Zillow versus your own site

Are Zillow Agent Websites a Smart Investment?

Zillow is a dominant online real estate platform. Zillow.com is frequently visited by approximately 36 million visitors per month! Due to its enormous popularity, it launched Zillow Premier Agent Websites, giving local agents an easy way to create their own websites. In this digital age of real estate, agents must have websites, but more importantly, the websites must be effective. They need to be a strong platform for lead generation, brand building, and conversions. Zillow’s brand awareness is undisputed, but is their agent website program worth the cost? We will let you decide.

 

What Are Zillow Premier Agent Websites? (According to Zillow)

Zillow’s Premier Agent Websites are customizable templates powered by WordPress. They feature IDX home search to allow visitors to search the MLS listings directly on your website. Zillow promises that these websites are fast & easy to set up and provide agents with an opportunity for personal branding.

 

What does a Zillow Premier Agent Website Include?

Agents that sign up for the Premier Agent Website program will receive a custom domain name, MLS search through IDX, SEO optimization, customizable templates, and the ability to add local data video and plug-in widgets. 

 

Does Zillow Deliver on its Promises? (According to Agents)

To answer this question,  we researched hundreds of agent reviews through online sources like g2.com. We wanted to give you a fair assessment from the relatable perspective of other agents.  We combed through the reviews and documented all of the pros and cons of the agents mentioned. The points we cover with you here are the frequently mentioned observations that were common among nearly all the agent reviews. The agents who chimed in overwhelmingly agree that Zillow Premier Agent websites are a bad idea, and here’s why:

They Have Minimal Customization

Although Zillow boasts about its customizable templates, some agents feel like their options are lacking true customization. They offer several designs and colors for customizing templates, but not enough personalization options for an agent to make a truly branded impression on their clients. You can customize colors, fonts, and the general look of the page, but you cannot place widgets or other objects wherever you please. 

Agents are Locked into Contracts

Many agents report that Zillow required them to sign six-month contracts to qualify for Premier Agent websites. On its surface, this doesn’t seem like a very long period of time to be contractually bound to an agreement, but what happens if the program fails to deliver on its promises? Real estate agents explain the main reason they opted to buy into the service is the promise of a certain number of quality leads; the leads are to be delivered on a per month per ad-share-in-your-zip-code basis. The problem is that the majority of agents who reviewed their experience with Zillow websites wanted to get out of their contracts within a couple of months. When they attempted to break their contracts due to dissatisfaction, there was insurance on their credit cards, and they were continually charged for the failing service. 

Customer Service Reps are Actually Sales People

Another common issue among agents was the lack of customer support. Several of them reported their assigned representatives were extremely helpful and very responsive; that is until they signed their contracts. Some say that their reps grew “distant,” and even after demanding to speak with management, their issues remained unresolved. A handful of agents still said that the highlight of their experience was how nice their account representatives were even though they did nothing to resolve their most pressing issues. 

Poor Quality Leads

The number one complaint among agents was that the program failed to deliver on the leads they were promised. The majority expressed issues with only receiving the pledged number of leads within the first couple of months of the contract. Those critiques came from agents who dedicated greater than $2000 per month in ad spend within their zip codes. No matter the size of their budgets, nearly all of the agents with negative reviews said the leads, which were fed to them through Zillow, were not vetted. That made them feel like they were not receiving the value they anticipated. 

Cost to Conversion Ratio is Disproportionate

Let’s take a look at how the Premier Agent program costs are established. First, agent websites are a “free” benefit for agents who buy into the Premier Agent program. Leads are priced at $20- $60 per lead, based on the following factors:

 

  1. Zipcode sales = the average home cost in your zip code
  2. Competition = the number of premier agents in your area; more agents means higher costs per lead
  3. Ad Spend = the total amount of money each agent allocates per month determines who will get the most exposure.

Realtors in the Premier Agents program are essentially competing for the greatest “share of voice” (SOV), and the most critical factor is how much money you are willing to spend to purchase the greatest SOV. For agents in heavily saturated markets, the cost to truly compete for leads can exceed a couple of thousand dollars per month. Several agent reviews express dissatisfaction in the quality of the leads they received. After the agents vetted the leads themselves, many resulted in zero conversions per month.

The factors we have mentioned don’t mean that Zillow isn’t providing value for some agents; the trending feedback suggests that most agents are not able to get the value they anticipated from the program.

 

Can a Custom-made Website Outperform Zillow Premier Agent Websites?

Based on our research, we can comfortably say yes! During our study, we were never able to uncover what kind of SEO optimization Zillow is providing for agent websites. Agents, themselves, write their website content; so, in addition to agent complaints about lead quality, it is unclear how and where Zillow is delivering its SEO benefit. All things considered, it can be less time-consuming and more cost-effective for you to elicit the help of digital marketing and website design professionals to create your own personalized website. 

To choose the right web design company and package, look for these features:

Complete Customization & Comprehensive Branding

Premium Content

SEO Optimization

CRM with on-page Lead Capture

IDX for MLS display

Reliable & Responsive Customer Service

ROI Guarantee

Digital Marketing Add-on Options

Read our next blog, “The 8 Best-Performing Web Features for Realtors,” (link to online tools blog when posted) for more in-depth information on the power of the above-mentioned online features. 

MSDS Entrepreneurs is committed to helping real estate agents sell more houses. For a complete look at the services we provide, visit our Realtor Solutions page.

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