Zillow’s Rich Barton: ‘We are a team that dreams of leading the revolution’

barton 183 X 225

Rich Barton

Zillow has been on fire as of late. Its stock is up 100 percent so far this year, with Wall Street now valuing the Seattle real estate company at nearly $2 billion.

But even with that success, executives at the company say they’ve got a lot of work to do as they look to transform the real estate industry. Some of those ideas were on display Wednesday morning as the company hosted its first analyst day in San Francisco.

Zillow co-founder and chairman Rich Barton kicked off the event, providing the big picture view and discussing Zillow’s opportunity in terms of a “revolution.”

But he also tossed out a shot to all competitors.

“We are a team that wins. We are a team that is super-focused on empowering customers,” he said. “We are a team that dreams about leading the revolution, and we are a team that is playing a long game.”

While Barton and Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff provided short remarks during this morning’s presentation, it was Chief Revenue Officer Greg Schwartz who offered some of the most interesting insights about where the company is headed.

Schwartz never mentioned competitors by name — at one point referring to them only as “R” and “T”  — (presumably for Realtor.com and Trulia). He also took a shot at studies funded by competitors which indicate that Zillow’s data is out of date and not as timely, obviously this study from Redfin.

With 2.4 million for-sale listings, Schwartz said that Zillow has the “widest breadth of listings … of any destination online.” And then he hinted at big things to come in how Zillow gets more timely listings.

Zillow's Greg Schwartz

Zillow’s Greg Schwartz

“When a competitor runs a study it is partisan by nature, so I would read that with a gullible meter,” said Schwartz. “I would say this: Those folks who market their service based on timeliness, or greater timeliness than us, have not seen anything yet. We are very, very serious in deploying capital, technology and business resources to be world-class not just in the breadth of our data, which is better than anyone online, but also in the timeliness. And you’ll hear lots about that in the months and years to come.”

Hmmm. That’s interesting. I followed up with Zillow PR to see if they could shed any more light on what Schwartz was talking about, and they said they didn’t have anything to announce at the moment.

Schwartz also noted how long and hard Zillow has worked to gain the trust of real estate agents, its primary customer. When Zillow started, many in the industry were fearful of the company, pointing to the track record of Barton and others at Expedia who essentially wiped out the travel agent.

But Zillow has no desire to eliminate the agent, something that Rascoff, Barton and Schwartz all have stressed recently. They also don’t want to get in the middle of the commission transaction, instead working more as “kingmaker” of the agents.

Saying that the business is a lot more fun these days, here are the extended remarks from Schwartz as it relates to how Zillow has evolved over the years:

“I think we have re-calibrated our communication with the brokerage and MLS industry. It took some maturity and understanding of our business and our company to calibrate the right communication. We are a software development company — a technology company which monetizes itself very effectively in advertising solutions. We are not a real estate brokerage. We do not intend to be a real estate brokerage. We are not a transaction company. We needed to understand that. And we needed to say that for six years, in order to make the industry comfortable with us. We are a more efficient way for them to invest their marketing dollars … than any media that they have had in their history. And I think the majority of brokers are getting more and more comfortable with that. Not everyone loves that they have to spend advertising or marketing dollars to grow their business, but I think they vastly prefer us…. After being in the business for seven years, we are part of the club now.”

The analyst day is continuing, and you can tune in for more of the remarks (including presentations by CTO David Beitel and CMO Amy Bohutinsky) here.

  • http://twitter.com/JDmortgagetech Joe Dahleen

    Great Article. You have to admit it is truly is a great team. Very focused and very visionary. Just look at the latest app – a Spanish App. Come on – which of the competition is even thinking about this segment of the market.

    • http://ohheyworld.com/ Drew Meyers

      agreed. It shocked me when I first saw that news…but when I really think about it, makes total sense.

  • Guest500

    The Zillow estimates, at least for my house (Seattle with a full iew of the Sound) is absurdly off, by over $250K! On the low side of course. Any attempt to correct this is met with a line of BS about how it is just really a guess based on nearby comps- only Zillow didn’t pick any houses from my actual neighborhood by rather the houses from 2 miles away that butt up against a QFC.

    Trullio on the other hand was within $25K of a recent appraisal. Sorry but Zillow isn’t that impressive, at least for me.

    • Guest500

      Yea, I know, Trulia, not Trullio.