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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Zillow Raids’s Executive Suite, Drawing Legal Action

[Published Mar. 20, 2014, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section. An abbreviated version also appeared in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers.]

This is an industry topic, more interesting perhaps to us in the real estate business, but since everyone is interested in real estate, it is also very much a consumer story.
As recently as five years ago, was the dominant real estate website. It also powered many broker websites, such as  That has all changed.

Nowadays, is the third or possibly fourth most popular real estate website among consumers, behind Zillow and Trulia. Yet we as Realtors — i.e., members of a Realtor association — are told that we must protect the Realtor brand and stop the wholesale syndication (that is, giveaway) of our listing data to companies like Zillow and Trulia, which then use our data to sell buyer leads to agents, including to us agents who created the data.

Four weeks ago, on Feb. 20th, the Denver Metro Association of Realtors sponsored a large event in the Renaissance Hotel ballroom.  On the stage were representatives of Trulia, Zillow, and Metrolist (Denver‘s MLS).  It was a huge waste of time and resources, as the moderator (who admitted he doesn’t use a computer to search for listings) pushed an anti-syndication agenda. Talking with fellow Realtors afterwards, we agreed that what we really needed was to recognize the reality of Trulia and Zillow as a new paradigm and learn how to work with them instead of swimming upstream trying to suppress them.

Now we find that two top executives have been lured away from’s operator (Move, Inc.) by Zillow — one on March 5th and the other this Monday. 

Members of the National Association of Realtors (which owns realtor. com and hires Move, Inc. to operate it) will see some of their dues money spent on suing Zillow and their former top executive for “misappropri-ation of trade secrets.”

Zillow and Trulia are indeed taking “our” listing data and using it for their profit. They are successful at this because they produce a better consumer experience.  We need to accept this new reality instead of fighting it.

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