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Real Estate Data Experts in The Media – Who Should Be? And Who Is?

Who is getting quoted by the local media regarding real estate market trends in your area?

I had a discussion about this topic with an John Payson at #REBCSEA last week and saw this tweet from Kristal Kraft — and I decided it’s worth a blog post to explain my thoughts on this subject.

Let’s first answer the question of who is the real estate expert when it comes to the local media.

More often than not, the answer is Zillow.

Who should be?

I know, from a real estate agent/broker perspective, the answer of who should be quoted is a real estate professional with in depth knowledge of the local area. You are in the trenches, Zillow is not.

Behind every question, it’s crucial to understand the why. So why is Zillow being referenced and not you? Two reasons.

  1. They show up. To succeed in life and business (& blogging), YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP. Zillow has a team of people building relationships with local media all across the county. They send them valuable market reports on a regular basis, and help reporters get whatever questions they have answered. In many cases, it’s Zillow that is connecting reporters with local agents when asked.
  2. They are unbiased. If the market sucks and is trending downward, they are just as willing to help a reporter and be quoted as if the market is on the upswing.

There’s nothing stopping you from being that local real estate source — except your time, effort & the fact that you have to battle the inherent bias you have since you make money when buyers buy and sellers sell.

Find the reporters covering your area and start building relationships — send them story tips, follow them on twitter, send them a monthly market snapshot, be there for them when they are in a bind and need a story. But tell it like it is; don’t champion “now’s a great time to buy” if your local market sucks.

Sure, some agents have more than they can handle as is right now and don’t have the resources to spend ample time on this. But there is no reason a large regional brokerage like Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle or Baird & Warner in Chicago couldn’t have a dedicated broker to building relationships with the local media (and I’m not singling those brokerages out, just using as examples of the type/size of brokerage I’m referring to).

What’s stopping you from being the expert?

YOU ARE. Now, get busy.

Disclosure: I think most people reading this know I worked for Zillow for a long time and am a shareholder in the company. So while I actually would like to see Zillow remain the local data expert, I still want to provide agents and brokers good strategic advice to better their business. The fact of the matter is that many agents will read this and say “I can do this” but won’t actually follow through and do it. Be a do-er and prove me wrong.

About Drew Meyers

Founder of Geek Estate Blog / Geek Estate Labs. Zillow Alum. Travel addict & co-founder of Horizon. Social entrepreneurship & microfinance advocate. Fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Kiva.

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  • Hey Drew, your reputation management channels are working! Last year I had a fun time tackling a Forbes reporter who used Zillow statistics as the basis for her totally erroneous report. She pulled some stats and proceeded to trash 10 areas in the U.S. for having the most inventory and sluggish markets. As one in the trenches who also watches the local stats, I was taken back by this report and started asking questions.

    At first no one could figure out where she got her numbers. I personally was having problems with finding enough properties for my ready, willing and able buyers. One of my agent’s whose clients read this rubbish article seriously questioned my agent’s market knowledge. Another associate had a client back out of a transaction for fear the timing was wrong.

    Irresponsible reporting like this using false data effects so much. Now I must say to Zillow’s credit after we found out it was Zillow she had used, told us had the reporter taken the time to talk to the people at Zillow about the stats, they would have advised AGAINST using their data.

    Who knows how many reporters check into Zillow for information and take that information as correct? Considering the fact that Zillow itself admits to a rather large margin of error, shouldn’t that be pasted on every page as a disclaimer? Particularly considering how deeply these loose “facts” effect lives I would think it should be written front and center for every visitor to see!

    I see you posted your disclaimer about being an investor. So here’s mine. I do not own a part of Zillow, nor have I ever worked there, but I must admit of all the people I’ve met there, I like. I don’t believe you or they are out to intentionally harm the general public or Realtors, but you are in business to make money and will grab at whatever publicity you can rake in.

    Zillow is actually part of my listing presentation. I bring it up because so many people look to Zestimates as reality. Sometimes, not often they are true.

    Other times we all have a hearty laugh.
    kk

    • Accuracy is posted on every page as a disclaimer 🙂

      And yup, Zillow goes out of its way to gain publicity for what they do — as they should. For them, marketing is their public relations team and building an amazing product. Real estate agents have to spend the time it takes to build those relationships to unseat them. In most markets, I doubt it will happen. If I was an agent, you can make certain I was following each and every real estate reporter and local blogger in my area & attempting to strengthen those relationships each and every day. Not enough agents even consider strategic business decisions like this.

      How many agents think, like REALLY THINK, through their strategy when it comes to their online time. I’d bet that % is really really low. How many agents just wing it? Probably way to many.

  • Hey Drew, your reputation management channels are working! Last year I had a fun time tackling a Forbes reporter who used Zillow statistics as the basis for her totally erroneous report. She pulled some stats and proceeded to trash 10 areas in the U.S. for having the most inventory and sluggish markets. As one in the trenches who also watches the local stats, I was taken back by this report and started asking questions.

    At first no one could figure out where she got her numbers. I personally was having problems with finding enough properties for my ready, willing and able buyers. One of my agent’s whose clients read this rubbish article seriously questioned my agent’s market knowledge. Another associate had a client back out of a transaction for fear the timing was wrong.

    Irresponsible reporting like this using false data effects so much. Now I must say to Zillow’s credit after we found out it was Zillow she had used, told us had the reporter taken the time to talk to the people at Zillow about the stats, they would have advised AGAINST using their data.

    Who knows how many reporters check into Zillow for information and take that information as correct? Considering the fact that Zillow itself admits to a rather large margin of error, shouldn’t that be pasted on every page as a disclaimer? Particularly considering how deeply these loose “facts” effect lives I would think it should be written front and center for every visitor to see!

    I see you posted your disclaimer about being an investor. So here’s mine. I do not own a part of Zillow, nor have I ever worked there, but I must admit of all the people I’ve met there, I like. I don’t believe you or they are out to intentionally harm the general public or Realtors, but you are in business to make money and will grab at whatever publicity you can rake in.

    Zillow is actually part of my listing presentation. I bring it up because so many people look to Zestimates as reality. Sometimes, not often they are true.

    Other times we all have a hearty laugh.
    kk

  • If you look way down on the bottom of Zillow’s website they have a link of links in light grey type labeled “terms of use” and all that stuff no one really pays any attention to.

    Click the “About Zestimates” for an eye opener. The stats here tell how wrong their Zestimates are in each market.

    I believe you can be at least as accurate throwing darts at a dartboard.

    I point that out to potential buyers and sellers that whip out a Zestimate for me.

    • Certainly Zillow is not perfect, far from it. Rational buyers and sellers understand this.

  • Drew, I didn’t totally miss the point of your post! I do agree that brokers and even agents should cultivate a relationship with the media. It’s not that hard to do. We have a small brokerage and my broker/husband is seen regularly on TV and quoted on the newspaper.

    It is important to have a voice and be able to articulate what is currently going on in the market. As we know stats are HISTORY and making decisions on what happened in the past isn’t necessarily the right thing to do. Our market IS changing, and as we know real estate is local, hyper-local.

    I would like to see Zillow work harder on developing a data base for renters. Now there’s a place where you can really make a difference!

    kk

    • Kristal, well said.

  • Stan Brody

    Zillow 1202 Tucker Rd., Calistoga, CA… .. AS OF 30 seconds ago… Zillow has a value of $699,500… this 1br,1ba cottage, siting directly on the main highway, WHICH AT THE PEAK OF THE MARKET was never valued that high, burned to the ground on July 5, 2009…. so much for Zillow…

  • Hi Drew,

    Clearly you are strong advocate for Zillow, which is great. But are we creating a hype over the social networking platform. I do believe that in some regions there are real estate professionals with tremendous influence that Zillow and other networks can’t even touch. What are your thoughts on this? Is this a national situation?

    Jason

    • Hey Mike-
      Zillow is certainly not the quoted source in every local market around the country (though I’m sure they are trying to be that source). I agree with you that there are some real estate professionals in some markets that Zillow can’t touch. Again, that comes down to the fact that those professionals have put in the time it takes to solidify those relationships. More agents/brokers should follow their lead.

      • Agreed. Great post! It’s all about putting in the work and being consistent

        Jason

  • Hi Drew,

    Clearly you are strong advocate for Zillow, which is great. But are we creating a hype over the social networking platform. I do believe that in some regions there are real estate professionals with tremendous influence that Zillow and other networks can’t even touch. What are your thoughts on this? Is this a national situation?

    Jason

  • Anonymous

    I agree we must own the relationships that are in our markets and twitter is a great place to do that. Zillow has that name recognition so my goal is to build that trust…but I am doer for sure..thanks for the tips

  • Chris D.

    Wow I like your style. Trying to help others even though it doesn’t really help you shows character

  • Good discussion. I think Drew’s point is being missed by some. Zillow “shows up”, and reporters are looking for an easy, fast source for information. There’s a certain percentage of the journalism crowd that just uses Google to find the first answer to their question, or answers the first Public Relations flack’s call and quotes the source. We can complain about that, but it’s realty. If you’re going to be that source, you’re going to have to devote some time to being in the public eye and having brand recognition, which Zillow does exceptionally well.

    That being said, it’s unsettling that long-term reputable sources (Case-Shiller, etc.) are passed over so often for a flashier source that is constantly pointing people to its disclaimers and caveats about the accuracy of its data. The aggregate reports and zestimates are clearly two different animals, but the latter really created the basis of buzz and popularity for the former. Right or wrong, the credibility of one bleeds over into the other.

  • Scott Pierce

    You are SO on the money with this. I used to work at PR Newswire and if agents knew how easy it is to develop relationships with the media, they would be surprised. Now easy does = knowing how to do it right which I am sure most agents do NOT know how to do. But I would think that any good blogger would be a perfect candidate for taking that next step and getting legs on the blog and their exposure by developing relationships with the media. Back when I was an agent and blogging, I would get myself quoted in local media and get over 1,000 views a post with well timed emails/calls to reporters just by following them and providing them insight with what they were covering. Reporters need feet on the ground people! You are in a better position than ‘national’ websites!!

  • Judy McManus

    I love it!! You have to show up!!

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