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Ali Pearson Webster of Zillow sits down with Greg and Kevin on the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast to discuss ways home builders can succeed on Zillow. The three discuss positioning for the new normal and the importance of communicating with customers on their terms. Ali covers many of the Zillow platforms that help home buyers connect with builders and she talks about the industry’s future. There’s also a squash challenge laid out. It’s another fun episode, listen and enjoy.
Since 2012, Ali has managed Zillow Group's partnerships with many of the nation’s largest homebuilders. She has a passion for identifying business solutions that add value and help her customers exceed their sales and marketing goals. As an advocate for her new construction partners, she works with Zillow's product and leadership teams to ensure Zillow and Trulia users discover, consider, and engage with new construction listings throughout their homebuying journey.
[00:00:00] Greg Bray: Hello, everybody. And welcome again to another exciting episode of the Home Builder Digital Marketing Podcast. I'm Greg Bray with Blue Tangerine
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin Weitzel from Outhouse.
Greg Bray: And we are excited today to be joined by Ali Webster. Who's with the strategic partnerships at Zillow. Welcome, Ali.
Ali Webster: Thanks so much, Greg, it's a pleasure to be here.
Greg Bray: Well, thanks so much for your time. Well, you know, for those who don't know, you want you to just give us a quick introduction of yourself and who's Ali Webster.
Ali Webster: Sure. Well, truth be told I'm still getting used to that new last name I had just got married a few months ago
Greg Bray: Congratulations.
Ali Webster: Thank you.
Formerly Ali Pearson. Um, but my gosh, I let's see I'm originally from Philadelphia, but I've been living out here in San Francisco for the last 10 years or so. And the last eight of those I've been working with Zillow, so excited to chat with you all about our, our shared industry here.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Well, before we get to Zillow, I need to ask something completely different. Tell us about squash.
Ali Webster: Oh my [00:01:00] goodness. Oh, you mean the vegetable?
Greg Bray: Yeah. Cause that's what everybody's thinking about. No, I'm not talking about the vegetable. I'm talking about the sport. How do you get them to squash?
Ali Webster: Oh my goodness. Well, you know, when you grow up in the Northeast, it's a bit more common out here in California.
People look at you like you're crazy, you know, that's not surfing. What is that? But, uh, you know, I had three older brothers, all of whom played and my parents played and it was sort of a family thing. Um, I joke that I think it was the world's greatest babysitter, frankly, because there's this very large, heavy door.
Right. So my mom could just put me in there and, you know, go do her thing and I couldn't get out, but it really, it, you know, honestly has been an amazing experience. Throughout middle school and high school took me actually all over the world playing. So I'm really grateful for that opportunity.
Kevin Weitzel: So related to squash,
Ali Webster: Yeah
Kevin Weitzel: I find I kind [00:02:00] of dabble in racquetball,
Ali Webster: Do you?
Kevin Weitzel: But a slightly obese 49-year-old male with former back surgery and bad knees have even a remote chance playing against you in a game of squash with his racquetball skills.
Ali Webster: Oh, I think we should get out there and give it a whirl and not yell.
Kevin Weitzel: I don't really feel like throwing up on the court. I really don't.
Ali Webster: I bet you do just fine, Kevin.
Kevin Weitzel: Alright
Greg Bray: No, I saw that and I had to go, you know, I don't know a lot about squash. So I did just a quick little Google and had to refine my search to make sure I got the sport instead of the vegetables, you know?
And, and, uh, and then like, Oh, it's like racquetball but harder. So that's kind of was my, uh, my summary statement and where I put it in my little, a memory palace if you will. So, no, it sounds, it sounds fun and interesting. So, Ali, tell us a little bit about how you got involved just with the home building industry.
How did you get to this point in your career.
Ali Webster: Sure, my gosh, it [00:03:00] was a circuitous route, to say the least. I actually, I always thought I was going to be in the art world. I was art history, undergrad, and actually went to graduate school for art business. This was during the height of the recession. So interesting times to say the least.
But it's somehow ended, ended up out here in San Francisco. And I was working actually in public relations for a couple of years. And I remember attending an event on behalf of a client and one of the Trulia engineers was up there doing a demo of one of our mapping features, you know, the heat maps that Trulia has, and being such a visual learner.
And, you know, from the art world, it really stuck with me. So. Few months later that the opportunity to join the Trulia team fell in my lap and I jumped on it. My former boss took a chance on me and it's been a really amazing ride ever since. [00:04:00] Not long after I joined the Trulia team, the Zillow acquisition happened.
So that was a whole new chapter. Right. And you know, when I first joined Trulia, it was gosh, three, four of us. Right. It was kind of wild, wild West. And we were knocking on the rentals engineer door saying, Hey, Hey, can you, can you help us build this? And you were trying to, trying to build what these. These builders are asking for and just didn't have many resources.
So after the merger, that that all kind of shifted. Right. And we realized as a, as a company, that there was a lot more we could do together, then we could have a part. And then we really went to, to tackle that.
Greg Bray: Awesome. So I know that that a lot of people, when they think of Zillow, um, they think of more of the resale, you know, real estate, uh, as opposed to the new home construction side of it.
Uh, and that's, and I know that Zillow has been investing a lot in trying to change that [00:05:00] perception and, and add to that. Tell us a little bit about the history of that and, you know, your role in that. Of how Zillow kind of has been trying to court if you will. Um, you know, new home builders and new home construction.
Ali Webster: Sure. Yeah. Happy to, you know, I think as the dust settled, after the merger and our executive team was evaluating various opportunities and, and where to focus time, the new construction vertical really popped up. Based on, on, on one stat that I remember very clearly, which was the Delta, if you will, between the the number of folks who consider new construction and the number of folks that actually buy new construction.
Right? So that was about, gosh, if memory serves me, you know, call it 38, 40% that considered and 10, 12% that actually purchased. Right. So. What was it that wasn't, wasn't bridging that gap and how do we help bridge that gap? And, [00:06:00] you know, a bunch of research later revealed that actually on new construction, the perception of it is that it's expensive and it's confusing and don't really understand the process.
And am I going to get ripped off? And, you know, little Johnny has to be in school September 1st. And I don't know, is this home going to be ready by then? So a lot of our work and the launch of the promoter community's product, which is really the platform. The main platform for listings is, is to help bridge that and to help say, Hey, you know, you may be searching on Zillow thinking that you're in the market for a resale home, but new construction actually is an option and help educate those perspective buyers on, on what the process will look like.
And gosh, you know, there are actually a quick move-in options for instance. So we're really trying to help builders tell that story and to make those communities really come to life for prospective buyers so that we can get new construction into the [00:07:00] consideration set of these shoppers.
Greg Bray: So you mentioned those stats, which are, which are really interesting about considering new home construction versus actually buying it.
Is that something that you've seen stay consistent that gap or has it changed over the last few years?
Ali Webster: It is creeping, creeping down, right? It's, it's definitely shifting in the right direction. I think there's still a lot of work to do both on the Zillow. And then just as an industry, as a whole. Right. Um, you know, I think new construction in general, and this is not a knock on the industry.
It's just that we tend to be a bit antiquated. Right. And there's a lot of work to be done. Uh, Kevin's liking that piece a lot of work to be done on kind of bringing our industry up to the times. Right. And, and frankly, I think the last few months coming out of this pandemic of have really fast [00:08:00] forward that and present some interesting opportunities for the industry as a whole.
Greg Bray: When I think about that gap, it reminds me of the idea that, that lots of times, um, home builders look at the other home builder down the street as their competitor. And they forget about the competitor. That is the resale, which actually is even a bigger base based on what you just described a much bigger competitor.
And if I can address as a builder, that that buyer's concerns or, or whatever lack they see in what I'm offering versus that resale down the street. There's a lot of opportunities there. Would you agree with that?
Ali Webster: Oh, absolutely. Greg, I think that's, you know, that's one of the key takeaways of what I've learned in the last six, eight years is it's helping builders understand that.
Yes. You know, if you're a top 10 builder, you have to think about what the other nine are doing, but really consider resale. And I think that's one of the unique value propositions of a Zillow or [00:09:00] Trulia is being able, to capture the folks that are not only in the market for new construction, exclusively, but resell.
Right. And if we're able together to present these listings in such a way, you know, visually on a map where we can capture their attention. And then educate them on all of the wonderful amenities that come with the community. And gosh, there are all these different floor plan options, and I get to choose my finishing this, that, and the other, or there's nothing available with the move in next month.
That that goes a long way. And in making those would be resale buyers, turn into potential new construction buyers.
Greg Bray: Awesome. Awesome. So tell us a little more Ali about your specific, you know, kind of day to day role today at Zillow and working with builders. What is it that you specifically are doing?
Ali Webster: Sure. So our team, since those early days of four of us has grown to gosh, over a hundred now, [00:10:00] both on the sales side and dedicated product team and engineering team, et cetera. So we have four of us who are dedicated to working to working with the top 50 builders, call it 40 50 builders. And then we have a larger regional team that works with the small to medium-sized builders.
So in my day to day, you know, I've worked with the same folks for, you know, seven, eight years now. Right. So I really approach each of my clients as, as a partnership. And, you know, at this point, pretty much everybody is listing all of their communities on the site. And so the goal is how do we maximize ROI?
Make sure that, you know, every, every product innovation that's coming out of our team, each partner is taking advantage of be it a tour request feature, or, you know, anything along those lines and really helping to move the ball forward for each partner.
Greg Bray: Awesome. So what is [00:11:00] it then in a little more detail for the builders who are not using the Zillow platform yet?
Um, what, what kinds of things do you offer them? What should they be aware of? Um, that's available to them.
Ali Webster: So really the main bread and butter of you kind of step one, if you will, of working with Zillow as a builder is our promoted community platform. Right. And so just as on the resale side, you know, we've sourced listings from various MLS is the promoter communities platform allows a builder to send us an XML feed of all of their listings and all of their communities.
And we then display it on the site in such a way where we're able to have a dedicated community detail page and then individual listing pages that roll up to that. Right? So those listing pages will have your quick move-ins. They'll have all your plan options, et cetera, so that when a prospective buyer sees that they're able to really [00:12:00] understand that, gosh, this is all part of a bigger community.
You're able to host, you know, video content there, virtual content virtual walkthroughs, et cetera, to help that community come to life. And then of course, beyond that, there are various other advertising products that allow you to increase your exposure in the areas where you're building and capture even more leads.
Uh, and then the the most recent way that we're working with. With builders is on the Zillow offers side of things, which I'm sure we'll get to at some point, but it's been a really interesting innovation both internally and for our builders to help solve for some of those contingent sales that tend to fall through.
Greg Bray: No, I definitely want to get into that a little bit more in the minute for sure. Um, so. For those who don't know how to spell XML feed, um, you know, 'cause you're dropping your drop-in techie language. Um, that's you know, and we, and we do that for a lot of our clients is help them build those and push that data to you guys.
So [00:13:00] that's why I said that's just a, just a special formatted file but it's just a data file of all the, all the community data and model data, et cetera, too.
Ali Webster: Yeah,
Greg Bray: push up, make it, make it easy to manage. Right. I'm trying to do that for sure.
Ali Webster: That's exactly right. And it allows, it allows the builder to maintain or maintain control of any lifting updates.
Right? So when a home sells or when pricing shifts or any of that, that's automatically reflected within 12 hours on the site because they're in control of their entire feed.
Kevin Weitzel: So not all builders have the same level of sophistication. Um, you know, you've got somebody like, you know, your top, like you mentioned, your top 10, who has, you know, their websites dialed in pretty good.
At least some of them do. Um, you know, they've got their entering and vert visual content. They've got their interactives. What about that? Less sophisticated, maybe even a smaller, local, only builder, uh, that may need some help in those, in those worlds. Do you does Zillow provide anything in their platform where they can help optimize.
Uh, the listings to basically make them make [00:14:00] there, there appear to be a little bit more professional.
Ali Webster: Yes, Kevin, and I'm so glad you brought that up. We actually, a couple of years ago acquired a company called new home feed that may ring a bell to you two. And it's become our internal sort of data input platform for smaller builders.
So you may have, you know, five, six communities. And you're able to go into that new home feed platform back together with your, your Zillow team entering the data. It basically spits out that fancy XML feed that Greg was referring to and allows you to show your listings on Zillow.
Greg Bray: Is there some common errors or mistakes you see people making in that data or leaving things out that are critical, that you know, that they may not realize that you could share with us.
Ali Webster: Yes is the short answer.
Greg Bray: Do we need more time?
Ali Webster: It definitely happens. And look where, you know, we're all busy having a [00:15:00] million things going and we, you know, we fully appreciate that. Zillow is, it's just a piece of a builder's, you know, daily, weekly todo list. Right. Uh, but we, we do find that, you know, oftentimes there aren't that many photos or the description isn't as robust as it could be, or, you know, they have a whole bunch of renderings when they really could have some rich media content and beautiful photography.
So we actually, this past year launched something called the content completion score in an effort to help builders have a gauge of where they stand. And, you know, to reference what you mentioned earlier, Greg, this is in large part to help compete with resale, right? Because a resale home on average has 30 plus beautiful photos and really starts to come to life when a user's looking at that listing.
So the content completion report allows a builder to say, okay, [00:16:00] Here are the holes, if you will. And I only have five photos and, you know, if I get to 10, my score is gonna go up a little bit, that type of thing, and really helpful.
Greg Bray: No, that's, that's great to hear. Do you anticipate, and this is just, I guess, more of a personal curiosity.
I can foresee a time when, you know, everybody's listed on Zillow now, right? Because you've conquered the world and you know, every builder, every builder has, has their stuff there where we have to start. Um, competing within the Zillow platform kind of hierarchy, almost like from an SEO type of standpoint, where you're going to have to be making, is there talk internal and don't give away any secrets that are just in trouble here, but you know, about kind of that future of as this grows, there's not enough room on the front page, so to speak for everybody. And how do we start to address some of that?
Ali Webster: Yeah, that's a really interesting question about maintaining the ability to show up. Right. I think at, at this point to [00:17:00] date, various product innovations have allowed builders to do that. Right. So for instance, Uh, the most recent one would be our, our 3-D tour option, which really took off during the months of the COVID pandemic.
Right. As you would imagine, you know, people are migrating online and looking for ways to, to shop that way. And by adopting that and adding these 3-D tours to listings, it actually bumps up the sort order for builders for that first week. Right. So we've seen that those listings get twice as many saves and are fewer days on market, right?
So they're seeing performance bumps there. So I imagine you personally, that there always be a correlation between those product and feature innovations and allowing a builder to step up their exposure.
Kevin Weitzel: Now on the 3-D tours is the Zillow platform-agnostic to the [00:18:00] source of the 3-D? Like, can it be a Matterport, can it be something else or is there a preference to the 3-D phone version that's Zillow has.
Ali Webster: Yeah. So we actually developed our own app 3-D app. So that is what's used as the proprietary 3-D option if you will. With that said, we do accept Matterport doors and other options within the feed, they show up as a link out to a virtual tour. So many of the top builders with whom I work, for instance, have invested heavily in Matterport and rightfully so.
It's a wonderful tool and it allows them to really make their communities come to life. So we do allow them to show that onsite.
Kevin Weitzel: Yeah. I mean, there are, there are several different options out there in the 3-D world, but that they still are the pinnacle of, you know, current offerings as far as those 3-D.
Ali Webster: Yeah, there really are. And, and 3-D and, you know, even moving into the virtual reality world. Right. And I think they're really pushing the envelope for [00:19:00] industry and I love watching what they're doing.
Kevin Weitzel: So a followup question to that is that if you had a builder that had a rendered virtual tour for, let's say product, they want to pre-sale.
Uh, cause that happens a lot in the home building industry is that the, you know, they'll, they'll not just create exterior renderings, but they'll also create interior either stills or they'll create interior VR's that would allow to push forward to the platform as well.
Ali Webster: I believe so, Kevin
Greg Bray: So Ali, what do you say to the builder? So, you know, I tried Zillow last year and I didn't get any sales from it. You know, the the leads weren't real and it costs me a lot of money. And so I quit, what, what kind of thoughts would you have there? Um, for someone who's kind of had that experience and maybe unfairly judging.
Ali Webster: Yeah. Oh gosh. I mean, look, we're all consumers of lots of things and we've all had varied experiences. Right. I think, um, you know, I could list a ton of sort of less than, than par experiences. [00:20:00] I think, you know, with folks who have come back and said, Hey, you know, convince me otherwise. I found in my experience that the questions around how they're managing the product after signing up for it is, is where the holes are.
Right? So oftentimes for instance, with the promoter community's platform where one of the main success metrics is the number of leads, oftentimes they maybe weren't tracking them properly, or the leads were going to an alias that wasn't managed or the leads God forbid, weren't actually getting responded to.
Um, you know, we've seen tons of research from, do you convert lately about our sort of our industries struggle to respond in this on-demand world. Right. And you know, whether we're we're buying a widget or a home, we really expect that that [00:21:00] service to be relatively instantaneous. And oftentimes, you know, are the people on site, are busy with somebody else and we don't get back in time.
So I think there's a lot of room for improvement there. And in my experience, folks are, are open to that opportunity.
Greg Bray: And so leads come both from someone, maybe filling out a form on the Zillow site, but also there's links back to the builder site where someone could just end up on the builder site and then become a lead at some point.
And so what you're saying is if you don't have the attribution tracking in place, you're never even going to know that this was a quote Zillow leads to, to measure your, your ROI on that investment.
Ali Webster: That's right. In large part, Greg, and you know, that's one of the challenges, right? Is the value of a platform like Zillow is so much more than the, you know, 20 email submissions that you receive in a given month because there are phone calls as well? And then there are clicks out to the [00:22:00] website that then allow you to remarket to them downfall. Right. Then there are folks that are just doing their research and then they're driving out to your community. You know, I think I'd be the first to admit as with the company that, you know, we're not the only resource that folks use.
Right? So in this multitouch world, you have to make sure that you're on all the platforms that matter, right.
Kevin Weitzel: And can I assume that you provide the, like the analytics, uh, all the background, all the source from all the leads that are generated and even touches from the platform to the builders?
Ali Webster: We absolutely do Kevin. And in fact, one of the innovations that I'd say we're most proud of this year is something called the builder dashboard.
Historically, clients have relied on monthly reporting to be emailed directly to them from, from me and my team. And we're still happy to do that, but the builder dashboard allows them to at the drop of a [00:23:00] hat log in figure out in real-time. How many leads have been submitted, not us for a division, but for an individual community as well as engagement metrics of, you know, listing views and all of the trends they're seeing week over week and month over month.
Greg Bray: So let's, let's dive back into the whole Zillow offers program. Can you define that for us a little bit and then tell us why builders should be paying attention?
Ali Webster: Sure. Well, gosh, I personally think it's the most exciting thing that's happened in my eight years in the industry.
Um, it just feels like a. A no brainer for me. Um, so Zillow offers is, is, are I bind if you will? Right? So like an offer pad or an open door, um, we will make offers on a home. So how that applies to new construction is you can imagine, you know, somebody, we say her name is Beth. Beth the buyer, you know Beth comes to Zillow and she's searching around and she clicks on.
You know, I'd like an [00:24:00] offer on my home and she's connected with the Zillow advisor who creates an offer for her and imagine a world where then that deal advisor asks her, Hey, are you interested in new construction? And if she says, yes, if we're able to connect her with the builder directly, well, that becomes an extra lead source for that builder.
Right. And it allows the builders to really sell for some of those contingent sales. So if you know, an onsite sales associate is, is, you know, trying to sell a floor, plan a to somebody that's on-site and they're excited and ready to go, but they say, Hey, you know, I really need to, to sell my home first to access that equity.
Oftentimes, and in my experience, it's anywhere from 10 to 25, 30% of those sales might fall through based on that contingency. Right. And, and it's made particularly challenging for new construction because that build [00:25:00] time can be six, eight, nine months. Right. So what happens to the market and, you know, how does, how does the prospective buyer really understand that, they're going to have confidence that, that, that home's going to sell. Um, so having that, that in hand offer has has really allowed them to, to move forward with more confidence.
Greg Bray: And if I understand it correctly, there's even some scheduling opportunities with those offers as well. Right. It says I can get this offer and I, it's not like, Oh, now I gotta be out in 30 days.
It can be kind of planned down downstream a little bit more, which makes it even more attractive, I think from a new home construction purchase process, to be able to say, Oh, three months from now I can move in. Or I, and I don't know how flexible it is. It's like, Oh, sorry, the CEO's delayed a week. Can we wait for another week?
You know, I don't know if you can do that, but you know, I can even foresee some of those things that come up and make some of that process for the buyer so challenging. I'm really intrigued by, [00:26:00] by this idea and how builders can take advantage of it.
Ali Webster: Yeah, that's exactly right, Greg. We allow we to allow the buyer to choose their move out date anywhere from gosh I think it's seven days to eight months during it. So it allows the builder that timeframe to complete their home.
Kevin Weitzel: And it can be contingent on when the home is complete or is it just a, an estimated date of close?
Ali Webster: Tell me a little bit more, Kevin
Kevin Weitzel: meaning that a, so I'm a buyer, I'm beths husband, a Beth, a buyer I'm I'm Kevin, the buyer.
Um, I'm Kevin, the the tag along with Beth, the buyer, and we have a house that we need to sell here in Arizona. Cause we're going to relocate to Houston and we're looking at building in Houston that happens to be on the Zillow platform and with the when I'm buying that home, I say, you know, I can't really put an offer on this home because it's contingent on me selling my home.
They can do the offer, but let's say they say, okay, well, your home that you're looking at, we could have done in three months to four months. Here's the estimated date that it's going to be done. If that estimated date of [00:27:00] completion varies by two or three weeks, the contingency is in a lock-in for the purchase of the offer on the previous home, correct?
Meaning that it's a floating final day. It's not a set in stone final day.
Ali Webster: If I'm understanding you correctly. That's correct.
Kevin Weitzel: Okay.
Greg Bray: We all struggled to understand Kevin correctly sometimes Ali, its quite alright.
Ali Webster: I mean, the idea is just to give ultimate flexibility to everyone, right? And to make, you know, you and your wife, Beth comfortable, but you have your offer and you know, the exact pricing exactly what your net proceeds are going to be. And you don't have to worry about it. Well, do you know, holding open houses or, you know, how am I going to make sure that I sell this in time and, you know, look in a, in a post COVID world, you know, new and germ-free has never looked so good.
Right. So do you really want folks coming through your home and tracing their germs around for open houses? Maybe not. [00:28:00] So. Talk about a tailwind. I think we may see even more folks interested in that. Not just so offers, but I buying as a whole, just to consider that as an option for certainty and safety.
Kevin Weitzel: And as a disclaimer, I just want to make sure that the public understands that my girlfriend Tina needs to know that this can't get back to her, that I have a fictitious marriage with beth the buyer because she will literally kill me.
Oh, gotta make sure he's not behind me. Uh, she wouldn't really kill me if I was actually married to Beth. Cause we've been together for like eight years. So for me to have a secret marriage with beth buyer would be catastrophic to my current relationship
Greg Bray: It's great to know that Tina listens to the podcast Kevin.
Kevin Weitzel: She does actually
Ali Webster: Kevin, feel free to give Tina my number. I'll
Kevin Weitzel: you'll you'll squash that you'll squash it.
Ali Webster: Yeah, squash it. That's right.
Greg Bray: Awesome well, Ali I want to be respectful of your time here we have been going for a while, but you know, are there any thoughts on kind of [00:29:00] where you see the future going with, you know, a home?
I mean, the Zillow offers, of course, this is still kind, kinda new and growing and, you know, are there anything new things come in that we should be watching for?
Ali Webster: Oh, my gosh, I, it kinda feels like ours, our industry is leapfrogged forward a few years. Doesn't it in the last couple of months. And you know, before, before March, you know, we had almost everybody using the online resources to search for homes and half of them were finding their home originally online.
And there was certainly this feeling of a shift towards digital and all of us, you know, from Zillow to builders, to everybody feeling that need to keep up and get ahead of the curve. But to me it feels like, you know, COVID really just forced us to adapt immediately. Right. And on the Zillow front, you know, an example of that is.
Making our tour request feature have a [00:30:00] real-time option. Right? So that's something that was in the pipe for six months from now. But our product team was able to turn that around in 72 hours and say, Hey, you know, you're now able to request it a video, a realtime video tour with a builder. And that really, really helped builders maintain their conversations with prospective buyers during this time.
Um, and we've seen some remarkable innovation from builders, right? You look at, M/I Homes doing their virtual reality headsets? For instance, I thought that was a particularly interesting one. We've seen, you know, curbside closings. We've seen the tour it now technologies start to come out with CBH and some other builders.
And I think a lot of that is, is potentially here to stay. Right. Um, you know, the Zillow metrics are, are supporting that thesis. Right. We see you know, listing views that have, you know, after the [00:31:00] sort of plummets of, of the height of COVID, they've come back to levels that are far above, you know, year over year 2019.
And the engagement metrics are there too. So folks that aren't just looking, but they're submitting leads. They're submitting to a request, et cetera, as well as engaging with more kind of freebie content, et cetera. So, you know, what does that all mean? I think in my opinion, home buying will always be an emotional experience, right.
It's, you know, oftentimes the most emotional purchase that anybody makes. Right. And oftentimes they make it only once or twice in their life. So I personally think that the human interaction piece will never go away. But I do think that we, as an industry, need to meet the consumer where they are particularly, you know if you just look at demographics and you see that the millennial generation is coming [00:32:00] into home-buying age.
And I think that the median home by an age today is 34. Well, there are something like 45 million people that are coming into that age bracket and the next decade. And guess what those folks have grown up with the internet. They've grown up with digital. They're much more comfortable with it. So in a world where you can buy a car from a vending machine, I think we really need to get ahead of, where these consumers are and meet them where they are.
You know, we'll see, I personally think some of the tour it now technology is, is really interesting. It allows us to, to be more available to particularly working couples who need to visit a home outside of office hours. Um, you know, will there be a buy it now button on, on Zillow or elsewhere? I don't know, but I could imagine a day where there's reserve it now.
Right. And allow a bit more [00:33:00] kind of instant gratification if you will, for the consumers online prior to them getting out to visit and having that human interaction with the sales team.
Greg Bray: No. Thanks. That's terrific. I do. I do think when we talk about this whole buying online with, with builders, sometimes people take it to mean that it's, um, without help and without, um, personal support and it's totally unassisted, and I'm not sure that, that we have to make those exclusive, right. That we can still have more of the transactional process be online. But it doesn't mean that I might never visit, but maybe I'll visit and tour a couple and then a week later.
I'm at home and, okay, this is the one I want. And now, boom. I move forward. You know, it doesn't necessarily mean that I've never visited. I think there will be some of that for certain types of buyers and certain homes. But, but yeah, those are some great insights. Thank you so much for sharing.
Ali Webster: My pleasure.
Kevin Weitzel: You know, what's funny is that I've actually heard your name a few [00:34:00] times, but this is our first time actually formally meeting, but I've actually heard your name a few times and one of them, I'm actually glad you mentioned that M/I Homes is Will Duderstadt. He actually says ridiculously complimentary things about you.
So I have a question for you. Number one, if you were to battle Will Duderstadt in a squash arena. Number one, would you thoroughly kick his butt?
Greg Bray: Kevin, its a court, not an arena.
Kevin Weitzel: And number two, everything's a battle with me. It's an arena, battle arena. would you beat Will to death in squash number one? And number two, what racket would you, what racket of choice would you use to, to commence set beating?
Ali Webster: Well, I would, of course, incest that we use the old school wooden rackets just to keep things fair all around
Kevin Weitzel: nice, nice
Ali Webster: and that, you know, I'd say the wager would be, would be breakfast. And if will you know, did not come out on top. I would insist that he ordered pancakes over waffles, [00:35:00] which would absolutely break his hearts. If you ask him he is a serious waffle fan
Kevin Weitzel: He is!
Ali Webster: You know doesn't understand the appeal of pancakes. So that would make them work hard and sweat hard on the court. I'm sure
Kevin Weitzel: I'm going to, I'm going to put out $20 to cover the cost of location, battle here and issue that challenge to Will. Cause I do know that will does listen from time to time.
Uh, so we're going to issue that, that, uh, battle challenge to will do to set, uh, a battle to the death in a squash racket, or a squash court against Ali.
Greg Bray: Well, if you're listening, the gauntlet is down. So give us a call. We'll, we'll have to let you have your rebuttal here at some point. So, so awesome. Well, Ali, any last piece of advice for our listeners today that you'd wanted to share?
Ali Webster: Oh gosh. You know, look, many of the folks that are likely listening of have been in this industry much longer than I.
Um, so I think, you know, we're all. Kind of along for this ride [00:36:00] together, if you will. But you know, if I've learned anything in my eight years in the industry, it's that I change really is the only constant. And if the last three or four months aren't evidence of that, I don't really know what is. So, you know, perhaps my advice would be just for all of us to not get complacent.
Right. I think if we continue to put ourselves in-home shopper's shoes and really meet them where, where they are, and we'll be, we'll be well-positioned to thrive in the months and years to come.
Greg Bray: Awesome. People want to learn more about Zillow or connect with you. What's the best way for them to get in touch.
Ali Webster: Sure. I'm always happy to talk. I have yet to change my email address to my married name. So it's still aPearson@zillowgroup.com or I'm available on LinkedIn as well. Ali Pearson, Webster. I'd love to connect
Greg Bray: and we'll be sure to put those in the show notes as well. So again, thank you so much, Ali, for your [00:37:00] time today.
We really appreciate it.
Ali Webster: Oh, thank you, Greg. Thank you, Kevin. It's been a pleasure and thank you for that.
And everybody, please join us next time. I'm Greg Bray from Blue Tangerine
Kevin Weitzel: and I'm Kevin with Outhouse.