Category Archives: Media

BREAKING: Zillow Hires Shaun Donovan as Chief Association Persuasion Officer

Shaun Donovan

SEATTLE, March 5, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Zillow, Inc. (Nasdaq:Z), the leading real estate and home-related marketplace, today announced Shaun Donovan will join the company in the new position of Chief Association Persuasion Officer to lead the company’s relations strategy with REALTOR Associations. He will report directly to Zillow® CEO Spencer Rascoff, and also manage the Washington DC office of Zillow.

As former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in President Barack Obama’s cabinet, Donovan, 48, brings more than 20 years’ experience in finance, law, government and the real estate industry to this important role. In addition to building and strengthening Zillow’s relationships with the Federal, state, and local regulators, legislators, and policymakers, Donovan will also assume executive oversight for Zillow’s outreach to the National Association of REALTORS as well as the state and local Associations of REALTORS.

“We’re thrilled for Shaun to join the Zillow family. We’ve long admired Shaun for his leadership as well as his perspective and approach in advocating on behalf of American consumers,” said Rascoff. “We felt that bringing Shaun on board as CAPO would really help our friends in the Association world see the benefit of working with Zillow. Or at least not working against us.”

“I’m excited about joining Zillow because I believe the company is leading the real estate industry in innovation and serving consumer needs. Equally important, I believe the entire management team truly understands the essential role that local, state and Federal government plays in ensuring that the playing field is truly level. Consumer protection is everyone’s business, and I’ve seen first hand while working at HUD at just how committed to the consumer everyone at Zillow is,” said Donovan. “Why, just last week, I was speaking with my man Barry and mentioned how we really need to make sure through oversight and regulation that consumers are protected while the real estate industry goes through this exciting time of change, innovation, and competition. He, of course, agrees, since I’ve never met a man more concerned about the average American consumer than him. Plus, he really loved hanging out with Spencer during that online town hall event, you know? Anyhow, I’m sure that our friends — and I know all of the big players at NAR, NAHB, ABA, and all that — would see the wisdom of closer collaboration with Zillow. I’m going to make them an offer they can’t refuse.”

All industry-related services aimed at the brokerage community will continue to be managed by Errol Samuelson, Chief Industry Development Officer. Greg Schwartz, Zillow’s Chief Revenue Officer, who also reports to Rascoff, will continue to lead Zillow’s entire sales and revenue operations across all marketplaces. This includes Zillow’s Premier Agent program and advertising sales for Zillow’s real estate, mortgage, and display businesses, in addition to new responsibilities to grow Zillow’s rental marketplace.

“Shaun and Errol will work closely together as their organizations are tightly integrated to ensure we create and deliver the best possible programs to benefit our industry partners, and that our industry partners see the wisdom of working with us, instead of against us. Shaun’s primary focus on explaining the reality of the situation and convincing the Association leaders to work with Zillow will allow Errol to invest more time on the positive aspects of our relationships, as opposed to all of the persuasive parts of the relationship,” added Rascoff. “And should we encounter any… difficulties with any Associations or MLSs, we’re confident that Shaun can make a phone call or two and resolve the situation to our satisfaction.”

Donovan served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development since January of 2009, after being nominated by President Barack Obama, and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Donovan has a long history of working to provide affordable housing to American families. He previously served as Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Before his service as HPD Commissioner, Secretary Donovan worked in the private sector on financing affordable housing, and was a visiting scholar at New York University, where he researched and wrote about the preservation of federally-assisted housing.

Donovan also served in the Clinton administration as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing, where he was the primary federal official responsible for privately-owned multifamily housing. At that time, he ran housing programs that helped 1.7 million families access affordable housing.

Donovan holds a B.A. and Masters degrees in Public Administration and Architecture from Harvard.

About Zillow, Inc.

Zillow, Inc. (Nasdaq:Z) operates the leading real estate and home-related marketplaces on mobile and the Web, with a complementary portfolio of brands and products that help people find vital information about homes, and connect with the best local professionals. Zillow’s brands serve the full lifecycle of owning and living in a home: buying, selling, renting, financing, remodeling and more. In addition, Zillow offers a suite of tools and services to help local real estate, mortgage, rental and home improvement professionals manage and market their businesses. Welcoming nearly 70 million monthly unique users in January 2014, the Zillow, Inc. portfolio includes Zillow.com®, Zillow Mobile, Zillow Mortgage Marketplace, Zillow Rentals, Zillow Digs™, StreetEasy®, Postlets®, Diverse Solutions®, Agentfolio®, Mortech® and HotPads. Zillow is headquartered in Seattle.

About This Press Release

In the unlikely event that anyone failed to realize this is a complete fabrication and spoof, it should be made clear that this is a totally fake release that serves only to entertain the author. Of course, it could potentially make real estate industry observers think a little bit about the environment we’re all operating in and question certain assumptions. That’s always healthy.

Zillow Plays the Race Card in Advance of Hosting HUD Secretary Donovan

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Last Thursday, Zillow released a report on minority access to mortgages in partnership with the National Urban League. In case you were wondering what the conclusion of the report might have been, it was titled, “A House Divided: How Race Colors the Path to Homeownership“. The topline conclusion comes from Stan Humphries, Zillow’s Chief Economist and its lead point person on policy matters (along with Katie Curnutte, Zillow’s extremely able head of PR):

It’s been more than 50 years since Dr. King fought for equality, yet it is apparent that the American dream of homeownership is not equally shared by all, even today. Our research shows that minority home buyers are encountering difficulties that often aren’t shared by white home buyers, and that even after they achieve the dream, they have been less likely to see a similar return on their investment.

Sounds dire. Horrible. How can this be in 2014?!?

And Marc H. Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, beats along with the drumbeat, saying there is “hard work that remains to ensure that all Americans achieve the dream of homeownership and begin to build real and lasting wealth.”

The House Divided report was released to coincide with the live web-streamed Town Hall meeting with HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, scheduled for tomorrow. The topic? If you guessed how hard minorities have it when it comes to housing, you get a cigar. The event is actually entitled, “Building Equality in Housing”.

There’s just one small problem. These conclusions and these highly charged assertions are simply not supported by the data.

I received the advance copy of the Report last week, and immediately saw some issues. I haven’t written about the Report because I wanted to clarify a few things to my satisfaction. To Zillow’s credit, it has been nothing but responsive and helpful, and I’ve had a chance to speak with Stan Humphries, Katie Curnutte, and with one of the economists on Zillow’s staff who worked on the report, Skylar Olsen. They were extremely helpful despite the fact that it was obvious from the get-go that I was highly skeptical.

In fact, they sent me a subset of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) dataset they used for the report, and allowed me to do some investigating of my own. (If they sent me the full dataset, I’d have needed a new computer….) Let me cover the Zillow report first, then get into why I think this is a completely unwarranted leap based on extremely thin, if not nonexistent, evidence.

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Why You Should Know About Aereo

I’m reasonably certain that 90%+ of my audience — that would be you — have no idea what Aereo is. And until recently, there was no real reason to know, unless you lived in the NYC area and just looooved over-the-air TV.

But last Friday, the US Supreme Court chose to hear a case involving this odd little startup, ABC, Inc. vs. Aereo, Inc., and that could have immense implications for intellectual property law. I think there could be direct relevance to real estate given the industry’s recent and ongoing fights over who owns what and how. Nothing may come of it, but Supreme Court cases rarely result in nothing, so those of you in this arena might want to check out Aereo, what’s going on, and get your lawyers involved.

FYI, I haven’t followed the case that carefully, so I’d love to hear from the legal eagles in our business (Brian? Mitch?)

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A Few Thoughts On The Zillow Housing Forum

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Two weeks ago, Zillow organized a small event in Washington DC with the title “Getting Our House In Order: Solving the Lingering Issues of the Housing Recession”. The full program was filmed and is available here. If you’re pressed for time, you can get the highlights here. I was on an airplane to California then, so could not attend. Not that I’d have flown to DC on a moment’s notice in any event, but… of all of the industry related events this year, this was the one I most would have liked to have gone to.

For once, a real estate industry event where “social media” wasn’t a panel topic? Sign me up, Scottie.

There have been more than a few people who noticed, not the least of which is the Washington Post, but… because the Post is general media, there are a few things here that are getting missed. Or, more accurately, few people are as oddly obsessed about Big Picture Industry Prognostication — all predictions sure to be wrong, or your money back — than I am, so… I haven’t seen much higher level thought on the Forum or the topics.

Let me offer a few thoughts. Because from where I sit, the Zillow Forum was extraordinary for a variety of reasons. Those interested in big picture trends in the industry ought to think about these things, in at least a cursory way.

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Is This What Passes for Bipartisan at REALTOR Magazine?

This is gonna get political, y’all, by necessity. You’ll see.

I went over to the REALTOR Magazine website the other day to check out a piece by Lawrence Yun on something or another. Then I started clicking around as I often do, and ran across this piece on the fiscal situation and real estate. Here’s how it looked:

ralph-martire

Note the introduction of Ralph Martire as the “head of a Chicago-based bipartisan economic think tank”.

Since I’m more than a little interested in fiscal issues and real estate, I read the interview with Mr. Martire. And was left wondering how in heaven’s name he got into the pages of the official publication of the National Association of REALTORS, whose core campaign these days is on defending private property rights, homeownership, and the American Dream.

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