive fallacious. A few short years ago, some clients would browbeat us into paying for print advertising. Advertising on Zillow is a fraction of those costs.
Earlier this month, Jay Thompson invited me to be a part of a new Agent Advisory Board (ZAAB). I took the invitation very seriously. I am Vice President of my MLS, so I had to ensure there was no confict of interest (there was not). I had to make sure I could uphold the policy of membership on the board, as well as devote the time to it that would be needed. And yesterday, I, along with 18 other professionals from around the country, was announced as part of the board.
My participation does not make me a shill, nor does it give me Jedi-like powers to make changes of my own fiat. But it does give me a voice, and I believe it better to strive to cause constructive change from within an organization than to lob disdain from the peanut gallery.
Recently, in a discussion about Zillow, I said the following:
Zillow is Star-child. It is as amoral as any other entity and pondering what to do with its powers. If Zillow does not yet have all the solutions how can we. To conclude we don’t want Z to exist just because no one-including Z themselves has come up with a way to make the numbers work for everyone is unfair.
Zillow is the biggest kid in the playground, and as such I think it wise to deal with them in as constructive and earnest a manner as possible. I am very honored to be chosen as part of the board. I do intend to make a difference, and I will go in believing that the folks at Zillow-good people you should know like Brad Andersohn, Sara Bonert, and Jay Thompson- want my input as much as I want to share it.

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