Can Zillow be trusted?

39 Replies

I've heard on the podcast that you should take what zillow offers ( zestimates, prices and such) with a grain of salt...can anybody clarify or expand on this? Are the prices on this site quality? Are they negotiable? I know there are other sites to check out houses, but so far, Zillow is the first I've checked.

Zillow says their algorithms are within 7% of value's. I have used Zillow before (twice) and each time they came with $500 of the appraisel.

The real question are appraisel's necessary if you have a willing buyer/seller that agree on price.

@Kevin Izquierdo

Zillow is first and foremost a marketing site. 

Zillow takes market data and puts it in a neat and marketable format for consumers.

Zillow has never seen inside of any home and is a computer. 

If house A and house B are on the same block and house A is remodeled and house B is run down, it will essentially say house B is worth way more than it is, and it will undervalue house A. 

If house C is on the same block and in average condition, house C will likely have the most accurate Zestimate. 

Regarding are they negotiable, I'm not sure what you mean. 

Sometimes it's close, but sometimes is way off. Know your area and get recent comps from your realtor to get more accurate market prices. It's a rough guide, but don't use it to make an offer.
Sometimes it's close, but sometimes is way off. Know your area and get recent comps from your realtor to get more accurate market prices. It's a rough guide, but don't use it to make an offer.
Originally posted by @Mark Gallagher :

@Kevin Izquierdo

Zillow is first and foremost a marketing site. 

Zillow takes market data and puts it in a neat and marketable format for consumers.

Zillow has never seen inside of any home and is a computer. 

If house A and house B are on the same block and house A is remodeled and house B is run down, it will essentially say house B is worth way more than it is, and it will undervalue house A. 

If house C is on the same block and in average condition, house C will likely have the most accurate Zestimate. 

Regarding are they negotiable, I'm not sure what you mean. 

 Best explanation of how Zillow works I've ever seen.  Well done!

Like Mark says, Zillow has no way of knowing the condition of your house, so it just uses comps from neighboring sales and square footage for its estimates. But here's the kicker: this is the same approach that most appraisers use. 

So don't use it as the holy grail, but it does give you a good idea of the average sales price for the given property.

thank you for the input everbody! I wanted to get more info on it before jumping into it further. So in light of this new info, does the same go for the other sites? Realtor.com being another I've been looking at. 

there is no substitue for a cma for a competent realtor,but all the sites you mention pull data from mls,county records,etc to give excellent info and as mentioned sometimes very accurate sometimes not ,the data is delayed so a realtor can be more accurate.nit is like getting real time stock data vs delayed or end of the day

@Kevin Izquierdo

None of the sites (Zillow, Realtor.com, Trulia, Redfin) can be trusted. They are ok to get a ballpark idea on what an average house may sell for in a zip code, but they do not account for the condition of the house, location (busy street, corner lot, etc), neighborhood, curb appeal, etc. It is simply a number spit out by a computer based on data in reasonable proximity to the house. To get a real value, you need to look at sold comps and subtract out any buyer kickback from those numbers, adjust for amenities, and adjust for condition/repairs/etc. 

Additionally, the sale/foreclosure/preforeclosure info you can also obtain on these sites is unreliable at best. This is data which the pulled from other website without vetting the quality/accuracy of the information. It also is generally one to two weeks behind any live data, so for any good deals you will be late to the party.

In short, they can be a handy tool for quickly viewing and comparing properties, but should not be used when you are serious about purchasing a property.

-Christopher

zillow estimate is off depending on where u are.

I am a zillow premier agent bwahaha

I called on a listing... fsbo

owner: hmmm funny thing my house isn't for sale and all of a sudden I get a ton of activity!?

me: it listed on zillow for sale

owner: oh.....while I have you, how much is it for sale for.

me:   $------

owner: what! no way that way too low!!

me: I know, hence the activity.

owner: no I need to look into this

me: yes and check your ID, because I got you ### from zillow

owner: Thx.......

Most of the answers above bash zestimates. And I have found those to be a fair STARTING number, but I certainly don't rely upon them. They sort of give me an idea of the price which I verify via recent comps. However, zillow does a fairly good job in showing what has been sold, when and at what price, which is valuable especially since its free. MLS has better information, but to be kind the MLS is not user friendly. at least to the extent zillow is.

I recently purchased a condo (private sale).  The purchase price and date sold appeared on Zillow about a week later with all correct numbers and dates.  I asked a neighbor within the complex how much she purchased hers for, and that purchase price was also correct on Zillow.  With that said, it seems their purchase price and dates are correct (for the most part).

Would I trust it completely with every property? No.  The "zestimates" for the most part seem to be way off, or given a crazy margin.  

Longer answer: Not only can they not be trusted, but they can be manipulated too. 

I have two rental houses in Worcester, MA, I listed under the "Make Me Move" option.  Zillow originally couldn't find the houses, and the Zillow people said I could force Zillow to find them with a "Make Me Move" listing.  So I did.

The houses are realistically worth between $200K to $240K each, but I listed both at a "Make Me Move" price of $475,000 each.  Yahoo!  If I got those prices I would "move" and buy 4 houses with the proceeds.  

I listed them about 6-9 months ago. Zillow started out at reasonable estimates around $200K each. Since then Zillow has steadily increased the "Zestimate".  As of a few hours ago the Zestimate was $305,144 and $446,994.   I think it's aiming for my Make-Me-Move price.

My goal this year is to get the Zestimate up to $1 million each.  I just need to set the "Make Me Move" price to between $1-2 million each.  Wish me luck.

I think most people have covered the accuracy of Zillow very well.

From my perspective, I use ZEstimate as a ball park number when I need a quick estimate for any wholesale deals I am working on. Before I talk to a seller on the phone to gauge motivation and interest, I always pull up a ZEstimate just to get that ball park number. Then I adjust by 30-60% knowing that my number will likely be somewhere within that range. I always let the seller know that the range is large b/c I have no idea how the inside of their house looks (much like Zillow). 

If they are able to work with that number, then I know I'm talking to a hot lead and then pull actual ARV. Otherwise, they are probably looking for retail.

This can save a lot of time if you are running multiple leads and don't have time to run comps for every single one. It can very frustrating to spend hard time running super accurate comps when the lead is just a tire kicker or looking for retail and all you need at that point is "good enough".

EVERY unlicensed investor needs a licensed "partner" to provide accurate information, namely, a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) of the subject property, which includes "comps" based upon recently sold comparable properties.  Sometimes, it takes an agent with some years of experience in the area to know which properties to include as "comparable" - to address that issue that Mark mentioned above.

My agent partner, Angela with Keller Williams, loves me because I give her all my warm leads of people that really want to list (i.e, get a retail offer), and she does CMAs for me all the time, employing her 8 years of experience in our market here.  She is probably the single most important person on my team.

You don't need Zillow.  You need an agent partner!

I would not trust their numbers. I do use the site in home searches, but I take what info they provide as a ball park figure. I would never bank on their numbers, but It gives me a general idea of an area and home. I always back it up with a CMA from my agent and get the exact info. Redfin, seems to me, to be a little more accurate compared to Zillow. The only thing with Redfin is that is only covers certain areas of the US.

Zillow and other sites pull publicly available data, so their "sold" prices, tax history, historical data and school info should be reliable (and has been as far as my experience).

"Zestimates" are guesses, just like the guesses a Realtor would make on what a house is worth.  Nobody knows for sure because it's something that hasn't happened yet.  The difference is that a Realtor is making an informed professional guess, and Zillow's guess is made by a computer algorithm.

I think you get the picture.

Zestimates CAN be close if there are a lot of very comparable sales that have occured recently, but it is likely off by some degree because this is usually not the case. A Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) is better because someone, hopefully a knowledgeable someone, is putting a sanity check to the comparables that pop up in their search and making realistic adjustments for differences. A Broker's Price Opinion (BPO) should be better still because it is more formal and arguably a more knowledgeable person. In reality it is propbably the same person who did the CMA doing the BPO with a Broker putting their sanity check on that. An appraisal SHOULD be the best because it is much more in depth and what this person does for a living. Of course, all of these are only as good as the comparables and people performing them. I have seen bad CMAs, BPOs, and even appraisals. And of course Zillow isn't even a person so......

I use Zillow to get an idea of price because you can see what has sold and see what they are using for comps. If you have experience or know the market or area you can get a fairly good idea by doing your own "CMA" but your info will be dated compared to the MLS. This can be used to narrow down your list of possibles. Before you actually did a deal, though, I would definitely get something more concrete that you could trust.