Remember when Jerry Seinfeld and his crew of ridiculous friends were on NBC? His show had an incredible 9 season run on the network. I can remember watching the last episode, pre-DVR of course. I grieved it much like people grieved when shows like MASH and Saved By The Bell came to close.
Soon after the 1999 final episode ran TBS picked it up for syndication for a hefty $1.7Billion dollars. Thats right folks. BILLION.
And that is where Zillow and Seinfeld intersect. In the Billion dollar range.
Did you know that Zillow, the company, posted over $58 Million in revenue in the 4th quarter of 2013 alone? That's bookoo bucks.
Usually I don't pay attention to this kind of big corporate revenue reporting, but in this case I was all eyes and ears. I have been for years. And here's why.
"Online searching feels terrible, it is so restrictive and the information feels incomplete."
Recently I interviewed a woman who shared this insight, verbatim, with me. For a while now I have been getting this kind of feedback from people I work with. It's a frustrating thing, you know, searching for anything on the web. But it seems that Real Estate is a unique sort of confusing frustration for people like you just wanting to do your own research.
Ask yourself this question. What database to Real Estate Agents use for property advertising and research? The MLS, right?
Here's the rub.
Zillow isn't the MLS. Neither is Trulia, Redfin, "that one agent's" site, Homes dotcom or the whole-lotta other sites that claim to be MLS databases. Did you know that there are over 900 individual websites available to users hoping to do MLS research independently. And not a single one is a database that Realtors use in their businesses. You see, the only source I use for reliable data and research info. about the market is my one and only local MLS. In Arizona it's the ARMLS or Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service.
So, how do these websites work?
Syndication. Where the $1.7Billion was for Seinfeld.
When TBS picked up the show Seinfeld it intended to run the episodes at the schedule they decided was right, at any time they felt was right. Over the last 15 years Seinfeld has been able to reach generations of viewers it would not have had otherwise, and it's been a beautiful thing. TBS has made great money from advertising and viewers have been able to belly laugh far beyond the expiration of Seinfeld's script.
MLS, though. That has not been a beautiful thing.
The sites you've been surfing purchase info. from a third party company that collects and monetizes data from the 1,000's of local MLS's nationwide.
Let me say that again in reverse. A listing that I will enter in the ARMLS is data that is sent (with the permission of local brokerages)to a company called Listhub. Then from Listhub's cloud, corporations like Trulia or Zillow can purchase and syndicate that very same data into their consumer friendly, for profit websites. And Trulia, for example isn't just Trulia. It's the parent company for a site like ApartmentGuide dotcom, Zillow is big poppa to FrontDoor dot com and so on.
Just imagine the game of telephone for a moment. What a crack up it is to learn what the end listener heard versus the original message senders words! My giggles end with the visual here, though, and I connect with what my recent interview revealed to me. "...the information feels incomplete."
Because it is incomplete.
The bigger scandal? These websites are turning HUGE profits (ahem, $58mil in 3 months of 2013) by selling your contact information to agents, like me, in the form of leads.
It seems harmless enough, jump online wondering about the house up the street that just sold, input your email and name to get more detailed info. Or curious about what a move further east would bring you and download the free phone app to plug away while you cruise the streets of your dream neighborhood. But did you know that you just allowed yourself to be monetized and sold off to as many as 4 agents who pay to be on the roster of contacts displayed?
Ick. I know you don't like being sold off like that let alone having people contact you to try and "sell" you something.
A year ago I invested in my clients by contracting with my very own ARMLS to allow a direct line in for searching, saving homes they liked and even mobile browsing via a recently developed phone app. I spent years helplessly watching the people I care about frustrate themselves with online searching and misinformation and now I can say you and to them it doesn't have to be like that any more!
In a couple hours I'll be in a room with a few other, hand selected agents learning about phone apps for MLS searching. While I do happen to already have a free mobile search app in the tool bag, I do hope to learn more about what the competitors in the world of mobile MLS search are creating to make the experience you have searching on the go an even more factual and convenient experience for you in the year to come.
While I do offer free ARMLS searching of unfiltered data (CLICK HERE to search & bookmark the page), I do have an even sweeter smart phone app that you can download for free. How can you get it? Get me your cell phone number by scrolling to the bottom of this page and entering it in the "Learn More" form. Easy, peasy.
How about you? Have you ever browed the MLS online and wondering what the story was behind the scenes? Have you ever found "the one" online only to later find out that it wasn't even available? Or worse, have you ever checked out a Zestimate and discovered a HUGE gap between what they estimated the value of a home to be to what it actually was?
Share your story in the comments below. I bet you're not alone in your experience!
Until Next Time,
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