I’ve gotten quite used to answering that question in the negative, not because it’s true but because, as my dear friend Teresa Boardman pointed out, the sales monkeys sitting in the boiler rooms have no idea what to do with that answer – it’s not to be found on any of the prospecting scripts.
On those few occasions where I don’t hang up shortly thereafter, primarily out of the same ennui that causes a cat to play with a mouse for a while before finally eating it, I’ll hear the rest of the so-called talking points such as “we get 800 kajillion views a month” and “60 percent of the people who come to our site aren’t working with real estate agents” and the ever-popular “just one deal you get from this will pay for all the marketing.”
As Mark Twain said, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. And the statistics that we are given aren’t lies – they’re factually accurate – but they generally are totally irrelevant to the bottom line of someone’s real estate business.
Companies such as Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.Com and RealEstate.com (which, I guess now has some partnership with Active Rain, or so I heard as I was hanging up the phone) look like they operate real estate websites. There are, after all, homes for sale (though the accuracy of the listings varies greatly from site to site, from “pretty darned close” for R.com in most areas to “we’re pulling addresses out of a hat” for Zillow and, to a lesser degree, Trulia.
From the halls of yesterday’s RE Bar Camp Phoenix to discussions on Facebook by our industry’s so-called “thought leaders” (most of whom aren’t actually part of this industry but still are experts because they bought a house at some point in the past), these same accurate but irrelevant facts are being passed down as the gospel. Just today, there even was a nifty chart showing how many people go to Zillow when looking for homes.
Which to me is kinda funny. Buyer drivin’, but don’t know where the (hell) they going. Just rollin’, looking for the one they called For Sale, but here’s a flash, they’ll never seize me …
Wow, that was strange. Found myself channeling N.W.A. and the late Easy E there for a minute. Let me clear my head so I can finish clearing my throat.
I simply can’t say it often or passionately enough … Zillow, Trulia and their ilk are not about real estate. They’re not about home valuations, buyer or seller education or an effort to make looking for a home any more simple than it already is by using Google.
These sites aren’t about buyers and sellers and never have been.
They’re about advertising – using pretty pictures and horse(poo) data to attract public eyes, then to use all those views to create clever statistics that then can be recited to real estate agents to separate them from their money. That’s all they are. That’s all they ever will be.
Sadly, so many agents are unable to hear the sirens’ song for what it really is – a beautiful call from hostile shores, luring the unsuspecting to their own deaths. Maybe Zillow and Trulia aren’t trying to kill the industry as we know it but they certainly aren’t trying either to help it or change it; they just want to make as much money off of it as they can while they can.
My lone wish is this message would be more prominent not just among real estate agents but also the public at large, the folks who turn to these sites looking for homes, believing they are saving themselves time when in fact they’re looking at imaginary listings, values created out of whole cloth and other such poppycock.
You’re being used, dear readers. Not that enough of you care to stop using these sites. And maybe it’s too much to hope that those looking for real, reliable, accurate information about their homes turn to those who make it their business to know, not those who make it their business to make a few bucks without caring a whit about how it’s being done.
Conning real estate agents into wasting money on pointless advertising is nothing new, it’s a song as old as the industry itself that merely has changed over time and the spread of the Internet (much like baseball clubhouse music has changed to the point I was listening to truly horrifying electronic dance music in the Phillies clubhouse on Tuesday and Wednesday.)
The song is the same on our side; truth be told, though, the people who are helping to keep the orchestra playing – you the public – don’t hear the real tune.