Is Zillow a waste of time for REI?

40 Replies

Am i wasting my time looking at sites like Trulia, Zillow, Redfin, and for investment rental properties?

If so, what online sources should i be focusing on?

Any input on the subject would be appreciated.

Without MLS access, these are some of the tools an investor has to use to see what is available. and Redfin seem to be the most accurate IMO, but everyone has their preferences.

I would get in touch with a real estate agent that can get you on daily emails/MLS access. I have found Zillow and Trulia to have outdated info and expired listings.

Zillow has stuff on the MLS as well as FSBO. So no you're not wasting your time. In some areas zillow is better than the MLS for comps because it has recent sales and pics from FSBOs, although not always accurate.

As a buyer, real estate agents cost nothing so meet/introduce yourself and tell them what you are looking for. They want to sell you REI

Zillow isn’t bad but it isn’t always accurate. I use it to list rentals but I’ve found the buy side and comps are a lil off

Good luck

Why don't you use a REALTOR? Find one that is an investor or that works with investors regularly. This may take some effort and time but it would be well worth it. They can often find deals before they hit the market. I'm in the process of buying a 6-unit apartment building that never hit the market. Last year I bought 11 units before they hit the market. The year before that I bought a hoarder house before it hit the market. I got all of them below market with no competition. is updated every 15 minutes from the MLS. It is the only one I look at, unless I am looking for FSBO. Zillow has FSBO listings, but they are slow to update them. You can absolutely find deals online, but you have to ignore the listing price and focus on the price that makes sense for you. Also, price is only part of the deal. Sometimes, the terms can make an OK deal really great.

@Alan E.

I use Zillow for comps. They have a nifty map function that shows "recently" sold houses. Some of those are as much as 2 years old, so you have to really look through it.

Also as others have mentioned a lot of the people listing their homes FSBO are on Zillow.

I will say that I have seen quirks with where certain properties did not appear for a day or two, meanwhile they appear on Zillow.

I use Zillow regularly, mostly for the recently sold feature, school ratings, and rental listings. The map feature is also helpful for determining what's in the vicinity of a property I'm considering purchasing. I use it less and less for prospecting, however. I have several Realtors that have me set up to receive automated MLS listings. I tell them what I'm looking for...price range, school district, etc.....and when a property hits the MLS I receive an email and text.

I like to use to look at listings and Redfin to pull quick comps. If I want to verify the comps then I use my realtor to help with that. I think both are good tools to get you going while your realtor pulls the needed info for you. Auto email alerts are also great and doesn't take any effort from your realtor after they set it up. Just give them the exact criteria you want and BAM you've got exactly what you're looking for in your inbox every day!

@Nathan G. I have seen you comment on several posts and I'd just like to say I see how active you are! I am wondering what your strategy is to find these off market deals. Do you get them simply from your relationships with agents, or do you also utilize direct mail or something more creative? 

Hey Alan,

I agree with what others are saying re: getting a realtor. The trick is to find a realtor who specializes in REI properties vs. owner occupied home specialists.

You can actually start out through Zillow, Trulia, etc. in looking for investment properties, not to buy, but to get the listing agents contact information. If you call a few of those realtors to build relationships, you’ve already saved yourself some time.

Good luck!

@Allyssa McCleery I don't advertise other than verbally. I always look for opportunities to let people know what I'm in the market for. I do this with everyone, not just real estate agents. However, in all three cases I found the deal through a real estate agent.

I've considered direct mail marketing to specific homes or neighborhoods but I'm honestly busy enough with what I've got. I didn't even plan to buy anything this year but this one popped up and we couldn't pass it up.

Zillow and the like all have homes that are already on the market. You can have great success with off-market properties - that you can find when you do direct mail campaigns. Homeowners with low Financial Stability Scores (FSS) can be a good list.

@Nathan G. Sounds like a good position to be in! I don't have much interest in direct mail either so I am looking for ways to avoid it and still find off market deals. Thanks for your response.

I wanted to do direct mail. Nobody else does it here so I sure it would be a success. However, I'm worried it would be too successful and I wouldn't be able to handle the volume. I'm also busy enough with sales and don't want to take on any more.

Yes, it's a good position to be in!

I think these sites are massively useful.

yeah the numbers aren't exact, but that's not where the biggest value comes from

having a realtor is important for sure, but realtors......rely on them at your own peril, they don't always like to work. Zillow however, always works.

I don’t think it’s a waste of time, but if you are planning to purchase property that is listed on the MLS , it makes sense to work with an agent.

Depending on what you are looking for also they might not be listed on the realtor , Zillow , Redfin for example if you are looking for buildings over 4 units.

Of the 9 rental properties we own, I found 8 on Zillow.  The 9th I purchased from a relative.  Key is using the notification tools offered by Zillow and to be active daily (multiple times daily). 

Have you looked into They have listings specifically for commercial/MF properties. I have been using Zillow to try and analyze the SF market. Have not utilized, Trulia, or Redfin as much as I want to, it's just a lot of data to sift through to try to pinpoint accuracy between all the platforms. I personally plan to network with realtors in my area very soon.

I use Redfin and Zillow; but there is a layer of MLS to which they regularly do not provide access. For that you need to go to some more specialized services like KW Commercial, CB Commercial and Loopnet among others. That will give you access to Apartment buildings, mixed use buildings, trailer parks and general industrial land used for storage of heavy equipment etc. Never assume the math on any of these sites is either complete or accurate! LOL

If you plan to be successful in the Real Estate world you need to learn how to play well with others. Scrolling through the websites Zillow, Realtor, Redfin... is like sitting in the library at lunch time. It simply is not going to get you on the cool kid table and learning the latest trends. Get in touch with a few real life Realtors and ask them a few questions you have about your area and what homes could work with your price range. Once they set you up with the answers you feel comfortable with, work with that Realtor to view some homes. Build up a relationship with them face to face. Ask them if they are also investors and who they would recommend for Painting, Loans, Contracting...
Again more people to meet and talk to and build relationships with. The computer screen can only get you so far, playing well with others is the key to the Real Estate winning strategy.