Last week’s announcement that Zillow had acquired real estate search provider Diverse Solutions caused a bit of a stir across the real estate vertical. Much speculation ensued, along with the requisite Zillow bashing that seems to take place any time Zillow makes another splash in the industry.
I’ve known the Diverse Solutions founder and CEO Justin LaJoie for a few years. He’s a good guy, crazy smart, with terrific products (we use the DS products dsSearchAgent and dsIDxpress products on this site). I also know Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, also a good guy. Also crazy smart.
I asked Justin if he would mind answering a few questions “on the record”, and he graciously agreed. My thoughts on the acquisition are below Justin’s comments, for what that is worth…
What does the acquisition mean for existing customers of dsSearchAgent, dsSearchAgent Mobile and dsIDXpress? Will these products continue to be offered, supported and developed?
The acquisition means that Diverse Solutions will continue to provide the same dedication to innovation and great support customers have come to expect, but with accelerated growth and advancements for our product offerings. We do not expect any interruption to the service our customers receive from us today. However, with the added resources from Zillow, we will be able to more quickly develop new enhancements.
Let’s be honest, there is a certain level of “Zillow Bashing” (and even fear of Zillow) that has taken place in the real estate community since the day Zillow was launched. Does this attitude/fear concern the Diverse Solutions team?
Like any company considering an acquisition, we initially had questions about compromising on our customer service and products. But Zillow understands our value to the industry and we are working together to ensure we stay true to our customers.
Some agents have already expressed that they will be dropping DS products due to this acquisition. What do you say to those individuals?
Diverse Solutions and our products will be getting even better. Don’t make any knee-jerk reactions and give us a chance to prove that to you.
DS has agreements with many MLS’s for IDX display of listing data. Does the acquisition now give Zillow open access to that IDX data and let them do as they please with that data?
Absolutely not! Diverse Solutions will continue to operate under our data agreements with MLSs and the industry; which means that Zillow will not automatically be displaying listing data on their site or mobile apps. If we do not follow the rules then we no longer get the data feeds.
Will the DS operations be transferring from their current location in southern California to Zillow’s headquarters in Seattle?
No, all Diverse Solutions including myself staff will be staying in Irvine, Ca. I do think I will be doing some more traveling to Seattle than I have done in the past though.
Will DS product pricing and availability be changing as a result of this acquisition?
It’s business as usual.
Some people have expressed concerns to me that Zillow widgets, advertisements and other such items will be integrated into DS products and these additions will link back to Zillow — potentially diluting their own search engine placement efforts. Can you confirm or deny this possibility? If “Zillowish” features were to be added to the DS products, would the user be able to “opt out” of those additions?
Our objective is to offer products that real estate agents and brokers want to use. If we load them up with a bunch advertisements and backlinks then that will diminish the appeal and effectiveness of the products. Our goal is to partner with more agents and brokers to use our services. Not drive them away. However, given that Zillow has so much great data, we’d like to bring some of that to future enhancements of our products. We’ll be working on this and similar issues in the coming months and will do what’s best for both Zillow and Diverse Solutions’ customers.
I think some are concerned that your focus will shift from serving your client’s needs to serving Zillow’s needs. Is that a valid concern?
Zillow wants us to continue to be successful. They did not acquire Diverse Solutions to slowly kill it and the products that we have developed over the years. In fact, it is just the opposite. We have the full support of Zillow to continue to develop and run Diverse Solutions like we always have.
I have heard speculation that Zillow acquired DS so they could shut down their products and remove DS users as players in the “search engine placement war.” Can you say anything to alleviate those concerns?
This would be a giant mistake if Zillow had these feelings, which they do not. We want to help agents and brokers be successful. This acquisition is about expanding the suite of tools and marketing opportunities we can offer real estate professionals.
You’ve been named Zillow’s Vice President of Industry Solutions. Can you expand on what that position means for Diverse Solutions, Zillow and you?
For Diverse Solutions that means business as usual. I will still be running Diverse Solutions like I always have. I will just have additional responsibilities at Zillow that include managing current and future products that are made available to agents and brokers throughout the nation.
Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?
Everyone here at Diverse Solutions, including myself, are very happy to be a part of the Zillow family. Know that Diverse Solutions always will have the best interest in mind for agents and brokers. We are here to make the best possible products and provide the best possible service that we can. There will be a lot of improvements coming and we can’t wait to share them with everyone and prove the naysayers wrong.
My Thoughts on the Diverse Solutions Acquisition
Personally, I think this is a smart move on the part of both parties. Diverse Solutions can tap into Zillow’s support network, and money. In theory, this could allow Diverse to provide better customer support (the one area they might have been previously lacking in) and access to the almighty dollar, and a bevy of Zillow coders, could result in new and innovative product offerings. Zillow gets a leading IDX search provider with some top notch people (coders included), an additional income stream, a kick-ass product to offer agents and brokers, a strategic future positioning, and possibly an opening into working more closely with Multiple Listing Services in the near future.
I for one have never understood the propensity that some agents have for Zillow hating. I don’t believe for a second that Zillow set out from Day 1 to disintermediate real estate agents. Their Zestimate — a computer algorithm that estimates a home’s market value — is not inherently evil. In fact, I *love* it when home sellers bring up Zestimates as it provides a wide open door to walk through and allow you to demonstrate your experience and skill. No Automated Valuation Model can replace human skill and experience, so to fear a Zestimate is just silly. Use it to your advantage and cut the “woe is me they are out for my job” rhetoric.
I have no idea what Zillow’s ultimate plan is for Diverse Solutions. I don’t buy into the conspiracy-like theories that some are spreading — disintermediation, shutting off Diverse products or adding links as an SEO play, whatever. It looks to me like Zillow acquired a terrific real estate tech company for a pretty good price and Diverse got a partner with a large presence, staff and funding.
Only time will tell the whole story.
I’m sure Justin will be watching this post for comments, probably Spencer too. So if you have a question, fire away. Just keep in mind that Zillow is a publicly traded company, and its executives can’t answer some questions, particularly “forward looking statements”. That’s not the fault of Zillow, Diverse Solutions, Justin or Spencer. It’s not a conspiracy theory. If you want to blame someone for them not being to answer some questions, blame the Securities and Exchange Commission.
More on the Diverse Solutions acquisition by Zillow:
Photo/Logo credit: I’ll admit it, I swiped it off the Zillow blog. I don’t think they’ll care. And I know they will let me know if they do.