Zillow Agent Search Means More Competition and More Pageantry for Real Estate Agents

03/25/2015 02:23 PM (CST)


Zillow just made it easier to find local real estate agents online. The company has recently launched its new Agent Finder, an updated tool that is available on their website as well as through its mobile apps. For consumers, it means more organized and more esthetically pleasing listings of real estate professionals with expanded rankings. For real estate agents, it means acquiring online leads and controlling their online visibility just became more difficult and more expensive while competition on the web just got tougher.

The new tool takes into account ratings from Zillow’s users, as well as data about who the most active agents in a given area are (based on past sales and their number of current listings). Prospective home buyers and sellers can then filter according to their price points, needs and specialties (relocations, short sale, etc.), as well as the languages the agent speaks. The latter features are under “advanced” filters, so let’s take a look at the default search.

If we went on Agent Finder and put our zip code, we got over 250 results with local real estate agents. Right away, real estate professionals who expect to get leads from their Zillow profiles are faced with the “Google effect.” My 250+ results are presented in 25 pages, each containing 10 results. What are the chances a homeowner or a home buyer searching for “the best” agent in the area will go past first 3 pages? Very slim, to say the least…

In addition, it’s very important to understand what Zillow’s criteria for ranking real estate agents are.

There are three criteria by which Zillow ranks agents: number of local reviews, number of recent sales, and number of current listings. The default filter is “Most Active”. The algorithm seems to take into consideration both number of overall sales and number of current listings. Users can also filter agents exclusively by the number of reviews, listing, and sales.

If I’m a homeowner looking for the “best” real estate agent in the area, I’m probably going to be most interested in real estate agents with best reviews and most sales. Therefore, statuses such as “No recent sales” or “No current listings” are going to be pretty damning.

Again, from a client’s perspective, this is great. However, most real estate agents, especially the ones that are not top producers, should be very concerned about this online pageantry.

Trulia, Zillow, and Realtor.com are heading towards this exact model of rankings and ratings. Which means you have to be already doing very well in order to get more referrals or you have to pay to be “featured.” The very top row on Agent Search is dedicated for “featured” agents, not unlike Google’s paid search is dedicated for ads. However, when we performed our search, there was no small print or any kind of labeling as to how Zillow came up with the “featured” row. One can assume these are paying agents, but, once again, there is no disclaimer about it.

What is obvious now that you have to be prepared to pay for leads even more or find other ways to get online leads, like by driving traffic directly to your website, working very hard to develop quality referrals or finding other ways to intercept leads before they go online.