By Todd Shyiak

The fear of the unknown can be unsettling. Zillow coming to Canada has unsettled some. But the fact is, Zillow isn’t the unknown and we have no reason to be fearful.

Zillow has been in the U.S. for 12 years and the sky hasn’t fallen for Realtors there – quite the opposite. For brokers and agents who advertise with Zillow, a consistent and strong ROI is the result. For those who simply share their listings with Zillow, they benefit from the maximum possible exposure – for free.



And yet Canadian Realtors continue to be hit with the message that the sky is falling. I think it’s important to look at who is perpetuating this fear and why. A couple of companies and now even CREA have paid for a U.S. consultant to come to Canada and deliver a biased and skewed slide deck that hews to their current anti-Zillow narrative.

At Banff Western Connection, CREA opted to perpetuate the fear of those with a vested interest in keeping Zillow out and then offered no opportunity for questions or rebuttal from those of us who support Zillow.

To provide those who have seen this “Chicken Little” slide deck in Banff and elsewhere in Canada and weren’t provided an opportunity for refuting it, allow me to clarify what I and many others view as biased and just plain wrong.

The main point of “fear” this presentation highlighted: Zillow is a “disruptor” and if brokers allow Zillow in, their revenue would take the same direct hit that the New York taxi industry took from disrupters Uber and Lyft – a 35 per cent drop. Wow. If those numbers were a reality for brokers in New York or any other U.S. market, we’d all have good reason to be concerned. The obvious problem with this assertion is that Zillow has been in the U.S. for 12 years and the industry is stronger and earning more commission income than ever before.

Another “fear”: Zillow has earned over $1 billion from brokers and agents – but for some reason the consultant fails to mention that those same U.S. Realtors spent many times that amount with Google and other online lead generators, not to mention billions more spent on bus benches, billboards and print.

A third “fear”: Zillow has become a prominent “voice of real estate” in the U.S. and would do the same here in Canada. As I see it, the reason Zillow is a sought-after voice in the U.S. is they do a better good job of interpreting and predicting data trends for consumers. The better the information, the better for the consumer.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some valid concerns that remain. On an Industry Leader’s panel that I was on in Banff, it was rightfully pointed out that while the listing agent is featured prominently on their own listings on Zillow, choosing to click on “contact agent” takes the consumer to one of three Premier Agents and not the listing agent. I didn’t get to make this point on the panel because time ran out, but with so much focus in the press across Canada on dual agency, the consumer may want to have a choice of good agents, other than the listing agent, to show them the home. And if I’m the listing agent, I’d prefer the house is shown by and possibly a deal done with a Premier Agent who is a dedicated buyer’s agent and specializes in that market. But should the consumer want to deal with the listing agent or if they have a specific question that only the listing agent can answer, they can still easily choose to do so.

Working with a national brand, I recognize that we all have the concern of losing some of our own site traffic to Zillow – but I believe, based on actual evidence from the U.S. that the majority of traffic Zillow gains will come at the expense of Realtor.ca, and that will be earned with a vastly superior consumer experience.

Another possible concern for one national brand may be for their own Premier Agent type of program. That brand has a network of agents who pay a monthly fee to receive leads from their national site and a referral fee on closed transactions. Is it possible these agents may choose to buy leads (without the referral fee) from Zillow instead?

I have discussed Zillow with many leaders in our industry and virtually all the negative comments or opinions seem to be based in fear. Chicken Little shouting “the sky is falling” spreads fear. But after 12 years of Zillow operating in the U.S., the sky hasn’t fallen, and it won’t here in Canada either.

So now that you’ve heard a short rebuttal on the subject, I ask you to choose: fear or future.

55 COMMENTS

  1. What would INTREPID say about giving all this Canadian data to an unregulated foreign Internet portal? In this article you are accusing Canadians of fear. But rightly so the Canadian companies, boards and associations are and should proceed with caution. Zillow has not come to Canada; the data is going out of the country for free.
    Now Canadians have plenty of time to review the issues and avoid some of the same problems. For twelve years Zillow has hardly been problem free.
    Look at this article in FORBES. “Is Zillow A Ticking Time Bomb”.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/marcgerstein/2018/05/14/is-zillow-a-ticking-time-bomb/#17fba9bd17fa

    We do not have the Canadian government at any level protecting business and the public. The Competition Bureau needs to work in reverse. In “The White Paper” — prepared by Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner’s staff and circulated in tech policy circles in recent weeks — is a window to the options available to U.S. policymakers concerned about disinformation and privacy with the mega tech giants. The US put steel & aluminum tariffs on Canada under the US National Security grounds. Don’t you think Canadians should be concerned about national security with the release of housing and personal data?

    Here is another concern. Billions of dollars going to the US. Canada is bleeding money at no benefit to the Canadian economy.
    From Harvard Business Review on the US economy. (This includes Zillow, UBER, Airbnb, etc.)

    https://hbr.org/2018/03/is-lack-of-competition-strangling-the-u-s-economy

    “Despite their undeniable popularity, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook are drawing increasing scrutiny from economists, legal scholars, politicians, and policy wonks, who accuse these firms of using their size and strength to crush potential competitors. (Their clout caught the attention of European regulators long ago.) The tech giants pose unique challenges, but they also represent just one piece of a broader story: a troubling phenomenon of too little competition throughout the U.S. economy.”

  2. https://www.geekwire.com/2019/zillow-2-0-real-estate-giant-embarks-fundamental-shift-projecting-home-sales-operation-will-become-20b-business/

    The best result is that real estate agents take a salary cut and give up 100% control of their career to Zillow.

    That’s the BEST result. What’s the realistic result? What’s the worst case result?

    Goodbye control over your own hours, goodbye any concept of “self-employment”. Goodbye taking time off whenever you want, goodbye to the freedom you deserve, goodbye to being there for your family without asking your employer for time off. Good bye 95% of what makes this job as great as it is. Hello Walmart style employee.

    Century 21 Corporate all we hear is CRICKETS. What are you afraid of? If you made a mistake, no one blames you, we all do it, just own up to it and let’s move on and work together vs against each other as things are now.

    At the moment is seems that you are completely unaware of the bigger picture OR you are participating and promoting in the above destruction of the real estate career as we know it.

    You choose, which is it?

    crickets

  3. The bottom line is that Zillow is located in an foreign country and you are promoting a foreign company. Plus encouraging Canadian brokerages to send their data to an unregulated foreign website portal for free!! Is Russia next? Besides the current US government has treated Canada like the enemy. Tariffs for national security. Remember Trump said he could decimate the Canadian economy with the stroke of his pen. The housing market is a huge part of the Canadian economy. Leave it in Canada.
    It is baffling to read your confusing article full of contradictions. Are you or someone from C21 in the US working for Zillow? Is this direction coming from your head office in the US? After all you work for an American company and you are promoting an American company. I don’t see anything in your article promoting or protecting Canadian content, business and privacy issues. The issue of Premier Agent is the small potato here in comparison to the big picture. The big picture is the future Lack of Competition when Zillow has billions of dollars to buy up numerous other companies. What hat are you wearing?

  4. Condescending and ridiculous article. Did you just say you wish a foreign owned website triumphs over our own Realtor.ca site? Z is a “vastly superior consumer experience.”? How is vastly superior in any way? I feel for C21 agents.

    • C21 is so old it is even mentioned in this Napoleon Hill title:
      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zgPtXJ5lvJs

      Is C21 currently a prognosticator of things to come, based on their history of leadership?

      It will be interesting to see where this new relationship takes them and related or unrelated others in the dinghies or tenders attached to the mother ship.

      Is specific permission required from sellers identifying that they acknowledge their property, including interior photos, will be provided everywhere, to Zillow, specifically identified? And when they ask you: what’s that? What will you tell them?

      Most sellers have no idea that their homes are used as marketing material vehicles to attract “other” sellers and or buyers.

      Just curious…
      Most sellers never ask for a breakdown of where all the commission goes. Most don’t understand even what co-op fee means… After twenty some years, so many people still have never heard of buyer agent contracts.

      Because in Ontario Canada, closings are registered by (trusted) lawyers, the commission billings are treated as a closing cost adjustment; law offices write cheques to the listing office, as payment of invoices directed to the law office. The listing office then typically pays the co-op (but it’s no longer always that way).

      Typically those law offices do not ask if there is buyer agency commissions involved, separately. So the seller’s law office has no control over buyer agency fees. (Unless advised by special arrangements.)

      When sending law offices relative invoices, I always attached a copy of the listing and a copy of the separate buyer agency contract (if one applies), so the law office had all the related transparency. You might not believe: I got phone calls – saying – what’s this? Law offices literally had no idea about buyer agency.

      If the buyer’s rep has no reason to invoice the listing office because he has a contract that says his buyer is paying the commission, either directly or through the buyer’s law office, what exactly happens to the co-op fee on the listing agreement (that isn’t claimed)? I’ve been told the listing office keeps the total commission paid by the seller.

      Can anyone speak to that?

      Carolyne L 🍁

      • “Is specific permission required from sellers identifying that they acknowledge their property, including interior photos, will be provided everywhere, to Zillow, specifically identified? And when they ask you: what’s that? What will you tell them?”

        Do you need specific permission for IDX? Do you need it for Realtor.ca? Do you need it when you advertise the listing in an ad on Facebook? Do you need it when you advertise your listing in the newspaper or Google pay per click ads? Do you need it when it is listed on Juwai.com? What about listing syndication through Point2Homes, do you need it there?

        The list goes on and on….I’ll tell my clients the same thing every time, ‘You’ve hired me to get you the best exposure for your property and to have the most desired outcome, a successful sale. I’m going to make sure your home gets the maximum amount of exposure that all agents and consumers looking for a home like yours will see it no matter the country they live in’

    • Undoubtedly Beverley and nowhere is this more obvious that in the medical field which has the highest inflation rate by far vs any other product or service over past few decades. This one thing is primarily responsible for potential bankruptcy of many state governments and potentially the federal government in coming years if left uncontrolled and allowed to inflate at the current pace. If the prices were “real” based on adequate competition they would be something like 1/10 of the current cost, and much less in many cases.

      All this is happening contrary to current law which is not enforced, and last I heard there was a Republican senator trying to abolish that current law so the practice could continue. No idea if that was successful.

      Reality is stranger than fiction sometimes.

  5. Zillow’s play into the Canadian market is to give exposure to the American buyers who we all know are coming by the masses (Caravans) to buy up Canadian real estate. They use stats of their website which is not relevant to the Canadian market at all. Maaaaaybe 1 of 100 buyer are from the states IF that here in Canada. Don’t fool yourself!

    Zillow will one day become a brokerage….oh wait they already are a licensed brokerage in 10 states (They say it’s because of their instant offer platform)

    Want to witness the biggest recruiting wave in the history of real estate?

    The minute they flip the switch to a full service brokerage. All the brokerages, team and agents who relied on their platform to provide for their families will have no choice but to join Zillow If they want that income stream.

    Competition is great but Zillow is not in the game to be competitive….they are in the game to dominate and own the space. The biggest regret of the US agents and brokers are giving data to Zillow and now they can’t go back because Zillow is too powerful.

  6. Zillow is now starting to show the homes they own (bought through Zillow offers) on page 1 before any other brokerages homes are displayed (in the areas where they currently buy homes).

    Mr Todd and Century 21 corporate folk, did you say something about teaming up with Zillow for increased EXPOSURE? Hmmmm, do you think Zillow is ready to throw YOU under the bus when it suits them? Do you have any long term vision at all??

    Mr Todd, maybe there are good reasons some brands want to focus on their own lead generation platforms vs taking the lazy way out and letting Zillow do all the work. You don’t like referral fees? Neither do I, so do what this other brand is doing without the referral fee and attract agents to Century 21 vs repel them by all this Zillow nonsense.

    Zillow buying homes is like Netflix starting to produce original content. Please wake up and smell the brick wall you are moving full speed toward.

    • C21 is so old it is even mentioned in this Napoleon Hill title:
      https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zgPtXJ5lvJs

      Is C21 currently a prognosticator of things to come, based on their history of leadership?

      It will be interesting to see where this new relationship takes them and related or unrelated others in the dinghies or tenders attached to the mother ship.

      Is specific permission required from sellers identifying that they acknowledge their property, including interior photos, will be provided everywhere, to Zillow, specifically identified? And when they ask you: what’s that? What will you tell them?

      Most sellers have no idea that their homes are used as marketing material vehicles to attract “other” sellers and or buyers.

      Just curious…
      Most sellers never ask for a breakdown of where all the commission goes. Most don’t understand even what co-op fee means… After twenty some years, so many people still have never heard of buyer agent contracts.

      Because in Ontario Canada, closings are registered by (trusted) lawyers, the commission billings are treated as a closing cost adjustment; law offices write cheques to the listing office, as payment of invoices directed to the law office. The listing office then typically pays the co-op (but it’s no longer always that way).

      Typically those law offices do not ask if there is buyer agency commissions involved, separately. So the seller’s law office has no control over buyer agency fees. (Unless advised by special arrangements.)

      When sending law offices relative invoices, I always attached a copy of the listing and a copy of the separate buyer agency contract (if one applies), so the law office had all the related transparency. You might not believe: I got phone calls – saying – what’s this? Law offices literally had no idea about buyer agency.

      If the buyer’s rep has no reason to invoice the listing office because he has a contract that says his buyer is paying the commission, either directly or through the buyer’s law office, what exactly happens to the co-op fee on the listing agreement (that isn’t claimed)? I’ve been told the listing office keeps the total commission paid by the seller.

      Can anyone speak to that?

      Carolyne L 🍁

  7. Zillow bought Trulia in 2014 for $3.5 Billion. And so on with the long list of acquisitions for more hundreds of millions of dollars. If they came into Canada to buy all of the media and websites for Canadian homes this might be able to come under the Investment Canada Act and be stopped, as was the sale of Aecon Group was blocked by the federal government for national security reasons.

    But Zillow is slowly acquiring the MLS data and other data by not buying it but taking it for free with free offers of marketing.
    Is this still a foreign acquisition of essential Canadian services?

    I have booked an appointment to see my MP and MPP. Who knows but I am still going to press on and share some of my concerns. This is much bigger than the issues of Zillow ads by individual agents. This is a huge concern for Canadian home owners.

    Senator Mark Warner and other US senators are reviewing now the collection of personal data by mega companies and what they are doing with it. And the deterioration of the competition by acquisitions and the forming of large mega conglomerates. The suggestions and articles are available on his website. It is a concern in the US as well as here in Canada.

    Sample of Blocked Sale under the Investment Canada Act.
    The federal government has blocked the sale of Canadian construction company Aecon Group Inc. to Chinese interests, citing national security.

    The controversial deal between Aecon and China’s CCCC International Holding Ltd., also known as CCCI, would have been worth $1.5 billion.

    “As is always the case, we listened to the advice of our national security agencies throughout the multi-step national security review process under the Investment Canada Act,” Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains said in a statement Wednesday.

  8. Lets see.. If I pay someone for a lead thats call a Bird Dog Fee,, Illegal, and I get a spanking by RECO. If I take another agents listing and advertise it to get calls with out their approval that’s Illegal and another spanking by RECO. What if I put a sign on a property and when people call the number on the sign they get a different agent and company, kind of what Zillow does with a web site.

    Here is an Idea, they need put a check box on the listing that says something like , “the Seller and the Listing broker agree to — or do not agree— to allow the listing information when displayed on a DDF web site to redirect inquires to someone other than the listing broker.

  9. Zillow cas been destroying the image of the real estate sales industry for years. There is no end to the scams and the hurt that consumers experience because of Zillow. It’s a wild wild West in the US. Let’s not let it happen in Canada.

  10. If a buyer clicks on my profile on Zillow, I want that lead. Who paid to have your listing on our MLS system? You did. Who paid for the photography and the home staging and the drone video etc etc.? You did! So why would we allow all our hard work to be sold to a click bait farm? If a buyer is interested in your listing and limited dual agency is not allowed your area, we should have the ability to refer that buyer lead to another realtor for a referral fee, something Zillow will not do. So for me Zillow may mean zero. Zero leads, zero income, zero loyalty and zero retained earning in Canada. Why would we allow a foreign entity to sell us back our own leads? If they want my info they should pay for it, especially since they claim their profit model is from advertising as they say. Most of the leads we get will be from Canadian consumers anyway. I say fund Realtor.ca by hiring the best minds to build the best site it can be and compete, and when someone clicks on your profile you get the lead. And we get to own the system! Will Zillow ever invest in anything that will keep profits in Canada or will it all end up in Seattle or wherever? And there is a difference between google and Zillow, Google is in the internet search business that allows real estate search ads, Zillow is a Real Estate business with a web presence and is predatory. Having said all that I am open changing my opinion but when a big faceless internet being has a complaint against them, where and who do you complain to? Ever try to talk to any web based company and get a person who will deal with you? Faceless and nearly nameless. At least I can go to the customer department at Canadian Tire and yell at a real person and I know where to find the the owners of Realtor.ca.

  11. Why do we need an American company to assist our business? Only to make money off us.
    Are We not capable of controlling our business?
    Everything is being etched from us and one day we’ll
    waken up and wonder why we’re not needed as realtors as companies like Zillow have taken over and making millions.

    What do we pay our Real Estate Boards and lawyers
    to do!

  12. Here is a video of the SCAMS that can happen on Zillow. There are many issues with unregulated websites posting listings. We as REALTORS need to protect the public and our reputations. Just Google Zillow complaints and there is a lot of information to review.

  13. I would say that our data was given away with the establishment of the DDF when CREA could have not been so roll over dead they could have brought in additional money for the agents that do all the work and expenses, We could have made enough money to still enjoy a healthy income and so many agents who now have to have part time jobs to keep everything going.

  14. The story of Real Estate:
    As far back as I can Remember Real Estate has been a good investment for everyone.in Canada .At one time we had Government control. A Profession that managed and sold Real Estate for other People.It was set up as a Profession of Brokers and Realtors . Brokers were the Employers and the Realtors were the employee. In time the Brokers had form Real Estate Boards.In Canada other Organizations were Formed CREA, In Ontario OREA and In the 1990 RE/CO .RE/CO was to help Brokerage with self Management .This did not turn out to happen in the way it was plan at the time.In the the USA there was a new American Dream the Real Estate Franchise. In short they attached their business to Real Estate Brokerages in Canada at a cost to the Brokerage and their staff. they gained a business and a lot of Data for free which allowed them to grow.And because they are mainly a marketing company they have help to drive the Real estate Values Up . Today many families In Canada can not Afford to by a home on a Lot 50 X 100 feet or own an detach home . Real Estate was a profession with Brokers And Realtors. To day Its Becoming An Industry with Agents.Trust Companies came into the Real Estate Business and got out a move that was never answered. Maybe they just wanted to maintain their Professional . ZILLOW is just a USA Marketing dream.trying to come to Canada the good market place to grow and the Canadian People will pay.Its time that Canadians start to in joy what they have. Bigger is not Better in joy what you have and look after it before some other country takes it from you when your try get bigger.Say No to Zillow. Re/co is always try to educate the Broker and Realtor.

    Re/co may do better to look into the Licencing of the Franchise who control the Broker with out Liability.and drive the Real Estate Market as a Marketing Business.

    • This Chettle guy knows more about real estate in Canada than 99.997% of all CREA members. So you should listen. Pretty much every single warning he has given since the 80s has eventually come true.

      That said I detest CREA and the unethical practices they have used against members for 30 years. I detest they forced the RAHB ( arguably the countries most highly ethical association) to admit they over reported sales in 2016, 2017 and 2018 now leaving all RAHB brokerages open to a business wipe out class action. I mean 12% inflated sales???? CREA continues to be CREA first and members last so you should know I give them zero credibility except….

      Zillow is after your business and for $5000 they can simply become a Brokerage and not sell any homes but grab your data. Your listing data and better yet with the new multi-board access in provinces like Ontario only need to join one board not 10. Cheap deal really.

      So here is the question the DDF has never addressed in it’s compliance manual???

      Can a Listing Brokerage allow their Clients Listing to appear on a website that states it is Over Priced! What informed home owner in Canada would ever allow the public to be told they were asking too much for their home in any advertising vehicle?

      Welllllll that is what a Zestimate does. There are Brokerages right now in Canada running DDF powered sites where a Home Owners asking price is being publicly shamed. Isn’t that a violation of your MLS rules and regs folks?

      I mean you really better start listening to Larry!

  15. Over here in AB, our Broker sold us out to Z. I’m sure the Broker stands to benefit immensely as an early adopter but no transparency on that deal. Nor are they are able to articulate HOW this benefits their individual agents at all (oooh, our clients’ listing exposure on Z for free). None of us consented to this and I suspect many will be leaving this brokerage as soon as strategically possible even though we have been loyal agents for many years. Planning my Zexit from this Zarbage.

  16. Attention Canadian Realtors.

    Do you remember the days, when you were establishing your business?
    The days, when you struggled to make minimum payments on your credit cards?
    The days, when you had to choose between making your car payment on time and buying holiday gifts for your family?
    The days, when you had to miss family dinners because you had to present offers?
    The days, when you didn’t see your kids because you were on the road, showing properties?

    You have gone through all those sacrifices and established your business, a large corporation is asking you to hand everything you’ve worked so hard for to them.

    Although the listings YOU worked so hard to get are considered your brokerages’ listings, they are still YOUR listings. If the brokerage, or the entire corporation you are currently with has decided to hand YOUR listings to Zillow, your personal interest and that of the brokerage are not aligned anymore.

    If you make any measurable income selling real estate, the time to take charge of your career has come again. There are a number of very strong brands who said No to Zillow and they will welcome you under their wing. This is already happening. Make that phone call and set up a meeting.

    This is not about the desk fee or the commission split. This is about the future of your career. It is time to act.

  17. One important detail, that seems to be omitted when we compare Canada to the US is that in Canada REALTORS own REALTOR.ca whereas in the US REALTOR.com is not owned by REALTORS. This is an important distinction when comparing the 2 landscapes and how leads are handled.
    The sky is not falling and the world will not end with the introduction of Zillow but we should recognize and remember what we have with REALTOR.ca. We have the supermarket with all the inventory for one stop shopping. We have to ask, is that not what consumers want? How can we make it a better consumer experience?

    • CREA needs to take bold leadeship moves NOW to step up our game big time on realtor.ca. Cosnumers benefit from a robust database of all listings in the country but the user experience is absolute BALLS!

  18. Todd Shyiak your kind of like the “Fox in the hen house” didn’t C-21 sign a big deal with Zillow. Now you will plummet your company to bottom of the list.

  19. Some sixty years back, I stumbled in to a fiction called “The Thinking Machine” (I remind you sixty years back , not any newer version). Powered by the tides, among other things, the machine played cards with the machine’s maker, a human, and started to win every time. At the end, the maker barely escaped alive, by unplugging the power supply.

    One of my later gurus (a ‘Guru’ in Indian context, is a very revered, wise, tutor), gave a word of caution, in a very different context,”Son, if you are in the ocean, do not fight against the wave”. years later, when I became a good surf-swimmer, I practiced that advice to the letter.

    Zillow and technology-giants, are a wave of the ‘future’, that is upon us now. Whether we accept or not, we will be swept not away but into the abysmal, and SWALLOWED. That phenomenon is happening everywhere else around us. The 5G technology is one to consider. The Chinese government owned Huawei is at the forefront of AKhan’s invention. Where will Canadians go without the forthcoming 5G?

    Pro and against sentiments are good, though may be a bit on the naive side.

    I humbly submit that we strive for a meaningful objective discussion panel to PREPARE us all involved with real estate transactions, data acquisition, storage, computation, manipulation, and the LIABILITY issues. Thirty-plus years of being a real estate salesperson has made me passionate about this profession.

  20. If I was a Century 21 Agent and I read this article, I would quit the same day. Shame on you Todd Shyiak. At least its crystal clear where your loyalties lie, and it isn’t with Century 21 Agents.

  21. Zillow is here to win. There is not one real estate brand on the planet that has pockets as deep as them or R&D as advanced(they spend around $100 million just on R&D per quarter)

    Zillow understands that many agents would sell their own sister for a lead. Pandora’s box is already open. You might as well align yourself with them for the ride until agents become expendable. Make as much money as you can, while you still can.

    Here is what I see as the Zillow business plan in each country.

    1) Introduce a great site and tell agents that it is just another oppportunriy for free exposure for their listings. Get a couple big players to sign on their listings and everyone follows. Zillow even spends some money to generate “free leads” for listing agents.

    2) Visit each real estate board in the country and offer the free service above so they can capture the listing feeds. After all, “free marketing”, right? Once they have the data, become the dominant new “MLS” for the public by spending insane money on marketing.

    3) Introduce Premiere Agent lead sales for certain areas. Monitor traffic for those leads. Sell ad space and lead generation to agents for buyers looking to buy on Zillow…. I own a brand with a brokerage in Phoenix, Arizona. Just yesterday I had an agent speak with a Zillow rep about “leads”. $3000/month to get 4 leads(about 1/3 share of a zip code) and Zillow says you “should be able to convert 50% of your leads.”

    4) Premier Brokerage Leads – Zillow will make a deal with certain large brokerages to get 35% referral fee for certain kinds of leads. This is happening and relatively new in the USA.

    5) Speculation – Zillow will one day open its own brokerages and agents will be nothing but employees that need to hit conversion numbers that Zillow sets to remain employed. I give it less than 10 years before this is happening.

    Bottom line, Zillow wins and the industry is changed forever.

    And it all could have been blocked by the Realtor colllective. But Zillow knows greed and fear rule our industry and so we end up cannibalizing ourselves.

    But, at this point, not really sure anything can be done about it.

    • Also, the USA has how many MLS systems? Hundreds! Canada uses the Torrens title system, one of the best in the world, and our MLS systems are far fewer and FAR easier to maintain. In my opinion, giving up control of our data to a 3rd party company like Zillow is absolute suicide.

  22. Thanks Todd for you point of view. One thing that you omitted to discuss was the population in 2002 vs 2019. You state that the US Realtors have not lost any $$$ due to Zillow and that sales are remaining the same. In 2002 the population in the US was 287.2 million and in 2018 the population was 326,766 for a whopping total of 39 million new people. Out of these people how many were making purchases and what percentage was ZILLOW involved in? Our population in Canada as of 2018 is only 36.71 million do you think ZILLOW will affect Canada differently than the US due to the population difference. I don’t see where taking away our data and reselling is a benefit to our members or our Brokerage. We work as a team and therefore our listing agents do not take calls on their listings. We have 9 other agents who work those leads. We now will be competing with Premier Agents ( who may not know our area at all) for our business that we have worked hard to attain over the past 21 years. Quite frankly the public may be getting agents that do not know the first thing about an old house but because they pay a fee to be part of the Premier agent package they will be working in a market area that requires specialities. Tell me where do you see the benefit???? The public will be working with agents who pay the Premium to a Brokerage who gets our data and our Boards will disappear over time because they gave our data to a third party for the purpose of attaining income. Very sad and for the record I don’t live in FEAR for whats coming I am just really disappointed in why we have chosen to be FOLLOWERS and no LEADERS in Canada.

  23. I work in a small market where most realtors sell their own listings 75% of the time. Our concern, which you seem to slough off, is that some agent from out of our area is going to outspend to show up as a premier agent in our area and we won’t get leads for our own listings. Those out of town agents don’t know the first thing about real estate in our area as 85% of properties are boat access only. They would end up not serving the buyer properly or trying to refer someone to us who would have contacted us directly through realtor.ca the way they do now.

    • Exactly Michael, unfortunately it is a struggle for companies like ours in small markets to be heard. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Zillow vs. CREA. profit driven business vs. non-profit organization, American investors vs. those canadian Realtors… right, I will still have to deal with the Realtors. Hmm, which one should I choose as a consumer? They both claim that my interests are their main concern.

    I want to sell and I want to buy, so how is this going to affect me? When my home is listed on Zillow, there is a high probability that a buyer will be contacting some other Realtor, who has never been to my house to get information about it? And this is supposed to be good for me? And when I am buying a home I maybe contacting a Realtor who has no knowledge of the property I want to view? Why? How is this promoting my interest?
    Current MLS system provides only the contact information to a Realtor who is working for me, correct? So, you are telling me that my Realtor can be one of these premier agents as long as she pays to Zillow? So, my money is going to some American investor?
    To me this is just very confusing and I don’t like it, I don’t see any benefit of having my listing on Zillow or any site that creates a competition among Realtors with a complete disregard for me – the consumer. It is my money that this game is being played with and I am not even sitting at the table.

  25. Awesome. Thanks for post Todd. Let’s talk about your 3 fears shall we?

    FIrst- Earning more commissions than ever. Great. Earning money is great! How much are the agents netting that are paying companies like Zillow, to sell them back the leads that they would already be getting off their listings or DDF powered websites? Grossing is awesome. Netting is better. Average ROI is 2% chasing online leads.

    Second- Zillow is completely different than Google or bus benches. Zillow is not advertising. Zillow is a data collector (which we are giving them our data for free by the way). Zillow collects our data, then uses that data to find buyers/sellers to sell back to us as agents. And if you think it is going to stop there, don’t kid yourself. Zillow has already started I Buying and Selling. Buying homes directly from consumers, and selling them directly. They are looking for ways to bypass agents, and we are opening up the door for them. If they are truly a “disruptor”, do you think they will be happy just taking our data, selling us leads, and that’s it? Their current business model does not generate them positive revenue. They need to keep going, or their investors are all going to disappear.

    Third- They do a better job interpreting and predicting data trends for consumers. Which data trends are we talking about? The ones involving their “Zestimate’s” and the lawsuits popping up all over the US about how great their analysis is?

    Here is what you need to know. In the US, the agents that jumped on Zillow immediately (2007ish) saw a good return on their investement. That same year, 6.1 million homes sold in the US. 10 years later, 5.1 million homes sold, Even with Zillow’s 120 million unique visitors, sales went down, and now the ROI online was -32%. So show us how they will actually help again?

    I am not for letting the fox into the hen house. I seriously hope the brokers and agents out there open their eyes, and realize GIVING OUR DATA AWAY isn’t a solution to anything. Build relationships with your clients, and provide them with the data and service they deserve.

  26. Why give away our inventory? This is not about exposure it is about the aqusition of inventories. Exposure already exsists. Too much exposure just dilutes the product. Properties sold long before the internet came around and I have heard zero complaints about a home seller regarding lack of exposure. Who exactly is being refered to as the consumer? The home owner or the home seller? The market is driven by market conditions , not exposure. And to compare UBER to the real estate business is an inaccurate comparison. Picking up a ride for a few blocks is much different then purchasing real estate. And how can Zillow claim they do it better? All they are doing is reposting information given to them. It is all about aquiring the most inventory. Why do consumers go to Realtor’s? Because they possess the bulk of the inventory. Not one person has commented on the quality of any leads generated. Since the mid 1990’s interenet leads from sites other then realtor.ca , have been terrible.

  27. Zillow’s feed has been unreliable and glitchy so far. With less than 17% of the countries listings displayed – and displayed incredibly incorrectly, this is not a platform I would ever suggest a realtor align themselves with today if they want to maintain a professional image.

    While there is an argument for exposure of listings for the sellers being the first priority – one which I agree with – we aren’t rushing to display on Kijiji either, for the same reason – we Realtors are professionals that demand a higher quality, and there’s no real reliable buyer eyeballs there.

    My bigger concern isn’t about any “Chicken Little” rumours of “stealing leads”. I agree that the bashing and insulting from both sides of the Zillargument is a little gross, and mostly based on purposefully blurred or omitted fact. My concern lies with Zillow’s intended (or unintended) future. While their primary income today comes from the realtors they claim to be dedicated to service, their steps at development and growth definitely point towards seeking larger, more direct revenue streams elsewhere in the industry, not through brokers.

    Lastly, and most obviously, the real estate market and industry in Canada is far more different than Zillow fans seem prepared to acknowledge, and this does pose numerous points to consider when deciding whether or not we want To welcome a non-brokerage model so warmly into our businesses.

    All of these reasons keep me from jumping onto their ship right now. I’ll wait and see if the Canadian consumer really does benefit from that exposure, And if they can indeed be trusted as just an excellent lead generation site with a primary goal in the future to assist Realtors in doing a better job for their clients and making more money. Honestly, I’m not holding my breath. I just really wish we could all stop being so angry at each other over it.

  28. Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff announced in September 2018 that Zillow will aggressively embrace blockchain. Blockchain technology is doing for “value” transactions what the Internet did for information sharing. The Internet was created to move data instantly between parties worldwide around a design foundation of reliability, which was naïve given the pervasiveness of viruses, hacking and fraud. Yet a value transaction such as clearing a cheque, wiring money or closing a real estate transaction takes days or weeks.

    Blockchain is a peer-to-peer (think consumer-to-consumer) transaction technology that is removing the need for traditional trusted entities like banks, lawyers, government financial policing agencies, accountants, mortgage brokers and Realtors, in all types of value or asset transactions – money, artwork, patents, music, vehicles, property – between two parties. Combined with artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency, smart contracts and the internet, blockchain is already seeding a worldwide decentralized ecosystem for value exchange without need for traditional trusted entities. It’s facilitating such value exchanges at a fraction of today’s costs. Soon, real estate lawyers’ fees, mortgage agents’ and Realtors’ commissions, banking fees, possibly land transfer taxes and even the traditional land registry will diminish significantly or disappear.

    I keep asking the question, if blockchain means directly connecting buyers to sellers, what is the Realtor’s role within Zillow five years from now? Zillow has remained silent on this point even though they respond to comments in these REM posts.

    Zillow-like companies need Realtors today because they don’t have the sales force to populate their listings database. But once consumers learn and appreciate the convenience, low cost and worldwide market reach of a peer-to-peer listing service with a built-in trusted entity (blockchain, not Zillow), artificial intelligence property pricing, auto-managed and executed agreements of purchase and sale, encrypted currency like Bitcoin, instant mortgages (Zillow offers “mortgage origination” via its subsidiary, Mortgage Lenders of America), and a technology infrastructure that is “immutable”, consumers will flock to these online services to manage the end-to-end process of selling and buying a house.

    If you give your listings to an online listing company, you could be contributing to your own future business demise. If you don’t embrace proptech, you’ll definitely find yourself without a career within the coming decade.

  29. Let’s call a spade a spade: Garbage article written by the head of a brand with very low market presence in Canada, who’s made a deal with the devil to try and save that company’s presence here.

    Don’t characterize being anti-Zillow as fear-mongering. A robust MLS does a much better job than allowing a large foreign-owned entity to leech leads and ad dollars that agents should be spending elsewhere.

  30. “I ask you to choose: fear or future”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

    A false dilemma is a type of informal fallacy in which something is falsely claimed to be an “either/or” situation, when in fact there is at least one additional option.

    This question purposefully attempts to force a pre-determined outcome and reflects the lack of genuine desire for open ended conversation vs pushing an agenda.

  31. “I have discussed Zillow with many leaders in our industry and virtually all the negative comments or opinions seem to be based in fear.”

    Fear (aka concern) is NOT a bad thing! Refusing to play in traffic out of fear is good. Refusing to use a parachute that was not safety checked out of fear is good. Refusing to run a red light across live lanes of traffic out of fear is good.

    Dismissing anyone with a contrary opinion because they are “fearful” is bad.

    It reeks of spin doctor avoidance to purposefully distract from the concerns presented and a refusal to do the work that leads to an actual understanding of someone else’s point of view; then participating in a conversation without pre-determined conclusions and letting the evidence guide you to wherever it leads.

  32. “Some valid concerns .. “contact agent” takes the consumer to one of three Premier Agents and not the listing agent .. the consumer may want to have a choice of good agents, other than the listing agent, if I’m the listing agent, I’d prefer the house is shown by .. a Premier Agent”

    It’s clear the authour is not an agent, likely has never been an agent and is not in touch with the reality faced by agents. Why would a Realtor who is a member of Century 21 Canada want to pay dues to an organization that does not put Realtors interests first?

    It’s a fact in metropolitan areas that 99% of people who contact a listing agent about a home do not purchase that home. That person becomes a potential client for a listing agent, Realtors work hard and invest a lot of money to find clients and do not want their hard work and money to be “sold back” to another Realtor.

    This quote shows how out of touch the authour is with their “customer” (the Realtor) and how willing he is to trample over the interests of the people who pay for the privilege of using the brand he works for. The only benefit is to agents who don’t have clients, and the choice for Century 21 is: put the dues people pay to good use and educate Realtors on how to get a lead, innovate a system to find leads for the people who pay due, or take the lazy way out and let Zillow do all the work.

  33. “Zillow has been in the U.S. for 12 years and the sky hasn’t fallen for Realtors there .. the industry is stronger and earning more commission income than ever before.”

    Again, unaware of concerns or unwilling to address them. It is immediately and painfully obvious the majority of arguments (aka fears) are about what Zillow, and companies like Zillow, will eventually do to the industry in the FUTURE. Yes there are concerns about the present, but of less significance.

    • When does this stop though John? Is the iBuyer model the boogeyman? If so, better fight Redfin, Keller Williams and Coldwell Banker/NRT as all have iBuyer models in place or coming soon? The listing agent’s duty is to help sell their client’s listing for the highest and best price – not to double end the deal. If the issue is that the listing agent doesn’t get the lead, then we’d better take down every brokerage website, every agent website, every brand website in Canada as none of those sites do that either. Agents cry out about Zillow, yet presumably receive leads on their own website every day for properties they didn’t list – do they send those leads to the listing agents? As others pointed out, since Zillow launched the % of consumers in the US who use REALTORS has INCREASED, as has the average income for agents. After a decade of reading that Z is the boogeyman, when do we wake up and smell the coffee?

  34. “We have no reason to be fearful”

    Any blanket assumption in a fast changing technologically driven environment raises questions of sanity. It assumes the future is predictable and all possible outcomes are known, impossible.

    Many people deserving the title “expert” have outlined in detail ample reasons to be concerned (aka fearful). The authour appears either unaware of these concerns or unwilling to address them.

  35. thank you Todd for your comments. I watched that panel in Banff and have to say all panelists put forth good pros and cons, however, I am still not convinced there was enough informative data presented to give clarity on this issue

  36. In my opinion this is not FEAR of competition. This is FEAR of the lack of competition. Canada does not have anyone to protect our homes and land from a foreign mega size company such as Zillow. If these acquisitions continued in Canada this would mean within no time a complete lack of competition in the real estate industry in Canada. The US cannot even control their own tech giants. Facebook owner was just before congress for privacy and interference in the US elections. Think about it and yes, be afraid for Canadian home owners. Who in Canada at one tenth the size of the US has billions of dollars? People fight and die for their homes and Canadian companies are giving it away for FREE! Please research your decisions for long run rather than short run decisions. Google Zillow complaints and read on.
    Acquisitions by Zillow
    • In April 2011 Zillow acquired Postlets, an online real estate listing creation and distribution platform. Terms of the deal were not disclosed publicly.[9]
    • In November 2011, Zillow acquired Diverse Solutions for $7.8 million.[10]
    • In May 2012, Zillow acquired RentJuice, a software-as-a-service company which allows landlords and property managers to market and lease their rental properties through a set of online tools. RentJuice was acquired for $40 million.[11]
    • On October 31, 2012, Zillow acquired the real estate shopping and collaboration platform, Buyfolio.[12]
    • On November 5, 2012, Zillow acquired Lincoln, NE based mortgage technology company Mortech for $17 million.[13]
    • On November 26, 2012, Zillow acquired HotPads for $16 million. HotPads, founded in 2005, lists real estate and rental listings on a map-based web interface.[14]
    • On August 19, 2013, Zillow acquired StreetEasy for $50 million.[15]
    • On July 16, 2014, Zillow acquired Retsly, a Vancouver, B.C.-based startup that helps developers access real-estate data from multiple listing services (MLS).[16]
    • On July 28, 2014, Zillow announced a deal to buy Trulia for $3.5 billion.[1][17]
    • On February 17, 2015, Zillow announced the completion of its acquisition of Trulia and the formation of the Zillow Group brand portfolio.[18]
    • On July 22, 2015, Zillow Group announced it would acquire Dotloop for $108 million.[19]
    • On January 3, 2016, Zillow Group announced it would acquire Naked Apartments for $13 million.[20]
    • On August 2, 2016, Zillow Group acquired Bridge Interactive.[21]

  37. Thanks Todd for your view on Zillow. We have also just signed a Regional Affiliation with Zillow for Realty ONE Group in Western Canada. We must not lose sight of our consumer and ensure that their property is given the most exposure possible.
    Our Affiliates in the US use Zillow as another lead generation source, no different than what you mentioned with money spent on outdoor advertising, google, social media, etc. Zillow has done a better job of promoting their services than the various real estate boards and many brands.

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