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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Zillow's Zero Budget Success

Zillow. Everybody knows it. Some love it. Some hate it. Regardless of how you feel, people are talking about it. 178 homes are viewed every second on Zillow mobile. To many, the Zestimate ® is synonymous with home appraisal. Know your home’s value without paying a penny.  It aggregates public data including most recent home prices, asking prices of surrounding homes and quality of schools into an algorithm to get an estimated property value. Zillow is two cups data, one cup wishful thinking and a fistful of black magic.

February 2006 was the big launch: A million visitors in the first 3 days!! By early 2012, Zillow welcomed 30 million unique users each month. That meteoric growth is due to the team constantly highlighting products and user feedback that infuses social media into everyday culture. They use banners, pop-ups, tweets and Facebook posts to keep their top of mind awareness.

How can a company spend ZERO dollars on advertising for the first 7 years? Zillow’s amazing success story provides real estate agents with lead generation, brand-building and a platform to educate the consumer. It’s a place to showcase your local knowledge as long as you provide useful information to your audience. Agents are Zillow’s #1 fans as it gives agents a springboard for much needed visibility in a swarm of competition. They are creating property websites, video blogs and sharing successes on Facebook and Twitter.  Every week I see an agent friend sharing a new listing on Facebook or congratulating their clients who just closed on their first home.

Whether you own, rent or live at home with the folks, everyone is interested in real estate and home values, especially in their backyard. In the real estate peak of 2006, users had such fun watching their home values steadily during the launch of Zillow. It was a game: how much value did I earn this week? Good times. And like all good things, that came to an end in 2008 when home values plummeted and the foreclosure and short sale rates were sharply on the rise. In 2008-2010, checking your home’s value on Zillow became as much fun as getting a tooth pulled. Not so much! The mobile app was launched in 2009 which meant that you now had the power to obsessively check the value of your house while standing in the grocery store line, sitting at a restaurant or relaxing from your beach chair.

Zillow touts a fresh selection of relevant info for the prospective homebuyers and sellers through data trends, celebrity homes and staging tips. There really is something for everyone. There is also a section called “Zillow Advice” which is a great source for prospective homebuyers to search for topics they have questions on. Zillow was first to display earnings on social media and have seen incredible success as a result.  Now other companies are following in their virtual footprints.

They were first to make a series of infographics out of earnings numbers that communicated concepts and key messages. They take massive amounts of facts and stats and grind them into bite-sized nuggets for consumption by the consumer. 

The app also enables you to edit certain facts which would put your home in its best virtual light. They have a top-notch marketing team which have done a phenomenal job of making Zillow a household name.

Well, the time has come. I type in my home address and hold my breath. Two very long seconds later I receive Zillow’s response. Ok not so bad. $5k less than June, $10k more than August. How does one house lose then gain in value so rapidly? Local home sales and a bit of that black magic. Go figure. What’s your home worth? Just ask Zillow.

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