Zillow and Trulia have been in the news a lot the last few months. First for Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia and more recently when word spread that ListHub cut ties with the Zillow Group on April 7th.
Local professionals’ reactions have been mixed. Many agents hope that Zillow’s inaccuracies will become more apparent and buyers will go back to the more reliable sources such as realtor.com, mycaar.com, or individual firm websites like LoringWoodriff.com. Others are worried that Zillow will continue to be a front runner with increasingly inaccurate information.
Our local association, CAAR, has stated that they are choosing to work with Zillow to feed listing information to their sites in an effort to improve accuracy but only time will tell if things improve.
While these websites and apps can be very useful for buyers in the initial stages of exploring a new area I personally have found they are often more a source of confusion than reliable information. Half of my buyers will inevitably ask me why I haven’t sent them a specific house they found online. Each time it is either because that house already sold or often the information provided is wrong and it doesn’t fit my client’s needs or budget. Wanting to serve my client’s interests to the best of my ability, I always investigate these leads but without fail it is reaffirmed that it indeed is just inaccurate information. One agent was so alarmed the house she helped clients buy over a year ago was advertised for sale she called them up to check. They were just as surprised as she that it was listed for sale.
Never trust a zestimate. It is impossible for a computer program to understand the nuances that contribute to a property’s worth. Especially in an area like ours where one street’s average price per square foot can vary dramatically from the next street over. Even the basic information can be way off. On one of my listings the county assessment Zillow had listed was over $100,000 less than the real assessment and it had the wrong number of bedrooms and baths. Just comparing information on Zillow and Trulia side by side will often show discrepancies. There are hundreds of examples I could give but the picture is pretty clear that you can’t take anything at face value on these third party sites.
So what should you do to find reliable information? One tool several of my clients have loved is Client Connect. This is a feature of our new MLS system that allows agents to set up a personalized website for their clients. This is a great way to keep track of listings you’ve seen by marking them as favorites, writing notes, and saving searches. This tool can even email you and your agent the minute a new listing comes on that fits your search criteria. Alternatively you can use LoringWoodriff.com, mycaar.com, and realtor.com to find reliable information.
It is very important to remember though that not every property for sale can be found online. The spring market has taken off and properties are selling at record pace. This means it is important to have an agent with an ear to the ground for upcoming listings. Choosing an agent at the right firm can mean being the first to see a property and the first to put in an offer. Just recently I helped two different clients get the first crack at properties not even listed with our firm by being proactive about contacting other agents. One was under contract within a few hours of being listed.
If you are looking to buy but haven’t seen anything you like, contact me. I may be able to find you the perfect house before it hits the market.