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Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff on Becoming A Top Producer

Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow

The following is a chapter from the book REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate about preparing the next generation of top producers in real estate.


The author of this chapter is Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow@spencerrascoff

The following is a letter addressed to my child and, in effect, to the next generation of youngsters we hope to guide into the real estate industry.

Dear Alan,

You’ve decided to become a real estate agent. Congratulations! 

You’ve chosen a great career, one in which you can leverage your entrepreneurial spirit, superior work ethic and warm personality to write your own ticket. This is an industry where the only limitation to your success is what you put into it. So the good news is the sky’s the limit; the bad news is that being responsible for your own success is pressure-packed. But I know you’re up to the challenge.

Without a doubt, being a real estate agent is challenging and it’s not as clear-cut as just helping someone buy or sell a house. You’re forced to become an expert in a wide variety of fields, from contract law to website search engine optimization and negotiation to personal finance. Sometimes, it gets messy and you find yourself peripherally involved in marriage counseling and family planning.

And your range of knowledge and ability doesn’t stop there. You have to become equally accomplished at setting up your own computer and getting your own health insurance as you are at helping a first-time home buyer navigate the incredibly harrowing real estate transaction cycle of buying a home. It’s all details all the time and it’s all on you.

I have never been a real estate agent, but I grew up in a real estate household where my mom (your grandmother) was an agent with Douglas Elliman in New York. Throughout my childhood, we went to open houses for fun and now I return the favor by dragging you and your siblings to open houses (perhaps the word “dragging” is a bit strong; you kids love the adventure as much as I did when I was your age and I still deeply enjoy attending open houses and learning about real estate).

It’s my weekend recreation, which helps my professional insight...

Nowadays, I sit on an interesting perch from which to dole out unsolicited advice. As CEO of the largest real estate website and suite of mobile apps, I am keenly aware of what separates "top producer" real estate agents from the rest. I see it all day long.

So here goes.

How to Be a Top Producer In Real Estate

1) Write a business plan

If you don’t know how to write one, search for information online. 

By having a plan, you set a course for yourself and establish goals for where you want to be in one year, five years, etc. It helps establish a marketing plan and bring the industry into focus—who is your competition, who are your allies, etc.

2) Get a coach

Being a real estate agent is a lonely job and you’ll need someone to push you to be better. Good real estate agent coaching services are expensive, but I’ve seen what a positive impact they can have on an agent. If you find a good one, it will pay for itself many times over.

3) Develop an Internet presence

This can be wide and all-encompassing, but with a little effort and patience, being online will pay big dividends—especially in the form of online lead generation. Start with having your own personal website or blog and you can add social media into the mix later.

But being online is vitally important. It’s the way the world searches for information about anything and everything, including real estate.

4) Embrace transparency

Thanks to the Web, the world has opened up.

Previously hard-to-access information is now available on the Web and that includes real estate info. A case in point is Zillow’s Zestimate® home value. When the Zestimate rolled out in 2006, professionals in the real estate industry were not ready for it, but consumers were. People wanted transparency and information. Rather than reject the Zestimate, successful real estate pros saw the benefit–it was a way to open the conversation and be the expert.

Just like people use WebMD as a guide for health issues, they still want to see a doctor. With the Zestimate, it’s a good starting point, but at some point most people will want to engage a professional. 

Be that person!

5) Accept feedback

Whether it’s from a colleague or, especially clients you might have, be open to feedback about your performance. This can come in the form of online reviews and ratings.

For example, Yelp can be a curse or a blessing for restaurants. But good restaurants will embrace reviews and ratings because if you have a great product, there is nothing to fear and everything to gain. Same for you. If you are confident in your abilities, you should seek reviews and ratings from clients. Let them tell your success story. Zillow was the first to offer ratings and reviews of agents and it’s been a positive feature for consumers looking for agents, as well as agents themselves.

Realvolve Blog Post: 2 Major Factors That Determine Whether Your Clients Will Give You Referrals

There are many other tips I can offer, but these are the primary tactics used by top-producing real estate agents to dominate their market area. Just remember that since all real estate is local, you will need to explore what works well in your market and what doesn’t.

Don’t be afraid to innovate and to test different kinds of marketing ideas. After all, this is your company and your business. It’s up to YOU to make it happen and I know you will.


About The Book

REAL book coverMost real estate books fall short. REAL goes beyond mere tactics and strategies to focus on the core of what really matters - You. In addition to the authors' lessons learned, this book also includes contributions from some of real estate's most influential thought leaders: Marc Davison, Spencer Rascoff, Sherry Chris, Krisstina Wise, and many more.

If building a real estate business that lasts is important to you, this is a book you surely won't want to miss!


Blog originally published Sep 27, 2016. Updated Sept 1, 2017.

Dave Crumby

Dave is the founder and CEO of Realvolve, a state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) platform built expressly for real estate agents. Dave began his real estate career as an agent in 1996. Dave authored in 2013 the book titled 'REAL: A Path to Passion, Purpose and Profits in Real Estate’ that has since become a best seller. The book features Dave's experience and the wisdom of other successful real estate leaders, such as the CEOs of Zillow, Trulia, Better Homes and Gardens, and many others.


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