Zillow is a well-funded, fast acting company that always seems to be running ahead of the real estate industry. When you workshop all of the opportunities to monetize their awesome consumer traffic, you realize the enormous power that their customer relationships give them. For example, they ran a very aggressive program around iBuyers in a number of cities before retreating and partnering with Opendoor. If consumers cannot work out a deal with Opendoor, they can sell the lead to an agent for a referral fee.
Over the past couple of years, MLSs have been getting into the rental business. On a limited basis, some MLSs have launched RentSpree to process rental applications (at a handsome revenue share). Others have gone full-out and launched Rental Beast, which combines the rental application features with a full service MLS system for rentals.
In a press release today, Zillow has launched Renter Hub. They claim that renters can save thousands using Zillow’s new search tool to better time their move. The solution starts by allowing renters to find rental listings by move-in date. This is great for property owners and renters too, as it reduces the vacancy days between renters. Renter Hub also helps consumers manage conversations with property owners, the rental application (they call this the ‘Renter Profile’). Zillow also envisions paying rent to the landlord through the Zillow app. We can only assume that this will be a revenue opportunity for Zillow. They also neglected to talk about the credit app and its associated revenue opportunity.
I cannot recall which investor update Rich Barton first introduced the notion of Zillow being in the shelter business, but this is a simple and bold vision. Like every real estate brokerage, they are exploring all opportunities to help consumers and get a slice of revenue when they spend money on shelter – rent, buy, sell, borrow, insure, transact, move, etc.
When you look at the opportunity that Zillow is pursuing, you cannot argue with the roadmap. What you can do is clone their strategy. Consumers still prefer to rely on professionals to help them find their homes and rentals. If you are a brokerage or MLS, you can leverage the relationship with professionals to execute effectively.