Deciphering Portal Info and Traffic Patterns: What Means What, and to Whom?

When two competing corporations face off aggressively and publicly, it can often make for great theater, which is what’s happening in the residential real estate realm.® and have taken to launching broadsides at each other as the two portal giants battle for second place behind Zillow for home-search site-traffic supremacy.

But as with most such conflicts, even when the five-star generals are front and center, it is the ground forces—the homebuyers, sellers and agents in this instance—who will determine the victor.

Pam Rosser Thistle is a REALTOR® with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS® in Philadelphia. Her response to the traffic-numbers battle encapsulated the prevailing opinion of many agents, noting that, “I don’t keep track of portal traffic. I am only interested in results…selling my listings and clients contacting me.”

Who is winning in the public relations fray is a matter of opinion. What agents, the aforementioned boots on the ground, think about the portals has to do strictly with how they affect their livelihoods. While acknowledging the high-stakes competition for eyeballs, how, Zillow,® and others assist them on a continual basis is of far more importance.

As business gets back to normal, or the new normal following the settling of the Burnett commission trial lawsuit, here’s what a cross-section of REALTORS had to say about the portals.

What is your overall opinion of the portals?

Pam Rosser Thistle (PRT), REALTOR®, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, REALTORS®, Philadelphia: 

As a solo agent, they are helpful as a place to showcase my sales, my reviews, where I sell and the types of clients I serve. Most buyers (and some sellers) start their search for an agent online, so it’s important to put your best foot forward there, and agent profiles are part of this. In an indirect way, they do provide business. I don’t buy leads, but I am present on,® and Zillow. For those who are doing their research, looking for an experienced agent here, they will find me.

Melissa Hoff (MH), Broker Associate/Team Leader, The Hoff Group at Compass, Florida:

Each portal has a different purpose, and they are all restructuring and revamping the way they operate. With all the changes happening within the real estate industry, I expect to see a lot of changes coming from the different portals. I signed up at because I see value there.

Diana Sutherlin (DS), Associate Broker, Compass, Jersey City, New Jersey:

Portals are a necessary tool to maximize visibility on listings. The more eyes on a home for sale, the better. Your clients want to know that you are doing everything you can to sell their homes, so there is minimal downside to getting the listings on more platforms. Both sellers and buyers benefit from using the various listing portals. We can easily update listings with new information or photos, and buyers can browse properties around the clock.

Jeffrey Decatur (JD), REALTOR®, RE/MAX Capital, Latham, New York:

The portals have some great attributes if the public knows and understands them, but they usually don’t. What the public doesn’t realize is that much of the data they collect is coming directly from a local MLS. New listings tend to go out first and other information lags behind in order of importance. In this hyper-competitive market, agents and the public need to be manned with the best tools possible.  

Martine Arndt (MA), REALTOR, RE/MAX Heritage Properties, Flanders, New Jersey:

The portals have become commonplace at this point. There are pros and cons depending on the portal. The overall exposure of a listing is increased, which is a positive.

Do they provide a lot of business for you?

MH: In the past they have, but due to high interest rates, things have slowed down drastically. The portals have different offerings, and I have used all of them at some point.

DS: The portals certainly provide useful leads. Listing a home online exposes it to a vast audience, increasing the chances of attracting potential buyers because they rank highly on search engines. The real magic is in having multiple touchpoints for lead generation, from e-blasts to old-fashioned mailers and social media. 

MA: Most of my business is through referrals and past testimonials from clients. There is a small percentage of my business that can be attributed to portals. 

Do you find differences between them?

MH: Yes, they all serve different purposes and have different offerings. is focused on buyers finding an agent that meets their needs in an area they are looking to purchase. Agents are marketed more as experts in the areas where they have already sold homes, and they get the leads to listings. Users can see what properties an agent has listed and/or sold in a specific area.® and Zillow are for buyer leads and buyers doing their own home search. Zillow Showcase features agents’ active listings that they chose to feature. It is pay to play per listing, and the price varies based on the listing price of the home. On Zillow, you pay for buyer leads in certain zip codes. 

DS: One difference is between and Zillow: directs lead inquiries back to the brokers, whereas Zillow tends to sell and promote leads to other REALTORS®. The sites constantly evolve and implement new programs, tools and better lead-generation programming.

JD: Some are user-friendly and have great area information. They’re kind of like Wikipedia for the real estate world. They make it easy for the public to share their house hunting with family members all over the place. They are a good place to start a search, and are good sources for people relocating across the country, but nothing replaces a hyperlocal real estate expert.  

PRT: is the rising star, but® is the most prominent. Ease of searching is what’s important to buyers.

MA: directs leads on your listing back to you regardless of your advertising status. Zillow has broader exposure, but the quality and accuracy can be a concern.® is also popular and more accurate and on top of when a property is under contract and no longer available, unlike Zillow, which sells your leads generated from your listing to other agents.

Are they of help to you?

MH: Consumers are starting their search somewhere online, and agents have to pay to play. I believe that all these portals have great tools, but they shouldn’t be heavily relied on as the only source for business.

DS: Having a presence on the main portals enhances an agent’s professional image. Profiles often include reviews, ratings and past sales history, which can build credibility and trust.

PRT: These portals are where people start, so that is helpful. It engages prospects with real estate and homes for sale. Then when they are ready to see places and are serious about moving forward, professionals like me are there to guide them. Real estate agents are also the reality check to the fantasy of browsing online real estate. Real estate on paper, using common sense logic, is nothing like the adventure of going through the real world steps to buying a home.

JD: I do monitor and watch the numbers on my listings, mostly because my sellers do. Sellers think they have some relevance to their selling process. Sellers will ask why they aren’t getting lots of showings if there are 4,000 saves and 50,000 views. I tell them it is like people looking through a magazine. Just because they look at an ad doesn’t mean they buy. And a lot of those clicks and likes could be other sellers, neighbors or other real estate salespeople. Some portals send out solicitous emails to gain more clicks, with things like: “This house compares to yours” and “We just found your dream home,” or  “You looked at 123 Main Street, so you may like this house too.” It is all about gaining more clicks/views, but clicks/views from portals don’t always equal sales.

Do you/your brokerage pay for better placement?

MH: I pay for the membership and pay for better placement. I recently signed up and paid for Zillow Showcase.

PRT: I don’t pay for the portals. Berkshire Hathaway provides so much for its agents. I am guessing they do pay for better placement. Teams with buyer agents are the hottest target for buying better placement. Their model is to feed leads to the buyer agents.

MA: My brokerage does not as RE/ is the No. 1 company-visited website worldwide.

Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

MA: I believe the model of “my listing, my lead” principle is the right choice. The agent that does the work to secure the listing should benefit from the leads on their listing. To be savvy in this marketplace, one needs to be aware of these portals and how they work. The key is to bring in your local expertise to appropriately price the home.

MH: I have used them all for various purposes. 

PRT: I would prefer a portal that gives the leads to the listing agents—because I am mostly a listing agent. Out of all of the portals, I like®. 


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