Zillow is a great tool for home buyers. It allows people to research and shop for homes in any location, regardless of where they live. In fact, Zillow is responsible for delivering a respectable percentage of clients through our doors here at J. Harris & Associates Real Estate in Mt. Shasta, CA.
One of Zillow’s most popular feature is the Zestimate, which estimates how much any given home is worth. This is awesome in theory, however, it has one big, audacious problem: The Zestimate is based on data, and is only going to be as accurate as the data it collects.
You’ve probably heard the old axiom – garbage in, garbage out.
In large markets, Zillow is connected to local MLS feeds, so the market data is pushed and updated in real time, painting an accurate picture for buyers and sellers.
However, way up here in Mt. Shasta, located in the far reaches of northern California, Zillow is NOT connected to our MLS. Therefore, it’s up to Realtors, brokers, and agents to manually enter sales data in a timely manner—which doesn’t always happen.
This results in excited Buyers calling about properties that are already in escrow, withdrawn, expired, or sold. It also results in incomplete sales data, painting a sloppy, inaccurate picture of the market.
Zestimates are about to get worse
As of May 1, 2017, Zillow (and its lesser-known kid sibling, Trulia) will no longer allow manual listings in order “to provide buyers and sellers with the highest-quality listings data possible.”
If an MLS feed to Zillow is not available (for us it’s not), the company suggests each brokerage set up a broker feed directly with the Zillow Group. So how many real estate brokerages throughout our county are going to spend the time taking those steps? By my guess, a very small percentage.
After all, brokers are already busy enough updating the MLS, their own websites, social platforms, and all the other day-to-day minutiae of running a real estate business. Besides, there’s also Realtor.com, which IS connected to our MLS, providing a more precise depiction of the Siskiyou County real estate market.
As for those Zestimates, Sellers love to trot out the overinflated numbers they found on Zillow when trying to determine the value of their house. Much to their chagrin, it’s usually not based in reality. (BTW, it goes the opposite direction, too. I bought my house two years ago for $245k, and Zillow tells me it’s currently worth $214k. Awesome.)
All hail the good ol’ CMA
In our neck of the woods at least, a Comparative Market Analysis is still the best way to gauge local market value, which can help agent and Seller decide on an accurate listing price.
Price it well, it will sell.
Sure, Zillow is a cool platform. It offers an easy and innovative way to shop for homes, and its features may work better in larger markets. However, for those of us up in the boondocks of Siskiyou County California, Zestimates pretty much zuck.
Nikolas Allen is a Realtor® with J. Harris & Associates in Mt. Shasta, California. He helps people through the complex process of buying and selling their homes, and writes the only real estate blog in Siskiyou County.