Zillow CEO Rich Barton and Realtor.com CEO Damian Eales
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Top portal rivals show mutual support for buyer agency 

This week, Zillow CEO Rich Barton praised Realtor.com CEO Damian Eales’ latest push to educate homebuyers about changes coming to the industry.

April 19, 2024
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Realtor.com CEO Damian Eales published an op-ed signaling support for buyer agency in the Wall Street Journal, a sibling News Corp property.
  • Eales said that without buyer representation, “no one would be legally required to help buyers understand their risks and options.”
  • Zillow CEO Rich Barton called attention to Eales’ op-ed and highlighted Zillow’s own “Real Estate Rights for Consumers” education effort.

An armistice of sorts has been called in the ongoing "portal wars" — the contest among the top home search sites for traffic and agent loyalty — as the heads of Realtor.com and Zillow revealed mutual agreement on one thing this week: support for buyer agency.

In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Realtor.com CEO Damian Eales highlighted some of the general pros and cons of the NAR settlement and proposed rule changes set to go into effect this summer. 

The good? Consumers are likely to see lower agent commissions, Eales said, and buyers will gain negotiating power when represented by an agent. But changes to the residential real estate landscape could also disadvantage some buyers, most notably those who choose to go through their home search and closing process alone.

"Without a buyer's agent, no one would be legally required to help buyers understand their risks and options," Eales wrote. "There would also be nothing to stop seller's agents from increasing their commissions to match what previously went to buyer's agents."

Eales also pointed to the common business practices in Australia, his home country and the former homebase of News Corp, the media giant that owns Realtor.com, the Wall Street Journal and several other media properties. 

"In Australia, where I grew up, home buyers typically work directly with listing agents, who have a fiduciary duty only to the sellers," he wrote. "In some Australian territories and states, if a buyer looks at a home on a flood plain or in a region prone to bushfires, the seller's agent isn't necessarily obligated to tell him about the risks."

The op-ed marks the launch of a new Realtor.com campaign, the company said, which will encourage buyers to do their own research on the process of home sales. Realtor.com's ad campaign will consist of a lengthy 111-point checklist for buyers when performing their search, lining up financing and navigating closing. 

Or, Realtor.com suggests, buyers could hire an agent to handle all of these tasks for them. 

Zillow CEO praises Eales, promotes Zillow's advocacy efforts

In a LinkedIn post, Zillow Co-founder and CEO Rich Barton drew attention to Eales' "valuable thoughts" in the Wall Street Journal op-ed, but also reminded the industry that Zillow had previously launched its own effort — "Real Estate Rights for Consumers" — to show support for transparency in the industry and for buyer agency. 

"We founded Zillow to turn on the lights for regular consumers in the real estate industry," Barton wrote. "There is a great deal of conversation happening right now about how the industry should evolve to further empower consumers."

Barton said the company's consumer rights doctrine highlights three key themes: Free and fair access to all listings, independent representation, and transparent and negotiable compensation for agents.

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