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How Zillow plans to change the transaction

At Zillow's Unlock event in Las Vegas, Zillow President Jeremy Wacksman engaged in a thought exercise to imagine a transaction that empowers consumers

Zillow wants to do for real estate what Amazon has done for the e-commerce industry, Zillow President Jeremy Wacksman acknowledged at Zillow’s Unlock event in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

Wacksman cited Amazon making free, speedy shipping the standard and integrating a better payment system. Zillow knows not every consumer is going to choose Zillow Offers, but it hopes the growing prevalence of the direct-to-consumer homebuying and selling platform will move the entire industry forward.

“The majority of customers are not going to transact via Zillow Offers but they’re going to expect the service and delight that Zillow Offers provides,” Wacksman said. “Amazon did this for retail and we can do this for real estate.”

Wacksman engaged in a thought exercise to imagine a better transaction. It’s not explicitly things that Zillow is immediately rolling out, or is piloting in certain markets, but rather a not-so-distant future where the transaction is easier for consumers.

He asked the audience to imagine a woman with two young kids, that has been eyeing a craftsman home in her dream school district with space for her growing family.

“What holds her back is that she can’t imagine going through that homebuying process,” Wacksman said. “They were first-time homebuyers the first time without kids and the idea of going through that process and that hassle again … they don’t want that again.”

Wacksman said to imagine a section of Zillow that’s personalized to existing homeowners. It includes an initial offer for a trade-in – like a Zestimate – to show exactly how much she could get for selling her home to Zillow.

“That might be the thing that spurs her into action,” Wacksman said. 

In this scenario, if she doesn’t love the first home showed to her by a Premier Agent – an agent that advertises buyer representation on Zillow – she can also look at a home owned by Zillow. With the Zillow owned home, she can see all the costs, tour it on her schedule, and if its a home from a new construction partner she can see all the work put into the home.

In the Zillow app, while touring the home, she can also see what the rooms look like at different times of the day, or virtually stage the home and visually what the kitchen would look with different countertops, as an example. All of this technology could free the buyers’ agent up to better serve their client’s specific needs, Wacksman said.

“These are all things we can do to the house to help our buyers imagine themselves in it,” Wacksman said. “To help her get to the right decision, to feel more empowered.”

Her offer on the new house, one owned by Zillow, could include some of the custom renovations that she experimented with, on the Zillow app.

Then, when selling her house, Zillow conducts a free inspection and gives her a repair bill. They are repairs she could do herself, or she she subtracts that from her trade-in to get a full picture of how much more money moving into the new house would cost her, per month.

“Zillow Offers and the promise of the control and the convenience, that is the  start of an irreversible step towards something better in our industry,” Wacksman said. “The time is right for a platform shift and it’s the customer who is meeting us.”

Wacksman was also clear: Zillow cannot do this without partners in the space. It can’t improve the transaction without agents and brokers or new construction partners.

“Zillow Offers is just a part of it,” Wacksman said. “It’s a glimmer of what it looks like. You all are the rest of it.”

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