Zillow + Google = Amazing Times Ahead

Google Now + Zillow. Big times ahead …

Almost every buyer with whom I work checks Zillow (and I have to tell them Z doesn’t have a direct MLS feed, so the data isn’t always accurate. They check zestimates in addition to property assessments because they’re looking for an objective valuation.

Almost every seller with whom I work checks their home’s zestimate to see how it measures up with their locality’s assessment and our market analysis. More often than not, the zestimate is wrong. But.

I feel like I was seeing the future in 2006 when I wrote this

Yet I have been wondering – what if Zillow’s reach becomes so great, their data become so vast and inclusive, that their Zestimates significantly impact what is fair market value? What if the purchasing and selling population refer to Zillow as the end-all, be-all estimator for their homes’ valuations? What if “close enough” is “good enough”? What if they become the de facto standard for home valuations?

And now this (pardon the pun):

Google Now gets you just the right information, before you even ask, and is the newest part of the Google Search app for devices running Android 4.1, Jelly Bean. If you’re in the market for a new home, Google Now can provide you with nearby real estate listings, powered by Zillow. Plus, while you’re attending an open house, Google Now will pull additional information about the home, including time on market, listing price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and year built.

If you haven’t used Google Now, you should. I have a Nexus 7 tablet and Google Now is sweet – intuitive, instinctive and always there.

Zillow may be on to something. From Forbes.

Gartner estimates that smartphones captured 44% of all mobile phone sales in the December 2012 quarter with Android smartphones taking 31% of all mobile phone shipments and iOS in second place at 9%. Android smartphones grew 88% year over year with iOS at 23%.

Android at times makes my iPhone 4S feel old.

Russ with Zillow said in 2011, in response to my challenging their advocating using zestimates in negotiations:

Additionally, I wanted to let you know we’ve removed language about using the Zestimate for negotiation. We really do want to be clear that it’s a starting point, and we could see how that confused the issue. Thanks for pointing that out.

We’re not to the point where zestimates replace market analyses – there are so many unzillowables that can’t be quantified by an algorithm – view, smells, neighbors, proximity to work, stuff, groceries, etc but the question that marginal real estate agents need to be asking themselves (that great ones have been asking themselves for years) is this:

Why should my client trust me more than Google/Zillow? (my answer to this question coming next week)

(and what does this mean for Trulia?)

And … how is the National Association of Realtors going to respond to this?

In a conference call with analysts today around the company’s fourth quarter earnings, Rascoff noted that there’s a huge amount of “brand whitespace” in the real estate category. That means no one brand symbolizes real estate in the U.S.

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  1. Jay Thompson February 14, 2013 at 16:45

    You did not just say, “And now this…” 😉

    Jay T. from Zillow here (I know you know that Jim, but others may not)

    Always appreciate your insights. I’m an Apple/iOS user, but have to admit that Google Now sounds really interesting. (I just hope it doesn’t sound like Apple’s Siri.)

    Looking forward to reading your answer next week, I’m sure it’ll be enlightening!

    1. Jim Duncan February 15, 2013 at 14:13

      I wrote this entire post just so I could use that pun. 🙂

      Interesting times …

  2. Simon Campbell February 16, 2013 at 08:35

    Oh, but there is a protection against Zillow setting market values – real estate appraisals. Buyers and sellers can go online all they want and fuss over all the guess-timates, I mean zestimates. But when push comes to shove and the final bottom line is needed to justify price and get a bank loan, in walks the non-bias licensed real estate appraiser. I know for a fact that he/she is not using Zillow. They must only use verified sales, as in the ones found in their local MLS of which they are members. That is the protection against Zillow taking over the world.

    1. Jim Duncan February 16, 2013 at 20:52

      For now … banks are using zestimates now for determining whether to permit refinances … all banks are using AVMs (from what I’ve been told) …

      I think it may be a matter of time …

      1. Simon Campbell February 19, 2013 at 08:52

        Zestimates maybe used by a lender in the initial stage to get a ballpark figure of value before pulling an approved AVM or getting an appraisal. They do not want to have to pay for an appraisal when the purchase price is not even in range. But, lending guidelines do not allow them to solely rely on public data.

        There are some loans that do not require appraisals such as FHA Streamline, VA IRRRL, DU Refi Plus and Freddie Open Access. I believe that these loans must go through the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac valuation system.

        Other loans which are federally insured must have a legitimate appraisal.

  3. Doug Francis February 17, 2013 at 11:29

    This video from Google really should be a wake up call for any small business in town – Charlottesville to Phoenix and beyond. For example, if your bike shop doesn’t have a good web presence then Google Now will probably pass you by. I think anyone who really wants to help their small business buddies who may have put off updating their web site, seeing this clip may be the wake up call they need.

    1. Jim Duncan February 19, 2013 at 06:43

      @google-6e2e9ef3f0affe6ea2b911bb2c7ee0b3:disqus Amen. A-freaking-men.


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