My Experience With the Zillow Premier Agent Program

Is Adwords Better?

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I signed up for the Zillow Premier Agent program July 2010, so I'm right at 10 months into the program as I write this. I wanted to report on my results, and I will readily admit, that like a lot of things I do in real estate, my results will probably not be typical.

The annual price to be featured in this program was $468 for me. I'm going to show you the results for leads right out of my report from Zillow as of today, May 27, 2011.

  • Buyer's agent list views: 203,930
  • Showcase Ads: total views: 94,249
  • Showcase Ads: total clicks: 57
  • Contacts: 63

From my accounting records, dollars in commissions from this program: $0.

Again, your results could be very different from mine, particularly because I'm in a vacation/resort area, and the Zillow approach may work better in a more metropolitan setting. However, here are my experience notes related to these leads:

  • The first one was a local attorney who used me to look at homes, then wrote his own contract. Not Zillow's fault, but worth noting.
  • At least one-third of the contacts were about properties not in my MLS area, as Zillow would display my ad over a wide area.
  • Three communications that set up showings resulted in my being stood up by the contact.
  • In general, my perception was that the level of interest and seriousness of the Zillow contacts was low, a lot more shopping than serious buying interest.
  • Definitely, the contacts I get from my own website are far more serious, and they found me directly on my blog, which I think adds some credibility.

All of my Buyer Brokerage business comes from my website, and the only marketing I do for that website is Google PPC (Pay Per Click) and normal SEO. My budget is only $120/month, and through experience, ad wording, and site work, my average cost per click has dropped steadily, now averaging around $0.75/click. Using those numbers, that would mean that I pay for approximately 1,920 clicks in a year (160/month) at $0.75 each.

If I had spent my $468 on PPC, it would have resulted in approximately 624 clicks, or around an extra 50 clicks/month. That's a 32.5% increase. I would expect something near that increase in my income, but even at 20%, 10%, 5%, or 1%, it would have been more money than zero.

**UPDATE 2016: I upped my budget later to $150/month for Adwords. I was averaging around $0.78 CPC, which means I was getting around 200 clicks through to the site per month.  

Again, your results could be a lot better, and probably will be if you work the leads. I responded quickly, usually within an hour to their email inquiries, and most were email, but many gave a phone number and said to call them, which I didn't until I had emailed them the information they wanted and at least received some response back. There were direct phone calls as well, routed from Zillow to my cell phone, but mostly questions that required me to email them detailed listing information or explain that the home they were asking about was outside my practice area. But, more effort might have produced a deal.

However, it is clear to me that my ROI on Google PPC is much much better, so that's where my money will go moving forward. I'll increase my monthly Google budget instead of paying Zillow for a renewal.

**UPDATE: I wanted to update this article, but not because I've changed my opinion. It's just that someone reading it years later, as my Zillow experience was in 2010, could assume I may have changed my idea of relative value of Zillow and Google Adwords. Plus there are more sites out there offering similar leads-for-sale opportunities, so it's a good time to look at it again.

I still find Google Adwords to be far more effective at lead generation, but only if your website is ready to capitalize on the clicks you will get with proper ad wording. Zillow is even bigger now, and I'm sure marketing opportunities on the site for realtors will be more expensive. I still don't see how the quality of the leads can approach my more localized Adwords ads for my site. They brought real estate searchers to my site who were looking for properties in my market area or looking to list. It's more direct and focused than with Zillow advertising.