Compare Zillow Flex Program and Torii Homes

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
Torii Homes does not openly advertise home listing services for home 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

Buyer’s Savings
20%-30%
Commission Rebate
When Torii Homes represents homebuyers, it contributes 20%-30% of its Buyer's Agent Commission (2.5%-3%) to the buyer as a way to financially compete for buyer’s business. Homebuyers do not pay any taxes on the amount, the refund amount is always tax-free. A minimum commission and other terms may apply. Torii Homes typically applies this rebate against other closing costs related to the home purchase transaction.
Question: What is the difference between Zillow Flex Program and Torii Homes?
Answer: Zillow Flex Program is a referral fee network that enables broker-to-broker collusion with use of blanket referral agreements while Torii Homes is a buyer’s real estate agent and a referral fee network
Compare Zillow Flex Program and Torii Homes 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: 22 February 2021
Last updated: 25 April 2021

Buying and Selling with Zillow Flex Program

Consumer Warning

Zillow Flex Program is a broker-to-broker collusion scheme, where all real estate agents agree to pay massive kickbacks to receive your information. As a consumer, you will always overpay for broker commissions subject to hidden kickbacks and pay-to-play steering promoted in their referral scheme. United States federal antitrust laws prohibit consumer allocation and blanket referral agreements between real estate companies. Do not allow your information to be "sold as a lead" between brokers in exchange for massive commission kickbacks paid from your future home sale, or your future home purchase.


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 with Torii Homes

Torii Homes is a buyer's agent and a referral fee network that offers homebuyer’s refunds in select service areas. Torii Homes typically credits the buyer's refund savings against the miscellaneous transaction costs such as loan origination fees, appraisal fees, title search, title insurance, surveys, deed-recording fees, and credit report charges.

Torii Homes does not credit the buyer's refund savings against property taxes, homeowner's insurance, transfer taxes, interest, mortgage points (optional fees paid directly to a lender in exchange for a reduced interest rate.) orii Homes does not credit the buyer's refund savings against any recurring costs.

After the miscellaneous transaction costs are paid for, Torii Homes keeps the rest of the Buyer’s Agent Commission as a fee for representing buyers in the home purchase.

Torii Homes Pricing

Torii Homes offers homebuyers approximately 20%-30% of the Buyer’s Agent Commission as savings.

Listing Services

  • This Service Does Not Openly Advertise to Home 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

Torii Homes Editor's Review:

Torii Homes is a tech-enabled real estate brokerage. Torii Homes claims that it costs nothing to use the service: “The seller of a home pays the real estate commission, which we then put toward your closing costs. You don't pay Torii anything for our help.” This is false and misleading advertising because buyer’s agents never work for free. A recent settlement between NAR and US-DOJ prohibits licensed real estate brokers from making a claim that their services are offered for free.

The cost of hiring a buyer’s agent is always incorporated into the homebuyer’s final mortgage sum. As a buyer’s agent, Torii Homes is paid with a percentage of the home sale, Buyer's Agent Commission (typically offered at 2.5%-3% by the seller) and it contributes 20%-30% of this total amount to the buyer as a way to financially compete for buyer’s business.

Torii Homes provides homebuyers with a licensed expert real estate agent who helps with the home search, scheduling/attending showings, preparing a home purchase offer, and price negotiations.

Torii Partner Agents

Torii Partner Agents Referral Network (Torii Partner Agents) is a referral process that connects buyers with third-party real estate agents in exchange for an undisclosed blanket referral fee. Torii Partner Agents are not employed by Torii Homes, however, Torii Homes maintains a set of pre-arranged price-fixing agreements with random Partner Agents, claiming to offer consumers savings.

The price-fixing agreements between Torii Homes and Torii Partner Agents are presented to homebuyers as blanket incentives of $1,000 in buyer commission rebates.

Torii Partner Agents are employed by, or work with their independent brokerages, are referred by Torii Homes at their own discretion, as a blind match. Torii Homes keeps the referral fee amount it receives from these brokers hidden. This practice is highly deceptive and is designed to deceive consumers to utilize Torii Homes as a price-fixing scheme to receive savings from competing brokers.

A blanket incentive of $1,000 is presented before consumers as savings, but the cost of the referral fee always works against homebuyers. The blanket referral fee between Torii Homes and Torii Partner Agents is hidden in the final cost of commissions. This practice results in an inefficiency known as reverse competition between brokers and price-fixing. Ultimately, price fixing and kickbacks result in a lower quality of service or higher commissions paid by the homebuyers.

By engaging with Torii Homes, homebuyers authorize them to share personal information and home search history with any Partner Agent, regardless if a consumer wants to work with a Torii Homes agent directly.

Torii Homes dictates that Partner Agent rebates $1,000 of their commission as means to allocate homebuyers to other brokers. 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 firmly prohibited by federal antitrust legislation. To fix, control, recommend, suggest or maintain commission rates, rebates, and fees for other agents' services is an improper practice.

In summary, Torii Homes offers a legitimate buyer's refund to consumers spent against miscellaneous closing costs. However, Torii Homes cannot legally organize competing brokers into a referral fee network because blanket referral agreements, price-fixing, consumer allocation, and market allocation between licensed real estate brokers in the United States are prohibited.

Where does Torii Homes operate?

Torii Homes currently operates in select areas across Boston, MA; San Francisco, CA; Los Angeles, CA.