Marketing through Zillow and other Third Party Sites

On average, Zillow.com is the 45th most visited website in the United States, and the number one visited real estate site. Trulia, Realtor.com and several other sites also see millions of individual visitors each month. This presents a great opportunity to market your home using one of these sites however, they can also offer challenges that must be addressed.

Even with the number of visitors to those third party sites, it is still imperative that your listing be in the Multiple Listing Service, which in our area is called MRIS. This is the main resource for all real estate professionals and sends out all published listings to said third party sites. Posting in MRIS allows your home to be featured on over 100 different real estate sites and also provide needed private showing information to agents so they can show your home. 75% of buyers and renters use a real estate agent to buy or rent a home, you must make yourself available to agents. However, with this added benefit, we have found there are issues occasionally with its Zillow and Trulia functionality. For the remainder of this article, we will refer only to Zillow as Zillow and Trulia are owned by the same company and are essentially identical in terms of all issues discussed below.

First, it can take up to 72 hours for Zillow to “sync” with MRIS. This is a function of Zillow, Realtor.com has typically synced within a couple hours of any change in the MRIS. This can lead to several issues, one a property might not appear on Zillow when we want it to because it takes so long to sync. We are strategic in our listing recommendations, often recommending you list before the weekend so you can capitalize on weekend traffic. This causes added challenges in that, it often means we need to list by Tuesday or Wednesday to ensure its active and visible on Zillow for a weekend.

Another issue we have found is that Zillow “saves” the old photos from whatever the previous listing had. McGrath Real Estate has professional photos taken for our listings highlighting the features of the home and occasionally even though we have uploaded them to MRIS, your Zillow listing will still show the old photos. This is especially problematic when the condition of the property has changed dramatically. We have even found on several occasions that photos don’t sync and because Zillow does not allow us to edit the listing, we have to specially request they change the photos for us. Our experience has been that it takes several days for the home to be completely updated.

If you as the owner of the property “claim” your home, you can upload the photos to the listing prior to it being listed. It is our hope that will help combat the issue of photos but it hasn’t worked every time. It is very easy to upload photos to your listing and we can provide you the professional photography prior to the list date (if possible). To claim a home it does require a unique Zillow account, otherwise we would just claim all our listings. Unless you tell us otherwise, we do not normally “claim ownership” of someone’s home. We are happy to walk you through this process over the phone if you’d like.

Our sales team does utilize the Zillow Premier Agent program which gives us the ability to list our sales (unfortunately this feature is not available for rentals at this time) as “Coming Soon” prior to listing the home. As your agent (with signed listing agreement in place), we are allowed access to your property profile and can upload all new photos, floor plans and videos that we have had commissioned. This can be a great tool to determine advance interest in a property and pre-market a home to potential buyers.
In terms of rentals, another added issue is that when an application is received, we must change the status in MRIS to “Application Registered”. Unless the application does not meet our minimum criteria for qualification, we must change the status to reflect that an application has been submitted per the terms and conditions of our contract with the MRIS. The issue comes that Zillow removes any listing from search results once changed to “Application Registered” status. This is frustrating of course, but it is why we keep our qualification criteria so high. McGrath Real Estate has higher credit and income standards for our rentals than most lenders have to qualify for home loans. We only will register an application if we have the pertinent details on the application. While likely we are still tracking down landlord references, you can be assured that we have checked credit and income prior to ever “application registering” a property.

Zillow is a great resource and we continue to partner with them and work towards better benefits for our clients. That being said, there are limitations and issues created by the site that as a potential landlord or seller, you must understand. If you would like to discuss Zillow and other third party marketing sites, please feel free to contact Lindsay Curtis.