Real Estate Agent Magazine sat down with Tom MacLeod, the CEO and co-founder of Zenlist, to discuss the latest homebuying app Zenlist and how it is evolving in Chicago. 

Tom MacLeod

REAM: What compelled you to found and launch Zenlist?

TM: Jake Thompson (CTO and Co-Founder) and I both founded Zenlist from our experience as homebuyers. Two things stuck out to us: First, we thought it was strange that agents and their clients were not collaborating on one common platform. This is the largest purchase most people ever make. Yet, the process was disjointed and inefficient. Clients search for homes on consumer platforms (where agent members are trying to capture these consumers as leads!) while agents are conducting the same search, separately, on the MLS. Second, my agent in the Bay Area shared pre-market listings with my wife and me, which we thought was really valuable. Soon, we started envisioning the creation of a collaborative, easy-to-use platform that would allow consumers easy access to these pre-market listings plus all the active listings.

REAM: What is your personal experience in the real estate market?

TM: Prior to Zenlist, my experience with real estate was only as a consumer. My wife and I have bought three houses and sold two houses. I’ve never practiced real estate but have always seen the value in working with an agent — on both sides of the transaction.

REAM: How are you able to offer so many more listings in a giving market than other platforms like Zillow or Realtor.com?

TM: Zenlist listings include all the active MLS inventory, like all the other sites. The difference is that we also work with 40+ brokerages throughout Chicagoland that chose to put all of their pre-market listings on Zenlist to share with the other members of the community — agents and their invited clients. Consumer clients on Zenlist love to compare what’s coming on the market with what’s already on the market. The ability for consumers to freely search both sets of inventory is what sets our platform apart from all the usual suspects: Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com, etc.

REAM: How has this app aided real estate agents and their clients in avoiding bidding wars?

TM: Currently, the housing market is pretty strong for sellers. In Chicago, we’re seeing that many properties are receiving multiple offers. By providing access to pre-market listings, Zenlist gives buyers a huge advantage to see these properties early before they hit the active market.

REAM: What plans do you have to grow Zenlist?

TM: Our plan for Zenlist is to continue expanding to other markets. We see a tremendous appetite for consumers to use this collaborative platform that combines active and pre-market listings – on a platform that doesn’t treat them as a lead. On the other side, agents are getting a ton of value by offering this tool to their clients. And, because agents are extremely mobile these days, they need native mobile applications to quickly and easily manage their clients’ home search. This usability is a huge point of differentiation for us.

Real Estate Agent Magazine reached out to a few agents who have used Zenlist since it’s launch. Dream Town Realty agent Nicole Hajdu shared her insight. 

Nicole HajduREAM: How did you learn about Zenlist?

NH: I learned about Zenlist from my previous brokerage, in mid-2020.

REAM: What have your personal experiences with the app been like?

NH: My personal experience with the app has been amazing. I offer this to all my buyer clients in our first conversations and listing appointments. It is user-friendly—more so than Redfin and Zillow. I love that it is an app, and easy to access and send to my clients.

REAM: What do your clients like about it?

NH: They love the private listing updates, and how it is so user-friendly. Clients also like that not all agents have this app, so they are more competitive in the field when they use it.

REAM: Would you recommend that future clients utilize this app?

NH: Yes, I would recommend that future clients use Zenlist. It is part of my listing and buyer presentation.

REAM: What would you like to tell your fellow real estate agents about this app?

NH: Zenlist sets agents apart in this dime-a-dozen industry. While there are thousands of pre-market listings on Zenlist, there are still a few brokerages not participating on the platform.

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