John Novak, Real Estate Pro in Henderson, NV

What do you think about Zillow?

Asked by John Novak, Henderson, NV Sun May 20, 2007

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Zillow has a great entertainment factor and a dangerous information factor. The Zestimates in my market are off considerably. Sellers and buyers have misunderstood the information to their detriment.
7 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 20, 2007
Maureen Fran…, Real Estate Pro in Birmingham, MI
Maureen and Gena make good points. In some neighborhoods that have new home developments and similar floorplans then Zillow is fairly accurate. However they are very inaccurate in areas where homes are either older and have had many changes over the years or were custom built and are not "cookie cutter" styles or floorplans.
My main complaint is that Zillow doesn't acknowledge these problems within their system and many people who use they system don't understand that the information they are recieving is not accurate. It is impossible to establish the value of a property without actually viewing the home and having knowledge about other homes in the area.
6 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 20, 2007
Kaye Thomas, Real Estate Pro in Manhattan Beach, CA
To be honest, I think everyone has a right to step out of the box and test the waters. When it came to Zillow, I took a neutral stand. It wasn't until I could see how giving both Buyers and Sellers home value information without actual physical inspection can hurt both sides. I have written more about this in the article below.
6 votes Thank Flag Link Sun May 20, 2007
Zillow values are not dependable. It is sad because the site has a lot of interesting features. One just can't rely on the values to be realistic.
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3 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Jun 10, 2007
I think Zillow has merits, such as great maps. Unfortunately most of their information is based on tax-assessed values for the properties which is a far cry from actual market value of the property.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 10, 2007
Zillow seems to be the new real estate magic pill for most internet-junkie, novice real estate enthusiasts. Frequently I get asked to do property CMA's (Comparative Market Analysis) by those who are thinking about listing their home for sale. My CMA process goes something like this...first I have a thorough conversation with the homeowner regarding physical condition, features, amenities, location, etc. Then I scour the MLS and tax archive data for comparable properties that are currently on the market, pending sale, and sold within the last 6 or so months that are in the same tract / neighborhood (same neighborhood is critical). I zero in on market conditions for the individual tract / neighborhood the home is in (also critical). I drive by the house. If I have not already seen the comparable properties in person (I preview and tour A LOT of property in my home areas), I drive by and if possible I tour those too. Once I have done all of these tasks, I create a detailed report for my prospective client. I narrow down a price range. This process takes a few hours. Then I present the report and price range to my client in person at their home, where I zero in on an exact suggested listing price.

"I looked up my home's value on Zillow and..." has become my least favorite phrase as of lately. Just the other day, I worked for several hours on a CMA, and presented a price range of $375k - $389k. After actually touring the home and seeing things like the master bedroom was really large for the area and type of house, that the electrical panel had been upgraded, recessed lighting in the living room, neutral decor, and new high-quality granite counters in the kitchen, I felt confident in my analysis and suggested a listing price on the high side of the range at $385k. "But Zillow says my house is worth $428k!" is a site that, by using some proprietary combination of databases, algorithms, and who knows what else give a "Zestimate" of a property's value. Yep - it's the magic pill for some, and the poison pill for me. What Zillow does not take into account: remodeling, upgrades, views, landscaping, nearby schools, unique architecture, a recent death on the property, the crack house next door, smell, traffic noise, a main/busy street, funky wallpaper, barking dogs, etc.

Doing a CMA is really an art rather than a science.

I will give credit where credit is due though - Zillow does have some neat mapping features, which I will admit are pretty useful.
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2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri Jun 22, 2007
Erin Stumpf…, Real Estate Pro in Sacramento, CA
Zillow is fair in San Diego tract subdivisions where there is decent turnover, but it still cannot account for property condition, views or location. Zillow is terrible in the custom market--or any place where turnover is slow. As its technology improves, I would expect more accuracy in its Zestimates.
2 votes Thank Flag Link Fri May 25, 2007
Roberta Murp…, Real Estate Pro in Carlsbad, CA
I love Zillow for everything but the "Zestimate." That value is often misleading.
I use Zillow in my day to day job (as an architect) to find out the property information and a bird's eye photo of the property before I meet with a potential client.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 2, 2007
Jennifer Kre…, Home Seller in 95124
Zillow is a must read for everyone going out on a listing presentation! You better know what your client thinks there property is worth before you get there. Like Zig says, "If you're going to be the answer to your cleint's prayers--you better known what they are praying for?!!" So I read it in that context ONLY. I don't use comps hardly at all in my market place nowadays. I'm using the competition for my new bellweather. If I've got a short sale next door, an REO two doors down and an investor bailing across the street I need to know who I'm going up against. Zillow ain't gonna tell you that! Remember, many of the real estate models developed in the past six years are geared to a wild and crazy real estate market. Now when the going get tougher and consumers really need, strong, local wisdom, many of these "models" are going to find their business waning. True real estate pros are in demand today to give guidance, soothe jangled nerves and know strategies to get their client through this "unbelievealbe" market.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 2, 2007
Zillow is interesting, I enjoy the graphing and trend information they have. But, that seems to be eye candy and the actual price figures that Zillow puts out seem to be innaccurate about 9 times out of ten in our marketplace here in Sacramento. In a market where there is far more inventory then there are buyers those innaccuracies can cause a lot of harm to a seller that puts too much credence to the Zestimate. As time goes by, and buyers get into priced right properties, and lending guidelines tighten and loan products dissappear, and the entry level buyers get squeezed out, all that time lost will cost a seller good deal of money before they realize that the Zestimate may have mislead them.

However, in my experience the pricing trend graph can be very helpful and seems to be accurate a lot more frequently then the Zestimate. In combination with a comparative market analysis I think the zillow market trend feature has the potential to be a very helpful asset to today's sellers.

In short, Zillow is like a cute little gremlin... handle with care. =D
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 2, 2007
I have had different results here in Scottsdale and Phoenix than Jay has had. I work in a lot of neighborhoods that have been built in phases. Areas like McCormick Ranch and South Scottsdale, for instance, have plenty of infill. Many local agents are not even familiar with the various builders and differences in architecture, so it was no surprise for me to discover that many "Zestimates" were grossly off the mark. I had a listing on a street in South Scottsdale that was built 15 years later than the majority of the subdivision. The online evaluation had no basis for comparison. The difference between the estimated value and selling price was nearly $70,000 (in the seller's favor). On another listing, this one in the McCormick Ranch community, I had a similar result. While the sizes and ages were easy enough to comp in this case, Zillow had no way of knowing that a home built by Hancock commands a higher dollar than a home built by Cavalier. Given that these properties are over 20 years old and located within the same subdivision, I did not fault Zillow for being inaccurate. It can be a nuisance, though, trying to explain how the assessment a buyer received over the internet often has little basis in reality. Most good agents, even after hours of research, are not comfortable quoting a price until they have physically seen the home and competing properties. While you can constantly alter the variables to try to find the magic formula for pricing something sight unseen, a computer will never be able to walk through a front door, and draw upon a career's worth of experience to say, "Wow, this is a million dollar house." Sure you can plug upgrades into a formula. But are they the right upgrades? Were they done properly? Do the upgrades compliment each other? What about the floor plan? Zillow sees a couple of 2300 sq ft homes as equals. What if one is a great room concept and the other more formal? What if one includes a funky addition and the other is original? I could go on and on. In fact, I think I did, so I will leave it at that.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 16, 2007
When we were searching for a home, we used Zillow to help determine price ranges of homes in the neighborhood we were interested in. I loved the maps. I loved the graphs. Very user-friendly. We only used it as a general resource, though. If we wanted to confirm the information, we looked at county records, etc.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Thu Aug 16, 2007
Satelite photos are great, recently sold statistics are great, however, ask yourself these questions. What is the interior of the home like? Are there any upgrades? Are there any exterior features? You can not answer those questions from a satelite photo and those questions affect the value of the home which equates to a $$$ value.
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1 vote Thank Flag Link Tue Jul 10, 2007
Pretty darn loose on values, I went there for the first time and submitted a listing. The Z-factor popped up and I fell out of my chair! It was comparing a brand new custom built home in an establised neighborhood of homes 30 years old. I have to give them credit here, they have great maps! But to say a 30 year old home stacks up to a brand new home sends the wrong price opinion to folks looking to buy in the area. Needless to say I yanked it right out of Maybe some day the all knowning computer will be able to go and look at what the property really has going for it. Hey maybe some day it will be able to estimate how much it costs to build a spec home. Materials have not gone down like property values have, the z-factor can't factor in that yet, so I'm sticking with the tried and true method of comparing property myself.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Sat Jun 23, 2007

Zillow's an interesting tool and fun to look at. However the October 06 possible equal housing suit filed against it gave me pause. The filers indicate that Zillow may have been using data that may be discriminatory.

As a Realtor, the concern about the maintenance and high standards set by the Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity Act is a primary concern to me.

I know that Zillow does not have current data, or an ability to view neighborhoods and know local conditions. That is the value of a hands-on Realtor (R).
1 vote Thank Flag Link Mon Jun 4, 2007
zillow is 1st place we go to check the value. Next is Title Search. We compare the two and it gives us a pretty accurate average. remember - this is an estimate value, you will need an actual appraisal to get the most accurate number. Just think about this way: Bank will not lend you based on a Zesstimate. It will, based on appraisal.
1 vote Thank Flag Link Fri May 25, 2007
Zillow is worthless on Long Island because it doesn't take waterfront properties into account. It seems to pick up re fi figures, so you will see one waterfront at 300,000 and the one next door at 1.2 M. You will see a subdivision (mine, actually) with one house valued at 400,000 (they refi'd) and one across the street at 780,000 (they sold).
0 votes Thank Flag Link Sun Sep 2, 2007
Zillow is more accurate in urban areas with subdivisions. Zillow is in my opinion useless for rural areas as it is not equipped to take all the different variances into account. I think as a realtor, you have to know what the "Zillow factor" is so that you know what to expect when you meet with a client as most potential clients may have already checked on Zillow. I think any Realtor who know the MLS stats for the area will be able to do a better job than Zillow. In my opinion, Zillow is just one of many resources that should used in the due diligence phase.
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0 votes Thank Flag Link Tue Aug 21, 2007
Ute Ferdig -…, Real Estate Pro in New Castle, DE
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