The Truth About Zillow

Zillow could be great...

if they were helping consumers get accurate information and keeping information secure. But the truth is something far from that. Whether you are looking for an accurate home value or trying to buy a house, Zillow may be steering you down the wrong road, and selling your information as well. Let's look at the TRUTH about Zillow in detail.

Privacy & Security

When you're browsing homes on Zillow, they're immediately tracking you with different software provided to them by other companies (Google, Facebook, etc.) and their own internal tracking software (known as cookies). This is why when you go on Zillow, browse homes, and then leave, you see homes in other places on the internet, such as your Instagram feed.

This is common practice in business today. You see this kind of advertising done by all major companies like Amazon, Wal-Mart and Nike. However, there is a deeper level of privacy concern with how Zillow does business. Realtors can purchase your information from Zillow in order to contact you directly. In addition to promoting their own business and interests, Zillow actively sells your information to several Realtors. That's why when you fill out a contact form on their website, you receive calls from several agents almost all at once.

Accuracy of Information

How many times have you looked at a home on Zillow and thought "this is the ONE!" only to learn that the home has been under contract for a number of days, or even sold already? This is the deflating experience many home buyers go through almost daily if they are seriously looking to purchase a home.  

Zillow relies on multiple feeds from MLS organizations across the world. Updates from these feeds can take up to 48 hours, which in a hot housing market could mean an offer on your dream home is accepted before you even see it. It can also mean that your home isn't getting the maximum exposure it could be getting when you've listed it for sale.

Just imagine the issues that this kind of delay could cause, and you can see how buyers are put at a disadvantage when using Zillow to find their dream home. 

It's Even Worse For Sellers

One of the most popular features Zillow offers is the "Zestimate" which is a home value estimator. Zillow uses data from home sales in your area to tell you what your home is worth. But if you read the fine print, it is clear that there is more that goes into pricing your home when you go to sell it.

Zillow, by their own admission, is only within 5% of the sale price of a home 20% of the time. 5% when it comes to your home value can mean tens of thousands of dollars. Whether the 5% is over or under priced, your home sale can be adversely affected by using the Zestimate to price your home. If you are wildly over priced, your home will sit on the market for a long time, which can mean buyers will assume the worst. If it is under priced, you will lose thousands on the sale of your home.

Much has been made of Zillow's former CEO using his own Zestimate tool to sell his home for millions less than he could have by getting it priced accurately. This is not an uncommon situation for those using Zillow in their real estate endeavors.

Solutions For Buyers

So what do buyers do when Zillow fails them? Signing up on a website that actually updates when the MLS does is one way to ensure you will get accurate, real-time information on homes for sale. If you're serious about your home search, you'll receive updates when homes that meet your criteria hit the market, giving you the speed advantage you need in this market.

You'll also see more nuanced status updates for homes. Zillow can not easily differentiate between "pending" and "for sale" with the data from many MLS services. With local MLS access, you can see if homes are pending, for sale, contingent, or sold with ease.

Solutions For Sellers

When it comes to accurately pricing and marketing your home, the benefits of using the services of a professional Realtor can not be overstated. Much like you would not use WebMD to treat and cure a disease, you shouldn't use your Zestimate to price and sell your home. Zillow can not take updates to your home into account, which is another major factor in pricing your home.

For example, if you have updated your kitchen with new quartz countertops, Zillow can not account for that in their automated pricing. You may get a general idea of what your home could sell for, but using a guess won't help you sell your home for top dollar. A Zestimate also can't tell you how to increase the sale price of your home.

Signing up for a maximum home value assessment will help you know what to invest time and money into to get your home sold for the most money.

Thinking of selling your home or buying a house in 2021? Contact us today to get the most accurate information and professional sales presentation for your home.

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