Buying a Home Through Zillow is so Easy, Right???


Nobody needs to tell you how rapidly the world is changing, and nowhere is that change more evident than in today’s residential real estate market. The most prominent driver of the change has been Zillow. The rapid nature of the change, in addition to the uncertainties and glitches one expects when a huge new program is rolled out, will inevitably lead to some confusion on the part of buyers and Realtors in the loop. This brief guide will attempt to clear up these uncertainties.


What is a Zillow Premier Agent?

Zillow is NOT a real estate agency and does NOT directly connect buyers with sellers, nor buyers with listing agents. The Zillow model is based on the premise that Zillow can provide massive amounts of good data to allow you, the buyer, with a great idea of the attractiveness of certain neighborhoods. Zillow correctly realizes that such a broad-based data system (and any others in existence today) have sever limitations when it comes to “local knowledge.” This is where the Premier Agent comes in to play for you.

Zillow makes its money by having real estate agents around the country buying advertising on its site. This takes the form of local expert agents buying exposure to potential buyers through zip codes in which they consider themselves expert. Zillow considers these agents as the experts in the specific communities in which you show interest, and when you click a listing in these agents’ areas of expertise, you are generally given three options of agents to call. These agents are referred to as “Premier Agents” in that community.


Why Should I Use the Premier Agent? Why not try to locate the Listing Agent?

Simply stated, the Premier Agents dedicate an enormous amount of time in their specific communities, and have a history of success you will not get by searching for agents on your own. There is a major myth floating around in some circles that you will be better served by contacting the actual Listing Agent on a property, and nothing could be further from the truth. In many jurisdictions, the Listing Agent cannot also be the Selling Agent, and even in states in which this is permitted (Virginia being one), there are strong warnings in Listing and contractual documents against doing this. The reason is simple: The Listing Agent has a strong code; he/she MUST represent the interests of the Seller in the strongest way. There is no ambivalence about this: The National Association of Realtors and most others warn buyers AGAINST dual agency situations, and in the case where a Listing Agent show you a house that may be of interest to you, it is highly recommended that you get another agent to represent your interest completely.

There would be no better choice than for you to choose to work with a Premier Agent in the designated community.


But will I save money by using the actual listing agent?

In the overwhelming majority of cases, the answer is a resounding “no”. The seller pays all real estate commissions. The only way this might be true is if a Listing Agent proposes to “cut a deal” with you to somehow provide a better deal based on his/her reducing commissions to the seller. This is often a very small amount and does not at all overcome the fact that this agent is clearly obligated to be a strong advocate for the other side of the transaction from your side. Don’t fall for this.


But I thought that when I clicked for more information, I was being connected to the Listing Agent? 

This is a common misunderstanding. Zillow connect you with a Zillow Premier agent; someone who knows the neighborhood well and is a Buyer’s Agent for this home. You are highly unlikely to be connected to the Listing Agent, and as stated above, this is actually a good thing for you. Always get your own representation.


But each time I click on a Zillow property, I seem to be connected to a different agent?

This is probably the source of more confusion and frustration than any. I consider it a major glitch in the Zillow program, and a source of buyer and agent angst that should not exist.

This is the problem, and I will provide a suggested solution. Too many buyers go to see individual properties with different agents they contacted through Zillow by separately clicking on the “more information” button. The agents have no idea what other properties you are looking at, nor how many other agents you have contacted. Compounding this problem is that you may have visited neighborhood open houses, and now are being aggressively pursued by the Listing Agent.

Too many buyers believe they need to categorize each individual house with the particular agent who showed them the house. Nothing could be further from the truth, nor create more anxiety in your search.

I will provide a recent example of how this becomes an extreme source of frustration for both the agent and the prospective buyer:

  • I recently was given a buyer lead from Zillow to see a nice town house in a good neighborhood. There were two other listings in the neighborhood, so I arranged for showings on all three properties. This would greatly benefit the buyer, and is a somewhat time-consuming service prided by the Buyer Agent. After seeing the first home and finishing by 2:20, the buyer begins to hem and haw about seeing the next home. This makes no sense to me, and he finally reveals that, “I set up an appointment with another Zillow Agent to see THAT one at 3:00.” So now the buyer has to kill 40 minutes, the agent he was working with (me) has to cancel our 2:30 appointment and enter into a ludicrous competition with another unknown agent, and both buyer and Zillow Agent are on a lose-lose merry-go-round.

This is a comfort thing: CHOOSE ONE AGENT AND WORK WITH THAT AGENT!!!!!!!

I cannot implore you enough on this. Trying to find the Listing Agent on each property, or agreeing to meet with all sorts of different agents to see different properties is a frustrating game that is almost guaranteed to have a losing outcome. Don’t do it.

The alternative is simple: Work with the agent who seems most knowledgeable to you, and the one who will be personable and easy for you to work with. When Buyer Agents realize that you are not committed to working with them, they will not provide the type of diligent work you need from an experienced professional. The process of searching for homes can take months, and no good agent will commit to doing this while knowing you are also trying to use other competitors. Only a foolish agent, or one who has nothing else to do, would ever agree to do this.

Once again, the solution to the multiple agent, Zillow-directed, problem is as follows: Choose the one agent you are most comfortable with and develop the rapport necessary to make a great decision.


If our paths cross in your search using the Zillow Premier Agent program, I will provide you with diligent effort and detailed expertise in the neighborhoods you choose to consider. That is my pledge, and I look forward to working with you.



Ray Wedell, Realtor

Zillow Premier Agent

Chartered Financial Analyst, CFA







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