Zillow has been known as the end all when it comes to searching for homes online. At least that’s what they want you to think. These big national real estate websites can certainly show you a lot of information about a particular neighborhood, school district and of course, elicit home but the problem is the accurate information. Is it accurate?
Zillow and similar national websites can only pull from the information that they find online. This information is from local multiple listing services across the country, public records and tax records. This information can give them a pretty accurate snapshot of the market, projections on how things will go within a micro market and of course information on past sales but this is only book knowledge, not experience knowledge that many local real estate agents possess.
Zillow listing properties not actually for sale
Zillow also has a sneaky way of listing properties that are really not on the market. How can they do this? When a home goes into pre-foreclosure, meaning that the homeowner has stopped making mortgage payments and notices have been sent, those notices are actually public knowledge and public information. Anyone can access the records of homes that are under pre-foreclosure notices. Zillow actually thinks of these homes will be listed soon considering that they are now under pre-foreclosure status and the homeowner will probably need to get rid of the home sooner rather than later. However, this is been a huge issue with potential buyers randomly showing up at houses that are not actually for sale yet. It’s caused a lot of heartache, frustration and even anger among homeowners that may be struggling with their banks to keep their home. There’s nothing worse than having a nosy buyer show up at your house thinking your houses for sale while you are fighting with the bank for mortgage modification or refinance.
Some of these homes may also be a short sale listing. The home is not actually on the market yet but public records state that the homeowner has applied for a short sale to their lender. This means that most likely the home will be listed soon but because it’s on the market yet, buyers cannot simply drop by in order to see the home. Real estate agents themselves will also not have access to any MLS information is the home is not technically on the market yet.
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If this kind of information is giving Zillow a bad name. The typical homebuyer that’s just starting out may not realize all of the details behind this type of sales strategy. It’s led to a lot of frustration and confusion.
States of Sales
Zillow also claims to list any and all potential properties, “coming soon” properties, for sale by owner and new construction. Homebuyers have the option of checking a variety of boxes including those that have recently sold, potential listings and those currently for sale or coming soon, but how is a typical buyer going to know the difference between all of these different search features?
This is why it really comes down to having the trusted knowledge of a local agent that not only understands the market but has access to the most accurate and up-to-date listings. Sure, it’s great to have a real estate agent that has the inside scoop of the potential listing, but it also helps to have that agent time the showing just right as to not upset potential tenants or homeowners. “Pocket listings” are those listings that the agent knows will be hitting the market soon and may already have a buyer for the property, however, these “pocket listings” simply means that the home is planning to be listed, not that it already has been listed or is a potential listing. These are things that Zillow cannot determine and only leads to chaos and frustration.
The infamous “Zestimate”
Zillow also has their own estimate of what a home may be worth called their “Zestimate”. This is been known to cause a lot of issues and errors as well as Zillow can only pull from past information and project what the property could potentially be worth. These estimates have known to be anywhere from 5% to 30% off actual market value. Again, this is why it is so crucial to have a local agent that not only knows the market but particular neighborhoods. One neighborhood might be doing very well while another just a mile away could not be seen near the amount of home values. Zillow doesn’t know this and will lump all of them into one category.
While Zillow and other national real estate websites are fine to do a little bit of research on, they certainly are not the end all when it comes to accurate information. For the most up-to-date, accurate and vital information that homebuyers need today it helps to contact a local real estate agent.