What Happened to Zillow?


Heads up. Zillow isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. As the self-proclaimed, “leading real estate marketplace”, I see some serious holes in its offering that have real consequences for San Diegans.


For starters, “Zestimates” are pretty worthless. A client of ours recently asked If I would send her a list of recently sold homes in her community. She had a feeling the Zestimate was off. Boy was she right. The Zestimate for her home was $777,977. The most recent highest sale for a model-match is $562,500. That is $215,477 higher, which equates to 28%. Wowza.

We can all agree that the Zestimate in this case should be tossed in the trash. But the problem is, people rely on Zillow as a trusted source. This has unintended consequences. People tend to look at a Zestimate and that figure becomes anchored in their mind. This can have real consequences for buyers and sellers whose perception of a home’s value is anchored on a incorrect figure. Especially when that figure can be grossly inaccurate. Real estate is a very emotional business and expectations play a huge roll.

Bad Data

Next up, bad data.  Zillow relies on “public and user-submitted data points”. Translation, more holes. Unlike most other real estate websites like Realtor.com, Zillow does not receive a direct feed from the MLS. This results in tons of bad data. Homes are listed for sale incorrectly. Listings are left up long after they’ve been sold. And of course scams end up on Zillow.

I think we can all agree that this certainly provides little value to buyers and sellers. Instead, save Realtor.com in your favorites. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about Realtor.com.

False Advertising

Lastly. False Advertising. Zillow is famous for advertising “Premier Agents” next to each listing. It’s quite unclear who the listing agent is with 4 agents in the “contact” section. So what happens? Buyers who want to learn more about a property often end up talking to an agent who knows nothing about the property, community or local market. How is that helpful?

It just isn’t! While I’m an advocate for new technologies that provide positive disruptions in the marketplace, Zillow’s current business model sure seems to hurt more than it helps. As a professional real estate team with The Griswold Group @ Pacific Sotheby’s, we enjoy partnering with online resources that help our buyers and sellers succeed. In this case, Zillow sure seems to have gone downhill and it’s our responsibility to be reveal what’s really going on.

Real estate markets are hyper local and ever-changing. The best way to get current information is to talk with a local, full-time realtor.

Katie Griswold is a Realtor with Griswold Group @ Pacific Sotheby’s in San Diego, California. Working alongside her brother, John and dad, Bob, the Griswold’s serve buyers and sellers throughout greater San Diego county. To get in touch with Katie, email griswoldgroupproperties@gmail.com.