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Zillow co-founder will present Power Forward talk

Power Forward presenter Spencer Rascoff
First Commerce Credit Union
Power Forward presenter Spencer Rascoff

The online real estate marketplace called Zillow has made big changes in the way Americans buy and rent homes. A corporate co-founder and former CEO of the company will be in Tallahassee later this month and shared a preview of what he'll have to say.

Zillow was founded by ex-Microsoft execs Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink in 2006. Four years later, Hotwire.com co-founder Spencer Rascoff came aboard as Zillow CEO. He said the whole idea of putting data about every single American dwelling online was to provide a powerful tool for everybody.

"I would equate it to healthcare websites like 'WebMD' that educate patients and their families about healthcare issues. But then consumers still seek doctors and medical providers to help them interpret everything that they find online. So real estate agents still play a very important rol and I believe they'll always provide a very important role because it's such a complicated and infrequent and expensive and emotional transaction. It begs for an intermediary, it begs for an expert that can help."

Rascoff said the need for knowledgable, local real estate people became very obvious during 2021. That's when an overheated real estate market stretched the company's much-vaunted pricing algorithm beyond its limits. Even now, he said, the technology is hard-pressed to track changes in real time.

"The homes for sale and for rent, that adjusts multiple times a day. Zillow's 'Zestimates' that produce an approximate value for every home in America, those are updated daily as well based on local market conditions. But you're right. It's a very complicated real estate market right now and on the one hand, homes are selling more slowly than they once were. But the prices they're selling for are still pretty elevated because there's so little inventory."

So, with a sellers' market still raging, Rascoff said his former company is looking to diversify its services to stay competitive. After all, Zillow is not the only online real estate resource anymore.

"Things like personalization using artificial intelligence. Making sure they have the absolutely best mobile apps. Zillow has also invested heavily in software tools for real estate professionals, which benefit consumers. For example, Zillow recently invested $500 million buying a company called Showingtime, which will help consumers book tours of home in real time. Imagine being on the Zillow app and pressing a button and schedule a tour to go and see a home at a specific point in time, almost as easy as booking a restaurant reservaton online or buying a movie ticket online."

Rascoff said he'll have much more to share during his Power Forward talk the afternoon of Thursday, February 16th in Ruby Diamond Concert Hall. It's hosted by First Commerce Credit Union and its website has more information.