I sent a letter to Rich Barton, CEO of Zillow

Yep. I did that. Purely naive, right? Or maybe just stupid?

I don’t know why I feel like sharing this. I’m pretty sure that I turn red with embarrassment whenever the memory of that letter crosses my mind.

But I think it’s good to share thoughts with the CEO (even though his gatekeepers probably tossed it into the trash without opening it).

Instead of complaining about the changes I wanted to see, I suggested them to somebody who had the power to make a difference. If that makes me an idiot, I guess I’m cool with that.

I wrote and mailed the letter in March of 2022. At the time, Zillow HQ was remote, so I thought maybe, just maybe, my letter would have a higher chance of at least making it to his office.

Zillow stock had taken a dump so I had a really dumb headline at the start of my letter. This idea had come from the Robert Collier Letter Book. I wish I had chosen a different tactic here because, man, does it look dated… oof.

The letter was never returned to me. Nobody ever called, emailed, or reached out to me either. I will probably never know what became of it.

It wasn’t very actionable with specifics, which I sort of regret. But I was afraid to give my ideas away… Classic stupid fear.

Anyway, here is what I wrote.

Dear Mr. Barton,

Zillow’s New Super App Stuns the CompetitionCustomers Flock and Shareholders Rejoice!

Pretty cheesy, right? But you want to see it happen and so do I. Just this morning, I read that you’ve created a way for customers to view comps side-by-side. Yes- thank you! When you empower us, give us the best tools, and save us money, well, flourishing is inevitable. This is such an exciting time for Zillow and it’s the perfect moment to give us more control through better features. You benefit from customer loyalty and new revenue streams. We benefit from improved user experience and saved money and time. For context, I’m a long-time customer and a big Zillow fan. I’ve been a buyer, seller, FSBO, and agent. Here are some big hairy ideas to achieve a smart experience we can trust:

  1. An improved listing platform for sellers- Here, Zillow rebrands FSBO by embracing a natural evolution into a single-agent system, where only buyers need representation. Listing agent tools are now homeowner tools. Sellers gain easy access to comp lists and disclosure forms. They can connect with lockbox services, photographers, 3D tour providers, and other industry professionals. Best of all, buyer agents can contact sellers through a new messaging system, allowing those sellers to view/accept offers.
  2. A new tab for buyer agents– Available to subscribers, creating new income stream for Zillow. Agents will want to join because it will save them time. Features include the messaging system, shared checklists with notifications for time-sensitive steps, easily submitting offers, and new ShowingTime features. Documents and closing data are organized in one place.
  3. An improved platform for buyers– Includes additional search filters, access to comp lists, and the messaging system that connects to their agent. Buyer-agents now have the power and incentive to connect with homeowners who have self-listed on Zillow’s platform, making more homes available to them. Buyers receive a shared checklist which enables them to smoothly complete their transaction.
  4. A new tab for freelancers– To easily connect with homeowners who want/need professional help throughout their selling process, including lockbox services. Available to freelance subscribers/partners, creating new income stream for Zillow. (maybe even lenders?)

I could expand on any of these details, but I’d like to honor your time. I love to brainstorm this stuff so if you have any feedback, I’d be thrilled to chat or email (on your schedule of course). Otherwise, I wish you the loveliest day and I’m grateful for any time given.

All the best,

I never thought I’d share this letter with anyone. We are all scared to put our ideas out there, only for them to be stolen by somebody with the money to implement them (maybe that’s just me). Or worse- to be shamed.

The truth is, I’d love to start a new real estate platform. We could streamline the industry while also bringing transactional costs down. Because the current model kinda sucks.

But- I, being a non-tech person, would realistically be out of my mind to try. Which is why I pitched to Zillow. I tried applying to a couple jobs there thinking I’d be great fit. No luck. Besides, do companies really want to improve? Sometimes, I’m not so sure…

Anyway, it wasn’t fruitful. So now, I can either let these ideas die with me or I can share them here in my little obscure corner of the internet.

Thanks for reading,

HouseRat Zero

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