As a prospective seller in today’s market, I realize how tempting it must be to race to Zillow.com and check your property’s Zestimate – especially after hearing about your friends and family who sold their homes for $20,000, $30,000… even $40,000 above list price. Suddenly, you realize that Zillow has estimated your property’s value to be $100,000 over what it is that you paid for it six months ago! Before you start snapping some photos on your iPhone and listing your property yourself, you may want to consider the following…
- Inaccurate Data: There really is no greater reason for prospective sellers to steer clear from Zillow than the site’s grave inaccuracies. Daily, my team and I find inaccuracies and misinformation about our listings on their website. Despite having the correct information on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), tax records, etc., the Seattle-based real estate giant still manages to allow some of those details to get lost in translation.
When Zillow uses inaccurate data, their Zestimates quickly begin to diverge from their proclaimed 10% margin of error. Even if the website manages to gather all of the correct information, there are still inaccuracies in pricing as a result of allowing a computer or a 26-year-old, writing code in a cubicle somewhere in Silicon Valley, to dictate property value. Their algorithms are unable to take into consideration current market conditions, neighborhood advantages, cosmetic updates, etc.
In short, save yourself the trouble by avoiding the guessing game and employing the expertise of a licensed real estate professional…
If you happen to be a buyer in this market, times are tough enough. Don’t make them that much more challenging by relying on third-party sites as your main source of information. Zillow, in particular, is much slower to catch up than the Multiple Listing Service and, as stated before, can be alarmingly inaccurate.
- False Hope: Just imagine, you’ve found your dream home while perusing the website and you’re about to walk through with a pen in hand, ready to sign a purchase offer. But after just a few moments in the house, you realize that it’s actually 3 bedrooms, not 4. This sort of thing happens all too often on Zillow. The website is also slow to revise information such as a canceled open house or an updated pending status due to an accepted offer on the property.
What I will say is that Zillow.com has an incredibly user and mobile-friendly interface and can be a great tool for home searching …in conjunction with a more reliable data source provided by a licensed real estate agent. Hopefully, larger real estate companies will begin to take cues from the web designers over at Zillow in order to remain competitive. That being said, unless you want to run the risk of settling for incorrect taxes or misrepresented school districts, steer clear from relying solely on third party sites as your main source of information! A more complete and accurate assessment of one of the most expensive investments of your life really should meld the convenience of an algorithm-driven, user-friendly website with the expertise of a local professional with boots-on the-ground insight. Good luck!