If you’re in sales, you’ll understand that, like most sales people, our leads are our lifeblood. It takes years to build up a real estate business and continue to grow it. Now imagine if a company posted your leads to a website and then offered to sell them back to you or to someone else without your permission. Well that’s the situation realtors are in and in many cases it leads to inaccurate information for our clients. Let me explain.
I began my real estate career in the prehistoric time known as BI – Before Internet! Back then, the only way to find a home was to call a real estate agent. Probably from a land-line! Listings were in books and we printed them out for our clients. We’d meet clients in our office or we mailed or faxed (really?) the listings to them. Once the internet evolved, the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) was created for use by all companies. Agents enter their listings onto the website and we cooperate with each other. Any realtor can show any listing no matter which company is representing the seller.
Of course, all of the individual real estate companies also have websites with the same listings because we share our listings. And because the listings are from the same original source, as long as the agent’s original information is accurate, the listings on all the sites will be as well.
Enter 3rd party listing services. Zillow and other companies persuaded MLS/NAR leaders that sharing our listings would benefit us. And in the beginning, it did. A listing showed up on Zillow with only the listing agent and listing company information. If a buyer requested more information, that lead would go to the listing agent or to the listing office. But things have changed as Zillow’s business model evolved.
Zillow is in the business of selling advertising to realtors. And that advertising is very expensive, especially in areas with high demand – like the River Towns! OK, that’s tough on the realtors but what does it mean to buyers and sellers?
Think about this. When you list your home, you are working with a seller’s agent. But if you google your address you’ll see your listing on many different real estate sites – including Zillow. In theory, that’s a great thing as you get more exposure to your home. But on Zillow, unless your agent paid to be the only agent on your listing, you’ll see many agents listed for your home. Which raises the question, ‘when a potential buyer has questions about your home, who do you want them to call?’ Do you want them to contact an agent who is paying to be on your listing or the person you hired to sell your home? The agent a buyer finds on Zillow may not be familiar with your home or may not even know the area. The result is a disservice to both buyer and seller.
As Zillow has grown in popularity, many people have relied on it as a resource. Unfortunately, sometimes Zillow’s information can be inaccurate. For example, there is the popular Zestimate feature. I can’t tell you how many times a client has sent me their Zestimate to tell me their home is worth more than the price I gave them. Because a Zestimate is based on computer algorithms in a specific area, they are developed without considering recent sales, possible upgrades, the land around a home or many other factors that could impact the price.
The “computer” doesn’t always have the knowledge to determine the true market value of your home. Unlike Zillow, your real estate agent will know all of that information and more.
Does all this mean you shouldn’t use Zillow or other 3rd party real estate sites? Of course not. Just don’t use them in a vacuum. Just like you wouldn’t want your kids to rely exclusively on Wikipedia to source their term paper. Your go-to-source for the most credible, current and fact-based information is your local real estate agent.