Friday Flash: In the beginning, there was a listing agent

So check this out… Zillow actually tells you why you might want to use their website:

 Why search on Zillow?

This sits right in the middle of their home page. It’s clear, specific, and benefit focused.

Zillow has its unique advantages, but so do brokerage sites and apps. In fact, I would argue that having fresh MLS data (which, hopefully, includes solds) is the stronger proposition for the serious buyer or seller.

Why isn’t every brokerage in America making this more clear?

The news team at Inman is doing its best work in years. Case in point is this four-part series on companies who get brokerage licenses for the sole purpose of creating IDX-powered websites, not brokering real estate.

If you want to understand this issue well – and I think you should – read the series. It’s really well done.

I started writing about the “Paper brokerage” issue a couple years ago, but things really heated up with the relaunch of last year. To their credit, I believe Trulia (which now owns MarketLeader, which owned intends to gracefully pull back from maintaining an IDX-powered lead-gen portal. But paper brokers will continue to create a highly combustible tension in the tender area between brokers, MLSs and regulators.

Porch hit the home decor scene this week to compete with Houzz and Zillow Digs.

Porch lets you see what home improvement projects have been completed around your location recently, and what they cost. There’s obviously some intense public record and user generated data effort put into this.

Thinking ahead, we might see the beginnings of a “CarFax for homes” here, a view into a property’s condition and history that has always been obscured until deep into the transaction, when an inspection is performed or a title search is run.

HouseFix tried this a couple years ago, but didn’t make it; HouseFax is a new entrant that seems to be gaining some traction.

I hope we see more.

On the first day of real estate creation, there was a listing agent.

A humanoid being sat in a living room (or, more likely, cave) and closed the first seller.

On the second day, there was a buyer’s agent – a creature then and forever after dependent upon their progenitor.

This thought occurred to me after talking with a broker/owner who responded with “who gives a shit?” when I asked him about the pocket listing trend.

This guy is good. His brokerage lists a ton of property. For him, the MLS is not a feeding trough. And he could care less how many dues-paying agents are needed to keep his state association afloat.

The primacy of the list side is still strong in his world, the one born back in the cave. But I wonder, long-term, if listing homes isn’t more vulnerable to disruption than helping people buy them.

I don’t know. But it’s issues like paper brokers and pocket listings – hairline cracks in the foundation of the real estate business model – that make me think about such things.

Maybe nothing will come of them.


Enjoy the weekend.