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February 22, 2019

Zillow's New CEO and the Implications for Real Estate

We learned yesterday that Rich Barton, Zillow Co-Founder, first Zillow CEO, Expedia Founder, Glassdoor Co-Founder, and Nextdoor Board Director, is now the CEO taking the reins from Spencer Rascoff, who is still on the Executive Team at Zillow, along with Co-Founder Lloyd Frink.

Since Day One

I have been around listings on the internet since the first-day listings appeared there. I believe that this personnel switch is very significant. Zillow continues to build its "Living Database of All Homes," which can at some point utilize input from homeowners and renters from Nextdoor.

Zillow's Database of All Homes is what I call a "Property Wiki" and I see it is now possible to take a Zillow/Nextdoor ecosystem to the next level. For many reasons, Rich is the right guy for the CEO seat.

Way Back When

I met Rich Barton in late 2007 when I was the Chair of the NAR Business Information and Technology Forum. With the help of Ben Clark, Rich was persuaded to be a guest on my panel with one other guest, Justin McCarthy, who was representing Google (which was getting into the real estate space at that time, but later withdrew).

At the time, many did not think that I could get permission for this panel, but there was no roadblock or any hesitation from NAR. And so we had a standing room only audience at the program, which was in Las Vegas in 2007. This panel was an opportunity to humanize Zillow to the REALTOR® audience. Rich and Justin were both great on that panel. I believed at the time, and still do, that these two entities could transform the industry.
The Power of Syndication

On January 1, 2008, I flew to Saskatoon, SK for my first day as CEO of Point2, where I changed its mission and with the help of Walt Baczkowski, introduced "Opt Out Syndication" where we built an inventory of over One Million active listings  in 14 months, which we syndicated to over 60 destinations, including Zillow.

Rich went on to found Nextdoor, which I see as the perfect compliment to Zillow. It brings everything full circle by creating an ecosystem that will shape markets and create "virtuous circles" that will be a massive surprise to many. Add the Opendoor inventories, and then connect with other iBuyers and you have a real estate ecosystem that does not need the assistance of MLS's to obtain inventory content for its site.

Keep in mind that all platforms need a vibrant community, which is where Nextdoor comes in. If you think you have trouble keeping your listings off Zillow, just wait. I have been an advocate of a Homeowner membership for NAR, State, and local associations. But it has never been tried right, in my opinion. I think Nextdoor has it almost right and is working to get it completely right. Their real estate attempts may seem clumsy, but tell me that in about three years.

Ultimately, I envision a Zillow button on Nextdoor and a Nextdoor button on Zillow. It is the perfect match.

Saul Klein had the opportunity to visit the Nextdoor booth while visiting Inman Connect. Check out the video

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