Battle between the relational and the transactional
Where were we?…. Oh yeah, Zillow just pitched its new Zillow Offers program to us, their one-stop shopping platform designed to make selling your home fast, simple and easy as pie. Here’s the hype:
“Zillow allows customers to request an instant offer and sell directly to Zillow. They’re able to eliminate the time and resources required to prepare and list a home, including showings and minimizing in-person interaction. The service also provides certainty about price and closing date.”
We’ve been talking about the battle between the relational and the transactional in everyday real estate. Increasingly, tech companies intent on disrupting and “reinventing” the way real estate gets done, are infiltrating parts of the process with the goal of re-engineering it into one single, fully-transactional platform. The clickbait is the promise of: faster, simpler, easier.
Re-read the Zillow Offers blurb and it’s all right there! Homeowners are customers rather than clients. If they opt into the program, they can skip the hassle of preparing their home for sale or having to actually interact with people in the process. They can avoid difficult questions and worrisome unknowns. The price they see is the price they get (the one that Zillow “allows.”) And they can even pick their own closing date in advance!
Wouldn’t it be great to not have to prepare a home for sale? And who doesn’t hate living in a fishbowl when prospective buyers invade their privacy? Zillow Offers would be a whole lot faster and almost as easy as buying or selling a car online without having to deal with any of those pushy car salesman Realtor types. There’s one small caveat: How can anyone who sells to Zillow know whether they are leaving a couple of hundred thousand dollars on the table or not?
After a career spent trying to convince people that I wasn’t a car salesman, little did I know that a percentage of the population might actually forgo the meaningful connection with their homes and choose to buy or sell houses exactly like they were cars! (No doubt after checking the box and agreeing to a mile long list of terms and conditions without ever reading them.)
Digital real estate companies have been lurking around the periphery of the business for more than 20 years now, looking for ways to get their feet in the door by offering the next big tech widget as a faster, simpler, easier solution. Early efforts by E Home and Zip Real Estate fizzled in the late 1990s but eventually the high tech firms we recognize today: Redfin, Trulia, Zillow, carved a significant niche.
Next Week: The Rise of Zillow. Is it possible to write algorithms to replace Realtors?