This month is for ALL my people, not just my NYC peeps. Obviously my work is in the city, but technically I’m licensed in the entire state, and we share reciprocity with other states including West Virginia. I have grand plans and lofty goals for my future career working in multiple states (because come on, variety is the spice of life) and I also have plenty of friends who are interested in buying — just not in NYC.
But because this is a New York Value, I’m going to talk about something that’s relevant both here and throughout the country: Zillow. In NYC Zillow goes by a different name: StreetEasy. StreetEasy originally started to make the rental process more transparent, but after being purchased by Zillow really went the opposite direction and began intentionally misleading consumers.
What do I mean?
I wrote a breakdown here, and things have changed even more since then as lawsuits after lawsuit has forced Zillow to be a little more straightforward with where listings are coming from and who you are contacting when you reach out on a home.
But then today while looking at a building where I’m about to list a rental (woooooo!), I saw the below image because I wasn’t logged in as an agent.
Here’s why I’m annoyed.
Zillow’s marketing leads people to believe they don’t need to work with an agent because they can “do it themselves” using Zillow.
Zillow then charges agents $$$ for “premier agent,” so that their information will show up in place of the person actually connected to the apartment, making it harder for listing agents AND agents trying to work with buyers.
This practice actively misleads many consumers about who they are contacting when they reach out to someone via their site. Although it has become more transparent than it was a year ago, people still have trouble contacting the actual listing agent.
You should absolutely work with a buyer’s agent (and any agent can be a buyer’s agent — it literally just means the person happens to be repping the buyer in a transaction), but we are not all created equal. And the most important thing when figuring out who to work with on the buy side (or sell side, for that matter) is trust. You need to find someone who can guide you through the process, reassure you when you inevitably freak out (I don’t care how chill you are; this process will get you at some point), and advocate for you. You want to communicate well with them and have some insight into their process. You don’t want to work with “random agent who paid Zillow money to get you as a lead.” How is that in anyone’s best interest?
It’s bad for agents because it has become a vicious cycle — people pay for it because it works, then Zillow increases the cost, people still do it, etc. And it’s bad for consumers because it is misleading and again, not the way you should choose who to work with on the biggest purchase of your life.
And again, this isn’t NYC specific. Zillow, Trulia, RealEstate.com, and StreetEasy are all owned by the same company. So this is a problem for people in every market. They market to agents out of one side of their mouths while claiming something different to consumers/buyers.
The New York Value here is actually that Zillow sued Compass (which is based in NYC and started here) because they got so mad at us for changing the game. They claim it’s because we hired some of their engineers in order to get “trade secrets” but like…we know your secrets. We see you advertising to us and are on these sites pretty much daily. We pay you to list rentals and we fill out your surveys asking us how we work so you can charge us even more money. I’ll admit that the sites can be helpful for random building information but only if you know how to read it.
So now you do! Go forth and don’t get fooled again.
WAAAAAAAAAAAA (CSI Miami, anyone?)