What Does the Zillow Trulia Merger Mean for Today’s Real Estate Professional?
By now, you have undoubtedly heard that online listing giant, Zillow, is buying their next closest competitor, Trulia for $3.5 billion in stock. For those real estate agents living under a rock, Zillow and Trulia aggregate listings from MLS providers and present the information via the internet along with pricing estimates, community information and more. To date, neither company has made a profit but these two companies have been a major force in the shift of our client’s real estate research efforts.
The obvious question is what does this mean for John Q Agent and Suzie B Broker? Time will truly tell but I believe it is simply another step in the continued improvement and stabilization of our industry and actually a positive for professional Realtors. I would suggest the coming changes are that we will see a reduction in part-time agents and a much more educated client looking for enhanced professional services from dedicated practitioners. I do not believe this is the start of the decline seen by travel agents when Expedia consolidated travel information online.
On the part-time shake out, we have all heard the quotes that over 80% of today’s home buyers start their search online. When they start their search and enter “homes for sale in Atlanta”, the search engine response includes Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com along with dozens of broker and agent sites with basically the very same information. Our website, Atlanta Real Estate Brokers, is right there with the others presenting the very same results. The various sites have a different look and feel and some SEO savvy websites rank better than others but at the end of the day, the information returned is about the properties that are listed for sale in a given area. The difference is all of this “marketing” takes capital and the cost of entry is continually going up. The days of a simple sign and a business card are pretty much over with listing clients expecting excellent exposure, marketing and more….all of which costs money. Those “web savvy” clients can now “check” to see how well their home is showing on search engine portals and react accordingly. Part-time agents simply will not be able to compete with sophisticated marketing efforts put forth by full-time, professional Realtors.
From a professional services standpoint, today we see agents who hold a “license” and do not have a great deal of experience or support base. Tomorrow’s client is going to be armed with more information and while they will still look to professionals to assist with touring homes, understanding the neighborhood, vetting lenders and dealing with attorneys, they will also expect expertise around everything from home construction to energy efficiency and more. They may elect to work with professionals with Project Management Professional (PMP) designations or even utilize one stop shops capable of handling all aspects of the transaction through one person. Tomorrow’s Realtor will wear more hats than they do today and it will cost more to operate due to increased advertising to “rise to the top” so to speak.
I believe the pending marriage of Zillow and Trulia is a mere blip on the screen for professional Realtors. The information those companies regurgitate comes directly from the hard won listings professional Realtors develop with our clients and while search engines can take online listings, I believe the ability to work closely with a client on such a major transaction in their lives will never be replaced by an online experience. I, as a professional Realtor serving Metro Atlanta, believe this move will only be beneficial to our profession.