Compare Zillow Flex Program and Opendoor Brokerage

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

Opendoor Agent Partners
30%-40%
Referral Fee
Opendoor Brokerage does not provide real estate services to home sellers. Instead, this broker matches consumers with various real estate agents in exchange for an undisclosed referral fee. Referral fees set by such networks range anywhere between 30%-40% of the entire agent’s commission.

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

Opendoor Agent Partners
30%-40%
Referral Fee
Opendoor Brokerage does not provide real estate services to home buyers. Instead, this company matches consumers with various real estate agents in exchange for an undisclosed referral fee. Referral fees set by such networks range anywhere between 30%-40% of the entire agent’s commission.
Question: What is the difference between Zillow Flex Program and Opendoor Brokerage?
Answer: Both Zillow Flex Program and Opendoor Brokerage function as a referral fee network that enables broker-to-broker collusion with use of blanket referral agreements.
Compare Zillow Flex Program and Opendoor Brokerage 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: 08 July 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 Brokerage

Opendoor is a multi-state VC-backed real estate investor that operates across highly specific locations. Where available, Opendoor offers cash to sellers for homogeneous homes built after 1960 with a value between $125,000 and $500,000. Opendoor is the parent company of several real estate brokerages, including Opendoor Brokerage Inc., Opendoor Brokerage LLC, and Opendoor Texas Brokerage LLC (the “Opendoor Brokerages”).

Opendoor Brokerage is a referral fee network designed to collect fees by matching consumers with local real estate agents willing to pay it. Opendoor Brokerage operates as a licensed real estate brokerage in California under BRE License 02061130, and Texas under TREC License 9008105, but neither broker produce any services that are typically offered by real estate agents and does not represent consumers when buying or selling real estate in any State.

When consumers submit information to Opendoor Brokerage, this information is simply sold in exchange for an undisclosed fee with real estate agents in a process known as a “blind match.”

Opendoor Brokerage Pricing

Opendoor Brokerage revenue comes from undisclosed referral fees. Referral fees set by such networks range anywhere between 30%-40% of the entire agent’s commission. According to the company, "Opendoor Agent Partners only pay a referral fee to our brokerage if they close on a transaction with a referred seller or buyer. The fee is a percentage of the agent's commission, and averages 1% of property sale price unless otherwise noted in agent partner agreement."

Listing Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Sellers

Buyer's Agent Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Buyers

Opendoor Brokerage Editor's Review:

Using its website, Opendoor Brokerage engages in a process known as price fixing because it sets rebates for independent real estate professionals using the network.

Opendoor Brokerage refers consumers to third-party agents that can represent them in home purchase or sale (“Opendoor Partner Agent”) and requires buyer’s agents to offer certain discounts or promotions contingent upon working with the referred consumers.

Opendoor Brokerage receives a referral fee, around 1% of the home price, likely 30%-40% of Partner Agent's entire commission when referring consumers to list or buy a home with an Opendoor Partner Agent. Opendoor Brokerage requires Opendoor Partner Agents to offer 1% of the purchase price to buyers at closing in the form of a commission rebate. The amount is subject to a minimum buyer’s agent commission to Opendoor Partner Agents of $3,000, which means it is calculated as the lesser of either 1% of the price of the property consumer buys, or Opendoor Partner Agent’s commission minus $3,000. According to Opendoor Brokerage, this amount may be prohibited or reduced on the basis of the purchase type (e.g., short sale), lender requirements, loan type (e.g. FHA, VA), or the law.

For purposes of the present discussion, brokerage fees are always negotiable and no broker should set rates and rebates for other brokers. Each firm should establish its own policy as to its fee structure and charges, amount of commissions, and rebates.

"Agent Partners only pay a referral fee to our brokerage if they close on a transaction with a referred seller or buyer. The fee is a percentage of the agent’s commission, and averages 1% of property sale price unless otherwise noted in agent partner agreement. Opendoor Agent Partners are eligible to receive both buyer and seller referrals. Actual volume by referral type may vary over time. The Opendoor Agent Partner program is a broker-to-broker client referral partnership and is supplemental to your existing brokerage affiliation." Source: Opendoor Brokerage website.

By setting buyer's rebates for other brokers across many regions in the United States, Opendoor Brokerage operates with a sole purpose to collect referral fees, where such service effectively results in lower quality of service, pay-to-play bias, and a "blind match" with agents willing to participate.

With Opendoor Brokerage consumers have zero control over what agents the company shares their information with. Opendoor Brokerage simply subjects a real estate transaction with an additional referral fee that is equal to 1% of the home price. This fee is paid directly by the Opendoor Agent Partner to Opendoor Brokerage for failing to deliver a seamless consumer selling experience. Remember, Opendoor claims to offer consumers to buy homes directly as a revolutionary approach to home selling, instead, it systematically sells inquiries that it is unable to meet to random Opendoor Agent Partners for a fee.

Consumers can expect to significantly overpay for the transaction in the form of a higher commission with Opendoor Agent Partners. Even after consumers take into account a price-fixed amount in commission rebate, Opendoor Agent Partner is still required to pay a sizable referral fee, which means that same agent is able to offer a much better rate when approached directly.

For sellers, Opendoor Brokerage does not currently price fix listing rates, so consumers are likely to be referred to an agent who charges the highest commission possible - a "standard" 6% listing rate. There is little incentive for Opendoor Brokerage to connect consumers with the best and most competitive listing agents. Instead, Opendoor Brokerage aims to receive the highest referral fee possible by steering consumers toward a very limited set of agents who have a signed Referral Fee Agreement with Opendoor Brokerage.

Instead of being "sold as leads" consumers looking for a competitive and fair representation can consider negotiating directly with real estate agents, or with help from unbiased consumer-focused online services that do not collect referral fees.

Where does Opendoor Brokerage operate?

Opendoor Brokerage currently operates in select areas across United States.