I am going to ask you 4 questions. You may not see the importance of the answer to these questions right now, but you will soon, maybe even at the end of this post! Please do not think these are trick questions---these are being asked because we NEED TO KNOW what is driving the trend of agents who are paying for leads and in the process, destroying the very profession they are part of.

In my opinion, if an agent who pays for leads sits down and really analyzes his/her business to see exactly how profitable it is to pay Zillow thousands a month, then they may find out it really does not pay to do it!

We have agents everyday here who find out that those leads they are getting are mostly worthless calls--these agents are dropping Zillow faster than you can say Zillow!

  • Do you pay big bucks for Internet leads?
  • Are they good leads?
  • Do you see the damage "Pay to Play" does to the delicate relationship between the consuming public (whom we are licensed to protect) and the licensed real estate agent?
  • Do you care?


The questions above come from the "Need to Know": What are we going to do when the brokerage business and the life of an agent changes so dramatically that you won't know what hit you when it arrives?SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

There is a need to understand the thinking behind buying leads instead of doing your own research and your own work to get buyers and listings. It may not seem important enough to those who pay because, of course there is a plus to "Pay to Play"; that is if you don't really care what happens to your profession and if you are looking for an easy way to get the phone to ring.

The "Need to Know" is what we are going through right now in The Hampton's as we deal with a career ending invasion of technology, namely through Zillow and its subsidiaries.

The "Need to Know" is what we are seeking when we are dealing with the consuming public and the ramifications of what it means to be a homeowner here and not be able to rent or sell your property through the normal channels.

We are being bombarded with questions, complaints and irate attitudes from the buying and selling public, about the state of the listing systems here in the Hamptons and we have no answers for them...


Zillow has seen fit to undercut the brokerages since they bought out all existing listing platforms in the Hamptons and Manhattan. They have doone this by making changes during our busiest season AND during a major slowdown of sales!

They now have full control of our data, our listings and our content and they don't care what they do with it as long as they continue to bring in revenue from the Premier Agent who pays thousands a month to get the generally worthless leads from Zillow.

The unworkable Out East (a new platform by Zillow) system has put an end to the rental business here--No one can figure out how to search, compile listings for showings and gather data for our clinets/customers...They are missing all levels of search proceedures needed in order to make sure we are satifying the consumer..It is a completely unworkable mess!


This sales market in the Hamptons has an average price point of about $2 million---the properties on Zillow that generate the most leads are $500k and under--they are foreclosures and short sales of which we have very few.

It is a very rare thing indeed to get a lead over $1million here.Combine the antics of Zillow and the issue of  a market adjustment on the same order as the recession of 2009-2012 and you may have a sense of what is going on here. It is in a complete meltdown.

Agents are frightened and the public is confused, to say the least!

If you have had or are having the same issues within your real estate communities, Please respond with your comments below. It will be helpful to all of us if we can see what is going on in other communities with regard to Zillow and how they are destroying our collective brokerage businesses.







                                     **ALL INFORMATION AND CONTENT IN THIS BLOG IS ORIGINAL TO PAULA I. HATHAWAY.  The views expressed herein are my personal views and do not reflect the views of Douglas Elliman Real Estate


Paula I. Hathaway, Senior Broker Associate, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

Southamtpon Village Real Estate Specialist since 1995;  Also Specializes in North Sea, Noyac, Water Mill and Bridgehampton, New York

Diamond , Gold and Chairman's Circle Awards; Top Producer since 2005


Click here to see my Hampton's website to see all my listings; please email me or call me for all your real estate needs in Southampton, Bridgehampton and Watermill:



Comment balloon 8 commentsPaula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA • April 15 2019 05:59PM


Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA - I never did pay for leads and have no intentions of giving money away to strangers in hopes of getting quality leads. To me, it's like writing a letter to Santa Claus, knowing, the truth that Santa doesn't exist, nor does he gives things away. Somebody always has to pay. 

Like you say, "Worthless!" 

Posted by Patricia Feager, MBA, CRS, GRI,MRP, Selling Homes Changing Lives (DFW FINE PROPERTIES) 12 months ago

Hi Patricia Thanks for your comment--and for not playing the pay to play game! I had a brief conversation today with one of the agents who never did do a big business--no listings etc. But he started to pay Zillow and suddenly his phone is ringing. Now he has convinced himself that his business is thriving because of Zillow, when in fact he tells me the calls are mostly a waste of time--no good leads and when he talks directly to a buyer they are looking for foreclosures, short sales, etc.  I personally think his business is thriving because he hired a young assistant who does all his work! He got very defensive when I was asking him why he continues to pay, knowing that we are all going under. He said: "I am watching my own back" and walked away. Very selfish and a waste of money that he hasn't even taken the time to examine! 

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) 12 months ago

Desperation drives people to these platforms, when they are getting and selling listings they are not reaching out to these platforms... on the other hand when they have not had a sale in a long time they are looking for the magic bullet...Endre

Posted by Endre Barath, Jr., Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002 (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices) 12 months ago

Hi Endre: I think you have a point there...desperation makes people do drastic things. I think that the agent who NEVER spent money on print ads is now spending their ad dollars on this, thinking it is generating something at least for their efforts and their $$. However, if that agent sits down, thinks about and analyzes their results--they would see that they are giving their money away and getting nothing in return--its a waste of time to call the leads you get when there is nothing in the coffers in the end! Rarely does anything result from this fool's effort, at least in this market. Now, there may be market places in Long Island for instance where there are $200k to $300k properties and agents who "pay to play" find it rewarding--however, Z makes no bones about taking the leads that come to them, pulling the best, most promising leads and then giving those leads to the highest paying agent! It is no secret that they do this! Thanks for your input Endre...

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) 12 months ago

Good morning Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, when I was a brand new agent in 2002, there was an agent in my office who was paying for leads, can't even remember which company it was. His phone would ring with no closings to show for. He didn't stay in the business, don't even know what he does today.
I know of agents in my market who pay a couple of thousand dollars every month for these so-called "quality" leads.  I don't know where their buyers and sellers come from but they do close several transactions a month. For me, I don't care what their promises are, I'm not paying to play. End of story. I wish every agent would do the same but that's not going to happen and as long as we feed these monsters who are looking to take away our industry, they will exist. Throwing money away in the hopes of getting leads to me is foolish. Just imagine what would happen if we spend $2000.00/month on direct mail but most agents wouldn't do that because it takes some work. They rather give their money away to these companies to feed them. 

Posted by Beth Atalay, Cam Realty of Clermont FL (Cam Realty and Property Management) 12 months ago

Hi Beth: This is a comment I wish all other agents could read--it really says it all! Thanks for your input and I will make sure to send it on to my fellow agents. Somehow the message is being missed by those who want to keep feeding the "Beast" and it appears hopeless to convince them that they are cutting their own throats if they continue to do so. Meanwhile I am working to make changes in my own business and to try to avoid the segment of the market who seem determined to destroy what has worked for decades!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) 12 months ago

Hi Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA I've always been a listing agent.... buyers are too time consuming!! in 41 years, I've never paid for leads.... I worked diligently to brand the name and it's branded in my town.... people who do not know me, know the name and it's associated with real estate.... direct mail marketing works well for the team of two for whom I market.... my daughter, Tammy, and another agent who is her listing partner....they work all listings together....and it works well.... I charge them a referral fee of 20% for every listing... they'll do 70 - 80 listings this year....

Posted by Barbara Todaro, Marketing Agent for The Todaro Team (RE/MAX Executive Realty ) 12 months ago

Hi Barbara: How wise of you to do that! And I bet they are very appreciatve as well! I must admit that I did pay Z $700 a month for 6 months--just to se if it was an honest system and found out they were alwasy hitting me up for more money "to get the better leads"! So I thought to myself: I am wasting my $700 a month on something i will never get a return on! They are only interested in satisfying the higher paying agents! That's when it hit me that we are dealing with Pay-to-Play techno-geeks and they could care less that they could put me out of business in spite of my 26 year experience in this business!! They are really the scum of the earth IMO--putting agents in jeopardy and with this activity now! I can see a difference in the way this wonderful, bucolic place is being populated...and in all of it, we have lost an enormous amount of good will and reputation....Thank you for your valuable input, Barbara!

Posted by Paula Hathaway, REALTOR, LBA, ...A Local Expert in all The Hamptons (Douglas Elliman Real Estate) 12 months ago