The highs and lows of parenting and real estate.

Zillow.com

In the last week or so, I keep hearing about Zillow.com. Jason was the first one to send it to me. He always keeps up on the latest technologies in websites, and he had read about it on one of his techie blogs. He told me to check it out. This weekend a family friend mentioned that she had been on it checking out the value of her house. The kicker was when I found a post about it on a random website I was surfing yesterday. The gal claimed that Zillow.com is the real estate agent of the future. Being that I am the real estate agent of the present, that statement sent me surfing on over to check out the competition.

I have to say, it seems to be complex and interesting program. It’s not, however, totally unique technology. If you go to the Maricopa county assessor’s site and do a parcel search, you have the option to click and pull up comparable properties. In the ARMLS system, Arizona Realtors have access to another similar program that pulls from the tax records. Here’s the thing, though, even though I have access to all of these programs, I never use them when determining the value of a property I am going to list. The big problem with programs like any of these is that they are dumb. They lack the human component. They don’t take into consideration the remodeling a home owner has done, or the fact that the property has been a rental and not well cared for. The programs don’t know that the market in a particular area is moving faster than another and that we can afford to ask more because of it. When it comes down to it, pricing a home is more of an art than a science, which is why a computer will never be better at it than a knowledgeable and talented human.

And here’s the proof for you:

Property A: A condo in the Central Corridor in Phoenix that I have been researching to possibly list for a client who lives in California.

Maricopa county assessor’s website says: $99,500
ARMLS tax site says: $98,500
Zillow.com says: $123,563
I say: $145,000

Yep, Zillow.com is the closest, and definitely the smartest of the programs. It’s unfortunately not smart enough to call the owner of the next door condo which was recently purchased for $98,500 that is dragging down the averages in all of the programs, and find out that he only acquired it through a cash offer to the known drug-offender who was living there and had completely trashed the place.

Property B: A house near me that just went on the market.

Maricopa county assessor’s website says: $157,500
ARMLS tax site says: $351,621
Zillow.com says: $340,800
It’s currently on the market for: $410,000

This one’s all over the map with ARMLS winning closest bid. I think the big problem is again a comparable property that sold for $27,000. It was probably a gift to a family member or some other unusual situation, but it has the programs all confused.

So, in conclusion, I think Zillow.com is fairly brilliant in concept and design, but I think it needs some help in accuracy; and I’m not worried it will ever take my job.

PS – Curbed has a bunch of interesting comments on Zillow, and, even more interestingly, Zillow itself presents info on its own accuracy.

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