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So… What Do You Need Brands For Again?

February 21, 2008

It appears that Zillow has broken the 100,000 real estate agent milestone:

Sometime last Friday, real estate agent number 100,000 (yes, one hundred thousand!) registered on Zillow and posted a listing for sale in Niceville, Florida. I’d like to say; “Welcome to Zillow!” to Jamee Graff (pictured at left.) Jamee is a Realtor with The Real Estate Market Inc in Destin, FL.

This is a huge milestone for Zillow but the first 100K agents to register are just the tip of the iceberg. There are in fact another 135K agents who are ‘beneath the surface’ – if you will let me drag out the iceberg metaphor. So, who are these secret agents? They’re agents whose listings are advertised on Zillow but who haven’t registered as a user. Their listings were posted via a data feed supplied by their brokerage, MLS or website.

The good people at Zillow go on to invite these 135,000 subterranean agents to surface by registering at Zillow, and briefly mention some benefits of unmasking onself:

When you do, buyers will not only be able to find your listings on Zillow, they’ll also find you (or at least your profile page) and because your profile is linked to all of your listings, they will easily find your other listings as well. Your profile on Zillow tells a buyer more about you and it can link prospective clients to your website or blog.

Interesting.  Cool even.  I think it’s very smart of Zillow to offer this, and to encourage it.

Having said that… my question: If your listings are all on Zillow, and buyers can find you via your profiles to all your listings, and your profile tells buyer more about you and can link to your website or blog…

What do you need your brand (or broker or MLS) for again?

Okay, I know most states require a full broker’s license — so maybe you just need to park your real estate license at some brokerage and pay them their split.  But… does it then matter whether you’re at a Century 21 or a Keller Williams or a Re/Max?  I’ve had one top producing residential agent tell me at an industry conference that the only reason why she’s with Re/Max is because of liability insurance.  Is that the future of these mega-brands in real estate?  Becoming essentially professional liability insurance cooperatives?

For that matter, if your business is coming from Zillow… how long before you begin to wonder what you need the MLS for?

I’m not a real estate agent, so I don’t know the answers.  But seems to me that Zillow is befriending the agent, but commoditizing the heck out of the big brands and the MLS.  I’m frankly surprised that the big brands, website companies, and MLS’es aren’t going apeshit over this post.

But then, maybe they know something I don’t.

-rsh

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