Zillow Adds Rentals. And more.

By | December 23, 2009

December 15, 2009
By: Jay Thompson
Author’s Website: http://www.phoenixrealestateguy.com

If I were Craig Newmark — the “Craig” in that little site known as CraigsList — I’d be looking over my shoulder with my eye on Seattle.

There lies the corporate home of Zillow, where they just rolled out the latest addition to the second most visited real estate web site on the planet (after PhoenixRealEstateGuy.com Realtor.com).

Zillow has entered the rentalz market. (Sorry, “rentalz” makes better use of the “Z” than zentals.)

Yessir, now in addition to seeing homes for sale, recent sales, and the goofy Make Me Move “listings” you’ll soon see little purple house icons reflecting homes available for rent.


Compare that slick, polished and useful search interface to a sample from the aforementioned CraigsList and you’ll see why I think Craig should be a little concerned.

cl snip
CraigsList is cool in a Web 0.5, 1980’s kind of way. But have you ever tried to really find anything there? As Jim Duncan  points out, CL gets a ton of traffic, but the user interface is beyond annoying.

So other than a spiffy (and usable) search, what is Zillow bringing to the table with this entry into the rental dance?

  • A landlord, property manager or rental listing agent can get their rental listed on Zillow for $9.95 for 180 days (if you are a landlord and you need more than six months to lease a home, you might want to consider another investing strategy. I recommend savings bonds).
  • Rental listings will be “featured” — displayed at the top of the page. Zillow officials claim featured listings get six times the exposure of non-featured listings. A thought just came across my mind though (it happens). If all rental listings are featured, then what difference does it make? Best I can tell, there is no way to have an non-featured rental listing. Unless home search and rental search results are co-mingled…
  • Speaking of co-mingling, Zillow mentioned on a call yesterday that something like 25% of potential home buyers are also considering renting. Zillows new search allows people to search both rentals and for sale listings and allows search by monthly payment. This appears to be a unique twist in the home search space (that others are sure to join in on).

Here’s my beef with searching by monthly payment. Currently the behind the scenes math calculates a monthly payment based on a 30-year fixed rate loan with 20% down. Rates are pulled from Zillow’s mortgage side. But we all know rates can vary based on multiple factors. And down payment amount vary wildly. Toss in things like HOA fees, PAD fees, and Who Knows What fees and I’m thinking the “search by monthly payment” feature could provide some false results, if not false hope.

“But Zillow said my monthly payment would be $X if I bought this house,” may join the chorus of, “Are you effing kidding me? The Zestimate says my home is worth WAY more than you say it is!”

And speaking of Zestimates, this bodes the question, will Zillow try to Zestify (term (C) Kris Berg) rentals? It wasn’t discussed on the conference call I attended, as I wasn’t as smart as Kris and Jim and failed to ask. But apparently on an earlier call the question was posed and David Gibbons, Zillow’s Director of Community Relations, said that rental Zestimates will not be a part of the launch.

Not. Part. Of. The. Launch. That could be extrapolated into, “maybe we’ll do that when we collect enough data”. Who knows.

In other news, Zillow is also removing the free listings option for manually entered home listings. All listings not provided via syndication or a feed will incur a charge of $9.95 for a six month listing. Of note though is these listings will all be featured, and should enjoy increased exposure over the “old” free listing. Given the multitude of syndication options out there (via which you can still get your listings to Zillow for free), it’s hard to see how anyone could complain about this. But I assure you they will.

There’s more, but this is the gist of it. Kris Berg has her usual brilliant take, and Jim Duncan has a nice compilation of other posts as well. I’m sure there are more floating about the RE blogiverse.

Disclosure for the Blog Police: Zillow.com has some function in hosting/managing this very blog you are reading. But I have received absolutely zero compensation of any form for opining here. Heck, I didn’t even get invited to their party at the NAR Conference in San Diego. And no Sara, I’m never letting that go. ;)