Zillow’s new touring agreement puts consumers first

By Errol Samuelson, Chief Industry Development Officer

Since NAR announced its proposed settlement of the Sitzer/Burnett lawsuit in mid-March, there have been questions, speculation and uncertainty. But we must remember: Change within the real estate industry is nothing new. When we work together, our industry is both creative and resilient.

Soon, there will be new standards for how agents interact with consumers. And at Zillow, we’re always looking for opportunities to innovate on behalf of consumers and to support agents who serve consumer needs.

The proposed NAR settlement outlines the requirement that buyers have written agreements with agents before touring. While this may seem like an extra step, when done right, agreements can provide transparency, promote open conversation, and foster alignment between the two parties. However, insisting that a buyer sign an exclusive, long-term agreement with an agent, perhaps before even meeting the agent, feels premature. That’s why Zillow has created a non-exclusive touring agreement, and we’re making it available for use to the entire residential real estate industry. 

Zillow is not required to offer consumer-facing agreements in light of the proposed NAR settlement, but we have an opportunity to provide tools for the industry to fulfill these requirements in a way that puts the consumer first. While we recognize the form of this agreement will vary by state, we’re calling on the industry to adopt a non-exclusive, limited-duration agreement for the initial tours conducted by an agent with a prospective buyer.

Why buyer agreements are important

Buyer agreements typically outline exactly what an agent will do for a client. However, requiring a long-term exclusive agreement with a single professional, before the home buyer has an opportunity to meet with multiple agents or sufficient time to decide to work with this agent, negatively impacts the consumer experience. To put it simply, most people want to date before becoming exclusive.

What our touring agreement does

Our touring agreement – which expires after seven days and covers touring activities only – does not require compensation or exclusivity. That’s by design. We believe any negotiation of compensation, and what it will look like for the buyer and agent to work together, should happen after both meet and feel ready. At the time when an additional agreement is signed, the buyer and the agent should be aligned on all terms and expectations, including compensation, with no surprises. 

Agents provide value in the transaction

Buying a home is complex and often comes with a lot of stress: Half of buyers tell us they cried at some point during the process. Without an expert prioritizing their individual needs, buyers can miss out on making a competitive offer, leave money on the table in the negotiation, ignore potential pitfalls or waive important aspects such as inspections – which can end up costing them later. Most buyers want and need an expert on their side – we don’t see that changing. This makes finding the right agent that much more important, and it’s why upfront conversations about expectations and compensation are critical. We strongly believe in the value of independent representation: Buyers and sellers deserve to work with an agent who is committed to their best interests and only represents them. 

The requirement to have an agreement in place prior to touring a home will be new for most consumers and agents. As we move forward, it’s important to remain focused on who the real estate industry serves: buyers and sellers. We’ve long championed a more fair and transparent marketplace. In this moment of evolution, we’re extending an invitation: Join us in putting consumers first.

To download a copy of Zillow’s non-exclusive touring agreement, click here.