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Will Zillow’s new “Instant Offers” disrupt real estate agents?

Last month Zillow.com launched a new feature called “Instant Offers.” Press real estate can be found here.

It is:

“…a way for homeowners to sell their homes quickly by providing them with offers from investors and a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a local real estate agent, as an estimate for what the home might fetch on the open market.

Here is a bit more about how it works:

“To participate in Zillow Instant Offers, verified homeowners interested in receiving investor offers confirm information about the home (number of bedrooms, square footage, etc.), highlight any updates and provide several photos of the home. From there, select investors who buy homes in the area can present their offers alongside the CMA from a local real estate agent. Any investor offers and the CMA will include an overview of fees associated with each option, to enable sellers to make an informed apples-to-apples comparison.”

When I first saw the headline, I thought they were copying Opendoor. But it’s not the same model. They aren’t buying the homes, like Opendoor, they are simply working to coordinate an “instant” transaction. Still, I’m sure that Opendoor provided at least some of the impetus for this feature.

Of course, the most interesting question with these online real estate platforms is: Will they disrupt real estate agents? Mike Delprete wrote a great post about this in the wake of Zillow’s announcement.

But ultimately he concludes something that I have felt strongly for years:

“So, while real estate sites are best positioned to disrupt the real estate industry by displacing agents, they’re also the least likely to do so, because agents are their biggest customers and source of revenue.”

The irony.

About 70% of Zillow’s revenue comes from real estate agents. So it seems unlikely that they – at least currently – will be the ones that turn the tables on agents. 

Some real estate platforms have started diversifying their revenue streams for probably this exact reason. But who knows, it may be a new entrant, rather than an incumbent, who pulls this off. 

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