Recently, Amazon teased the industry by first launching—then removing—a new “Find a Realtor®” service under its home and professional services segment. Pundits jumped all over it. Zillow Group’s shares declined and brokers were left to wonder what’s next.

I recall sitting in Zillow co-founder Rich Barton’s offices a few years back when he commented that while our industry seems to be scared of Zillow, he was worried about firms like Amazon, Google and Apple entering the industry is some fashion. We reported on his observations at that time. No one commented then. Perhaps we are all smarter now.

There are three true fundamental building blocks that undergird our industry:

  1. What percent of consumers use an agent to buy or sell a home?
  2. How do consumers find and choose a real estate professional?
  3. Do consumers think that the commission-based compensation method is fair to them?

The only way large changes can occur in our business is if any of these “big three” change.  It doesn’t take a change in all three, it only takes a change in one to have a big impact on our business.

Amazon entering our business with a potential “Find a Realtor” can obviously impact the second factor. Over 60 percent of all consumers report that they chose a real estate professional through a personal connection.  This number is down somewhat from ten years ago when it was closer to 67 percent. Some recent research suggests that consumers are going online to check out agents through ratings and review sites and places like Facebook, Google and others. A trend has already been established.  Consumers are looking for agents online and selecting what they find more than in the past.

What might this mean? First, agents and teams who want to be found by online shoppers will want to be sure they can be found on Amazon. One example of this desire is that 68.5 percent of all individual agents and 39.4 percent of all teams ranked by REAL Trends on Americas Best Real Estate Agents (total of 12,570 agents and teams) have a Zillow or Trulia profile page. Of all agents and team ranked in this report, 57.3 percent have a profile page on Zillow.

Expect that your agents will want to find a way to be featured there.  This will cost them (or you) more money and if the agents are paying for it, the value exchange between you and your agents will be weakened just a bit more.  And Amazon will join Zillow as a well-known and regarded source of such information. It may cause a further decline in the share of consumers who find their agents online versus through personal relationships. It may expedite the shift of market share to larger producers who can afford a place on Amazon, as has already happened.

I would imagine that sooner or later, Amazon will expand its offering to include some property information and, similarly, Google will make its presence felt.  There are hundreds of millions of real estate searches going on each month and millions more watching HGTV. Homes are a hot topic and likely that interest will grow.  Where there is an audience, there are those who want to reach and monetize that audience.  There are $70 billion-plus reasons for their interest—commission revenues, mortgage revenues, settlement services and home repair and furnishings, to name a few—are all up for grabs.

One other thing—just this past week, most of the newspapers in the industry joined forces in an agreement to seek an anti-trust exemption from the Federal government, and negotiate content license agreements with Facebook and Google as to how these two large media companies can use newspapers content. Legal experts say it likely won’t happen.

Is that what it will come to in our industry?  Stay tuned.