When people are thinking about buying or selling real estate, they begin their search online. And the majority of them are turning to Zillow Group as a place to start. Zillow Group websites pull more traffic than other online real estate search portals. In fact, 142 million people logged into Zillow Group consumer brands, including Zillow, Trulia, StreetEasy, and HotPads, in Q3 2015.
With Zillow.com receiving the majority of love, you undoubtedly will need to respond to many “But I saw on Zillow …” statements from clients. After all, chances are high that buyers will start there when they look for a home. And sellers may set expectations about how to price a property based on information they find there.
If you are a new real estate agent, or just not all that familiar with Zillow, here are some important things to know about the home-search giant.
You can’t always trust the Zestimate
Even Zillow.com claims that “it is a starting point in determining a home’s value and is not an official appraisal.” Zestimate’s accuracy depends on location and availability, and some areas don’t offer a Zestimate at all.
Beyond that, their employees don’t set foot in a property or in comparable properties, so the Zestimate valuation is based on very limited information. Homeowners can edit their home facts, and they will then incorporate that information into their calculations. However, that data is imperfect, as a seller is likely to exaggerate home features and value.
Bottom line: “Pricing a home accurately involves a lot more than picking up neighborhood data and plugging it into a formula,” says Neha Chawla, the managing director of Hudson Luxury Living. Neither you, nor your clients, can rely on the Zestimate when it comes to making an offer on a property or setting a selling price. A full appraisal is required to determine a property’s fair-market value.
Data on homes is often wrong
San Diego Realtor Eric Edelman says “I would tell a new agent to advise buyers NOT to use Zillow. Zillow does not automatically update its listing inventory with regard to properties which have gone off the market. Therefore, it is not the best source for a buyer to use to look at current inventory.”
While you can’t keep real estate clients from using Zillow, you can keep buyers’ expectations in check by investigating the listings to confirm that properties are still on the market and that all the details are accurate. That could mean swinging by a property to take a quick assessment before you show it to a client.
Also, when you are selling a property, make sure the listings are accurate on Zillow. Otherwise, you could end up with an angry client who feels their property has been misrepresented.
Zillow’s marketing options can hurt some listing agents
As a new real estate agent, this one is especially worth noting. Agents can purchase zip codes on Zillow, and Premier Agents receive exclusive placement on the main website and across mobile apps. The more money you spend there, the more exposure you receive.
“Zillow has a strong marketing base and therefore the pictures and information of agents who pay for zip codes show up alongside listings that are exclusively another broker’s. This could prevent direct buyers and renters from contacting the actual listing agent,” says Chawla.
Mary Palumbo, a real estate agent with The Shockley Team in Wellington, Florida, adds “Research before purchasing zip codes from Zillow, making sure that you can release yourself from any contract due to weak leads.”
Zillow has fewer listings
A recent study by BuildZoom found that Zillow Group sites have fewer listings in most markets. Realtor.com, which updates data from most of the 800+ multiple listing services (MLS) in the U.S. every 15 minutes, beats them out with more timely, accurate and comprehensive nationwide listings. If real estate clients rely only on Zillow, they aren’t seeing all the available properties. It will be up to you to show them what else is out there.
Your customers are likely going to use Zillow. And while you can point out the flaws mentioned above, you can’t keep them from logging on. Be prepared by doing your own research prior to meeting with clients. That way, you can correct any assumptions they’ve made based on wrong or insufficient information.
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