Wednesday afternoon, Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff did a half-an-hour question and answer session with President Obama on the housing plan he laid out Tuesday. The whole time, ZIllow's logo played on the screen, giving the real estate listing Web site more visibility -- and credibility -- among thousands of viewers who are probably more interested in buying a home than your average bear. The markets knew that would be a great idea: When the Q&A was announced on Monday, the company gained $250 million in value, as its stock took a huge jump after a few months of steady growth.
Nice work if you can get it! And how did they get it, exactly? I asked a Zillow spokeswoman, who had this to say:
We’re not sharing details of the planning process; However, in July 2012 we worked with the White House on a Google+ Hangout with Secretary of Housing Shaun Donovan, moderated by Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff. Also, in April of this year, Zillow hosted a Forum on the Future of Housing in Washington, DC, which included keynote addresses from United States Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries has also testified before Congress on housing issues.
Asked if there was any financial transaction, she said that neither Zillow nor its executives had been compensated for the event, and hadn't paid for the sponsorship either. But Zillow has had a small lobbying presence in D.C. for years, and increased its political contributions markedly in 2012. Its main rivals in the online real estate world, Trulia and Redfin, are nowhere to be found.