Don’t Use Zillow!
Today, anyone looking to purchase a new home utilizes the internet to search for homes for sale. The most trafficked real estate website in the world is Zillow. We will explain to you why you should NOT use Zillow when interested in real estate.
Bigger Doesn’t Mean Better
When searching online for real estate, you want to get the best information possible. Many people are under the impression that because Zillow has become so popular, they are the best place to find homes online. Truth is, Zillow has a ton of outdated real estate listings. Many of the homes for sale that Zillow shows as Active, have either been sold, expired or possibly even listed with a different real estate agent. In addition to the tons of incorrect listings, Zillow has big holes in their listing database. The fact that they don’t have all of the listings, means that their infamous “Zestimate” is usually woefully inaccurate. Many home sellers rely on the information provided by Zillow to price their home as well as get some insight on the level of competition that they will be up against. Its not uncommon for a home seller to throw a Zestimate up to a potential listing agent when discussing the true value of their home. In reality, according to Zillow themselves, their Zestimate is only accurate within 20% of the final sales price 83.1% of the time! Wow…on a $250,000 home, that is over $40,000 off! And that is for the properties that ARE within 20%. Think of how inaccurate it is for the 16.9% of homes nation-wide that fall OUTSIDE of the 83.1%. You can read how accurate Zillow claims they are in your area by clicking here.
How Can Zillow Be So Inaccurate?
Its important to keep in mind that Zillow is NOT a real estate broker. Zillow is a marketing company that has chosen real estate as their vehicle. Zillow sells advertising to real estate agents and brokers based off of the traffic they receive (which is a lot). Since they have a huge portion of buyers searching for homes for sale, they can sell the leads that they generate to local agents and brokers. Although I am confident that Zillow would LOVE to have a more accurate listing database, truth is only local real estate brokers and agents have direct access to the MLS. The MLS (Multiple Listing Service) is the local database of ALL homes for sale by all real estate brokers. In some instances, national sites do get direct access to the MLS, but that is not consistent across the country and in many instances, local brokers opt out of syndicating their listings to Zillow. Lastly, most property management real estate brokers don’t take the time to upload their rental listings to Zillow, so their database of rentals units for sale is abysmal.
Real Estate is Local
Although having one huge website that you can search all of the available properties for sale in the US is a nice idea, Zillow falls short. Real Estate is still local. What I mean by that is when you are ready to buy or sell real estate, you will still end up with a local REALTOR working for a local real estate broker. Searching real estate online should be local too. Whether you are searching for homes for sale in Granbury Tx or searching for homes in Lakeview New Orleans, you expect to see all of the listings. Only a local real estate broker can provide that since they have direct access to the full listing database of all listings. Even if you do search for local listings on Zillow, when you request additional information, they are simply selling your contact information back to a local agent. Why not just start with the local agent?
How Do Local Agents & Brokers Get Listings?
As previously mentioned, local agents and broker have direct access to the MLS. Most of the time a local agent or broker has a website, they get an IDX data feed directly from the MLS. IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange and is an agreement between all of the local real estate brokers that allow them to display each others listings on their websites. So when searching for properties, if you use a local real estate site, you will see every listing available.
How Does Zillow Get Listings?
Zillow gets listings on their site a variety of different ways. Most of the time, they are relying on the individual agent or broker to send them to them. In many instances, that may mean that an agent must manually input each filed of data for every listing. If the property gets a price reduction or gets sold, the agent must then log back into Zillow and update the property information. You can see why many of the homes on Zillow are no longer active or are priced at the incorrect price. In some instances, they do get data feeds directly from the broker, for only that brokers listings. That means every broker must set up a feed to Zillow, which generally doesn’t happen. Lastly, in rare instances, the MLS may syndicate ALL of the listings, but that is relatively rare as some brokers do not want ALL of their listings displayed on Zillow. For instance, if an agent takes a Luxury Real Estate listing from a celebrity, its not uncommon that they wont want their private home displayed for the world to see.
Other National Real Estate Sites
There are other national real estate websites out there. The #2 site in the country is Trulia, who is owned by…yep, you guessed it…Zillow! Trulia comes with the same issues that Zillow has for getting all of the listings. One of the national real estate websites that DOES get almost all of the listings is realtor.com. Since they are controlled by the National Association of REALTORS, they get a direct data feed from the local board. Realtor.com also sells ads directly back to real estate agents and brokers to generate revenue. One other thing worth pointing out…most of the national real estate websites will structure your property search results based upon who is paying them. That means you may see “featured listings” first, by brokers or agents who these sites ave relationships with, before you see the homes in their natural order.