Real Estate

Gary Keller On Zillow: ‘This Is A Fight, And There’s No Way Around It’

The Keller Williams founder said at the KW Family Reunion that real estate agents are going to determine the fate of the industry with their dollar spend.

Real estate agents are going to determine the fate of the industry with their dollar spend, Gary Keller, the executive chairman of KWx, the parent company of Keller Williams said Tuesday during Keller Williams virtual Family Reunion event.

Gary Keller | Photo credit: Keller Williams

“Never before in history has who you’re in business with been a vote for the future of the industry,” Keller said, while appearing with Jason Abrams, Keller Williams’ vice president of industry and Jay Papasan, Keller Williams vice president of learning.

“If you write a check to Zillow, you’re voting for a Zillow world,” Keller said. “If you write a check to Keller Williams, you’re voting on a Keller Williams world.”

Keller was specifically speaking to the use of the company’s technology platforms, in the wake of Zillow announcing it was acquiring ShowingTime, a real estate tour scheduling company, for $500 million.

“This is a fight and there’s no way around it,” Keller said.

In the past, Abrams said real estate agents held all the different cards that made up points of the real estate transaction from pre-showing through the sale. But slowly Zillow has been picking up all of those cards.

Before the consumer even begins the transaction there are two key parts to the “pre-transaction” phase of the real estate ecosystem, both search and showing. Zillow now owns both of those with the leading consumer search portal and now the acquisition of ShowingTime.

“If they added lockbox to that, that would be the end of that,” Keller said. “That would be it. I could find a home, I could make an appointment, I could go see it, and I can get inside it.”

During the actual transaction phase of the real estate ecosystem, Zillow is gaining even more ground. The company now has a mortgage component, closing services, and transaction and contract management services through dotloop. Keller Williams, which had a long-running relationship with dotloop, ended its partnership with the company in 2020 and opted to use DocuSign instead.

Zillow would not agree to Keller Williams’ “do no harm” contract terms, Keller said. He doesn’t blame Zillow and isn’t trying to cast it as “evil,” but he did say he believes Zillow wants the data associated with dotloop.

Zillow encroaching further into the real estate space — and the general trend of technology taking an even bigger chunk of repeat and referral space — is the main reason that Keller Williams spent the past three years developing technology for agents, the key piece of which was the company’s customer relationship management (CRM) Command.

Around that ecosystem, Keller Williams has built the Keller Cloud, binding the company’s entire technology ecosystem together.

“Just having a website with listings isn’t it,” Keller said. “It’s going to have to be the entire transaction.”

Keller said he wouldn’t be surprised if Zillow announces next that it bought “your favorite CRM.”

Keller Williams has been vocal — and often boastful — about its efforts to build technology. It’s been almost two years exactly since Keller declared victory in the race to build a real estate technology platform.

Keller even paused to recall that he was “made fun of” when he made technology such a big focus. Two years later, other companies in the space made the same shift, Keller said. It’s a shift he said he welcomes, before adding that he needs these companies to move faster.

Keller Williams is now slowing down the release of new features for its technology platform to focus on simplifying and stabilizing the exiting platform.

Keller specifically also addressed CoStar Group’s entrance into residential real estate. CoStar has moved aggressively in recent months, acquiring Homesnap, the URL and making big bids to buy CoreLogic.

“When CoStar says ‘we’re the savior to Zillow, we’re going to save you,’ well, here’s the challenge with that,” Keller said. “They’re late.”

Keller added that he has no angst about CoStar Group — which he characterized as a “data play” — moving into the residential real estate space.

“They are not a real estate brokerage business,” Keller said.

Email Patrick Kearns

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