Why You Should Avoid Zillow – Trulia – Redfin – Realtor.com at all costs!!
In a society obsessed with technology and social media, we are bombarded by loads of content. Today, anybody can post information online and just because something’s popular doesn’t mean it’s accurate. Now more than ever, we need to be very conscious of where our information comes from. We should be asking ourselves: Does the owner of this website have a motive for posting certain content? What is the real reason this website exists? What do they use my information for?
In real estate, most “national or global” websites exist for one reason… to extract your contact information. Period! It’s important to keep in mind first and foremost, that Zillow, Trulia and the rest are NOT real estate brokers. They are “marketing companies” that have simply chosen real estate as their vehicle to generate interest and profits from YOUR CONTACT INFORMATION and then sell those “leads’ back to real estate agents, credit repair companies and lenders. They’re instead, giant traps created as a “lead machines” for Realtors (the ones who pay them for it anyway) and other sponsor/vendors that advertise on their sites. Websites such as Zillow, Redfin, Realtor.com and Trulia are all designed with the sole purpose of creating leads and in turn, revenue for the websites. Their motive has little to nothing to do with actually serving you, the consumer-homebuyer.
At the same time, they have used all that advertising revenue to advertise to you and convince you to use their sites… the exact sites where most buyers and sellers “have been trained” to begin their home search and to look to find the value of their current home. This creates a variety of problems due to what the studies have now shown as false advertising and inaccurate data.
Of all the online real estate databases, Zillow may be the very worst, followed close by Trulia and Realtor.com. Zillow is currently the most commonly used site despite the false advertising and information. As an experienced real estate and mortgage professional, I too thought Zillow (and the others) would be good sources with which to offer my services. Initially, I didn’t realize how the Zillow lead system worked any more than you as a consumer really understand the real reason behind how and why they exist. When I called the first opportunity… “lead” I received from my Zillow advertising I was all ready to offer my potentially new client exactly what they wanted, more information on the homes and hopefully have an opportunity develop a personal relationship with them and help them… but I was shocked by the response!
The voice on the other end of the line sounded frustrated and exhausted, saying angrily: “You’re the 20th Realtor to call me in the past hour. Please stop calling.” That was not exactly the type of response I was hoping for when following up on these Zillow or Trulia “hot leads”.
I instantly felt guilty and apologized. Little did this potential client know they’d get dozens of calls from multiple agents over the next week.
I am sure most of you understand real estate sales jobs are very competitive and finding good clients to serve is a big part of what we do. “Leads” or more opportunities are key to the survival of our small business, but is the “Zillow” way, the best or even ethical way to accomplish that?
Zillow creates a lose-lose situation. The potential buyer is angry, the agent is paying way too much money to compete with way too many agents, and it’s overwhelming for a buyer who is only on Zillow to browse through the home photos. During the timeline of these first searches, many buyers are in no way ready to actually “transact” on a property. They are simply doing some initial research. The only one benefiting from this business tactic is Zillow. Because of this and many other reasons, over the past year, Real Estate brokerage after brokerage have decided to withdraw their listings from the nationwide online commercial real estate search portals like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin and Realtor.com. Another reason for the inaccuracy of the information found in these portals.
Bigger Doesn’t Mean Better
When searching online for real estate, you want to get the best information possible. Many people are under the impression that because Zillow has become so popular, they are the best place to find homes online. That is a result of millions of dollars spent on marketing… “selling you” that belief. Welcome to the benefits of raising billions of dollars by going public on Wall Street. Sad but true. To help you understand this issue even further, let’s go even deeper into this subject. What is the lowdown on Zillow and similar sites?
Recently, independent consumer protection research was conducted to assess the accuracy of sites like Trulia and Zillow. Their study found that approximately 36% of the listings shown as active on Zillow and Trulia were no longer for sale in the local MLS, compared with almost 0% on local brokerage websites. The study further found that brokerage-sourced listings using their local MLS feed displayed 100% of the MLS homes listed for sale on their websites but Trulia only displayed 81% and Zillow 79%. In summary – over 33% of the listings you are seeing are NOT ACTUALLY FOR SALE and you only get to see up to 80% of the listings that are actually for sale. We could go on but really there’s no need. Obviously, anyone searching for properties in a certain market would like to have access to all of the listings that are for sale and none of the ones that aren’t. Right?
For Buyers: Many of the homes listed on Zillow may not be for sale. For example, we’ve had clients all intrigued by a house they saw on Zillow. Zillow’s data showed the house was currently for sale, had been on the market for almost a month and was in the area and budget they wanted. What I found via the MLS is that the house had sold in just three days a month prior and for over asking price.
Another way Zillow can provide inaccurate information is through the agent listed with the property. This is a common complaint from users of these websites. The misleading nature of their advertising of listings can be very frustrating. You would think this is the “listing agent” or the “seller’s agent.” Wrong. They actually “attach” that home to a paying Realtor advertising client of Zillow… not the actual listing agent that knows the most about that home. In my opinion, it’s misleading advertising, and it’s taking advantage of people by misleading them. National portals like Trulia and Zilliow are also slow to show new listings. When a property is listed for sale it hits the local MLS in a matter of minutes, usually about 15, but can take as long as 9 days to populate to nationally syndicated sites according to studies on the subject.
For Sellers: These “Zestimates” are Zillow’s algorithm-produced estimates of their value … not appraisals. They provide people with a very basic so-called estimate of what a particular property is worth. Are Zestimates accurate? Rarely. According to economist John Wake, the typical Zillow Zestimate error is $14,000. “You don’t know if it’s $14,000 too high or $14,000 too low. Other studies have shown that HALF the time Zillow – Zestimates are off by a lot more than $14,000”. These studies have shown them to be off in the range of 5% or more! How can they be accurate when there are so many factors to determine how much a house is worth. No two houses are the same which makes it impossible for a computer to determine accurate value. Zillow uses a computer-generated algorithm based on what has sold in the area, the square footage and the number of bedrooms. The basics. Then apply a cost-per-square-foot. They don’t have inspectors checking out each property making sure their data is accurate. That’s the only way to determine a property’s worth. Yet, many sellers will only look to Zillow when they start thinking about putting their house on the market. Zillow for instance was recently “forced” by the Fed’s to actually publicize the inaccuracy of their Zestimates city by city!
If you enter your information into online real estate databases, expect your phone to start buzzing. A consumer’s information will be shared with potentially hundreds of agents. The house you were simply curious about has now caused you hours of annoying calls, texts, and emails from different Realtors all vying for commissions. If an agent is persistent…this could last for months.
Real Estate for the most part is LOCAL! Although having one huge website that you can search all of the available properties for sale in the US is a nice idea and in some ways, serves a general purpose. We believe Real Estate is still local and personal. What we mean by that is when you are ready to buy or sell real estate, you will still end up with a local REALTOR working for a local real estate broker. Searching real estate online should be local too. Whether you are searching homes for sale in Granbury, TX; Irvine or Temecula, CA or searching for homes in Lakeview, New Orleans, you expect to see all of the listings. Only a local real estate broker can provide that since they have direct access to the full listing database of all listings. Even if you do search for local listings on Zillow, when you request additional information, they are simply selling your contact information back to a local agent. Why not just start with the local agent?
Local agents and brokers have direct access to the local MLS. Professional agents or broker have what’s called an IDX data feed directly from the MLS. IDX stands for Internet Data Exchange and is an agreement between all of the local real estate brokers that allow them to display each other’s listings on their IDX feeds. So, when searching for properties, if you use a local real estate site, you will see every listing available, accurately and up to the moment data!
If you work with us as your Realtor, we will set you up with a home search that is very specific to you and the criteria that is important to your family. I know it’s still tempting to look on Zillow. Of course, you can and will likely do that. You may see homes that fit your basic criteria, and the price looks good. Just know that unfortunately, those listing can likely be inaccurate or maybe not available at all. It is your agent’s responsibility to “go deeper” even with Zillow-like search results to verify the true and accurate information. Simply pass along what you found and allow us to do what we do best.
As your Realtor, we set you up with home searches which are directly from the MLS (Multiple Listings Service). The MLS will be the most up to date home search you can get, and it will come directly from us as a Realtor. With an MLS search, it is a service we invest in for our clients, then set up specific for you and you will know the homes in your search will actually be on the market. Even more importantly, when you set up your search with us as your Realtor, they will be the only one contacting you… not dozens upon dozens bugging the heck out of you begging for your business.
But what if you’re merely curious and not ready to buy? You don’t want to waste anyone’s time! It’s no secret that Realtors work on commission. That is both great for you but can also be challenging for us. It’s the risk of choosing this profession. Unlike other licensed professionals like attorneys and CPA’s, we don’t charge you hundreds of dollars per hour for our time.
Agents are self-employed small-business professionals that are only paid for “sold-home” results. I’ve had prospective clients tell me they went to sites like Zillow and Trulia because they “didn’t want to waste our time” asking us to set up a search because they were really “just looking” and may not be ready to make any decisions until sometime in the future. In theory, we understand that view.
Most professional Realtors realize that this business is a relationship business. Relationships take time and effort to grow… from being a simple introduction, to become an acquaintance to then becoming a trusted advisor and eventually a family friend. Commission income should simply be a result from spending the time and effort to serve you. Period.
My team won’t mind helping you with setting up simple automatic home searches. It takes only a few minutes of actual time! That’s the benefit of technology. That can be the initial step we are thrilled to introduce our expertise to you. No obligation.
My Realtor-partners work in a very crowded field, most of who are not very professional and/or are “part time” …sadly. By going out of their way to help you in your search, they are slowly investing the initial steps in building a simple connection. A new client may see the value in utilizing our expertise as their Realtor in the future or may even recommend us to a friend. If not… we’ve invested a little time with you in service. Not to mention, we’ve saved you the headache of sifting through false material and dodging a million sales calls!
We all look forward to serving you in whatever way we can.