Compare Zillow Flex Program and Zillow Offers

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

Cash Offers
15%-20%
Home Equity
Zillow Offers 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. Zillow Offers typically makes an offer equal to estimated 80%-85% of home value accounting for fees and any cost of the repairs and resale.

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

Not Applicable
0
No Rates
Zillow Offers does not provide real estate services to home buyers. Zillow Offers 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 Zillow Offers?
Answer: Zillow Flex Program is a referral fee network that enables broker-to-broker collusion with use of blanket referral agreements while Zillow Offers 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 Zillow Offers 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

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 and Selling with Zillow Offers

Zillow Offers is a real estate investor and an agent referral network that operates across highly specific locations. Where available Zillow Offers mainly focuses on homogenous homes. In determining the offer, Zillow Offers discounts from the estimated retail value after home is fully renovated.

Zillow Offers Pricing

Zillow Offers is almost entirely built to sell consumer’s data to Premier Broker and Premier Agent participating agents. Zillow also makes money with a difference between buying and selling homes, although only about 1% of all requests end up in successful Zillow Offer.

With these few actual buying transactions each year, Zillow makes money with value appreciation between what Zillow Offers 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.

Zillow Offers further looks to push consumers to use its own mortgage company.

Listing Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Sellers

Buyer's Agent Services

  • This Service Does Not Represent Buyers

Zillow Offers Editor's Review:

Skip the hassle, it is only 1% likely that sellers will accept an offer from Zillow Offers. Instead, Zillow will try to convert seller's request into a lead, sold to random Premier Agent.

Zillow Offers is a classic bait-and-switch sales model. First, consumers are "baited" by Zillow’s magical all-in-one home offer opportunity, but out of tens of thousands requests only a few dozen homes are actually sold to Zillow. Instead, Zillow’s business model aggressively converts consumer requests into seller leads. The interesting thing about this scheme is that Zillow is blatantly open about it.

Here are some excerpts from Zillow Offers website:
  • "Initial data from Zillow Offers indicates that of sellers who request a Zillow Offer, the vast majority end up using an agent."
  • "Zillow Group does not guarantee that it will make an offer or that any offer made will provide the best terms available or will result in the greatest net proceeds to you."
  • "If you do not accept our offer, we can refer you to one of our local partner agents who advertises on Zillow."

Zillow Offers suffers from terrible privacy policy. From one side Zillow states to consumers that "we do not share your contact information unless you request to be connected with an agent or a mortgage lender," and on another section directed at brokers it states that "if a seller is not yet working with an agent and they decline Zillow’s offer, Zillow will work to immediately connect them with a local partner brokerage and agent."

Here is how one of these Premier Brokers describes the process:
  • "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 Premier Broker participant.

Zillow Offers will buy a home at a price that is below market value due to necessary repairs, renovation, and other factors. After Zillow Offers 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. Zillow Offers claims to provide convenience, speed, and certainty of a fast sale.

Dubbed as an iBuyer, Zillow Offers makes an offer on a house within days, but this offer is highly conditional. Each offer Zillow Offers makes is just an estimate until it makes a home inspection. At the inspection, Zillow Offers 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 fee. Zillow Offers only makes offers for select homes in select regions.

The main disadvantage of using Zillow Offers is high losses in homeowners’ equity, this is beside the fact that the program is designed to collect and sell user data instead of actually buying homes.

As any real estate investor, Zillow Offers 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. Zillow Offers is not legally bound to represent consumers, its main legal obligation is to its shareholders.

Zillow Offers’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.

Zillow Offers 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. 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 Zillow Offers.

Typically Zillow Offers 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.

Where does Zillow Offers operate?

Zillow Offers currently operates in select areas across Raleigh, Charlotte, Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, and Las Vegas.