Homesnap CEO John Mazur and HomeLight CEO Drew Uher explained why they’re not directly competing with Zillow during an Inman Connect Now session Thursday.

Just announced: The Inman 2021 Event Schedule! We’ve got a full slate of digital and in-real-life events planned for the best community in real estate. The year kicks off with the flagship 3-day virtual Inman Connect January 26-28. Save the dates and register now!

After being acquired by CoStar, Homesnap has no plans to abandon its partnership with the Broker Pubic Portal (BPP), a collaborative effort between brokerages and multiple listing services to offer an alternative real estate listing experience.

John Mazur | Photo credit: Homesnap

“We do believe there is a place for honoring the agent-client relationship and the data of the broker and the agent in a public search portal that isn’t about just monetizing,” Homesnap CEO John Mazur said Thursday during a virtual Inman Connect Now session.

“[BPP] is something we’re committed to, and in the case of CoStar, it’s definitely something they love and are committed to,” Mazur added. “Watch this space.”

In the wake of the acquisition, CoStar Group CEO Andy Florance has been explicit in his desire to take on Zillow. Joe Rand, the executive director of BPP has also been clear about his intentions to have Homesnap, powered by BPP, overtake Zillow.

It’s even been rumored that Homesnap is working alongside the Real Estate Board of New York to build a New York City alternative to StreetEasy, the city-centric listing portal owned by Zillow.

But at Inman Connect Now, during a session titled “What’s Next for Search, Leads and Consumer Behavior,” Mazur struck a slightly different tone.

“For us, we want to give props to Zillow,” Mazur said. “Everyone talks about them on every call and they’re doing so much right and have phenomenal search.”

But Mazur shifted slightly to note that Homesnap isn’t just trying to be a search portal and compete with Zillow in that space. Rather, Homesnap is trying to be the operating system for agents to provide the right information to clients at the right time.

Homesnap started as a consumer search portal — in which consumers could literally snap pictures of any homes to get information about that home — but when the company saw that agents were using it more than consumers, it pivoted to focusing on agent needs, first and foremost.

Most consumers, at this point, are comfortable searching for homes on their own through real estate portals.

“But where there was a lot of opportunity in our minds was equipping agents and brokers to be able to provide that personalized digital connection,” Mazur said. “There’s a lot to be done there.”

Drew Uher | Photo credit: HomeLight

Drew Uher, the founder and CEO of HomeLight, made the same pivot with his search platform, away from being focused strictly on the consumer and competing with Zillow for consumer eyeballs.

Instead, Uher said his core clientele are the top 10,000 agents in the country.

“We need to build transformational, game-changing consumer experiences and client experience for them to deliver to their clients,” Uher said. “The buyer and seller are an integral part of everything Homelight is doing but we’ve really focused the business on serving the top 10,000 agents in the country to make sure that they’re prepared to deliver that next-gen technology, that next-gen client experience.”

To that end, HomeLight focuses on the transaction, not just lead generation. There’s a referral component — an area where the company is competing with Zillow for top agents — but also a cash offer and trade-in platform, as well as mortgage and closing services.

“Our vision is a world where every real estate transaction is simple, certain and satisfying for everyone involved,” Uher said.

Both Uher and Mazur are bullish on the future of real estate agents and their centrality to the transaction, which is in part why both of them pivoted their company focus. Uher said the idea that an agent isn’t going to exist five years from now is “absolute garbage.”

“Not only do we not think that’s going to change, it’s not even really in the realm of possibility,” Uher said.

However, the role of the agent will evolve over time, Uher added. Agents need to justify their value and bring technology and a simplification of the process to the table.

Email Patrick Kearns

IDX Real Estate