Zillow Scam

Zillow Go Sit in the Corner

 Time Out For Zillow

Millions use Zillow to search for home listings and real estate valuations but Zillow doesn’t care if their listings are incorrect or two years old. Zillow profits from selling leads and advertisements, not on providing consumers information.

Now Zillow the online aggregator of Real Estate old and outdated information has found new pockets for revenue source. Before 2009 it was the Title Representatives paying referral fees for leads, or gifts to encourage business from Real Estate agents. That is gone. Now after reforms Title Reps offer a ten dollar plastic or paper item with their company logo.

Zillow sales agents in the Irvine and Seattle offices push a scam on lenders and consumers. Here is how it works:

Real Estate Agents need leads. Realtors want to be seen on Zillow. To be ranked high (visible first) on Zillow one must pay for advertisements. Even the reviews and ratings of agents on are known in the industry to be fakes. Real Estate business is highly competitive and the market has been tough. Most agents can’t afford the $200- 500 per zip code monthly fees to be ranked.

Sales staff of Zillow in Irvine and Seattle pitch to real estate agents that they can team up with a lender and “split” the cost of the advertisement (wink wink). The Real Estate agent invites every lender to be their partner in Zillow ads. To the ears of a hungry loan officer who needs leads this sounds great.

A discussion begins about what area, zip code, and monthly costs are to be listed. Emails and calls from Zillow sales representative and the Realtor instruct the lender they must make the first payment directly to the Realtor. Lender goes ahead and writes a check to the Realtor and gives credit card or bank account routing number and account number to Zillow sales person to be billed monthly going forward. Savvy Realtors hit up many lenders offering a variety of locations to potential lending partners.

The problem is: After a month or so: no, none, zero leads and no business develops from the partnership. Zillow leads are not loyal buyers. Zillow provides wrong emails, wrong phone numbers that customers entered into Zillow’s sign up. Zillow customers don’t want to be hounded with phone calls and emails so they provide wrong number or an email they never open. The lender begins to complain and checks around to discover they are paying not half but one hundred percent of advertising that features the Realtor at the top left of the page but buries the lender scrolled down to a dungeon where no consumer will ever read.

Why does the consumer care?

Some agents steer business to their lender of choice, as in the one who pays the most advertisements for them. They put the lender in the counteroffer as “must cross approval with my lender at imortgage.” Borrower is forced to apply with the Listing agent’s lender. Buyer’s agent plays along to close the deal. Listing agent’s lender is never the cheapest or best choice. I have seen five transactions this month where listing agent put their lender in the forced cross approval position. The lender first offers verbally unbelievable rates, tells scare tactic tales, and in the end closes with a higher rate.

Borrowers pay for that advertisement that the Lender ran with the agent. The Borrower pays in the form of hidden overage, higher rates and fees. It is a scam.

Zillow has drawn more real estate consumers since 2004 to their site. They have grown the business to a profitable stock. American real estate consumers want information to find bargains and deals. New platforms are arising that compete with Zillow. I have mobile software that offers Consumers access the MLS in real time rather than Zillow’s old listings and errors. There are nine new contenders for online Real Estate shopping, and more in beta trials.

 Shame Zillow, go sit in the corner.

Is Richard Cordray is investigating Zillow’s advertising practices? The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau takes its job seriously to protect individuals from unfair business practices.

Zillow and its media staff made no comment or response to my request for their take on this story.


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