1000watt Blog

Writings about real estate, branding, marketing, media and technology from the principals of 1000watt.

Zillow zeroes in

Zillow released a new homepage design this week.

It’s bold. It’s clear. There’s zero kruft.

A couple of things strike me here:

Zillow is trying to “Googlefy” the real estate industry. Just like search the giant is synonymous with search on the Internet, Zillow seems to be trying to become synonymous with real estate on the Internet.

I’m not sure if Zillow’s new design either consciously or unconsciously aped the big G’s look and feel. But, either way, to the end user, it signals a similar level of self-assurance. There’s a swagger in its simplicity.

How many other companies can you think of that are confident enough in their value proposition to simply use a single search field as their homepage?

But to get to Google-like status, they’re just going to have to get over one thing.

The Zestimate.

It was Zillow’s biggest coup, and also the one it still catches the most flack for.

The Zestimate was consumer catnip and catapulted Zillow into the public mind. But it is also an public relations albatross.

Amongst regular people, Zillow is still only “that site that tells you how much your home is worth.”

The Zestimate was something that was fun when home prices were skyrocketing, but a major bummer today for most people and no longer a major point of differentiation for the company.

Zillow has slowly relegated the Zesitmate’s significance over time but, as of today, it’s gone. Completely absent from the new homepage.

This is a pretty big move, and, I suspect, indicative of where they’re heading.

When I say that Zillow wants to be like Google, I think that actually is their long term goal. To be the eponym for modern real estate. The place where you go to find, price and sell a home.

They’re siphoning up talent, have cash in the bank and clearly have a willingness to make big moves to get where they want to be.

Time will tell whether or not they get there, but this new home page offers a look down the road they intend to follow.

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19 Responses to “Zillow zeroes in”

  1. Tina Fine says:

    If search is run by an “outsider” rather than a coordinated national MLS then the entire brokerage model can be disrupted by that search company . Unbundling “search” from transaction services will challenge the commission based pricing model. Would not be at all surprised if Zilliow starts to hire “transaction brokers” and let them help those independent buyers and sellers.

    • Alon Chaver says:

      I think you are spot on Tina!

      Any thoughts on whether the “deep local brokerages” are more/less vulnerable to Zillow than “big box brokers/ franchisors”?

      – Alon

  2. Ross K says:

    Good Comment Tina and why Zillow as a stock is really worth nothing. A singular concerted move by REALTORS to control real estate search is easily achievable and soon our American cousins will be able to look North for a model of how to effectively control search as it relates to real estate.

    There remains a total lack of understanding and mountains of unsustainable SEO advice that has been forwarded to REALTORS.

    Are we all to assume that REALTORS are going to continue to be fooled by Zillow and the like when the consequences of trusting a private property portal to become the #1 site in a national has been proven to be the single most foolish business mistake made in the last 100 years.


    • bill says:

      you are assuming that consumers continue to accept the premise that they need Realtors to list their property… “brokers” to be more precise as the term Realtor is often misused.

    • Alon Chaver says:


      Isn’t the “singular concerted” move called Realtor.com?

      Any thoughts on why it has (repeatedly) failed to achieve “control” of real estate search for REALTORS?

      What would a different “singular move” need to do to achieve such control?

      I agree that trusting private companies could prove to be a huge mistake, but wonder whether you have thoughts on:

      Why REALTORS should trust private companies like Zillow less than private companies like Move, Inc. who operate Realtor.com?

      Or, for that matter,why REALTORS should trust Zillow less than private companies (like NRT’s Century 21, Keller Williams, RE/MAX, etc.) who are also trying to develop national property portals?

      Don’t have the answers…just wondering :-)

      Interesting times.

      – Alon

    • bill says:

      I know the answer to this one:

      “Isn’t the “singular concerted” move called Realtor.com?”


    • Ross K says:


      Realtor.com is still effectively owned by NAR they just made some very short sighted business decisions on how to use it. Marketing decisions on the net (so basically every marketing decision made today) need to have 2-5 year propable outcome projections ( ie identify how you can be attacked if you make any marketing decision) before it is even considered. this was never done with Realtor .com. Facebook and twitter marketing are more examples of short sighted, ignorant marketing recommendations given to REALTORS.

      I am sure every single portal proponent reading 1000watt wants to be the American version of realestate.com.au. Clealy zillow wants that. We dropped stock value in realestate.com.au 60 million dollars in one day last year as a test example of the power REALTORS wield in the portal business. now remember that site has over 70% of all Aussie real estate search.

      Zillow does not represent REALTORS, and only is looking to take there cash by taking control on knljne search.

      How long does any portal owner think REALTORS will remain uneducated on this topic. Well waive $1000′s of dollars of yearly passive income in their faces and you will quickly see.

  3. Kathy Howe aka SedonaKathy says:

    Just checked Zillow today and compared the “zestimates” they have on listed properties and the “pendings” in our MLS. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaay off.

    I realize that the consumer thinks Zillow is awesome, but the reality is that they are far from accurate in the Sedona area.

  4. Kathy Howe aka SedonaKathy says:

    Brian, it’s 8:10PM in Sedona, AZ and the Zestimate is alive and well… worse yet I just sent in a complaint about the “content” about my property that I purchased 6 years ago…

    Zillow is totally without conscience and has information up on the Net that is old and not up-to-date.

    Cannot believe you are telling us that Zillow has taken down the Zestimates… take a look. The zestimate is still there and still totally inaccurate in the Sedona area.

  5. John Rowles says:

    Its ironic that the on-line media companies that killed dead tree real estate advertising have grafted the dead tree media model onto the Web.

    They have convinced brokers that it actually makes sense to give up the advantage of being a content creator in a Googlized world in the name of “exposure”, as if Web sites are like newspapers so if you don’t advertise in all of them, you don’t reach the entire audience.

    That is utter nonsense. Thanks to Search, the Web is like the Field of Dreams — If you build it (and people are looking for it), they will come.

    So Zillow aggregated an audience with Zestimates, and now they are trying to differentiate themselves with a more useful and usable UI. Good for them, but they are still dependent on brokers supplying them listings for free.

    There are brokers who are beginning to understand that the Internet doesn’t work like newsprint. Edina, ARB and others are making it a point to make this an issue, but I doubt the industry as a whole will figure out that they have been duped until the current crop of brokers (average age: 57) retire and are replaced by a generation that uses Groupons over coupons.

  6. bill says:

    you are entirely right. the thing is: anyone can easily become a broker; zillow, trulia, anyone… then they have access to all the data via mls. restricted in some forms yes.. but they find ways around that to fill in the blanks.

    the “referral” business is one of the key elements that allows many of these sites to stay afloat. what value does a referral really provide to a consumer if they are being sold to the highest bidder? should someone get paid 25-35% for capturing a name via search? eliminate (paid) referrals and increase consumer respect for agents and put control back into the hands of those that actually do the work. search becomes less of a threat… unless these portals build actual brokerages that list and sell property.

  7. bill says:

    Here’s a perfect example of what I mean regarding the ability of a company to get licensed and referrals. Go to the Movoto.com website and see how they present themselves as “a full service brokerage” and how they tell consumers that they have agents all over. Then read the testimonials of how “their” agents helped consumers. Very, very misleading and this company could vaporize and no one would miss them. They exist because of referrals. Take that away – stop selling leads as referrals – and consumers then go to the actual listing agents and brokerages that actually do the work.

    I am fairly sure this company started out with a completely different business model.. and then morphed into the referral model like most portals eventually do.

    • Drew Meyers says:

      Why do you even care that Movoto is doing? It’s irrelevant to your success.

      These types of sites wouldn’t exist if brokerages invested in their web presences. Why hasn’t c21, era, bhg, prudential, or some other brokerage built a better site? Oh yea, they don’t know how.

  8. J Philip Faranda says:

    When will they start changing their logo on significant holidays?

    Let me tell you why they can try, but not succeed:
    Google is synonymous with fast, accurate answers to inquiries. The “I feel Lucky” button and Google Instant impress.

    But when your name becomes synonymous with a house that went off the market 9 months ago, or a broker who has no earthly idea about what house you are talking about when you call, you have got your work cut out for you.

    Google is “do no evil.”
    Zillow needs a similar mantra.

    • bill says:

      True. Their solution would be to become a broker – get 100% accurate data and convince consumers they are the go-to place for real estate. Perception = reality. Mix in a few new DOJ regs regarding data access in there for good measure and things could get interesting.

  9. Judy Orr says:

    Late to the game here but am catching up after a vacation. I like the new clean home page, although I’m not sure consumers will as it’s a pretty generalized search to begin with, although many sites start out this way with the option of a more advanced search.

    Zillow might get a lot of initial hits but it is so easy for me to educate consumers on how inaccurate and out-of-date Zillow data is, from listings showing as Active that sold and closed a year or more ago to the ridiculous Zestimates. In my general area Zillow shows their Zestimates are off by 10.8% (if you can find those stats – most consumers won’t). However, I’ve had listings that sold that were off by more than 25%. That’s a huge difference and when I show these facts to consumers I think it sours their experience with the site, which gives them more of an inclination to use my site for accurate and updated information.

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