Zillow's New Feature: 'Make Me Move'

You've probably seen this bumper sticker:
Peter Coy

You've probably seen this bumper sticker:

"If you're rich, I'm single."

The fertile minds at online real estate startup Zillow.com have come up with its real estate equivalent:

"Make me move."
Richard Barton New

It's a feature for people who have absolutely no intention of moving ... unless.

Unless, that is, someone came along and offered them a truly enormous amount of money. You, the homeowner, can create a free account with Zillow and post how much it would take to get you interested in moving. No commitment. Anyone who doesn't blanch at your number can send you an anonymous email that may or may not be the start of a negotiation; your choice. Here's a link.

I am one of those people who really, really, really doesn't want to move. We're near the end of an expensive renovation that has the house exactly the way we want it. But I posted a Make Me Move price anyway just to see what it felt like. What it felt like was skin-crawly weird. Once you name a price, even an absurdly high price that you're sure no one would pay, it puts your mind in a whole new frame. It's the logical endpoint of the complete commercialization of housing: everything is for sale. Financial economists love this kind of stuff.

To explain why I have mixed feelings, here's a sanitized version of a joke in the same vein as the "If you're rich, I'm single" bumper sticker. A rich guy asks a young woman if she would go on a date with him for $100 million. She thinks long and hard and finally says yes. He pulls out 50 cents in change and asks for a date. She's outraged. He says, "What's the matter? We're just negotiating price."

Rich Barton, Zillow's CEO (pictured), seems to have had a little bit of the same reaction to using Make Me Move. He and Zillow President Lloyd Frink previewed the feature for me in New York a couple weeks ago. "Some people said it's flirtatious or frivolous. But it quickly gets serious," Barton said. "I ended up having a talk with my wife" about whether their house was truly for sale.

While Make Me Move is the most intriguing feature of the new Zillow website, it's worth mentioning that Zillow introduced a less surprising but probably more important gambit today, namely, allowing people to list their homes for sale. Here's GigaOM's take on the changes.