What do you look at on Zillow?

9 Replies

Hi folks,

I'm not sure how common this is, but as I've been searching for my first house-hack in Minneapolis, MN, I've been taking all of the relevant MLS listings that are forwarded to me each day and then pasting the address into Zillow to view things like the Zestimate, # bed/bath, property taxes, comps, etc.

As a computer science student, after a few weeks I started to think there might be an easier way to do this and began to look at Zillow's API. This tool would allow me to take a list of addresses and automatically create a spreadsheet that, for every address, would contain every piece of information Zillow has available on it. This means that instead of manually copying and pasting all of these addresses and then clicking through Zillow's site, I could just have a script run every day that automatically takes the list of addresses and gives me a spreadsheet that gathers all of this info and does analysis on the numbers.

So my question is, does that seem like a tool that would be useful to the community? If so, what sort of information from Zillow would be useful to include in the spreadsheet? 

Thanks in advance!

Hello @Patrick Erichsen : I have used the Zillow API to research properties and it is cool. It actually has additional data points that is not available or easy to get from the website. To answer your question, most of the criteria I use to filter the properties is already on MLS. I used Zillow only when I am interested in the next step - which is to look at the house. And that particular task does not happen often - once a month or so is when I find a great deal that interest me, I look it up on Zillow. Assuming you are new to investing, after a while you will already know what is a good deal and what is not, just by looking at the MLS. Getting accustomed to the market is a key to finding great deals and you are certainly on the right path as far as researching the properties goes. Over time you should be able to add MLS filters that will automatically narrow your search down to only those that you really want and that list is small (as it should be) that you won't need automation to look up Zillow.

I would however love to hear your thoughts as well on this.

@Patrick Erichsen What relevant data Zillow have other than a price estimate that you feel the MLS is missing? Does Zillow only pull its data from MLS or is it pulling from county website info as well? I am curious as I often run across listing on the MLS that have incorrect information about square footage, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc.. Are you comparing the MLS to the ZIllow in that way?

It must pull from county websites as well for valuation and information of off market properties. It would be interesting to see a comparison in square foot listed in MLS vs. Zillow.

As far as the script. I think it would be cool to run the script on a new property and run cashflow assumptions, pull info like a link to zillow, link to hennpin or Minneapolis day by PID, etc. 

You might be able to use Flow or something similar as well to trigger the script automatically. I think its cool. Now is it useful? 

I don't know that enough hits the MFH daily in Minneapolis that you can't just look at them and identify if it fits your criteria right away. So, it would really be a cost benefit of how long it would take you to automate this vs how often you are actually doing this. 

You might be able to do some other things though like using the API to better run the cashflow on FSBO multi family properties. Again though, that is a feed. You could also maybe do your own heatmap around cashflow by taking the predicted cashflow and mapping it via google maps so you know when a property hits the market in a vary attractive neighborhood.

Very interesting topic thanks for bringing it up. Also good look finding your first deal! I house hacked a fourplex 4 years ago and have purchased 3 more since then with no plans to stop. I work in IT as well so I am glad there are others that are interested in automation as well. 



Don't use Zillow for accurate value. Zillow can be off on markets, especially inner city by 20-50%+

@Kevin Powell to answer one of your questions - Zillow has some connection with the MLS and may also pull data from county records. Whenever I have listed a home it has been listed automatically on Zillow. The MLS information seems to take over whatever was previously listed for details so there must be a middling software to post these to Zillow, Trulia, etc. Zillow will often have prior sales history which is not always on the MLS. This could be from the county or it could be from tracking prior sales.

As far as the usefulness of this - I agree that the Zestimate can be off quite a bit in some areas. Because there seems to be some connection with Zillow and the MLS I would be surprised if the beds/baths weren't listed the same and if the property tax records on the MLS were not listed correctly. Guess I am not sure what extra information I would be able to get from Zillow outside of the Zestimate and possibly prior sales data.

Like most people on here, I would be interested in the script/spreadsheet to see what analysis I may be missing however I wouldn't be interested in paying for anything.  

@Patrick Erichsen I like your idea - I was looking for a way to do this for rental data. In researching my local market to get a feel for what certain areas would command in rental dollars per bedroom, I put together a simple spreadsheet with addresses, links to the "for rent" website where I found the rental asking price, and then calculated a per bedroom rate, as well as rental dollars per square ft. rate. Needless to say, it takes time. There is a Zillow Rentals app that cluster maps for-rent prices but not on a per-bedroom rate, and many listings come from different sources... so there is a need for an efficient, comprehensive gathering of this information.

If you could set something up to syndicate rental data, you could really pinpoint areas to target in a given market. I love numbers but I also know how useful it was to drive around the neighborhoods and see things for myself/ listen to my gut. 

Thanks for the comments everyone! To clarify upfront, I wouldn't be selling this or anything like that. Just thought I could kill two birds with one stone by saving myself some time when analyzing deals, and also beefing up my resume. I've also heard from a lot of other people that the Zestimate can be pretty far off sometimes, but for the rental prices I found this handy page (https://www.zillow.com/howto/DataCoverageRentZesti...) from Zillow that gives their own analysis on the Zestimate accuracy for a given city. I'm in Minneapolis, so it looks pretty good for the rental Zestimate at least.

@Senthil N. If you have any of your code on GitHub I'd love to check it out! I don't have direct access to the MLS, so I've just been receiving a daily list of multi-families in my target market. Part of my logic for the project is that MLS is just a listing service, while Zillow is primarily an analysis tool - which leads me to think that there will be better insight available on Zillow. The MLS also does not have an API, so there isn't a way to automate the analysis like you can do with Zillow. But, like you mentioned a more experienced investor might have such a finely tuned MLS search that all of this is unnecessary. Could you see a spreadsheet like I mentioned being useful for any non-newbies?

@Kevin Powell Lot of great ideas! The Google Maps idea would be really cool and I've wanted to try using their API for a while now. It would probably take a while for me to actually save time in the long run by creating this, especially in Mpls, but I thought it would be cool if I could make it user-friendly enough for other people to use. I'm not sure what extra info Zillow has vs the MLS, but the MLS doesn't have any API's so I don't think a project like this would even be possible.

@Todd Dexheimer Outside of inner-city listings have you found it to be somewhat accurate?

@John Woodrich I think most of the info is similar as well, but the catch is that Zillow has an interface that allows a script to get that data whereas the MLS doesn't. A more experienced investor maybe wouldn't need this because their MLS search criteria is so finely tuned, but if someone is looking at a wider market, they could just take all of the addresses that are returned in their search and then pass it to this script.

@Patrick Erichsen I would say you can use it as a general guide, but not for accuracy. Using actual MLS data from a real estate agent or appraiser will be much more accurate. Even in suburbs, I would say it can be off by over 20%

@Todd Dexheimer Do you think having a +/-20% range of the Zestimate on a spreadsheet like this be useful as a general guide? I.e. if a property Zestimate is $100,000 have it listed as $80,000 - $120,000. 

Also, have you found the Rent Zestimate to be accurate? I feel like that one would be a bit better.

When you go to write an offer, just be sure that you have an accurate value in place. 

For rent estimates I use zillow, rentometer and craigslist. 

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