The Truth about Zillow, Zestimates, and Real Estate Agents

Finding a home to purchase and estimating a homes value can be a complicated chore. There are homes for sale by owner  (Properties that are not listed by a real estate agent), homes listed by real estate brokers, and some of those properties find their way to Zillow. This article is intended to provide helpful tips to help find a property. Missing out on a dream home because you didn’t know the home was for sale, can be devastating.

How To Use Zillow as a Home Shopping Tool

Zillow is one tool many home shoppers use in Clinton County, New York. Zillow is a great tool to find a home for sale however, there are some things you should know while searching on Zillow. Especially in a more rural area like upstate New York or Vermont.

Zillow only shows properties for sale that agents have agreed to add to Zillow. Some properties may not be on Zillow if the seller and agent have not agreed to send that information to the Zillow site.  If a seller lists a property with a real estate agent, a listing sheet typically has an option that allows syndication of the listing. Syndication is the process of distributing listing data to online portals like Zillow and other online listing sites. If a property is not syndicated to the online portals you could be missing out.

Where Does Zillow get Property Listings?

MLSs (Multiple Listing Services used by Real Estate Agents) have been syndicating their data to aggregators since 1996, when realtor.com® put the real estate industry at the center of the burgeoning dot-com world. Today, a majority of MLS’s syndicate their data under the premise that it’s the best way to reach consumers where they are shopping.

Syndicators like ListHub and Point2 make it relatively easy, delivering data to dozens of aggregators including Zillow and Trulia—and providing analytics to MLS participants. But in the past year, MLSs and syndicators have been moving toward imposing more controls on how data is used. One concern is that you will see out-of-date or inaccurate data, critics charge that third-party aggregators use their listing data to attract traffic and ad dollars and to capture and sell leads while not providing the most accurate or up to date information.

Although I would not dismiss Zillow entirely, it is important to know they are in the marketing business.

Do Not Only Use Zillow

If you are only using Zillow to find a property for sale, you may be missing out on some listings that only a Real Estate Agent could know about. What if that dream home comes on the market and the seller decides not to syndicate that data to Zillow? You would never know about the property until it is too late.

Finding a professional real estate agent to work with will give you a great advantage in finding a home for sale that suits your needs. Although you can still use Zillow for property searches, a professional real estate agent is more likely to know if the home previously experienced flooding or was previously under contract but cancelled due to a bad home inspection. Being armed with this kind of “insider” information gives you the tools to confidently make an offer or decide on the right home for you. If you would like to speak to a professional real estate agent, give us a call or request additional information. We partner with some of the finest agents in you neighborhood and would love to make an introduction.

Are Zestimates Accurate?

In addition to finding a home for sale, determining what a home is worth can play a role in how much you are willing to offer on a property for sale. Some prospective home buyers visit Zillow and utilize the zestimate tool to determine what a home is worth or to find out how much they could sell their current home for. Although Zestimates have their place in the market, please know that a Zestimate is a …. (Drum Roll Please)…. Zillow Estimate. A Zestimate is not an appraisal nor is it represented as such. It is represented as an ESTIMATE based on the data that has been given to Zillow.

The reason Zestimates cannot be 100% accurate is that every market is different and Zillow is only as good as the data they are given.  A value is determined by looking at comparable homes that have sold recently. If a home has sold with similar square footage, similar features, and in a similar location, it is possible that a Zestimate (Or any computer calculated estimate) would give a similar value. What the software may not know, is that the neighbors property is an eye sore in terrible condition that could drive down what someone is willing to pay for the subject property.

This can work both ways. Inaccurate data can drive your value up or down depending on the circumstances. For a more clear estimate on value, consulting a real estate agent may be the best option for you. For the most accurate estimate of value, consult an appraiser. An appraisal is a report completed by a licensed appraiser to determine the value of the property. The appraiser visits the home and takes photos of the neighborhood, exterior, and Interior. The appraiser also notates things such as deferred maintenance and neighborhood qualities that could either attract or detract potential home buyers.

Another potential flaw in the Zestimate software is the ability to manipulate the system. I didn’t believe it at first but after trying this, I was a believer!

On the Zillow site you can claim a property as your own. Once you do this, you can simply change the features of the home or notate improvements to the property. These improvements and features can change the estimated value in Zillow and lead to a misrepresentation of the property.  This is not a fault of Zillow. Remember, Zillow is a software that estimates value and is only as good as the data it is given. The only way to know what a property is truly like, is to walk through the home with a real estate agent.

If you would like to learn more about finding a home for sale or values in your neighborhood, click here, and fill out the form. We will give you a call and discuss any questions you may have about the home buying process.

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