Most buyers and sellers do not realize that Zillow busts agent marketing budgets. Let’s explain what Zillow is and what they do.

Zillow Busts Agent Marketing Budgets

What is Zillow?

Zillow is an online portal that collects leads from buyers and sellers by displaying property information from the MLS. They made their mark by offering the Zestimate which was an online value generator for homes across America. Homeowners were intrigued by the Zestimate because it was a way for them to track their home value over time. It wasn’t always accurate, but that didn’t matter. It was exciting.

Later on Zillow got into the homebuying business and bought homes to flip. They later discarded this business because they admitted they were unable to accurately predict a home’s value, nor the future direction of a home’s value. So now they pretty much stick to selling leads to agents.

How Zillow Busts Agent Marketing Budgets

Zillow collects a fee on every transaction for agents in their Flex program. The fee in the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area is 40% on homes over $300,000. It is 35% between $225,000-$299,000. Most home sales in Lee County are above $300k. What this means is the agent or team pays 40% of the listing side commission to Zillow first. Then, they must split with their broker. If there is money left over, they may have money to pay employees, rent, signs, phone, internet, gas, car, etc. Then there is advertising. If an agent is paying 40% off the top to Zillow, and another 10-50% to their broker, this isn’t much money left for advertising a home, or for buyers.


 Agents become dependent on Zillow for everything. They receive buyer and seller leads, and they have little to no money left over to acquire leads or advertise in other places. Zillow has another program called Zillow Premier which allows agents to pay a monthly fee. I know some agents paying $20,000/Mo for this program. They avoid the high referral fee on each transaction, but again the money is sucked up by the monthly spend. The agents become dependent on Zillow for leads because so much of their budget is tied to one source. To be fair, there are other agents paying $5,000/Mo or less, but they get even fewer leads that way.

In the Way

All Zillow does is get between the agent and the transaction. Zillow is not alone, there are other online portals like, etc. Each of these charges leads back to agents in some form or fashion.  What if that money went to advertising a home instead of online portals like Zillow?

Who is to Blame?

Zillow is in business to make a profit. Some agents like the easy button where they acquire leads to work on for a price. Some agents don’t have or maintain a client database. They are transactional agents. They love working the deal, but then that’s it. Relational agents like to keep in touch or hold client events. It’s more of an ongoing relationship versus a one and done transaction. Consumers do not know the business and they like some of the features of Zillow. They don’t realize many of those features are available in other places. Other sites may have even better features, but Zillow spends so much advertising themselves that consumers find their way there. Zillow bids up the keywords and consumers click on the first link they see in some cases. So, nobody is to blame, and yet look at who benefits.

We Do Not Advertise on Zillow

The Ellis Team quit advertising on Zillow years ago. Our website has some better features and and we prefer to spend our advertising dollars on our clients and our clients homes. I am sure there are some very successful agents who still advertise on Zillow. We choose not to. Zillow’s success makes no difference to us as we do not use them. We do not blame other agents who do. We just want consumers to realize where their commission dollars are going and decide for themselves whish way is best for them to buy or sell.

Always Call the Ellis Team at Keller Williams Realty 239-489-4042 We’d love to talk to you about how we advertise your home and get Top Dollar. We’ve been voted the Best in Real Estate for 11 straight years by News Press readers.

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Think back to when cable TV was first introduced.  It changed the television viewing habits of millions of Americans, however the big 3 networks were still king in ratings.  Then came along a 4th network.  Today there are hundreds of channels, and while the Big 4 networks still maintain good ratings on certain shows, there is much competition for the eyeballs of viewers.

Content Isn’t King Trust is King

Just a few decades ago a great real estate marketing campaign consisted of postcard mail outs, newspaper ads, and maybe some image advertising like a bus bench or car wrap.  Today image advertising has its place, but it’s not going to be the single thing that attracts buyers like it did in the past.

Buyers search for credibility and content.  Listing sites like have all the listings and updates every 5 minutes.  Others like,, HGTV, Zillow, Trulia, and others also compete in the online space.  These are sources buyers search for content

Others like,, HGTV, Zillow, Trulia, and others also compete in the online space.  These are sources buyers search for content.

Content is what gets people interested, but it’s not necessarily what makes them purchase.  Some people believe that Content is King, but we believe Trust is King.  Trust is the difference between having general interest and actually pulling the trigger.

Imagine you had a son or daughter going off to college in a large town clear across the country.  Campus housing is full, so you must find her an apartment.  Parents are typically concerned about costs, convenience, safety, and terms.

Can she walk to classes or must she drive?  If she must drive, is there parking available.  How much will the apartment cost?  What are the terms?  How long is the lease?  If she goes to school 9 months she may not need a 1 year lease.  Is it a safe neighborhood?

Searching for a home or 2nd home is not much different.  Buyers ask similar questions.  They want to know the neighborhood, it’s proximity to shopping and things to do, and if it’s a good investment.  They want to know average prices, historical changes, and if the area is likely to improve.  They want to know what the job market looks like and if the area is likely to go up in value or decline.  People want to make a sound investment.

All these questions go to trust.  You have to trust the person you’re dealing with.  All the computers in the world can’t answer the simple fundamental question.  What does your gut tell you?

People search for content, but they buy with trust.  This is why these portals can create interest, but it’s the person behind the portal who answers the emails or answers the phone that makes the difference.  If people don’t have a good feel for the area or trust their gut instinct, they won’t buy no matter how good of a deal it may seem.

Yes, our team participates and pays big dollars for our website and the big portals.  We appreciate the interest these sites create.  We spend a lot more money that most to create that interest, both online and in print.  By the way, print is not dead.  You’re reading this now in the newspaper.

The point is our team takes great care to forge a bond of trust with each customer.  We don’t care what you buy so long as it matches what’s right for you.  Maybe you’re not ready to buy, and that’s OK too.  We seek to listen to you so we can find out you’re your needs are.  We can educate you on our market, but if we fail to listen properly we won’t get to that gut feeling you need.

There’s an old saying that goes “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  We care to get it right, and what’s right is whatever is best for you.  Each customer is different and has different wants and needs.

Let our team help you achieve your dream!  Call us at 239-489-4042 or search online at

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