I know a lot of agents and brokers that do not like the emergence of online players such as Zillow and Trulia. I was involved in many "water cooler" talks when these sites first came out. In fact, many of those conversations revolved around the inaccuracy of the information contained on those sites. Many of us predicted the early demise of them because of the inaccurate data.
Then a funny thing happened, the public embraced those sites and started using them.
As professionals, we found it necessary to visit those sites before meeting with our clients just so that we could be prepared to answer questions. It also became necessary to help our clients understand what they had learned on those sites, and why the data was often inaccurate. Over time, the data has improved and customer acceptance has gone up based on web site traffic to both sites.
Pretty soon it became apparent that we would have to learn to work with them because they weren’t going to go away!
As it turns out, both Zillow and Trulia were anxious to work with us and began to offer tools to do just that.
On Zillow, you can register for a free account and then you can do some pretty cool things like submitting a listing with up to 50 pictures. If you wanted to spend some money on targeted ads, Zillow has a way for you to create targeted ads that will be made available to people looking in a certain zip code. They offer you a listing presentation piece that you can use to explain why you use Zillow to help market your listings. It’s available at: http://www.zillow.com/static/pdf/Why-Agents-Use-Zillow.pdf.
If you don’t have any current listings, you can use Zillow to "fish" for buyers and sellers by several different methods, not the least of which is to periodically log into the site and answer questions posed by other visitors to the site.
You can do many of the same things on Trulia as well. You can upload your listings manually or use a service such as Postlets. You can sign up to answer questions that are posed by visitors to the site and by doing so can be recognized as a local expert. You can also buy targeted ads as well.
Trulia also has a marketing piece that you can use, but you will probably not want to do so unless you are with one of the brokerages listed at the bottom of the piece. It’s available at: http://images.trulia.com/resources/Trulia_User_Profile.pdf
What they do have that I think is very interesting is that they offer 4 different widgets to add to your blog or web site…one for stats, a map, a search box and the "Home Roll" which lists the latest listings for an area. Tools like these on your blog or web site go a long way to making your site stickier.
My recommendation is that you take a few minutes and go visit these sites and sign up for both of them. Upload your listings. Answer some questions. Become part of the community and who knows, one of these "interlopers" may bring you your next transaction!