When I was attending Real Estate Bar Camp in Seattle I had the good fortune to meet a number of the crew at Zillow including Rich Barton, Spencer Rascoff, Drew Meyers and David Gibbons. Spencer was especially friendly and inviting and remained so even after he found out that I was Geordie Romer not Geordy Rostad of Windermere.

From those introductions, and subsequent emails and phone calls to David about all the glitches and issues I had with Zillow, I ended up being invited to Zillow headquarters to meet with a small group of agents, consumers (ok, just one consumer) and numerous Zillow staff (Zillow Blog article).

The topics for the meeting:

  • How to make Zillow more useful for the consumer
  • How to make Zillow more useful for the real estate professional

It boils down to this. Zillow is a media company and sells ads, both to companies and agents. What does Zillow need to do to get me to buy more ads?

I got my first sales call from Zillow the day before my meeting in Seattle. I got my second sales call from Zillow yesterday. I don’t envy someone who has to sell to salespeople and I certainly don’t envy them trying in this economy.

Some Ideas

  • The sales folk tell me that my ad on Zillow is likely to get 2000 impressions a month. How many unique visitors is that? From what zipcodes? How long are these visitors staying on the site?
  • I have two options for ads. I can advertise myself “Geordie Romer – Leavenworth WA real estate expert” or I can advertise the “world’s cheapest yet glamorous vacation home”. Which is likely to have a better click through rate? Which is going to make the phone ring? What kinds of agent ads work best? What kinds of properties make the phone ring? I’d love a white paper that tells me how to make the best of this opportunity.
  • How and why do people go to Zillow? They certainly don’t find Zillow by searching “Leavenworth real estate” or “Leavenworth WA real estate” — nope, those visitors are going to my website or my competitors, but certainly not Zillow (or Trulia or Cyberhomes).
  • If more consumers are using the Zillow iPhone app, how does this affect my ads? Are less people going to see it? Is there a way to make me easier to reach via i-Phone?
  • Is the lack of consumer participation in my zipcodes on Zillow Advice and Make Me Move an indication of the kind of traffic I’ll get? Is there a correlation?
  • It’s not about price. It’s about value. The cost per month is $30 or so. Less than $400 a year per zipcode. The cost is low – raising it to $50 or lowering it to $20 probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on me. I would spend $500 month if the return was there.

My job is to sell houses. If Zillow can help me do that more efficiently, I’m happy to pay my share. If Trulia or Cyberhomes can do it better, I’m happy to give them a try too.