Back in April, Zillow Group announced it was rolling out changes to its Premier Agent program. Now, those changes have begun. Zillow previously disclosed that it would soon bring several significant changes to its Premier Agent program “over the next several months.” Now, reports have reached HousingWire that this rollout has begun. The new changes will certainly be beneficial to consumers, however real estate agents are still unsure about the changes. Previously, real estate agents could purchase leads, which Zillow would send to them either via phone call or email. If the agent did not answer the phone, they were able to call the lead back at a later time. But Zillow pointed out several pitfalls to this system, both for real estate agents and consumers alike. For consumers, the pitfalls were obvious – there wasn’t always an instant connection to a real estate agent when they tried to contact someone to get their questions answered. Real estate agents also complained due to the value of the leads they would receive, as often times the callers were already working with another agent, and just wanted to ask questions. Also, several different real estate agents were able to purchase the same zip codes, meaning if they missed the call and other agent called the consumer back first, they would keep the lead.
Now, however, Zillow is changing the game. It will now have its own representatives screen incoming calls. They will make sure the caller is actively looking to buy or sell a home, not yet working with an agent and ready to speak to an agent. Once this screening process is complete, Zillow will connect the real estate agent to the caller. However, if the agent doesn’t pick up, Zillow will automatically transfer the call to the next agent in line. “We’ve implemented these changes to deliver higher quality leads to agents while also ensuring a great experience for consumers looking to connect with agents,” a Zillow spokesperson told HousingWire. “This will allow potential buyers to schedule time to speak to an agent when it’s convenient for them and the agent. And, when an agent misses a call for any reason, they don’t lose their place in the queue, they receive the next connection.” If a consumer requests a specific real estate agent, the lead will be sent to that agent, and will remain with them regardless of whether or not they answer the initial phone call. However, Zillow explained this occurrence in rare. “Our data shows the majority of home shoppers do not specifically select an agent when submitting an inquiry on a listing,” the company said. “However, when a home shopper does select an agent, that lead is much more likely to convert.”
And Zillow does warn that real estate agents’ lead volume might change, but expresses its hope that the leads agents are provided with will be of better quality. “Your lead volume may change; however, you’ll continue to receive leads in proportion to your Premier Agent Advertising share of voice,” the company stated. “We’re now focusing on quality over quantity. Each lead you receive will be validated, ready to speak to you and directly connected to you by phone.” The company will continue to roll out its new program across the US throughout 2018. To see if Zillow has begun using its new Premier Agent validated leads in your area, click here and enter your zip code.
Oil sinks further as OPEC and Russia look to raise output
Oil prices extended losses on Monday as Saudi Arabia and Russia said they may increase supplies while US production gains show no signs of slowing. Brent crude futures stood at $75.35 a barrel at 0913 GMT, down $1.09 from the previous close and after touching a three-week low of $74.49 earlier in the session. US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $66.69, down $1.19, after hitting a six-week low of $65.80. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers led by Russia began withholding 1.8 million barrels per day (bpd) of supplies in 2017 to tighten the market and prop up prices that in 2016 fell to their lowest in more than a decade at less than $30 a barrel. Prices have soared since the start of the cuts last year, with Brent breaking through $80 this month, triggering concerns that high prices could crimp economic growth and stoke inflation. “The pace of the recent rise in oil prices has sparked a debate among investors on whether this poses downside risks to global growth,” Chetan Ahya, chief economist at US bank Morgan Stanley, wrote in a weekend note.
To address potential supply shortfalls Saudi Arabia, de-facto leader of producer cartel OPEC, and top producer Russia have been in talks about easing the cuts and raising oil production by 1 million bpd. “Given that our crude balance is short some 825,000 bpd over [the second half of the year], a gradual increase of about 1 million bpd would probably limit stock draws to quite some extent,” Vienna-based consultancy JBC Energy said. Meanwhile, surging US crude production showed no sign of abating as drillers continue to expand their search for new oilfields to exploit. US energy companies added 15 rigs looking for new oil in the week ending May 25, bringing the rig count to 859, its highest since 2015, in a strong indication that American crude production will continue to rise. US crude output has already surged by more than 27% in the past two years, to 10.73 million bpd, ever closer to Russia’s 11 million bpd.
Military members most likely to utilize zero-down mortgages
The home buying preferences of service members and veterans differ from the rest of the population. Military members often face very different lives than the rest of the population, so it stands to reason that their preferences and actions when it comes to buying a home would also be different. One of the most notable differences is the down payment, or lack thereof, according to NAR’s 2018 Veterans and Active Military Home Buyers Profile. About 56% of active duty members and 41% of veterans take advantage of zero down or 100% financed mortgages, compared to just 7% of non-military members. Of course, while there are some zero-down mortgage options available to certain homebuyers, it is much easier for military members and veterans to take advantage of these programs through the US Department of Veterans Affairs.
The US needs 50,000 truck drivers to avoid a shipping squeeze
Retailers are facing a shipping squeeze, and the trucking industry just can’t keep up. According to the American Trucking Associations, there’s a shortage of roughly 50,000 truck drivers across the country. And it’s hitting both businesses and consumers in the wallet. Companies are complaining about how the driver shortage is impacting their business. Meanwhile, the cost of convenient shipping is starting to catch up with consumers. Amazon recently hiked its Prime membership to $119 a year from $99 a year. The retail giant said one of the reasons for the price jump was increased shipping costs. But the driver shortage isn’t just because of demand created by online shopping. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes, according to Bob Costello, chief economist at American Trucking Associations. “We have a demographics problem, demand is strong, trucks haul over 70% of the freight tonnage, our average age is very high, [and] we don’t have enough females,” said Costello. “So much of it revolves around demographics.” To be fair, the trucking lifestyle isn’t exactly an easy sell. Truck drivers work long hours, they’re away from home for weeks on end, and oftentimes sleep inside the trucks themselves. Now, there’s a new technology limiting the hours a truck driver can work in a given day – electronic logging devices (ELDs). And then there’s Elon Musk. He’s using Tesla to develop a fully electric semi truck that could change the industry. He’s not the only one looking to disrupt trucking as we know it. Goldman Sachs estimates that self-driving cars could cost American drivers up to 25,000 jobs a month. But the trucking industry isn’t quite ready to go autonomous yet. “Driverless trucks are decades away,” Costello said. “That is not the solution.” The ATA says we’ll need 898,000 more drivers over the next decade to keep up with growth and demand. It’s not exactly clear how the trucking industry is going to shake out. But until the shortage issue is resolved, companies and consumers alike will likely be stuck with the trickle-down effects of this driver shortage.