CEO to CEO: the future of home search innovation and open marketplaces

For those following the Zillow post-iBuying saga, you’ll know that the company is refocusing its attention on digital search. Another industry player, Costar, is throwing its hat into the home search ring. What do these developments mean for the future of search? And what outcomes best serve agents and their clients?

Read on for Sean and David’s answers to these questions. For more insights from their conversation, watch the full interview above.

Open marketplaces foster innovation, which will be critical in increasing people’s confidence in the real estate transaction.

Sean Black: You came from outside the industry. You were at eBay before as Global Head of Growth and at Expedia before that. How does that inform your point of view and’s point of view on how you navigate forward?

David Doctorow: The pattern in my background is marketplaces. The DNA of marketplaces is really about connecting people. There’s a humility that I feel having seen this over the last decade. We couldn’t possibly innovate on all fronts at the same time in the way that we can bring to bear collective innovation with our partners that’s better than any alternative that’s out there. Knock’s Home Swap product is a great example of something that couldn’t innovate. We don’t have the DNA in our company to do something like you do, but together we can create an incredible experience for consumers that, in the end, will indeed help them feel more confident.

The real estate transaction process is ripe for improvement. Both agents and consumers will benefit from a streamlined experience, but bringing all aspects in-house may be a bridge too far.

Sean Black: I think we both agree that this transaction is very broken. It’s also very opaque and fragmented for a consumer, which the Knock Home Swap™ is meant to solve. Do you subscribe to the idea that the transaction should be verticalized and streamlined for a consumer? If so, how does an open marketplace do that versus a company that can provide all those services in one place?

David Doctorow: Streamlined, no doubt. I think a lot of those examples that you gave, I think they resonate for so many of us individually and in our personal lives. And certainly we know in the industry this is very, very common. So streamlined? For certain. Whether you have to verticalize and own this all the way, end to end, I think the jury’s out.

Sean Black: Now you have this dynamic where Zillow’s going to be doubling down on search and CoStar’s coming into the mix talking about being more agent and consumer- friendly. Is this net-positive for the consumer because there’s more focus and innovation on the discovery phase?

David Doctorow: Even in a world where they are not iBuying, [Zillow’s] still arguably pushing a closed ecosystem. Zillow loans, Zillow’s valuation model, Zillow’s invite-only, premier agents. Will a closed ecosystem fundamentally provide enough innovation for the consumer, empower that consumer to have choice, and will they feel fundamentally more confident? I think the jury’s really out.

Sean Black: I think you said it in what you said about the open marketplace being the best thing for the consumer. It sounds like what you’re saying is it’s also better for agents.

David Doctorow: No question about it. Agents, in the end, can choose to participate in our open ecosystem.


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