What You Don’t Know About Zillow but Need to!

What you don’t know about Zillow and need to!

Zillow is the number one consumer website for browsing real estate. And it should be! They’ve worked hard to make it a useful site so everyone will use it. Zillow has a great user interface and UX. “User interface” is the technical term for how we interact with a website and “UX” means “user experience.” These have become full careers for people. There is really great UX and really bad UX. That is the difference between the public loving a site and using it to a great degree and hating it and it falls off the map.

In particular their map functionality is far superior to other sites as well as ease of saving homes and keeping things organized. Visually, it’s the most comfortable on the eyes in my opinion. Many real estate agents hate Zillow or fear Zillow. I say use it all day long, BUT keep the following information in mind…

1. Zillow is a MARKETING site, NOT a data site.

This means that Zillow is primarily MARKETING to you, the end user. They focus less on accurate data and more on getting you in touch with their Premier Agents because that’s a revenue stream for them. Ever in doubt on anything? Follow the money! Zillow is designed to have you fall in love with a property and think you can afford it because of its “Zestimate.” Then, you call the agent on the screen and they say something like, “Oh I’m sorry, that property has been leased/sold, but what are you looking for? I may have something else that fits your needs.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with this business model and I want my buyers to be savvy and in the know, but over time, the public has errantly begun to think Zillow is a data site and it just isn’t. Zillow is not a measure of value. It is a marketing tool that has pictures and information on homes. The market determines value, which is established by solds in a particular area. And Zillow is not tied into Texas sold data. Not one of my solds in the last year are accurate.

The site ends up being a bit of a bait and switch scenario. Have you ever listed your home For Sale by Owner? If you have, you surely noticed the barrage of phone calls you receive, often largely from Zillow agents. Again, nothing in the world wrong with this, it’s about understanding what the site is about and using it accordingly.

2. Zillow is NOT a Data site, so take their numbers with a very tiny grain of salt!

Texas is a non-disclose state which means you do not have to disclose sales price. If you use the state regulated Multiple Listing Service (MLS), then you do disclose sales price, but that price is only available to members of the MLS. Zillow is NOT hooked into the MLS, therefore it does not base it’s oh-so-famous-algorithms on accurate data in the state of Texas.

So, please, oh please protect your emotions and take numbers with a grain of salt when looking on Zillow. The only time I get angry with Zillow is when I see someone broken hearted because they got their hopes up based on misinformation from Zillow. Many times, Zillow is NOT reality. On the flip side—have you ever looked at the Zestimate of your current home and it seems kinda low? Or, I get clients who have an inflated sense of value based on Zillow and then they’re upset they can’t get that number. Well, that’s because it’s not working from accurate data. This is when we are reminded to take technology lightly and use it as a tool, but don’t take it to the bank. There’s no substitute for the human mind and the agility necessary for ever changing markets. If I have a listing that shows a low Zestimate and suddenly there’s high demand, pushing the price up, it will take time for the technology to catch up to reality because technology is only as good as the data that is put into the system.

3. Preferred Agents take the cake at Zillow.

Paying Premier Agents for certain zip codes and areas take the cake at Zillow. Preferred agents at Zillow get all the love because they are the ones paying. Not ONE of my recent Sold Listings has an accurate sales price on it. For example, my recent sold at 3625 Haynie sold for $1,565,000 and they show the sold price as $1,399,760. A difference of over $165,000. All of my listings are five to six figures lower than what the market actually bore–and they are all lower, not higher.

Zillow is great for:

Looking at Maps and interacting with them
Looking for Open Houses
Looking at Pictures
Saving homes of interest
Looking for FSBO (For Sale by Owner)

So use Zillow all you want and then call us for a free comp report! Or another living, breathing agent that you trust and get accurate data.


Leave A Comment