Plugging a hole that has existed since launch earlier this year, real estate valuation site Zillow is going to start allowing local realtors to post listings for free. I would expect this to be quite popular given Zillow’s profile and the fact that it’s free advertising for agents. Zillow sees this as a way to obtain valuable content for users, however, and does not intend to sell placement amid the listings.
Zillow is also making a range of general upgrades to site features, including search and mapping. One interesting addition is a new “Real Estate Wiki,” with lots of content about the housing market and real estate.
According to the press release:
The wiki is seeded with more than 100 articles by Zillow editors on topics of interest to home buyers, sellers, and owners. As a wiki any visitor can edit an article, comment on an article, or create a new article and publish it for all to see.
Perhaps the most interesting and provocative of the new features is what Zillow is calling “Make Me Move.” This is the ability for homeowners to post any price for the sale of their homes on the site. Those “Make Me Move” prices are presented side-by-side with Zillow’s own “Zestimates” (valuations). (See screenshot below.)
As Zillow explains it:
“What number would it take for you to call the movers and hand over your keys?” asked Lloyd Frink, Zillow’s co-founder and president. “Make Me Move is our twist on the traditional ‘For Sale’ sign.” A homeowner can easily post a Make Me Move price without exposing any personal information. Zillow then enables interested buyers to contact the owner through an email “anonymizer.” There is no charge for the service.
All postings, be they “For Sale” or Make Me Move, provide free uploading of pictures, home descriptions including “what I love about my home,” and neighborhood commentary. Additionally, real estate agents who post homes they are representing for sale can publish their own contact information, link to listings on their own Web sites, and upload a photo of themselves free of charge.
Clever potential sellers or just curious homeowners could test market demand and price sensitivity for their properties using this tool. It also has the capacity to unearth additional inventory that isn’t on the market (or isn’t yet on the market). In tight markets this could make additional homes potentially available. In soft markets it could help would-be sellers make more informed decisions around pricing levels, by getting real market “data.”
When I spoke to Zillow on their analyst tour in San Francisco before launch this year I was impressed by the site and its functionality. But it struck me that the absence of listings was a huge omission – which they have now rectified. The only question is how quickly realtors will post enough content/listings to make this feature truly useful for consumers.
I also have to admit I’m somewhat surprised at how quickly Zillow has risen to “top ten” popularity and been able to sustain fairly high levels of traffic since then.
None of these changes or upgrades at Zillow is going to have any sort of immediate impact on the MLS or comissions, etc. But the Internet, free listings and richer consumer tools are part of larger, structural shifts that are happening in the real estate market.