Zillow, the online real estate marketplace that launched in 2006 and went public in 2011, is a digital winner. Zillow’s transparency enables home owners, home sellers, home buyers, and home renters to access real estate data that was previously widely dispersed or even completely inaccessible. The company’s mission “is to build the largest, most trusted and vibrant home-related marketplace to empower consumers with information and tools to make smart decisions about homes, real estate and mortgages.” With access to Zillow’s database, people are no longer reliant on the traditional realtor to source, show, and sell/rent properties. The data is so robust and accessible that traditional realtors use the database to better inform their business. User can now log into the database from anywhere with an internet connection and access home prices in neighborhoods across the country.
In addition to the database (110 million U.S. properties) housed on Zillow.com, the parent company owns and operates: Zillow Mobile, a suite of home-related mobile applications; Zillow Mortgages, which connects lenders and borrowers interested in competitive mortgages; Zillow Digs, a marketplace that provide home improvement visual inspiration and cost estimates; and, Zillow Rentals, a marketplace targeted at rental professionals.
These features create value for users, as they now possess transparent information on real estate properties, including property value, taxes, and transaction history.
Zillow estimated 76.7 million average monthly unique visitors (across all platforms) in the fourth quarter of 2013, which represented year-over-year growth of 41%. In December of 2014, 420 million homes were viewed (which obviously includes multiple views by different users of the same home). Zillow’s suite of solutions, specifically the marketplaces, benefit greatly from network effects. More homes added to the site will attract more users, which in turn will attract more real estate, rental, mortgage and home improvement professionals, and advertisers to the site. It is through the marketplace solutions and advertising that enables Zillow to generate revenue.
According to its most recent annual statement, Zillow captures value: “…from local real estate professionals, mortgage professionals, rental professionals and brand advertisers. Our revenue includes marketplace revenue, consisting primarily of sales to real estate agents based on the number of impressions delivered on our buyer’s agent list in zip codes purchased, and advertising primarily sold on a cost per click, or CPC, basis to mortgage lenders, as well as display revenue, which consists of advertising placements sold primarily on a cost per thousand impressions, or CPM, basis.” In FY2014, Zillow generated revenue of $325.9 million, a year-over-year increase of 65%.
Zillow also offers widgets, badges, and access to its data via APIs for developers and other website owners. All developments using the APIs must link back to Zillow.
Zillow has managed to disrupt the home property market and provide users transparent access to data on millions of homes in the U.S., and connections to thousands of various professionals. In my opinion, its ability to create and capture value has allowed the company to become a digital winner.