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Zillow hires Jay Thompson, ups the stakes in talent war

Zillow has hired Jay Thompson.

Jay’s an Arizona broker and a prolific, smart and well-respected blogger. But you probably knew that.

Congrats to Jay, and to Zillow. It’s a good match.

The bigger picture here is that in the face of industry angst toward the “big 3″ online real estate sites, there’s a bit of a talent war going on. Expect to see more moves like this in the coming months.

Zillow has won the first battle in this war. Combined with the hiring of former ARMLS CEO Bob Bemis last month, they now have two of the most well-known – and, from and industry relations perspective, reasonable - people in the business in their corner.

It’s a good thing, really. If we’re going to settle into a place where the industry and the online players feel their relationship is win-win – and I think we must – then having more folks like Jay and Bob invested in making that happen is a good thing.


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38 Responses to “Zillow hires Jay Thompson, ups the stakes in talent war”

  1. Todd Miller says:

    What’s the value add for Zillow exactly?

    Hopefully they will go comp some of the houses on Zillow and replace the Zestimates with actual realistic values.

  2. Mary Lou Shane says:

    Hoping they get rid of the tragic Zestimate. It is extremely hard for responsible realtors to undo the lie and it certainly takes up a great deal of time.

    • Brian Boero says:

      The Zestimate is often grossly innacurate, and that bothers me from a consumer perspective. And I know many agents struggle with it.

      But I also think the Zestimate could be viewed by an agent prepared to tackle consumer confusion as God’s gift to the Realtor value proposition. It’s the perfect opportunity to commandingly demonstrate your street-level knowledge and ability to analyze data in context.

    • Ken Brand says:

      Brain, the strategy you propose is wise and effective if executed crisply.

      What I can’t wrap my head around is why we (agent and brokers) should embrace and empower (with out data) a platform and marketing strategy (zestimite) that is knowing misleading, inaccurate and albeit only in worse case scenarios, actually damaging to everyone but Zillow?

  3. Wayne Harriman says:

    They also have Brad Andersohn on board, who’s no slouch himself and has been of much help to me personally. Quite the trifecta, it will be interesting to see what magic they pull out of their collective hats going forward.

  4. Bill says:

    This is the practical application of using industry participants to change a system that is fighting change. These new hires have come ‘off the fence’ and realize that there is more money to be made in changing the system than trying to keep the status quo going.

    Competition comes from both outside the industry and within. Regardless of what Z and T are saying.. they have a plan and are using agents, brokers and their data against themselves. Like shooting fish in a barrel and it’s just a matter of time until the system controls agents and not the other way around.

    Easy to see what’s happening unless your a broker or agent.

  5. Spencer Rascoff says:

    Zillow is very excited to welcome Jay to the family. I have known Jay for several years and have always found him to be one of the most thoughtful visionaries in our industry. I look forward to learning from him, and couldn’t be more excited about working together.

    • Dale Chumbley says:

      Great addition to the team Spencer! Jay’s an absolute stand-up guy who’s well respected and to use a phrase of his, “freaking brilliant”! (no he doesn’t call himself that, he describes others like that) :) I’m happy for you all.

    • Jeff Beck says:

      Still looking for an explanation of why Zillow would hire a small brokerage owner and blogger to sell them to other brokers as anything other than a cynical move.

      Unless that broker/blogger was a satisfied customer who could demonstrate/testify how using Zillow has helped grow HIS small brokerage.

      Except, as far as I can see… Jay’s brokerage is not a Zillow paying customer. http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/14818-S-20th-St-Phoenix-AZ-85048/8160400_zpid/


    • Mitch Robinson says:

      Hi Jeff- I head up industry marketing for Zillow. Simply put, we were not a sponsor and didn’t even have an agenda ahead of time beyond the list of speakers on the website. We had a table with a couple of folks there and paid nothing to participate. We believe an open dialogue is best.

    • Jeff Beck says:

      Hmmm… well either you’re a liar or Jim Abbott is a liar. And he has no motive.

      From Mr Abbott via Bloodhound Realty blog…

      “Regarding my “un-invitation” to the San Diego Real Estate Conference, it went down like this. After the our video went viral… (Craig Sewing… asked that I appear at his conference… 4 days before the event, I was emailed by Mr Sewing with this message:
      “Unfortunately… one of the sponsors of the event is Zillow. This has created a conflict where I was informed having Jim as a panelist would be a conflict of interest.””

      Keep digging.

    • Jeff Beck says:

      This is unintentionally hilarious, and tells you everything you need to know about the hubris of the ZTR mafia =>

      Mitch Robinson says “Simply put, we were not a sponsor… We had a table with a couple of folks there and paid nothing to participate”

      <= Aside from the question of who "uninvited" Mr Abbott, the big shots from Zillow have just confessed to attending this local "nobody's" little conference and setting up a table to pitch their wares without paying him.

      That is the attitude we are dealing with, people.

  6. Ken Brand says:

    Before anyone get’s all jacked up over my comment, I also believe that Jay is a good an honorable man. I like, respect and wish him wel.

    Here’s my comment:

    As I see it Zillow’s new hires are more akin to big business like big oil and wall street masters of the universe hiring industry lobbyists and schmoozers to help them execute their agenda, friction free. Which of course is whip smart and strategic for them, and for me, more cause for concern than comfort.

    While I’m unfamiliar with Bob’s perspectives, Jay has been a fan of Zillow and has expressed on his blog and other blog comments that he feels that agents have nothing to fear and it’s an agent duty to promote and broadcast their listing on Zillow (and other 3rd parties). While I respect Jay’s perspective and others who believe likewise, I whole heartedly disagree.

    As someone who feels that the value Zillow proposition for agents and brokers is primarily lopsided in favor of Zillow, I’d like to see Zillow’s next strategic hire be someone who has expressed an understanding of the perceived and real concerns of brokers and agents.

    Proof of Ambassadorship and sincere efforts to improve mutually beneficial relations by addressing broker and agent concerns instead of shcmoozing to loyalize the lemmings and out megaphoning the dissatisfied remain to be experienced. It will be interesting to see how things develop.

    For me, the jury is in on on Jay, I wish him the very best. The jury is out on Zillow.

  7. Jay Thompson says:

    Thanks Brian, for the kind words (and thanks to the other commenters as well). I’m trying to respond to everyone, but am just a wee bit overwhelmed at the moment…

    There are some wicked smart people at Zillow, and I can’t wait to start working with them!

  8. Jeff Beck says:

    I’m kinda lost here. What is on Jay Thompson’s resume that made him be headhunted by a billion $ tech company?

    Blogger. Check. Owned his own brokerage since 2008 according to his website. OK.

    Was the brokerage profitable?
    What was the sales volume? Market share? Agent count?
    Can anyone tell me?

    ** Perhaps Spencer Raskoff III can give me a Zestimate?! **

    Is he a tech expert? Is he a coding genius? I don’t think so.

    Oh yeah, he logrolled for them.

    • Drew Meyers says:

      Jay is the most well respected broker/blogger in the entire industry, with a loyal following of individuals that not only listen to him, but respect him enough to take his advice…that influence would take Z/T/R.com years and years to build in-house. And they couldn’t actually do it totally in house…since Jay has actually run a successful brokerage.

    • Jeff Beck says:

      Drew. Define “Successful”, if you can.

      Was the brokerage profitable?

      How many offices did/do they have?

      What was the business model?

      What was the sales volume? Market share? Agent count?

      Can you tell me?

    • Jay Thompson says:

      Jeff –

      Thompson’s Realty has been profitable for 47 of the 48 months we’ve been open (Month #1 being a loss).

      Right now we have 33 agents. We’re just a small independent.

      As for number of offices, that really doesn’t apply as with our brokerage model we don’t have any brick & mortar office space. In addition to serving the Phoenix metro area, we did operate a branch “office” in Tucson, but decided to close that when the brilliant broker in that branch decided shift her career out of real estate.

      Our brokerage closed over 370 transactions last year, mostly resales, some rentals. The median home price in Phoenix is pretty low at $115Kish, so big sales volume numbers aren’t easy to come by. We did about $50M in 2011.

      I rarely look at market share because in a market the size of Phoenix, it’s pretty meaningless. I did take look in late 2010. The post is here: http://www.phoenixrealestateguy.com/thompsons-realty-top-5-of-phoenix-area-brokerage-offices/

      I’m pretty transparent about my business Jeff. I’ve never claimed to be the biggest or the best or NUMBER 1!! One of the ways I’ve measured the success of our brokerage is by client satisfaction and agent turnover. Our clients are extremely satisfied and we’ve never had a single agent leave us for another brokerage. That’s successful in my book, regardless of the numbers.

      Does that help?

    • Jeff Beck says:

      It helps, Jay. Strangely, we are very similar (business-wise). We opened in 2005, have about 23 agents, have two locations, did about 300 sides last year, and we are always profitable.

      I am therefore available to Z, T or R for offers starting at $250k.

      BTW- congratulations. It is not my intent to denigrate your accomplishments or the hiring. I’m just cynical about Z’s motivations. I doan like them.

  9. Dave Tipton says:

    I’ve never been a fan of the “big 3? online real estate sites.

    I have however been a fan of Jay Thompson, he is a pioneer real estate blogger, web 2.0 guru and all around nice guy. I’m interested to see what Jay’s message will be to the real estate masses.

    I hope Jay’s getting big bucks for lending his name the likes of Zillow.

    • Jeff Beck says:

      What everyone needs to do is just take a deep breath, calm down, and start preparing their bodies for the Thunderdome. That is the new law.

      Tracy Jordan

  10. Brenda Wade says:

    Average production per agent is 1 million. Probably not a listing powerhouse of a company! I read his blog and comments on various FB pages. A listing agents position and a buyers agent would be totally different! Total PR move by Zillow. I wish him well but don’t feel he is the voice of a strong listing agent or brokerage.

  11. Mark Washburn says:

    I am glad they hired Jay, hopefully he held out for an aggressive compensation package…..every dollar they pay Jay is one less Zillow has to invest in telemarketing drones that call and pitch the latest and greatest advertising opportunity.

  12. Teri Conrad says:

    I am intrigued by this move and frankly think it’s brilliant on Zillow’s part. Stock was up 6% day of announcement. As Kelly Mitchell and I discussed on Agent Caffeine on Thursday, bringing in revered players from the outside is just plain good strategy. Zillow has an opportunity to offer more value to the agents and position themselves as more of a partner.

    I’m looking forward to Kelly Mithchell’s special edition Agent Caffeine interview with Jay today (March 17, 2012, 11am PST) to get some deeper insights! (http://www.agentcaffeine.com/jay-thompsonjoinszillow/)

  13. Carmen Brodeur says:

    It is interesting how many people think that Realtors are going to whip out their credit cards to buy Zillow advertising just because Jay works there. Not all of his blog readers are zombies. Some of us just appreciate his witty prose. I wish Jay all the best in his new job.

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