By Brian Rushton

Earlier this year, Century 21 Canada announced an exciting partnership with Zillow, the largest online real estate network in the U.S. We’re thrilled to lead the way as Zillow’s first Canadian partner.

However, often with innovation and change comes uncertainty, and we know many of you have questions around what Zillow coming to town means for us, our clients and the industry. So, I want to tell you why we are partnering with Zillow and clarify a few major misconceptions and inaccuracies I’ve heard bubbling within the industry.



First and foremost, Century 21 Canada’s brokers and agents serve home sellers and home buyers and when new innovations that can improve the home selling and buying experience come along, C21 embraces those innovations. Zillow is by far the most recognized real estate portal in the U.S. and has a great many buyers searching for real estate from other parts of the world (over 100 million international visits last year) as well. By partnering with Zillow, C21 agents will expose their listings to a much wider audience, at no cost.

Zillow Group’s brands receive an average of 186 million unique users every month. Zillow has the tools, resources, brand recognition and massive traffic that will bring unprecedented global exposure for C21 listings and our agents. This is a huge advantage for us. We are very excited about this partnership and I know our clients and home sellers will be too.

What’s more, despite the false statements I’ve heard from some of my peers in the industry who are currently not partnering with Zillow, agents do NOT “buy” back leads on their own listings. C21 listing agents – and all listing agents on Zillow for that matter – will be prominently displayed on their listing. Brokerage information as well as specific information about the listing agent is always featured on the listings. It also does NOT cost money to put a for-sale listing on Zillow.

So why not just use Realtor.ca? Well, Realtor.ca is a great portal that we all own and CREA operates on our behalf. But it has never been a stellar consumer experience and is certainly not anywhere near as well-known outside of Canada as Zillow. And if all the listings from all 127,000 Realtors in Canada are on it – what differentiation is it providing to you when you’re competing for your next listing?

C21 has always led the way when it comes to technology innovation. Today, for example; we don’t simply provide our agents a list of vendors to choose from for full websites or CRM or marketing tools. We believe to provide the most consistent and professional consumer experience, every C21 broker and agent should have all the tools, tech and training they need to be successful – right from the day they start until the day they retire.

This fall C21 is launching REW (Real Estate Webmasters) websites and blogs with fully integrated CRM and marketing centre (with hundreds of instantly customizable print, email and social media marketing pieces) for every C21 broker and agent across Canada. It’s all included at no extra charge.

Instead of relying on simple DDF (data distribution facility) for our broker and agent sites, C21 Canada has invested in direct data feeds from every MLS in the country to ensure the most timely and accurate listing data and full IDX (internet data exchange) feeds where possible that provide far superior data sets.

So, what’s the downside of partnering with Zillow and investing in such a vast array of other tech and training differentiators for C21 brokers and agents? Nothing. Unless of course, you’re not a C21 broker or agent.

32 COMMENTS

  1. What’s obvious from the comments bellow is that the terms such as DDF, IDX, CREA are quite confusing to the Zillow supporters. It is highly doubtful any of them even use the existing tools to their full potential.
    They have been fed half-truths by a large corporation and sent on here to praise their leader and to support ideas they don’t seem to fully understand (must have received a corporate memo).
    This is September 10th of the Real Estate Industry in Canada.

    • What a horribly insensitive post first of all (September 10th? REALLY?), condescending second of all and just ridiculous. Last I checked the U.S. real estate industry is still humming away and tens of thousands of agents are listing and representing buyers. Some use Zillow/Realtor/Trulia, some don’t. The only person who seems to be posting with an agenda re. this article is the mystical “Tom S”

      • John,

        Hold that insensitivity card for a second. Can you answer what Zillow’s ultimate goal on Canadian market is?

  2. While C21 looks to the future of this business My company just announced a new preferred supplier. Begging for scraps while others decide the future.

  3. Grave concerns indeed with Zillow entering Canada. I saw the demonstration of what they do and the rules they follow are no where as strict as in our Canadian marketplace. Realtor.ca is the envy of worldwide REALTORS®, so perhaps a time to be very wary

  4. U.S. Agents paid Zillow nearly $1 Billion in last 14 months because the were unwittingly drawn into an advertising spend. This was done to defend themselves from having buyers sent to competitors agents who are willing to pay for the lead/customer. Get behind Realtor.ca and give the consumer a more robust set of data tos and services. If you follow the U.S. path…and you are already on that path, you will be paying for it in two very important ways. 1) money and lots of it and 2) when Zillow becomes the number one Canadian site as they have done in the US…you will see them start to offer direct services to consumers thereby by diminishing and devaluing Your role in the transaction.

    Inviting this non-traditional competitor into your market by giving them active listing content is the first step…and it is the wrong step. So much wisdom in these responses as well as pride in your Franchise brand…but it is a very wrong strategic move to be making for the medium and long haul.

  5. I think it makes sense to lead the way with Zillow and I am at C21. I do have concerns about data sharing but these concerns I see in the DDF feed where other agents and brokerages truncate the listing so the original listings agents info does not show up. Abuse does show up no matter the platform. Will the Zillow features that give consumers more information hurt realtors? I don’t think so, not if you have a good brand and solid reputation. Will having listing on their site hurt traffic to our own? Will it reduce sign calls? Web leads from listings? I have never paid for a web lead do not intend to with Zillow or other lead sites so it seems a mute point to me. The industry is changing and if we pay Zillow for leads, then over time, the leads they supply should be worth the money? If not, it’s shame on realtors for paying for cold leads in the first place. We need to find ways to be meaningful to consumers and making it harder for them to access data is not the place to start in my mind.

    • You are missing the point Dean. It’s not about public access to data. It is about who owns the data and how it is used.

      DDF and IDX are owned by Canadian Real Estate Association and your local Real Estate Board respectively.

      You, as a Realtor, work hard to mine data in the form for listings and sales, and hand this valuable data to the Real Estate Board to store and maintain. The relevant part of that data will be shared with the general public through DDF and IDX.

      Zillow is a third party publicly traded company which wants the end product of your hard work for free. Once they compile enough data through you, they will be able to operate on their own by offering direct services to the consumer. Your services and all that expertise you currently offer to your clients (and get paid for) won’t be needed anymore.

      This may take 3, 5, or 10 years… The more companies sign up with Zillow, the sooner it will happen.

      In certain regions in the US consumers can sell their home directly to Zillow at the click of a button.

      How about that?!

      • Hi Tom, I think you have some misinformation there.

        Zillow in no way offers one click purchases that don’t involve the agent. Nor do they plan too. They will never be a brokerage. That’s not their mission. And they are very clear about it.

        Zillow is aware that a local expert is and always will be needed to complete a transaction, and that a great agent is the consumers best asset.

        Your current listings are already on your competitors site with very little mention of you, and they are spending to get leads from your listings that you will never get…

        What they have done, and quite successfully I might add, is produced a far superior product for the consumer, which we have failed to do with Realtor.ca Zillow has worked hard and spent a lot of money on R & D to really figure out what the consumer wants and how to get as many eyeballs on listings. Another area we have failed.

        The reason they are so successful is because they have filled a need for the consumer.

        Yes it is about who owns the data. Let me tell you, the consumer aways has and always will.

  6. Thanks Brian for updating and clarifying, originally when I heard a few weeks ago at our office and later watched the memo on-line I was a bit sceptical, But after reading this article along with some of the negative and positive counter points I really think the decision is correct.
    I still remember back in the day when IDX was originally coming into play and the negative comments that were flying around back then and it helped not hindered the industry.

  7. Major oops. Nothing wrong with C21 but now you will be paying extra for the same business. They don’t do it for free and you have let the cat out of the bag. Innovation isn’t paying for a service that you already provide.

  8. Canada has a great service with realtor.ca, it doesn’t display advertising on listing pages, and doesn’t let realtors buy customer referrals. In the USA they broke their realtor.com system by not keeping it together across the country. I think it’s a big mistake to bring in zillow, it defeats what the realtors in Canada have built.

  9. The CREA and the many associations and local boards across the country should have concern with Zillow and the C21 relationship. Zillow has relationships in the USA and now entering into Canada watch out. Last time I checked with the SEC (US) Zillow has not and continues NOT to make money, some great revenues, NO net income. You are foolish to think Zillow is there to assist the national or local brokerage, think again. ZIllow is positioning themselves to gain as many relationships, maket share and everything else in between to make them ever so attractive to the elephants out such as the AMAZON’s and the GOGGLES and and even the Microsofts and maybe some unknown sitting in a basement or a garage. Someone like AMAZON wants to enter the real estate marketplace or acquire someone like a Zillow, one could possibility say good bye to the MLS as we know today, then we have a force to be deal with, the public wants better service for the best value and the real estate industry is not there yet and probably will never get there because we are too too fragmented and no real leadership. The CREA web site just does NOT cut it, way behind times, in my opinion, the truth hurts.

  10. Surpringly high number of trolls posting on here today.

    Those supporting Zillow obviously have been misinformed on the true intentions of this american tech company. Enough of this “C21 is a great company” baloney. Wake up, Zillow is taking over YOUR business at your own expense.

    Listing Realtors, are not gaining anything: the leads would have come to them anyway. In today’s Internet era, listing exposure is not a problem.

    Realtors without listings interested in lead generation, will be paying hard earned dollars for unqualified leads of questionable quality.

    Quality leads are the bread-and-butter of the real estate business so don’t expect someone to hand them to you, even if you are paying.

    It is those who see themselves in the Real Estate business beyond the next 5 years who should be concerned.

    Your income is in jeopardy.

  11. Well, at least you’ll go down as the first to help Zillow in Canada. C21 is a big brand, and this partnership will force the other big brands to follow giving Zillow what they want. I own a brokerage in the USA too. If you want the leads for a hot zip code in a Sellers market, Zillow wants as much as $5,000/month for that agent. And they have a line up of desperate agents willing to pay. You have to sign a minimum 6 month contract for the zip code. They have made a great website and a great business model(for Zillow) and have all but trampled the local MLS websites and brokerage and agent websites. C21, this is a short sighted move with you not understanding the end game for Zillow. The fact that you don’t see any negatives makes me question your ability as a CEO. You know enough about business and negotiations that there is always something in it for the other side. For C21, they will get the leads for now, which is a good short term benefit, but that will all change once more partners are added. Then the real Zillow business model takes over, which is selling the listing leads to agents and brokerages that will pay top dollar. This is a short term gain for C21 but is just a piece of the puzzle for Zillow’s master business plan, which is to be the dominant go to site for the consumer, so they can sell the hell out of advertising and leads to agents willing to pay the most.

    • Zillow is a huge mistake for Canada. The US does not have the same privacy or MLS laws as Canada. You will not have control of your listings. When my brother bought a property in Colorado it took me four months of many calls and emails to get the interior pictures off the websites. Zillow even posts the names of the owners, people who live in the house and their ages.
      Toronto and Vancouver have a foreign buyers tax to discourage foreign buyers. With a serious shortage of housing why advertise to other countries?
      C21 is very short sighted in this decision.

  12. American Brokers feel they made a mistake letting Zillow in.
    I think that C21 Agents will be grumbling in a year or 2 when they are paying fees for listings they may have gotten anyways. It is Canadian money going to an Amarican company that is not creating anything new. Those sellers are still going find a local agent without Zillow.

  13. Thank you Brian, a brief, to the point, info article. As with all other big ‘Cyber’ corporations, with our association with Zillow, we will be exposed to some amount of skepticism from within and outside, mainly because we are afraid of cyber giants. This fear is NOT totally unfounded – as we learn of security breaches with Facebook, Equifax – it’s a long list – etc. But that doesn’t mean that we shut our doors to a more efficient (and beneficial to the consumer) system. Our industry peers are also too hasty to ‘find faults’ – without enough factual info (or simply competitive gusto!). Summary – keep up the good work, take advantage of the opportunity. We will grow with it.

  14. “At no Cost” REALLY? is Zillow a Charity? Zillow sells the Ad impressions and leads on your listings to to agents. Yes it’s NO Cost to C21 because your pushing the costs onto agents! Also how is Zillow.com not a competitor for your local search rankings?

    • Sorry how is that C21 is pushing the costs onto agents? And no I doubt Zillow is a charity, that’s why C21 “partnered” with them and absorb the costs. Amazing I think! Zillow is the best at it, makes great sense to partner.

  15. This article only reflects on the C21-Zillow partnership.

    Why isn’t anything said about Zillow’s ultimate goal on Canadian market?

    Let’s face it, Zillow is not in the business of providing free services to anyone. They have a business model. Don’t have to look far for examples: just check the markets Zillow already operates in.

    Why isn’t anything said about Zillow’s zestimate feature and the instant offers program?

    It is only a matter of time before the “freebies” start disappearing and Zillow becomes a competitor to those using its “free” services.

    Those not partnering with Zillow aren’t foolish: they are forward-thinking business people.

    Asking Realtors to support Zillow is like asking the Taxicab industry to support Uber.

    • Agreed ! I follow Zillow a bit on the US / Florida market. Some information shared would fall under “privacy laws” in Canada. The reason why Zillow appears to be “successful” (not sure if it’s a fact that they have no net profits) is the fact that it’s a quick “go to place’ for the consumer. Their realtor.com is a “mess’, hard to navigate and definitely incomplete.

  16. Thanks for clarifying Corporates position in teaming up with Zillow.
    My belief is Corporate always has the best intentions for us and Zillow is one extra tool in our professional tool box. Looking forward to the extra exposure a company of this magnitude will create for us.

  17. Be very concerned! Letting another company control your data and expecting them generate your leads is very similar to ToysRus not wanting to understand and control their internet sales and having Amazon run it for them. It’s my opinion as to why they went bankrupt. Big questions you should be asking your leaders! Who gets to own the data that you are helping them collect? If it’s your listing does the lead go to you or does your company get to decide? Your listings are posted for free however if you don’t advertise with them do those who do get first crack at the leads? Your leaders have signed a contract with them know what’s in it, what’s the exit strategy if things don’t go well?

  18. Thank you for clarifying this for our consumers Brian. I love how C21 is always on the forefront of technology. It’s wonderful to have our head office invested in helping us be the best that we can be and give our clients the best service.

  19. I have been with Century 21 since the first day I got my license, and have never looked back. It is the most recognizable real estate brand in the world, and it offers agents the best tools in the industry. I am so proud to be a part of the C21 Canada family, and am looking forward to our upcoming conference in Winnipeg next month where we will, no doubt, learn even more about this exciting news and how it will benefit us as agents. If you are an agent feeling like your hard work isn’t getting you enough of an edge in a competitive market, consider a switch to a brand like ours that goes out on a limb to help its agents stand out like no other. Great article, Brian, and thank you for your leadership.

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