Zillow President Susan Daimler: ‘This is the time to be creative, to invest’
After a turbulent year marked by significant layoffs, Zillow is looking to “double down on the things that we believe in” and simplify the real estate journey.
- The company is investing in several tech initiatives designed to streamline the transaction process for agents and consumers.
- After shuttering its iBuyer program, Zillow has shifted focus to its “super app” and mortgage business.
- Zillow continues to develop new website features to keep buyers interested during the slowdown: “When they are ready to take that next step, we are here for them.”
Editor's note: The high-flying residential real estate industry came back to earth in 2022, with losses, layoffs and the quick cooling of an overheated market. We're having 1-1 conversations with the industry's most influential leaders to learn how they are handling this "reset moment."
As the real estate industry adjusts to a slower market, Zillow President Susan Daimler is excited about the opportunities ahead for the company, particularly in the area of technology.
Daimler, who took the helm as Zillow's president in February 2021, has experience when it comes to finding opportunities during challenging economic times. In 2009, when home values were in decline nationally after the housing bubble burst, Daimler co-founded Buyfolio to streamline the home-search and communication process for buyers and their agents. Buyfolio was acquired by Zillow in 2012, and Daimler joined the company as the leader of StreetEasy, Zillow's New York City search portal.
Today, Daimler is focused on streamlining those consumer and agent experiences at scale. One big goal for the company is creating a real estate "super app," where every critical piece of the housing journey can be combined into one transaction.
"We are 100% working on that for customers and for agents," she said. "But it's going to take time. We are pleased with the progress we've made."
The company is also seeing growth with its ShowingTime+ platform, which brings together technology services ShowingTime, dotloop, Bridge Interactive, 3D Home tours and interactive floor plans under one brand.
ShowingTime+ products have become important tools for the industry — they are used by hundreds of MLSs representing more than a million agents — and Daimler said the company takes their responsibility to agents seriously.
"We want to make this tech great for agents, and they love this tech, so our hope is just to make it better for them, to make their work easier," Daimler said.
Daimler is particularly interested in seeing the floor plan technology become a key part of the process. "Coming from New York City, where floor plans are literally the language of real estate, I'm so excited that it is making its way across the nation," Daimler said.
Emerging from a challenging year
Zillow experienced a companywide reset moment even before the economic downturn disrupted the housing market. In November 2021, the company announced plans to shutter its iBuyer program, Zillow Offers, after losing millions of dollars. Mass layoffs followed, affecting 25% of the company's workforce, and were staggered throughout late 2021 and 2022. Zillow announced an additional 300 layoffs in other areas of the company on October 25, saying they planned to shift resources to their tech projects.
"We just view this as a time to really dig in and just double down on the things that we believe in [and] that will matter for next year and all the years that follow," Daimler said — "regardless of what is happening in the housing market."
'Digital plus human' transactions
Daimler said the company is looking at potential growth areas that make the real estate transaction easier for agents and clients.
"We are really focused on this idea of a digital plus human real estate transaction," Daimler said. An example of this is real-time touring, which addresses the common challenge of trying to coordinate a showing. Typically, this process involves a lot of back-and-forth with texts, emails or phone calls.
"It really should be this simple moment where you click a button and you're going to see that home with an agent," Daimler said. "So it is something we are working really hard on… we think it is a really critical part of that transaction."
Another focus for Zillow is bolstering its mortgage business, Zillow Home Loans, by employing technology to simplify the mortgage pre-approval and approval process.
"We are a small mortgage shop at the moment, and we have very wide eyes and big aspirations and a lot of confidence that we will get there," Daimler said. "We have a lot of opportunities to grow our share."
While many mortgage companies have struggled in the face of quickly rising interest rates, Daimler remains confident.
"Housing is really durable," she said. "There are going to be millions of people who move in 2023 because they have to, they want to, they find a place they love, or they have to move for a job. We have that opportunity to meet all those customers where they are, whether it is in loans or touring."
Just as Zillow views these moments as great opportunities to drive focus and build technology, Daimler said the same goes for their partner agents. Conversations about the current state of the market are more positive than you might think, she said, and agents are motivated.
"They're thinking about, 'How do I grow during these times?'" Daimler said. "That is something we continue to be focused on. This is the time to be creative, to invest. That energy is definitely out there."
Consumers remain engaged
Daimler said Zillow is continuing to roll out new features on its website, which remains the dominant real estate portal for buyers, sellers and browsers. Although the market has slowed down, people are still looking, and keeping them interested — even if they're not rushing out to buy a home — is essential.
"[The Zillow website] is where people start their journey, so it's our opportunity to engage with them," Daimler said. "What we're telling buyers is that this is a really good time to be looking. This is the time where you can really understand the market. So when they are ready to take that next step, we are here for them and to guide them."