In the Age of Zillow, What Are Real Estate Agents Good For?

Is Zillow making you feel a little…outdated?

Earlier this year, I took a vacation to Nashville with a big group. We stayed for three days, getting our fill of whiskey and fried chicken while we explored the city. Can you guess how we got from here to there?

Uber, of course. In fact, by the time we left, the number of people in our group with Uber on their phones had jumped from four to six. Why call a taxi when Uber is cheaper and more convenient?

The same goes for where we stayed. Instead of calling up the Hilton, we used Airbnb. Why pay big bucks for a hotel when we could stay in beautiful flats in the heart of Nashville — for three-quarters of the price?

I’m sure you’re starting to see my point. In our digital age, established methods of connecting with services are going by the wayside, as more and more often people can access the things they need directly.

If you work in real estate, you know where I’m going with this. The last few years have given rise to Zillow, a website where buyers and sellers can swap information: square footage, features, histories, and most importantly, pricing. What’s the use of an agent when this platform exists?

I’m not forecasting gloom and doom for agents, but anyone paying attention can’t deny Zillow is making a dent — one that’s bound to get bigger as technologies advance. As of right now, Zillow’s price estimates (“Zestimates”) are within 5% of the actual sales price 45.3% of the time, and within 10% about two-thirds of the time, as you can see in the image below. In five years, Zestimates will undoubtedly be more accurate, the site more intuitive, the need for an agent even less.

You may not be worried about Zillow today, but in a few years, those who didn’t plan ahead could find their businesses hurting. So the question is… what’s a real estate agent good for in the age of Zillow? What value do we have to offer that Zillow can’t?

The answers are representation and negotiation: the skills technology can’t replace because they call for creativity, empathy, innovation, and building relationships.

Wondering what I mean by these terms, and how you can develop them in a way that makes you an invaluable resource to buyers and sellers? Stay tuned for my next few posts or sign up to get them delivered to your inbox.


Matt Mittman and Eric Rehling are the owners of RE/MAX Ready in Conshohocken, PA. See articles from them about profitability, theweather, Chip Kelly, generating leads, RESPA, and more.

Photo courtesy Orange County Archives.