Hot Time in Vegas at the NAR Convention

realtors.jpgA group from Zillow and I spent last week in Las Vegas at the NAR convention and we all came back home exhausted and energized. So, I wanted to pen a quick blog post saying thank you to the industry for taking a chance on Zillow and opening up your minds and your conference to us.

I spoke on a panel hosted by Saul Klein along with Justin McCarthy from Google to a Vegas-sized and overflowing room of Realtors who were anxious to learn more about the Internet and how it is emerging as the most important medium (in the “media” sense) for the real estate industry. Increasingly, this medium is free for both users and content providers and money is being made off of relevant, context-sensitive advertising that surrounds the content. The main message from team Zillow last week was to reinforce that Zillow is a media company that makes money from advertising, not a brokerage or a lead gen site. And that, while our consumer goal is to provide information and tools to make everyone smarter about homes and real estate, our business goal is to be the most efficient and effective marketing channel for the industry and to provide a great way for those outside the industry to market to homeowners and movers. Perhaps I’m deluding myself, but I think our message is beginning to cut through the fog of miZinformation that has surrounded us since we launched 20 months ago. Thanks to Saul and the NAR for inviting us into the discussion.

I think the most important contributor to Zillow’s changing reception at NAR and in the industry is that our actions are supporting our words – that we are an advertising supported site that is free for all to use and contribute to. Specifically, we made some major announcements during NAR last week that I’m really proud of:

  • We announced that we have half a million listings on Zillow now, from the new listings feed program where anyone can feed us for sale listings to display to our 4m visitors a month, for free. Thanks to our growing list of partners for making this happen
  • We announced a project that is still on the drawing board that we call VSS, or Virtual Sold Sign. This idea came out of discussion that our man Jorrit Van der Meulen was having a couple of months ago with Alex Perillo and other senior management of Realogy. In short, it allows an agent’s for sale sign to stay up on Zillow even after the house was sold. It simply switches to a “sold by” sign, with the agent’s logo, picture, contact info, etc. I recently sold a house in Seattle, and I remember the “For Sale” sign with the “Sold” banner rakishly displayed across it above my agent’s name sitting outside the house for several weeks after the deal was done. I emailed my agent every so often saying “Hey, how about you take away that sign?” Nothing happened. Finally, I suggested that if the sign was there the next day it was going to become my sign, and then it was gone. This simply nods to the importance of a persistent sales history for an agent marketing her services to the next customer. Zillow is a uniquely positioned place to have this full sales history on every home (eventually), because we have every home, not just what is on the market today. VSS will not be available for a little while but we are working on it and have had a tidal wave of ideas and suggestions about it since we announced it last week. Thank you, and keep them coming.
  • We announced an agreement with 11 newspaper companies representing 282 newspapers around the country including the San Francisco Chronicle, The Houston Chronicle, The San Jose Mercury News, and The Tampa Tribune. We will be cooperating on content and technology on both the newspaper Web sites as well as on Zillow.

Anyway, it was a raucous and inspirational time in Vegas for myself and for our whole team. We look forward to future NAR conferences and a long productive relationship with the industry. Thank you for the invitation.