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Best of 2014: Beating Zillow and Trulia at Their Own Game

December 29 2015

Here it is--our top article of the year! This article was originally published back in May and is the most read article of 2014. See #2 here.

around mazeWhat if I told you that just about everything you find unfair about the way that Zillow and Trulia display your listings can be changed? Guess what? An insider understanding of how these sites work has allowed thousands of listing agents to get hundreds of dollars worth of free marketing on these sites without paying a dime.

Before I go on, do not stop reading this article just because you do not have a listing. Print this article out because there is a listing in your future. Carry this article around in your pocket or your briefcase as a reminder of what you are going to do to improve your business when you get your first listing. In fact, even without a listing, you can take this advice and lay the foundation for your future success today.

If you can spend about 15 minutes of your day, today, performing the steps that are outlined in this article, you will be the master of your listings on those websites. You see, the truth is that Zillow and Trulia have both learned that if an agent has not set up their profile on their portal, they are unlikely to ever respond to a consumer who inquires about the listing. Even REALTORS® who uphold the REALTOR® Code of Ethics™ are ignoring consumers who inquire about their listed properties. Today more than 50% of the consumer inquiries on Zillow and Trulia never get a response. What's worse is that, when the listing agent does respond, it typically takes 15.5 hours rather than the 15 minutes that consumers expect.

I am about to show you the path, but there is one other thing that you must understand first. What savvy real estate professionals know is that leads on your listing fill your buyer pool. Having a listing is the greatest way to pump up your business. One listing generates dozens of buyer leads. If the buyer doesn't land on the house you have listed, you can show them something else. And guess what? Those buyer leads are usually seller leads, too. We all understand that every homeowner shops where they want to live before they list their existing home for sale. This is where all of the magic happens.

You have heard all of the noise and all of the whining and complaining about Zillow and Trulia. Today, they are huge successful businesses with tens of millions of consumers looking for property and connecting with agents every day to buy or sell a home. Nobody really knows how much business they generate for real estate every day, but my intuition tells me that if you pour 100 million consumers over 4 million listings, there will be some transaction action.

We all know from looking on these sites that many real estate agents are paying between $75 and $2000 per month to fish for customers on Zillow and Trulia. Although those investments are only as good as the agent converting those leads, you can get in there and battle it out for free. Here's how. It is so simple that you may not believe me.

Visit Zillow and Trulia and create your profile. That's it. That's all you need to do. Upload your photo. Not just any photo, but a good photo. Not one with your dog, or a photo taken in 1970 (trust me, if you looked lovely then, you look lovely now). Put up a photo that will allow your future customer to recognize you when you meet them at the curb in front of the house you are about to help them buy. Put in your phone numbers and email address. If you have a website, put that in, too. If you do not have a website, look up your profile on your broker website and copy that link for your Zillow and Trulia profile. While you are there, make sure that you do not look unprofessional on your broker profile. Update that photo. Take a selfie. Update your bio. Don't bother with a long list of professional designations. Surveys say that consumers don't know what they are and could care less anyway. The last step is to claim your listing(s) so Trulia and Zillow know who the listing agent is. You may even want to enhance your listing.

Before you get started, do the following: Pull up your listing on each site and print the page. Circle all of the things that you do not like. Then follow the steps above and go back two days later. Print the page again and compare the way the listing is displayed. As the song goes, "Do you like me now?"