Friday Flash: Zillow Agent Websites, a big opportunity and a small inspiration

 Zillow has thrown a harpoon into the tired lumbering mass known as the agent website business.

The Premier Agent Websites product offers a site built on WordPress with full IDX and a custom domain for just $10 per month. There’s no set-up fee.

It’s a really, really nice product.

As someone who has been in the agent website business, I can also tell you that the price is extremelylow. In fact, with IDX-related fees from MLSs going through the roof, it’s likely in loss-leader territory.

See, these sites are free for any agent who pays Zillow $49 per month for their core advertising product.

I suspect this isn’t about making money on the websites themselves, but retaining existing agent advertising customers, attracting new ones and reducing subscriber churn across the board. That Diverse Solutions acquisition is looking pretty good.

Stepping back, I think we can also see a couple other things:

First, this could produce still more Zillow/industry tension. Zillow is aggressively and effectively growing a business of making money from agents. This also happens to be the business of brokers, who in many cases make more money from agents selling technology, leads and other ancillary services than they do off brokerage itself.

Second, this will accelerate the demise of the agent website business as we’ve known it. Most legacy providers offer tired products based on code developed a decade ago. It’s a prison they lack the capital to escape. Zillow has that capital, and by building on WordPress they can leave platform development to others while focusing on the front-end features that sell product. More money, rapid enhancement… it’s a little scary for the competition.

Plenty of small WordPress-based providers have surfaced in the past couple years, and I’ve been looking for a while for someone to go for it on a larger scale. Zillow did it, but I think there’s still room for an “independent” play here.

A big broker friend gave us a tip on what he believes to be the biggest software opportunity in our space: Brokerage management.

We don’t doubt it. Right now, large brokerage operations have just two or three old-ish products to choose from to manage a complex web of transaction tracking, agent compensation plans, office reports and other core business functions.

Who’s game?

Venture Capitalist Mary Meeker gave her annual “Internet Trends” presentation this week. It’s always something of a touchstone, and worth a half hour of your time. View or download it here.

The new ERA brand website is nicely done. Congrats to the ERA team.

What’s best is what isn’t on the home page – the usual mélange of callouts, calls to action and social noise that wrecks so many real estate website user experiences. There are still plenty of things that I’d move deeper into the site, but it shows a lot of restraint.

Marc’s 11 year-old son Gavin started a skateboard company way back when he was seven. He’s a bright, intense and creative kid. Last month he got to shine from the stage of the TEDx event in Portland.

The video just came out this week, and we’re all very proud (especially his dad!).