In case you’re not familiar with Zillow.com it is a very popular online real estate service company founded in 2005 and based in Seattle, Washington. Zillow allows users to search their gigantic database for price information on real estate across the United States. Users can find out what properties are available in a particular area and how they are priced. They can also view a history of what a particular home and the surrounding homes have sold for in the past. So, if a user is curious about what that Florida beach house sold for they simply enter the address and then magically the selling price is displayed along with lots of other interesting information – a LOT of interesting information! And it’s presented beautifully with aerial views and detailed maps, lot size and age data etc… After playing with Zillow for an hour or two a potential buyer may consider himself an expert on a particular area or piece of property – all without consulting a local real estate professional and that’s where Zillow begins to draw criticism.
Many Real Estate Brokers are concerned that Zillow does not provide buyers and sellers with accurate information and that additional factors that are not presented on their site must be considered when buying or selling a home. These factors have been termed “unzillowables” in the real estate blogosphere. The point is that Real estate salespeople and brokers who specialize in a particular market are likely to be familiar with specific factors that will (or have) affected the sale of a home. For example, the overall condition of the home, the floor plan, landscaping, views, traffic noise, and privacy. Zillow doesn’t know this information and thus cannot provide comprehensive data.
But can Zillow be trusted to provide users with a “general idea” of price and value? I think so. But beyond that, working with a qualified salesperson or broker in the area is necessary. Only a licensed agent or broker who is familiar with neighborhoods, schools and community is qualified to help a buyer (or seller) make a homebuying decision. So, at least in my opinion, Zillow can be trusted – but only so far.
What do you think? Let us know!
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About David Goldstein — David Goldstein is an Owner and Founding Partner of Express Schools, LLC. which operates online education providers Real Estate Express, Insurance License Express and License Tutor. Follow him on Twitter.