Compare Zillow Flex Program and Open Listings

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
Open Listings does not offer listing services to consumers.

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

Buyer’s Savings
50%
Commission Rebate
When Open Listings represents buyers, it contributes 50% of its total Buyer's Agent Commission (2.5%-3%) as a way to financially compete for buyer’s business. Home buyers do not pay any taxes on the amount, the refund amount is always tax-free.
Question: What is the difference between Zillow Flex Program and Open Listings?
Answer: Zillow Flex Program is a referral fee network that enables broker-to-broker collusion with use of blanket referral agreements while Open Listings is a buyer’s real estate agent and a referral fee network
Compare Zillow Flex Program and Open Listings 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 Open Listings

A multi-state broker rebates buyer part of the commission it receives. In some cases, Open Listings acts as an Internet referral service where it sets rebates for independent real estate brokers that do not work for Open Listings directly.

Open Listings Pricing

Open Listings offers home buyers a 50% commission rebate. Open Listings also requires a $5,000 minimum commission. Minimum commission requirement negates refund for homes priced under 150,000 USD.

Listing Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Sellers

Buyer's Agent Services

  • Find the Property
  • Accept and Deliver All Offers and Counteroffers
  • Recommend Other Professionals
  • Attend Inspection Services
  • Schedule Private Showings
  • Negotiate Needed Repairs
  • Closing Duties

Open Listings Editor's Review:

In some cases, Open Listings represents clients directly. However, Open Listings Referral Network (Partner Agents) is a referral process that connects buyers with third-party real estate agents in exchange for an undisclosed commission split or a referral fee.

A Partner Agent who is employed by, or works with their own brokerage gets referred by Open Listings at their own discretion, as a blind match. Open Listings keeps referral fee amount hidden and does not disclose the split amount it receives from real estate agents who operate under their own license – this practice is highly deceptive and is designed to deceive consumers into thinking that Open Listings is the brokerage they are actually working with.

By engaging with Open Listings consumers authorize them to share personal information and home search history with any Partner Agent, regardless if a consumer wants to work with an Open Listings agent directly.

When shopping for a Real Estate Agent, the price alone is not as important as being able to make an informed choice about representation. Open Listings Referral Network is a poor choice for Real Estate Agents and consumers due to lack of transparency.

Open Listings’ operations as a referral network result in an inefficiency known as reverse competition and possible price fixing. Such practice may result in a lower quality of service or higher commissions.

Once Open Listings refers a customer to a Partner Agent, that agent, not Open Listings, represents the customer from the initial meeting through closing. Open Listings dictates that Partner Agent rebates 50% of their commission in order to receive a referral, while Open Listings takes a commission cut after the transaction is complete.

In the United States, all independent brokerage fees are always negotiable and each real estate agent establishes its own policy for a fee structure, amount of commissions, and issuing rebates to consumers.

Price fixing is prohibited by antitrust legislation. To fix, control, recommend, suggest or maintain commission rates, rebates, and fees for other agents' services is an improper practice.

Open Listings does not represent home sellers, but the company was acquired in 2018 by a direct home cash buyer: Opendoor.

Opendoor does not represent home sellers either, it is a real estate investor who buys homes from consumers and resells them at a profit; this practice is known as house-flipping.

When working with Open Listings, consumers may be pressured to use Opendoor by their Open Listings real estate agent. There is absolutely no requirement for anyone using Open Listings when buying a home to sell their home to an Opendoor.

As buyer’s agent Open Listings’ job is to represent consumers when making a purchase of a new home, it should not advise consumers on their existing home listing, unless a separate listing agreement exists.

Real estate agents are required by law to place their client’s interest before their own. Consumers are encouraged to read our full review for Opendoor before using the house-flipping service.

Where does Open Listings operate?

Open Listings currently operates in select areas across California, Washington, Texas, and Illinois..