Zillow is the best and the worst thing to happen to real estate since the internet became so essential to our industry. As an agent, my stomach lurches when a client (or potential client) utters the phrase, “But the Zestimate says…” and I have a strong stomach!
Zillow, with it’s intuitive website and App, has literally put real estate information in the hands of everyone and made our industry so much more accessible. According to SimilarWeb, a website traffic tracker, Zillow is by far the most visited real estate website with over 57 million visits in February 2015. This is DOUBLE the second most popular site, Trulia.com’s 27 million visits in the same time period. It’s pretty obvious that Zillow has gotten something right. When I personally ask my clients what website they use, approximately 90% say they use Zillow as the primary site. As a seller this means that your property has more exposure to potential buyers than ever before. This is a good thing! Buyers don’t need an agent to see pictures or screen your property information, because in our area the information is pushed into Zillow from our Multiple Listing Service (MLS). More exposure means more traffic through your property.
They also have a great “Coming Soon” category that allows us to drum up interest in a property before it is ready to be listed. The biggest benefit to agents is that it allows exposure to potential buyers without affecting the precious Days on Market (DOM).
Zillow makes it easy to connect those looking to buy or sell with agents if they don’t have one in their sphere of influence already. I am grateful for the opportunity to answer any questions of potential buyers and sellers and to bring them on board as part of our Atlas Family.
At this point my Realtor colleagues are groaning, because they know the downside of Zillow as well. Although the inaccuracies of Zillow and it’s misleading nature has been documented, they mostly circulate around our industry as the consumer has no interest in the relevancy of our Zillow critical memes. One very striking example is the availability of foreclosed properties. The foreclosure process is extensive (something I will cover in next month’s blog) there is no indication on the Zillow site that a foreclosed property is or is not for sale. Most likely it is not. So when buyers bring me a list of properties they want to see from foreclosures on Zillow, I have to be the bearer of bad news.
Back to my clients and their reliance on Zestimates…Even Zillow states that Zestimates are not an appraisal and they are just a starting point. Zillow does a fantastic job of explaining the Zestimate without giving away its proprietary formula, and I invite you to check out the margin of error for your area. It may make my argument for me.
The Zestimate is an algorithm based on pure facts, but rarely is home buying such an emotionless decision. It doesn’t calculate how an odd floor plan will lower the appeal for buyers. It doesn’t know how a strict Homeowners association adds to the curb appeal of every house in the neighborhood making it more attractive. Like anything computer generated it has its flaws because it doesn’t have the human touch. But when you have a really great agent, they can explain how Zillow comes up with those Zestimates and why that number is just a starting point as to the actual market value of your home.
In summary, Zillow is neither our friend, nor our enemy. It is simply a single tool that consumers and agents alike can use to better understand the market as a whole and learn about individual properties. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use Zillow, but I ask that you verify the information on Realtor.com or better yet; give me a call!