Compare Zillow Flex Program and Opendoor

For Sellers

Referred Agents
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

Cash Offers
Home Equity
Opendoor does not provide real estate listing representation. Instead, the company buys homes directly, repairs and resells them to consumers or companies that rent them to tenants. Opendoor makes an offer equal to 80%-85% of home value accounting for fees and any cost of the repairs and resale.

For Buyers

Referred Agents
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

Not Applicable
No Rates
Opendoor does not provide real estate services to home buyers. Opendoor does resell some of the homes it buys on the open market, just like any other real estate investor aiming for the highest return on investment.
Question: What is the difference between Zillow Flex Program and Opendoor?
Answer: Zillow Flex Program is a referral fee network that enables broker-to-broker collusion with use of blanket referral agreements while Opendoor is a direct home cash buyer that buys select homes off-market with cash offers and resells them at a profit to homebuyers
Compare Zillow Flex Program and Opendoor 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 Opendoor

Opendoor is a multi-state VC-backed real estate investor that operates across highly specific locations. Where available Opendoor mainly focuses on homogenous homes built after 1960 with a value between $125,000 and $500,000.

In determining the offer, Opendoor discounts from the estimated retail value after home is fully renovated.

Opendoor Pricing

Opendoor makes money with a difference between buying and selling each home. This difference is a combination of fees and home value appreciation between what Opendoor buys and seller each home for. Sellers can expect to receive 80%-85% of their home value from this type of sale after any fees, cost of the minor repairs, and resale.

Listing Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Sellers

Buyer's Agent Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Buyers

Opendoor Editor's Review:

Opendoor will buy a home at a price that is below market value due to necessary repairs, renovation, and other factors. After Opendoor buys the home, it renovates and resells it for a profit to other buyers or companies that rent homes to qualified tenants. With low offer price, comes a convenience of an all-cash closing when selling a home. Opendoor claims to provide convenience, speed, and certainty of a fast sale. Dubbed as an iBuyer, Opendoor makes an offer on a house within days or hours, but this offer is highly conditional. Each offer Opendoor makes is just an estimate until it makes a home inspection.

At the inspection, Opendoor will often find reasons to lower its original offer when it finds items that need repair or if it has made a mistake in its original valuation. When the company is unable to make an offer, it simply redirects consumers to a random real estate agent in exchange for an undisclosed referral fee. Opendoor offers fast home sales, but these are typically accompanied by higher fees (starting at 6% and rising to 12% for more risky properties.)

Opendoor only makes offers to select homes in select regions. Opendoor claims that it provides market offers, but we find this not be true. Search for past Opendoor transactions makes it clear that company also makes money with home appreciation difference (typical appreciation of 5.5% to 12.5%) between what it buys houses for and what it sells them for in addition to service fees. The main disadvantage of using Opendoor is high losses in homeowners' equity.

Opendoor is a "heavy" model, backed by a large amount of VC capital ready to buy homes in all-cash transactions. As any real estate investor, Opendoor is susceptible to losing money in any given transaction. This model is susceptible to a number of risk factors, high operational costs and a continued need for higher-than-average Return on Investment (ROI) with each flip. Opendoor is not legally bound to represent consumers, its main legal obligation is to its shareholders.

Opendoor's fast transaction and easy move-out experience typically come at an extremely high price because this model incurs "double" transaction costs during the purchase, holding period, rehab work and final sale that includes real estate agent fees. Opendoor pays real estate agent commissions like any other buyer and seller of real estate, so these costs must be accounted for in the company's fee structure. The facts continue to point against Opendoor’s claims that it offers fair value for the houses it buys.

Moreover, because most homes in the United States are financed, homeowners own only partial net equity in their home. Banks receive the same amount of the remaining mortgage sum regardless of how any given home is sold, whereas only homeowners' net equity is lost in transaction fees paid to Opendoor.

Typically Opendoor uses the following factors when determining the offer: existing condition of the home including repairs needed, time it will take to finish needed repairs, value of a home compared to other comparable homes in the area, real estate commission required to resell, costs associated with maintaining a home during repairs, including taxes, payments, insurance, utilities and homeowner dues.

Today, there are a number of highly qualified real estate agents who offer competitive listing rates and flat fee listings across the United States. Unless a situation absolutely requires a quick sale, HomeOpenly recommends that consumers first consider using a licensed real estate agent working on competitive terms to properly list their homes on the open market before turning to Opendoor option.

Some real estate agents are now offering Concierge services that include painting, landscaping, and other services that help consumers place their home on the open market without upfront costs and high loss to home equity.

Conflicting Incentives for Consumers

Opendoor, when it acts as a real estate investor, further offers 1% of the purchase price back at closing to work with an Opendoor Home Advisor to buy an Opendoor home. According to the company, Opendoor must not be obligated to pay any buyer's agent commissions for this promotion to apply. Having to require such terms limits consumer's ability to use an independent buyer's agent in a transaction. In effect, Opendoor offers a buyer an incentive to forgo independent representation in exchange for a 1% discount. Consumers should never be financially incentivized by a real estate investor to limit their representation when buying real estate from them.

In contradiction to this incentive, Opendoor Terms of Service directly state that: "in making you an Opendoor Offer, Opendoor is not acting as your real estate agent or broker. Opendoor is merely acting as, or on behalf of, a purchaser of real estate. As a seller, you have the right, and it is your responsibility, to independently evaluate and decide whether to accept the Opendoor Offer."

Company further states: "Buyer represents that she has had ample opportunity to obtain legal and other professional counsel of its choosing and that it is relying solely on its own independent judgment and that of its own professional consultants, if any, in entering into the purchase contract and purchasing the property."

From one side, Opendoor offers consumers an incentive in an exchange for "not being obligated to pay any buyer's agent commissions," but from another, requires buyers to "represent that they have had an ample opportunity to obtain legal and other professional counsel." These two propositions contradict each other.

Conflicting Incentives for Listing Agents

Further, Opendoor improperly offers financial incentives to listing agents to help convince consumers to take lower-priced offers from the company, instead of listing homes on the open market. iBuyer offers, accounting for fees and reduced market value, are systematically the most expensive way to transfer ownership.

In this scheme, a listing agent is offered a financial incentive from Opendoor to bring their client to the company for a pre-market offer. No real estate investor (iBuyer) should be able to offer any financial incentive to a third-party representative to persuade consumers to accept their low offers. By offering a fixed financial incentive (currently set as 1% fee of the whole transaction) to listing agents upon acceptance of an Opendoor offer, the company acts to create a conflict of interest between a listing agent and their (present, or potential) client.

A listing agent, in this case, has to choose between having to properly represent a consumer to sell thier home in the open market subject to a competitively negotiated commission, or getting a quick pre-fixed "incentive cash" for handing them off to Opendoor.

Opendoor can change this incentive amount at any time. Today, the company offers 1% incentive of the entire home sale to the listing agent, tomorrow, the company decides to set this incentive at 2%, 3%, 4%, 5% or some other pre-fixed amount, as it likes.

Such incentives are a form of price-fixing and directly affect listing agents' ability to work with their clients on fair terms. Further, these incentives remove listing agents' and consumers' abilities to negotiate home sale representation fees (listing commissions) in a competitive setting.

Opendoor Brokerage

Opendoor is a parent company of Opendoor Brokerage, but they are two distinctly different legal propositions. Opendoor is a real estate investor (iBuyer) and Opendoor Brokerage is a licensed real estate broker. For this reason, HomeOpenly maintains two separate reviews for these entities. All user reviews and the editor's review for Opendoor Brokerage are located here.

Where does Opendoor operate?

Opendoor currently operates in select areas across Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, San Antonio, Charlotte, Nashville, Tampa, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Houston, Sacramento, Riverside, Denver, Portland, and Austin..