Zillow cannot adapt

Update 1/11/2017: sadly, all of the outbound links (except those to my site) are dead links.

Yet. My prediction that marketing homes will become less a core component of Realtors’ job requirements may be coming true.

Take yesterday for example. I met a potential buyer for the first time. We had worked via email to determine a couple of areas and house requirements that “fit.” (at least an acre or so, at least 3,000 or so square feet, no more than ~30 minutes to Charlottesville/UVA) After looking at one development and listening to my client on the way, we decided that the first development would work. But – my potential client recognized the value of paying more for better quality construction. So – with my guidance, we eliminated the other two developments/houses from the equation and I took him to another development that was not on the list, but “fit” much better.

Zillow cannot know that the quality of construction of this builder is better than that builder. It cannot know that while this builder is better than most, he also has a tendency to deliver the product late (~two months) and that I as the Buyer’s Representative would have to guide my clients through this process.

Zillow cannot know from reading this article in the Daily Progress (dead link) that Glenmore is a high-end development, and as such, its residents carry more “oomph” when they get organized against a proposed development.

Until Zillow can make the connections between similar developments, until Zillow can adapt while in the field, they will remain an accessory to, rather than a replacement for, a successful Realtor. Zillow cannot build relationships with other Realtors, lenders, etc.

Can Zillow have integrity?

Related reading: Sellsisus’ ongoing discussions about “unzillowables(dead link)

Update: Larry Cragun has an excellent post on Zillow today(dead link)

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9 Comments

  1. David G from Zillow.com December 12, 2006 at 16:08

    Hi Jim, it’s David from Zillow.

    We’re thrilled to be an accessory. Zillow has no plan to replace Realtors — a Zestimate is not a replacement for a CMA and finding for sale homes posted on Zillow is similar to reading your local paper’s classified ads; it doesn’t replace the need for a buyer’s agent.

    Interestingly, construction quality is captured by your county appraiser and is part of the tax assessor’s public records. So, we do factor construction quality into Zestimates.

    It can be difficult to interpret the county’s value for construction quality. It’s usually a number — some county’s use a 3-point scale while most seem to use 10. It is useful when comparing homes within a neighborhood but it’s not very useful to an owner to know that their home is a “6”. So, we took this info off the home detail pages on Zillow but it is still used in calculating the Zestimate.

    Thanks for writing.

  2. Jim Duncan December 12, 2006 at 23:50

    David –

    Thanks for stopping by – you are mighty active in the real estate blogosphere. Thanks to the folks at Zillow for the t-shirt, too!

    it doesn’t replace the need for a buyer’s agent.

    Do you think that Zillow could theoretically replace listing agents?

    That counties use a metric to evaluate quality of construction is fascinating and truthfully, I had never paid much attention to that value within Albemarle County’s tax pages (it appears to be a scale of A-F, with variables – C–, B++, etc.) It doesn’t seem to be consistent in our region at all. More power to you if you can accurately integrate this metric into your algorithm.

    Personally, I think Zillow could be a great tool, not just for the general values that may be possible, but the aggregation of content as well. The wiki seems promising.

  3. Jim Duncan December 12, 2006 at 23:57

    Frank, thanks for posting that link.

    I fully expect that Zillow will become more and more accurate as they evolve, but they will never become as accurate as a professional’s analysis. Nor will they replace what a ready, willing and able buyer is willing to pay.

    Real estate valuations can be a mostly objective process, but how does one value a mountain view? Or a mountain view that one can see only when standing on one’s tip toes looking out a corer of an upstairs window?

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