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Should Real Estate Agents Be Worried About Zillow and Other 3rd Party Websites?

Kyle Hiscock's picture

Third party real estate websites, like Zillow, are a highly debated topic in the real estate industry. There are real estate professionals within the business who are very concerned about third party websites, some professionals who are mildly concerned, and others who are not concerned whatsoever.

My name is Kyle Hiscock, a Rochester New York Realtor, and I want to give my opinion on Zillow and other third party real estate websites. I strongly believe that real estate agents should NOT be worried about Zillow and other third party real estate websites. Below are many reasons why I believe these websites are not going to be the end of Realtors as we know it.

Local Knowledge Is The Best Knowledge
Whether a consumer is buying or selling a home, a car, or really anything for that matter, it’s impossible for a company located thousands of miles away will have knowledge on the consumer’s local area. Every city in the country is different, every town in a city is different, and every neighborhood in a town is different. Ask yourself, is a company located in California going to know what the local real estate market looks like in Webster, NY, a small bedroom community of Rochester, NY? You’re probably laughing because you know the company in California will have almost zero knowledge on the Webster, NY market.

When buying or selling real estate, it’s a big deal in people’s lives. Putting this huge life event in the hands of a company thousands of miles away is foolish. Hire a local real estate professional to sell your home or help assist you in the purchase of one, bottom line.

Outdated Information
There are hundreds to thousands of homes in most communities across the country. It’s absolutely impossible for third-party real estate websites to stay current on what homes are for sale and how much homes have sold for.

It’s very common for a buyer to ask about a property that has been sold and closed over 6 months ago. When buying a home, a buyer can often be very emotional. Imagine seeing a home “for-sale” on a third party website that looks like the “perfect home,” just to find out it has been sold for over 6 months. Frustrating, very frustrating. Buyers will always need real estate agents due to the fact they have access to the most up-to-date information at their fingertips, their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS). Yet another reason why real estate agents will not be replaced by third party real estate websites, like Zillow.

Selling Leads
When a seller selects the perfect real estate agent to sell their home, they’ve likely done this because they feel comfortable and know what to expect from their real estate agent. When a potential purchaser of a seller’s home inquires, who do you think they’d want answering the questions about their home? Obviously their real estate agent. Unfortunately, third party real estate websites like Zillow make this impossible. Third party real estate websites sell inquiries to real estate agents who are willing to pay for them.

This is not good for a home owner selling their home for many reasons. The biggest reason this is a disadvantage for a seller is the fact these third party real estate websites do not care what credentials a real estate agent has. If they are willing to cough up the money, they’ll get the leads. If you were selling your home, would you want a newbie real estate agent right out of the training academy answering questions? Nope, didn’t think so. Another primary reason why selling these leads is bad for a seller is the fact that many agents are going to try and sell their own listings first.

These reasons, along with many others, has led to many large real estate brokers pulling their listings from Zillow and other third party real estate websites, including my broker, Nothnagle Realtors.

Inaccurate Estimates aka “Zestimates”
A common question that is fielded from Realtors across the country from buyers and sellers is, “Are Zillows Home Value Estimates Accurate?” The answer is most cases is NO!

Inaccuracies with home value estimates maybe the biggest reason why real estate agents should not worry about third party real estate websites. Plain and simple, the home value estimates, or “Zestimates,” provided by third party real estate websites are wrong in many cases.

Ask a local real estate agent in your community to do an analysis of the recent sale prices of homes in comparison to these “Zestimates” or other third party real estate website home valuations. You will be blown away by the statistics in your local community. In my local real estate community, it’s not unusual for homes to be sold for either $10,000 more or $10,000 less than what these third party real estate website values are indicating.

The above 4 reasons are just a handful of reasons why real estate agents do not need to be worried about third party real estate websites, like Zillow. At first glance, most consumers may believe they are great and worth their time, however, once truly understood, most consumers will change their outlook very quickly. Take the time to educate consumers in your local community, you’ll be glad you did.


Kyle - I would agree w/ you. There is a huge benefit that a talented local real estate agent can provide. This is such a complex transaction and so much at stake. The majority of people get this and would not/should not attempt to go this alone. Those agents that really know their market and have a loyal base have nothing to worry about.

Many of the agents in my market place are concerned that the third party aggregators are goign to steal the business. I however know that real estate is local and when we show our expertise buyers and sellers will come.

Submitted by Jonathan (not verified) on
I agree with every world you wrote! But,,, I don`t see that the MLS is here to help or fix this problem with Zillow, Trulia, All those websites are not an agent friendly websites but the MLS continues to feed them with thousands of listing data.I am wondering what goes on behind the scene! They all sell leads and using the listing data to explode their bank accounts with green bucks.Those websites are offering free posting and this is the main problem.If you did not pay for the service you are the product not the customer.So , it is about time to think twice when you get a free service it will end up costing you very expensive.Pay to list and be in full control of your listing data.

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