Can you imagine real estate without the middleman?

That theoretical world (as frightening or enlightening as it may be, depending on your point of view) may not be reality just yet, but a new program from Zillow has made the idea less abstract and a lot more possible. Zillow’s new Instant Offers initiative lets sellers use the Zillow platform as a way to list their homes, reach investors and solicit cash offers. So far, the pilot is only running in Las Vegas and Orlando, but if it takes off, Instant Offers could soon be live nationwide.

Could this mean the end of real estate as we know it? Not so fast…

The Ins and Outs of Instant Offers

Here’s a brief rundown of Zillow’s initiative:

  • Homeowners interested in Zillow Instant Offers contact the platform and get verified.
  • The homeowners provide important information on their property, including square footage, the number of bedrooms and so on, and then uploads current photos of the home.
  • Investors are able to see the listing and present offers. Those offers reach the homeowner within two business days of the homeowners’ listing/verification.
  • As offers come in, the homeowners are also provided with a comparative market analysis, or CMA, courtesy of a local real estate agent.
  • The homeowners can then compare the CMA to the investor offers and decide whether they want to accept or reject those offers.
  • If an investor offer is selected, the homeowners schedule a free home inspection through Zillow.
  • If no offers are accepted, the homeowners can list the property on the MLS with the agent’s assistance.
  • According to Zillow, “Any investor offers and the CMA will include an overview of fees associated with each option to enable sellers to make an informed apples-to-apples comparison.”

Changing the Game for Sellers

If you’re looking to sell your home but feel some trepidation at approaching the transaction using the traditional model, Instant Offers could quickly connect you with investors and fast-track the entire process. It’s fast, it’s convenient and it comes with relatively little muss and fuss. The lack of staging and scheduling/arranging open houses could be all the incentive many people need. It’s a direct line to the people who are willing to pay for an available property, and that’s incredibly enticing.

The downside, of course, is that investors may not be willing to pay a premium for a home they’re not emotionally invested in. In other words, sellers may find that speed comes with a (lower) price.

Dear Agents — Don’t Panic!

The idea of homeowners controlling the sale of their property is enough to make a lot of real estate agents break out in hives, but Instant Offers isn’t looking to make agents extinct. In fact, the program has a built-in referral program of sorts; it connects sellers with a local agent who acts as a guide throughout the transaction. That agent provides the CMA and, if the seller decides that the investor offers aren’t up to snuff, that agent could then feasibly become the go-to person for a more traditional sales transaction. One Orlando-based Realtor has already gotten 48 leads thanks to the Instant Offers test run, though she’s still working on converting those leads into paying clients.

At the heart of it all, Zillow is providing sellers with round-the-clock access to a streamlined sales method. No waiting for brokers to return a call, no weeks or months of sitting on a listing and scuttling in and out of the house when an agent schedules a showing. For agents, this entire scenario is a reason to work harder. If sellers crave immediacy, brokers will have to find a way to give it to them, lest clients start moving online for good.