Compare Zillow Flex Program and NAEBA

For Sellers

Referred Agents
25%-40%
Referral Fee
Zillow Premier Broker program does not provide real estate services to home sellers. Instead, this program matches consumers with various real estate agents in exchange for a 25%-40% referral fee. Zillow Premier Broker results suffer from pay-to-play bias because the network does not match consumers with agents unwilling to pay a significant part of their commission.

For Sellers

Not Applicable
0
No Rates
NAEBA Referral Service, Inc. does not provide real estate referrals for sellers.

For Buyers

Referred Agents
25%-40%
Referral Fee
Zillow Premier Broker program does not provide real estate services to home buyers. Instead, this program matches consumers with various real estate agents in exchange for a 25%-40% referral fee. Zillow Premier Broker results suffer from pay-to-play bias because the network does not match consumers with agents unwilling to pay a significant part of their commission.

For Buyers

Referred Agents
25%-40%
Referral Fee
NAEBA Referral Service, Inc. does not provide real estate services to home buyers. Instead, this company matches consumers with various real estate agents in exchange for an estimated 25%-40% referral fee. NAEBA Referral Service, Inc. results suffer from pay-to-play bias because the network does not match consumers with agents unwilling to pay 25%-40% of their commission back to NAEBA.
Question: What is the difference between Zillow Flex Program and NAEBA?
Answer: Both Zillow Flex Program and NAEBA function as a referral fee network that enables broker-to-broker collusion with use of blanket referral agreements.
Compare Zillow Flex Program and NAEBA for home buying and selling. HomeOpenly is an impartial and an open resource focused on trending real estate services, portals and start-ups.

First published: 17 February 2019
Last updated: 25 April 2021

Buying and Selling with Zillow Flex Program

Zillow Flex Program is a real estate referral fee network that is designed to collect undisclosed referral fees from real estate agents. Within this network, Zillow Group screens and refers consumers to real estate agents with a pre-existing "blanket" referral agreements. Zillow Group refers to this referral service as a Zillow Flex Program because it allows brokers to participate without paying any upfront costs to Zillow Group.

As a consumer filling out a contact form on the Zillow-owned (Zillow, Trulia, etc.) web site, "you authorize Zillow to make Real Estate Referral and acknowledge Zillow may be paid valuable consideration for facilitating such referral." Zillow Group does not disclose to consumers how much "valuable consideration" it receives from participating brokers. "The established referral fees are specific to each market in order to account for local pricing trends," according to Zillow.

Zillow Flex Program is a form of pay-to-play consumer brokering product that relies on the use of blanket referral agreements to pay for each referral. Blanket referral agreements between brokers are a per se violation of the Sherman Act. With Zillow Flex Program consumers are effectively pre-screened by Zillow and “sold as leads” to whoever is willing to pay for this information with a share of their commission.

Zillow Flex Program Pricing

Zillow Premier Broker does not offer paid services to consumers directly, instead, the portal generates revenue with estimated 25%-40% referral fees from real estate brokers. Zillow Group declines to disclose the exact fee amount.

Listing Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Sellers

Buyer's Agent Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Buyers

Zillow Flex Program Editor's Review:

This review is focused on the Zillow Flex Program program only. Two separate reviews are assigned to Zillow Instant Offers and Zillow MLS aggregator programs. Since Zillow was first founded, it has idolized itself as a real estate Internet company. However, with an introduction of Zillow Flex Program in 2018, this is no longer the case.

Today, Zillow acts as a "paper" real estate broker. This fact allows Zillow to receive referral fees from real estate agents across the United States.

Zillow operates under the following real estate brokerage license in the following States:

Arizona CO580407000
California 01522444
California 01980367
Colorado 100080923
Florida CQ1058944
Georgia 76885
Minnesota 40638657
Nevada B.1002277.CORP
North Carolina C30388
Texas 549646
Washington 21212
Wisconsin 835987-91

Real estate agents are allowed to pay one another referral fees with a narrow RESPA provision that is needed to allow individual agents to refer business to other individual agents outside their service area. Despite being registered as a broker, Zillow does not perform real estate services, it simply sends leads to specific agents within its network and uses a real estate license to collect a back-loaded referral fee in the process.

Referral fee revenue is 32x that of a regular advertisement revenue because it results in an economic process called reverse competition, where consumers suffer from elevated costs and lower service as a result. A referral network is anything but free.

The following are some telling quotes from Zillow itself and a Premier Broker program participants. These words speak for themselves.

  • "We receive listing and buyer referrals directly from Zillow's Premier Broker concierge services. These leads have been scrubbed and vetted before they are directly handed off to you." Source: Sonoma County RE/MAX Marketplace, Zillow Flex Program participant.
  • "We will validate all leads first, then send agent-ready buyers to you." Source: Zillow website.
  • "What happens if you miss a call? Don't worry. You won't lose your place in the queue and we will call you with the next connection we validate." Source: Zillow website.

Zillow Group does not disclose the exact amount in referral fees it collects from Premier Brokers, aside from stating that it is an "industry standard." Similar referral fee networks typically receive 25%-40% of the agent's total commission. This is a good reference for the amount in commissions consumers can expect to overpay for their real estate services with a Premier Broker. Zillow Flex Program is a pay-to-play process that harms the industry as a whole and makes buying and selling homes more expensive.

Why does the Zillow allow for such poor UX? There are thousands and sometimes tens of thousands in fees collected from each transaction effectively hidden in consumer’s commission.

Consumers in the United States have been systematically conditioned to a 6% "standard" commission structure, a non-negotiable fact that needs no justification. Unfortunately, this inefficiency alone breeds uncompetitive behavior where real estate agents can easily pay tens of thousands in fees because they are recoverable with a high commission.

Consumers are truly forgotten in this model as an afterthought. When these exigent commissions are amortized over the first five years of homeownership, these fees are the highest single expense line-item - more than the insurance, more than the interest, more than utilities. Clearly, real estate agents only sign-up with Premier Broker because the price of the referral fee can be easily incorporated into their client's agreement with excessive commissions.

RESPA allows for an exception for real estate agents if and only if “all parties are acting in a real estate brokerage capacity" so that individual agents can refer each other when they are out of the local area. This exception has now been turned up-side-down where a referral network does not act in the capacity of a real estate broker. Zillow Group simply uses a license to collect fees without any tangible services done as defined by said license.

Consumers looking to work with a legitimate real estate agent on fair terms should absolutely avoid Zillow Flex Program and never release their full name, email and a phone number to Zillow Group.

The issue of having all US residential real estate markets heavily subjected to these schemes results in noncompetitive behavior, higher costs to consumers and lower quality of service. Having agents "commonly" pay networks 25%-45% of their commission is the true reason why real estate is broken.

Zillow Group matches consumers with "great, amazing, top-producing, perfect agents" based on who first picks up the phone and who is willing to kick in a chunk of their commission, this is the main basis for this process.

What happens when this flawed revenue model is no longer sustainable due to competitive commissions entering the market? The next stage of real estate innovation will have to account for this reality. In play are now competitive open rates, flat fees and buyer’s refunds from highly qualified real estate agents.

Transparent commission rates will eventually bring and end to a pay-to-play phenomenon in the real estate process where programs like Premier Broker simply cannot exist.

Today, consumers should be careful and only negotiate with agents that have no referral fee agreements signed, this is the only way to negotiate for full service at a market rate.

Where does Zillow Flex Program operate?

Zillow Flex Program currently operates in select areas across Fort Collins, CO, Pueblo, CO, New Haven, CT, Norwich, CT, Phoenix, AZ and Atlanta, GA..

Buying and Selling with NAEBA

NAEBA claims that it is a professional organization of real estate buyer agents and buyer brokers who only represent home buyers, designed with consumers in mind, but this is not true.

NAEBA is an intricate web of For-Profit (Business) Corporations and brokerages designed to collect referral fees from all transactions it originates. NAEBA Referral Service, Inc. provides referrals to brokers for an undisclosed fee, it does not represent consumers.

NAEBA Pricing

NAEBA revenue comes from referral fees, dues, and sale of user information to real estate brokers.

Listing Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Sellers

Buyer's Agent Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Buyers

NAEBA Editor's Review:

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA) operates as a Non-Profit corporation. Further, NAEBA Referral Service, Inc. is a 100% NAEBA-owned Domestic For-Profit (Business) Corporation in Arizona No 19566663 operating under a separate Tax ID with Gea Elika as its Director and Kenneth Reid as President. NAEBA Referral Service, Inc. operates a for-profit brokerage called Buyer's Broker of Arizona working under a License Number CO656331000 with a designated real estate broker Kenneth Reid. Why such a complicated web of companies?

NAEBA claims that it is a professional organization of real estate buyer agents and buyer brokers who only represent home buyers, designed to educate consumers.

In reality, NAEBA is an intricate web of For-Profit (Business) Corporations and brokerages designed to collect referral fees from all transactions it originates.

NAEBA Referral Service, Inc. provides referrals to brokers for an undisclosed fee, most likely set anywhere between 25%-40% of the agent's entire commission.

In this process, NAEBA makes a few dozen referrals each year in exchange for a lucrative payout. In 2016 NAEBA Non-Profit brought in $522,261 in revenue; where membership dues account for only $24,583. In the same year Non-Profit claimed additional $431,010 in revenue, classified as a Miscellaneous, this amount comes directly from NAEBA Referral Service, Inc., where office expenses are further split 50/50 and salaries are billed by the hour for actual hours.

In 2016 NAEBA Non-profit Corporation spent 82% of its revenue, or $483,192 for salaries, employee benefits, and other expenses. It is unclear what additional revenue NAEBA Referral Service, Inc. keeps on its own books without an obligation to publically disclose full amount as a private For-Profit Corporation.

These financial incentives clearly point to the process of collecting referral fees as the primary reason for NAEBA operations.

NAEBA collects fees where "agents only pay if there are a match and the consumer purchases a property." There are a number of problems with this process and, eventually, consumers end up paying higher commissions when working with real estate agents that NAEBA recommends.

When consumers submit information to NAEBA, this information is simply sold to real estate agents who are willing to pay for it with 25%-40% share of their commission.

This fee makes it hardly a free service for anyone since referral fees are inevitably passed down to consumers. More importantly, NAEBA applies this pay-to-play bias towards all matching results, meaning, only real estate agents that have agreed to pay a referral fee are displayed in match results for consumers.

NAEBA further audits all transactions because it needs to find out how much money real estate agents receive in commissions, inevitably collecting private details of consumer’s agreement for home purchase or sale.

NAEBA plays fees down to consumers while it rigidly locks every participating real estate agent into a referral fee attached to the back-end of every contract. As a licensed real estate agent that doesn’t perform any real estate services, or takes any responsibility for the transaction, it is not entirely clear how this process works under the Business and Professions Code in Arizona.

Clearly, real estate agents only sign-up with NAEBA because the price of the referral fee can be easily incorporated into their client’s agreement by way of excessive commissions. NAEBA receives the lowest score because this service is clearly biased and it claims to provide the complete opposite of what it actually does. NAEBA claims to help buyers, but in reality, it only makes the home buying process more expensive with unnecessary fees.

The best proof of NAEBA's flawed model comes from that fact that it remains absolutely silent on the issue of Buyer's Rebates. Why? Simply because informing consumers about these actionable savings eats directly into NAEBA’s bottom line – if agents that NAEBA recommends beginning to offer consumers fair pricing and rebates, NAEBA would no longer be able to collect excessive referral fees as part of its business.

Buyers should avoid using NAEBA referral service and negotiate directly with real estate agents for a competitive representation, or use services that offer consumers a clearly-defined 0% referral fee structure.

Where does NAEBA operate?

NAEBA currently operates in select areas across United States.