Zillow Doublethink

Apr 4, 2007  |  Michael Wurzer

“His mind slid away into the labyrinthine world of doublethink. To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully-constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which canceled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them; to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it . . .”
Wikipedia quoting George Orwell’s 1984.

Here’s David Gibbons from Zillow commenting over on ActiveRain (with emphases added by me):

Hi, it’s David from Zillow.

First, please all note that we have not launched a feature that lets you advertise other agents listings on Zillow. I ask [sic] is that you please try some of these new features for yourself before you decide whether they’d benefit your business.

Only listing agents or owners can advertise a home for sale on Zillow. By the way, it’s free.

The feature Joel mentioned is exciting though. While you cannot advertise someone else’s listings — you can now assist buyers in your community by answering their question; “Is this house for sale?“.

So, the next time you’re visiting a home on Zillow that you know to be for sale, you can tell the Zillow community that — and let them know what price it’s going for. You cannot however post an advertisement for the home or pretend to be its listing agent if you are not. So why do this? Simple — we let buyers know that you reported the home for sale and they can now go tyo [sic] your profile page on Zillow and contact you for more details — it’s an awesome opportunity to be known as the neighborhood expert. Likewise, anyone in the community can update this information if the house sells. This feature is not only available to agents but to all members of the Zillow community.

If however you’re the listing agent or owner and you have advertised the home for sale, we disable the report for sale functionality.

Jonathon —

Please check it out — we’re not allowing anyone to advertise your listings and this is not a semantic maneuver. I don’t know where you got that quote, but it’s not from Zillow and it’s not accurate to suggest that you can “Advertise another agent’s listings”. The feature, which Joel describes quite accurately is labeled “report for sale” and does not allow you to advertise another agents listings on Zillow. I am glad however to read in your takeaways that this innovation triggered some thoughts about the benefits of more transparency in the industry — that sounds like a win-win scenario.

From the Zillow press release:

Anyone (not just owners and listing agents) can now indicate whether a home is for sale. If you report a home is for sale you get your name, a thumbnail picture, and a link to your profile — for free.

From the American Heritage Dictionary

ad·ver·tise (ād’vÉ™r-tÄ«z’) Pronunciation Key
v. ad·ver·tised, ad·ver·tis·ing, ad·ver·tis·es

v. tr.

1. To make public announcement of, especially to proclaim the qualities or advantages of (a product or business) so as to increase sales. See Synonyms at announce.
2. To make known; call attention to: advertised my intention to resign.
3. To warn or notify: “This event advertises me that there is such a fact as death” (Henry David Thoreau).

v. intr.

1. To call the attention of the public to a product or business.
2. To inquire or seek in a public notice, as in a newspaper: advertise for an apartment.

5 Responses to “Zillow Doublethink”

  1. Greg Swann says:

    adverto, advertere, adverti, adversus, to steer, literally to turn toward. The implication is not a mere assertion of fact but efforts aimed at persuading someone to do as they otherwise would not. In other words, salesmanship. What Zillow is doing is no more advertising than is a tax record on a home or a CarFax report.

  2. What is the purpose of “reporting” (Zillow’s word) the price of a currently for sale listing if not “to steer” or “persuade” them to purchase the property? What is the purpose of displaying the “reporter’s” name and photo next to the price and announcement that the property is for sale if not salesmanship? The difference between these “reports” and a tax record or CarFax report is that the listings are “for sale” right now. For example, all the public records on Zillow most definitely are not advertising that the homes are for sale. Similarly, the CarFax report is a report about past facts on the car. What’s going on with Zillow’s “reports” is an announcement that the property is for sale at the stated price. If the same facts (For Sale, $Price, Reported by Agent Name) were to appear in the classifieds of a newspaper, would you consider that an advertisement?

  3. Greg Swann says:

    I regard it as reporting material facts, but we’ll see what happens. I did 24 houses today to see if I can scare up a complaint. We had a CoE 16-2 complaint last summer and prevailed without a hearing. I read the rules very carefully, and I think this is smoke and mirrors.

  4. Greg, first, I was remiss in my last comment to not thank you for stopping by the FBS Blog. I know how busy you must have been yesterday. You do an amazing job on the Bloodhound Blog and I’ve learned a ton about real estate professionalism from reading your posts and those of your other contributors. You also were great inspiration to me creating the FBS Blog in the first instance. So, thanks!

    Regarding the issue of whether the Zillow for sale reports are violations of the Code of Ethics or any state laws against advertising others’ listings, I have no dog in that hunt or bone to pick with you or Zillow. 😉 I realize my doublethink post certainly seems aimed at that, given the focus on the word advertising, but that wasn’t why I posted. No, I posted because I object to the flawed logic and tortured language of Mr. Gibbons’ comment. If he would have said what you just commented, that the reports do not violate the CoE, I would have had no objection. As you say, that remains to be seen. I respect Zillow’s and your right to test the waters or challenge any law or rule seen as invalid or unenforceable. Such challenges are at the heart of our market driven economy, which, to be efficient, requires some rules and a system or process for testing and stretching them. No, I don’t object to that. I object to calling a rose a daisy, and then denying that’s what is happening. Frankly, that’s scary to me, especially when it’s coming from a company with many millions of dollars of venture capital and obvious power to effect the industry. These are challenging and exciting times and we need the industry leaders (and I include Zillow in that category) to present facts objectively and truthfully. The kind of doublethink exhibited yesterday is heading down the wrong path in a hurry and can only lead to a lack of trust and discussions that diverge into nothingness. That’s why I posted.

  5. Tim says:


    No need to defend yourself against the self-acclaimed “Best in Show.” By his own admission he “pees on trees” just like the rest of us dogs–no matter if purebread or mut.

    More importantly, you are right–and he, well, let’s just say he speaks the “truthiness” with the best of them.

    Love your blog…..