Zillow.com. The new 6000 pound real estate gorilla in the room? Probably not.

While admitted kind of fun entering the addresses for each of our properties to see what Zillow thought they were worth, the results were staggeringly random. Three were at least in the ballpark (but way outside the foul line), but one property was off by a factor of two.

Zillow uses the tax record to compile a lot of their valuation and at least in our market, the tax records are far from accurate. According to Zillow, my parents house was built 40 years after it really was. Nor can Zillow tell the condition of the house. No computer algorithm is going to get that right. Sure, you can tweak these things in Zillow but it doesn’t really mean much if you are forcing your own home value.

Also, it is not entirely clear where they are getting their market data from. They claim:

For Portland, the appreciation rate was 24% in 2005 vs. 13% in 2004.

Cool fact but wildly inaccurate according to RMLS. They put 2005 appreciation at 16.1%.

From our VP/CIO comparing Zillow to our Property Investment Profile:


The site operates on an unknown and unproven real estate valuation system. It’s based on property tax records which, depending on the district or county, traditionally take 2-6 months to record sales activity for public access.

Tax records are notoriously wrong. Wrong number of bedrooms, sq. footage, lot size, and even missing lot price (structural value only). Style of home and upgraded amenities are ignored. Property views and location are not factored. All of which greatly impact pricing. A qualified Realtor or Appraiser will safely help to qualify all of these factors to provide a market valuation.

Zillow provides comparables for sold properties only.

Zillow.com is run by technology professionals. They are not real estate professionals.

Zillow.com’s entry into the market presents a perfect opportunity to highlight Prudential Northwest Properties’ Property Investment Profiles, which offers a similar but more accurate service to our clients and prospective customers.

Property Investment Profiles (PIP)

Information provided on a PIP is often “same day sales activity out to 2 months.” It is a much more accurate depiction of today’s “real” values.

A PIP includes ALL real estate sales activity (all statuses), not just sold data.

Sold: properties that have sold in your area in the past 1-60 days

For Sale / Active: when selling a home, this is your competition and an important pricing factor.
Pending Sale: shows very current sales “activity.” Are there Buyers out there for your price???
Expired/Withdrawn/Cancelled: indicative of many factors including over pricing of the property.
Time on Market / Days on Market: key to proper pricing and making qualified purchasing decisions in the negotiation.

We can also track for sale by owners when entered into the MLS as Sold – Did Not List.

Prudential Northwest Properties’ PIPs are prepared by knowledgeable local market real estate professionals

So for now, you can take the professionalism out of real estate but why would you?

9 Comments on “Zillow.com

  1. sounds like your VP/CIO is scared and getting defensive. Last I checked, real estate ‘professionals’ are known to be inaccurate.

  2. As people realize how inaccurate Zillow really is, we just might be hearing “Zillow zucks” a little more often.

    They need to somehow link the comparables data to the map data more accurately. A profile of a townhouse neighborhood in zip code 19382 shows homes at $250K on the map, but at $330K in the comps. That’s just too zany to be zeriously conzidered.

    Gregory Kohs
    Inside Market Research

  3. just another fearful realtor wading against the inevitable

  4. I’m quaking in my boots. This post is a year old. Some of the population is perfectly capable of buying and selling a home on their own. Some are also capable of being their own attorney. To each their own but Zillow isn’t going to replace Realtors anytime soon.

  5. I use some zillow tools on my site. It works great. But ultimately clients still need a pro to get the correct value. I think zillow is a great tool for sellers just thinking about selling.

  6. A bit off topic, but related to fluctuations in price, in an “odd” real estate market in PDX. I say odd because it seems the market is in a period of fluctuation, with some prices dropping in some areas, some staying the same, and in other areas prices falling all depending on the individual sellers situation. Maybe all that adds up to a “normal” market?

    Anyways, this is my question that maybe all you guys have some insight on.

    In this market, my wife and I were thinking of looking for a reduced home (Condo/Townhouse) that the owners needed to sell now. We see price reductions all over. It seems that with the credit crunch, loans are more difficult to obtain and so more people will be renting vs. buying. So buy the home and rent it out? Even if only to break even or make a tiny profit.

    We recently moved from out of state and decided to rent because of the current market, and because we wanted to get to know the area better…

    We were thinking of looking for a “lease option” home that we could rent for now, and buy later (Depending on the option of course) and that way be able to use the cash we have now for the downpayment on the rental, incurred costs etc.

    Thoughts on this, and thoughts on lease options in general? Are they ALWAYS a bad deal?


    SC Joye

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