The Trouble With Looking at Homes for Sale on Zillow

looking at homes for sale on zillow

Because I have been a subscriber to Zillow since its inception in 2006, I am very familiar with looking at homes for sale on Zillow. I’ve participated in all of the changes on Zillow as it has evolved over the years. Watched it move from an inconsequential website with only a smattering of listings to receiving direct feeds from Metrolist. Making it a giant of websites. Then it bought Trulia, so properties feed into Trulia from Zillow.

But the trouble with looking at homes for sale on Zillow is that is not the best place to do it. You’re probably better off searching on Trulia, if you insist on using a non-Realtor website. And using a non-Realtor website is not the best way to search for homes online at all because you might not get all of the information you need. But sellers and buyers don’t always want to figure out how to find a Realtor-based website, so they go the easy route. Which is how they end up looking at homes for sale on Zillow.

Zillow presents a lot of interesting statistics, and if you have a good feel for comps, you can run your own comps. However, many users of the Zillow website struggle with its complexities. Users don’t know what a preforeclosure property is and they erroneously believe it is a home for sale. They do not realize it is simply an unsuspecting homeowner who fell behind on making mortgage payments. This is how a home could end up on a preforeclosure list without the homeowner’s knowledge. More than half of all of preforeclosures are redeemed. Almost all have equity, so few would ever go to sale as a foreclosure. Fairly worthless to track.

If a home does go to foreclosure, it will be sold on the courthouse steps to the highest cash bidder. You’ll compete with professional investors whose job is to buy homes sight unseen.

Users also struggle to figure out whether a home is for sale or for rent. Many Zillow users cannot tell the difference. It’s almost like Zillow needs a different website for rentals. Tenants will click that box that says “I own a home similar to this one and I would like to sell it.” Except they are a tenant. If you ask why they sent that email, they will say they don’t know. There was a box that populated a form with words, but they do not read words. It was a clicky thing, so they clicked.

Others, like the poor young guy who called me yesterday, found a pending sale. It states “pending” right on the listing, but hey, they’re not in real estate. How would they know a pending from an active listing? They all look the same to a consumer. He mentioned last talking to the listing agent during multiple offers. So decided to get prequalified while the home went under contract. They wanted to lie low and just “watch homes.”

Watch homes do what? Sell to somebody else? Because that’s what’s gonna happen when they’re looking at homes for sale on Zillow. In our tight seller’s market in Sacramento, home buyers need to be a pro or to work with a pro. One or the other. But this guy knows a cousin who just got her license and works part-time in real estate. He thinks he might want to work with his cousin. Fine, as long as he doesn’t expect to buy a house, that’s a good direction to go.

When he decides to get serious and become a contender, he needs to hire a professional Sacramento Realtor. I gave him my information and offered to introduce him to an exclusive buyer’s agent. Why a person would leave to chance the biggest purchase of their life or, worse, to inexperience, always floors me. But you can’t make people wise up. Some insist on learning from the school of hard knocks.

Elizabeth Weintraub

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