If you are considering buying a home, it’s highly likely that you are looking at homes on Zillow. Zillow spends exorbitant amounts on advertising, and their platform is incredibly user-friendly. While Zillow may be great for casually browsing homes, it’s not the best platform when you are seriously contemplating what property to buy.
First it is important to know how Zillow works. The majority of listings appearing on Zillow are syndicated listings from the Boards of REALTORS for that specific area. There are a few other types of listings that appear on Zillow, and I will discuss those later. Real estate agents list homes using their local boards of REALTORS multiple listing service (MLS). Agents are responsible for entering all information about a given property into their MLS, and then are given an option if they would like to syndicate the listing to third party sites such as Zillow.
There are three key components to understand here. First, all information that is eventually appearing on Zillow about a particular home was most likely manually inputted or at least verified by an agent. This leaves room for human error. I have seen homes advertised as 3 bedrooms that really only have 2, homes where the square footage is completely wrong, and homes that are really located in one area of town being displayed on the map in an entirely different county. Second, not all listings that are on the MLS are on Zillow. Real estate brokerages choose what sites, if any, their agents are allowed to syndicate their listings to, and when imputing each listing, agents are given the choice if they want to syndicate that particular listing to third party sites. Third, syndication takes time. The most common example of this I see is a buyer who is interested in a home they saw on Zillow as an active listing. When they call me about the property I must tell them that the home is actually already under-contract and Zillow is simply behind.
Additionally, all of the information available on the MLS is not syndicated to Zillow. Only a portion of all of the data entered in the MLS is syndicated to Zillow. In the MLS, agents can view documents associated with the property such as important information about the condition of the home, information about improvements, or a property survey. Zillow also doesn’t tell you if the property is located in the flood zone, an important component to consider when looking at purchasing a new home.
While Zillow does show you some history in regards to the prior sales associated with the property, it doesn’t tell the full story. Not all listing activity is displayed, and it doesn’t necessarily show you when major improvements were made or how a property was actually listed 3 different times in the past year and has still not sold.
Another common occurrence I see is properties that are technically condos being listed as homes. In fact, I see this on the MLS as well. It has become increasingly popular to subdivide lots, and build two homes on one lot and then legally separate the two buildings with a condo regime. You also see stand-alone condo communities where the property is listed as a home. In both of these cases, the property does appear to be a single family residence but is technically a condo. It is important to know when you are looking at a condo because financing options, restrictions, and appreciation will differ from those associated with a true single family home.
The other types of listings you see on Zillow are For Sale By Owner, Make Me Move and Builder Listings. For Sale By Owner and Make Me Move listings are both owner curated listings. While the Make Me Move listings are less definitive (the owner is merely testing the waters to see if they can get a given amount for their home), both listing types tend to be vastly over-priced and may or may not be up to date or contain completely accurate information. With all three of these listing types it is common for them to become forgotten. Owners and builders alike appear to list homes on Zillow and then forget they were there. I have called owners who no longer have any intention of selling, and builders whose property sold months ago but they forgot to take the listing down.
Whether you are looking at homes on Zillow or straight from an agent’s portal to the MLS, you cannot be entirely sure all the data you are being show is 100% accurate. It’s important to have a trusted real estate agent representing you. They will notice when a figure doesn’t look quite right and will perform the necessary due-diligence on your behalf to make sure you are getting what you pay for. Furthermore, they will make sure you don’t waste your time looking at homes that are no longer even listed for sale or that don’t actually meet your criteria.
If you are looking for an all-star agent in the Austin area to make your home buying process as easy as possible, call me today at 512-779-7597 or visit my website to learn more about my buyer representation services.
Erika Rae Albert
Sharing my Austin real estate updates, home owner tips, & more.