Zillow vs. Family Owned Brokerages: 6 Ways First Team Real Estate Saves Southern California Homeowners Thousands When Selling A Home

Selling your home can be a time-consuming and expensive undertaking — so it’s important to work with the right company that is committed to providing the highest quality service while helping you save whenever possible. It’s easy to get excited looking at your Zestimate and seeing how much your home value has increased over the years, but it’s important to be prepared for the hidden, and sometimes overlooked, costs that these national listing portals and franchises sneak in.

Here are the 6 ways we, as a local family-owned brokerage, help our clients save thousands of dollars on their home sale while providing our signature quality service that has secured us a 98% satisfaction rating among Southern California homeowners.

1. Pricing Your Home

Our Strategy

What sets First Team apart is our local, boots-on-the-ground knowledge of the Southern California real estate market. We combine our best-in-class, bank-grade pricing software with our human experience to get closer to your home’s true value than any other online tool.

Our agents are also trained market experts who use our unique and proprietary Market Trends℠ to analyze changes that will affect your home sale. Market Trends℠ pulls data directly from the MLS, providing an up to the minute look at our niche Southern California markets. Designed to easily reveal trends in supply and demand and more, First Team agents use these additional insights to your advantage to not only price your home but create marketing materials and a complete sales strategy to arrive at the optimal price to match the current market.

Their Strategy

Sadly, Zillow isn’t the best place to obtain an estimate of your home’s value – and they’ll even admit it. Zillow’s very own CEO sold his home for 40% less than the Zillow “Zestimate”. Ouch!  They actually have a disclaimer on their website where you can see exactly how inaccurate they are. They just make it hard to find – so here it is for you:

“The Zestimate® home valuation model is Zillow’s estimate of a home’s market value. It is not an appraisal and it should be used as a starting point. We encourage buyers, sellers, and homeowners to supplement the Zestimate with other research such as visiting the home, getting a professional appraisal of the home, or requesting a comparative market analysis (CMA) from a real estate agent.”

Automated values are a good starting point, but a more in-depth analysis by an experienced human is needed if you really want to know your home’s potential on the market. According to Zillow personally, most Zestimates are “within 10 percent of the selling price of the home.”

The Takeaway: Online sites can guess at the value of your home based on algorithms, but a local expert is able to take those same metrics and apply their very real knowledge of the area and homes that haven’t even sold yet to calculate a more accurate and fair price.

2. Real Local Buyers

Our Strategy 

We’ve built a proprietary network of real, Southern California home buyer data that helps us connect potential buyers with their dream homes. Our Buyer Pipeline℠ and Buyer Delivery Systems include home sale data collected from hundreds of thousands of local clients and more than 2,400 local First Team agents. These systems were built to specifically understand the unique trends of the Southern California market!

We have the privilege of being the #1 largest independent brokerage in Southern California1 because more home buyers and sellers trust us than any other broker. We are also a part of the #1 real estate network in the world through our partnership with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and #1 in luxury sales throughout Orange County2. In fact, a home is sold by First Team every 13 minutes3.

Our collaborative approach to serving all of our very real clients allows us to match buyers and sellers within our network of local agents, and close transactions quicker and easier than anyone else. Unlike other franchise real estate models, the entire First Team family works together to get your home sold, instead of competing with each other.

Their Strategy

Agents spend thousands on Zillow buyer leads only to discover that 99% of them aren’t interested. So recently, Zillow flipped their business model and now buy’s homes to flip for a profit, which is in conflict with the seller’s interest! Zillow is similar to a car dealership model where they give you the least amount possible for your car and turn around and sell it for a large profit.  Yes, it’s convenient but you lose tens of thousands of dollars for this home seller convenience.

The Takeaway: People browse on Zillow; They buy with First Team. More sellers trust First Team because we bring more buyers to the table, immediately driving demand and ultimately maximizing your sales price.

3. Home Repairs and Staging

Our Strategy

We recognize that every neighborhood, and even every home, is unique. So we assess exactly what repairs and staging techniques will have the greatest return on investment for your home specifically. An invaluable resource we offer our clients is our First Impressions Concierge, where we have local contractors identify which renovations, remodeling projects, and staging elements will help your home sell for more money. We even pay for everything upfront so you aren’t charged a dime until your home closes for top dollar.

Their Strategy

Zillow will lower the amount they pay for your home to account for the updates needed because they are purchasing it upfront. There is no collaboration to increase its value, they simply pocket any value-added from their repairs for themselves.

The Takeaway: Zillow charges for repairs and pockets the profit – but at First Team, we cover the costs that let you cash in on your investment.

Aerial View Of Oceanside, Ca With Title &Quot;6 Ways Our Family Owned Brokerage Save You Thousands More Than Zillow&Quot;

4. Local Neighborhood Knowledge

First Team Real Estate has been servicing Southern California for nearly 45 years, which means our agents will know the local neighborhood market and demand, down to your street!  We have local buyer benchmarks for your home, months of inventory in your neighborhood, and likely buyer personas because we’ve sold the same houses for decades. It’s this local knowledge that helped us build our proprietary Buyer Pipeline database, revealing how many buyers are active in your area and what price points they’re looking for.

We listen to the needs of our lifelong clients, educate them with facts, and match for custom solutions in regards to inventory and creative financing. Don’t underestimate the power of over 40 years of local market knowledge!

Their Strategy

Zillow is not hyper-local.  Zillow has not been in the practice of selling real estate for very long in Southern California and does not know how to qualify buyer demand other than through out-of-touch statistics. As a national brand and ultimately a technology company, their strategies and algorithms are built and based on markets that have no bearing on our Southern California landscape – or individual clients. This is a relationship business, and Zillow simply doesn’t have the buyer or agent-to-agent relationships needed to get more for your home.

The Takeaway: Southern California is our home – not just our playground. We know this place like the back of our hand.

5. Negotiations

Our Strategy

First Team agents know local pitfalls and how homes are appraising to avoid unnecessary delays and contract defects, demographic shifts in a neighborhood that affect price, trends in neighborhood appreciation, and what upgrades will translate into resale value. And all of this translates into superior negotiation skills. There are literally hundreds of different negotiations that are a part of just one home sale. Everyone thinks about the price, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, your agent will be going to bat for you on a timeline, inspections, home warranty, closing costs, backup offers, repairs, and more.

Getting top dollar for your home doesn’t just mean picking the right listing price – it includes making necessary repairs so you don’t get undercut on buyer offers, and getting your house sold quickly if you need the profits of your sale to purchase your next home.

Their Strategy

Zillow is a technology firm. Similar to an MLS, they are an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) firm, so they don’t have the local market knowledge that you gain from thousands of closed transactions. No lessons learned at the negotiating table or transactional stories to tell. That’s why Zillow’s latest strategy is to now hire agents in select U.S. markets in order to operate as a broker.

They know that they lack the necessary negotiating skills of a traditional broker, and they’re trying to play catch up. But the fact is, their tech is just a poor imitation for the skills we’ve been honing and owning on the Southern California market since 1976.

The Takeaway: Algorithms don’t sell houses. People do.

6. Commissions

Our Strategy

First Team Real Estate agent commissions are 100% negotiable and when you use our full suite of services to buy and sell your next home, we give back a portion of our commission to buy down your mortgage rate. Qualified buyers can take advantage of a free, quarter of a percent buy down on the latest average mortgage rate to save tens of thousands of dollars on their next home purchase.

Their Strategy

Zillow charges 2.5% MORE than family-owned brokerages like ours! If you look closely at the breakdown of costs that Zillow lays out for selling your home, they have an extra service charge that you’ll never find at First Team Real Estate or any other brokerage. And 2.5% is just the average, depending on several factors, you could end up paying even more.

The Takeaway: We believe in people over profits – unlike Zillow and their added “service” charges.


[1]2019 First Team transactions as reported by TrendGraphix for ALL CRMLS, All Brokers, and other internal sources to include all transactions completed by First Team sales associates. © TrendGraphix.

[2]Top Broker Report published January 2020 based on data available from 1/1/2019-12/31/2019, for CRMLS – Orange County, units sold $1+ million, All Brokers. © TrendGraphix.

[3]Top Broker Report published January 2020 based on data available from 7/1/2001-12/31/2019, ALL CRMLS, All Brokers. As reported by CRMLS participating associations/boards of REALTORS® in California. 2 Based on total 2019 First Team closed transactions 251 8-hour business days in one year. 3 2019 First Team transactions as reported by TrendGraphix for ALL CRMLS, All Brokers, and other internal sources to include all transactions completed by First Team sales associates. Competitor transactions as reported by TrendGraphix for ALL CRMLS, All Brokers, 2019.

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