Zillow Saves a Deal in Rockland County Real Estate Sale

By
Real Estate Broker Owner with J. Philip Faranda (J. Philip R.E. LLC) Westchester County NY

I have blogged before about the difficulties Zillow has caused. Typically, their "Zestimate" has caused people to 2nd guess the more accurate evidence on the ground and either over or undervalue a home, killing a possible transaction. The galling thing about it is that the more compelling evidence is right under their nose from the MLS, but that one number on a zillow page (which, by Zillow's own admission is typically off by 11% or more in Westchester County) has killed everything. 

However, this past week, Zillow zigged instead of zagged. My seller clients were agonizing over whether or not to accept an offer; the buyer on the other side was a parent buying a home for their son and his family. Pre approval letters help, but after several stops and starts in a 9-month odyssey, nothing could be taken at face value. I saw accepting the offer as an acceptable risk; my clients were once-bitten and twice shy and sought more certainty about the buyer. 

It is a daunting question. Is the buyer for real? Is the buyer qualified? Can this person really afford to buy a home for their son? Just where do they live now? That question resonated. I was asked if I could look the prospective buyer's address on Zillow for some insight. The address was on the binder, so we looked it up. Since Zillow's median margin of error in Rockland county is under 10%, we could expect a reasonable ballpark figure, as well as ascertain whether or not the buyer lived in a van by the river, a garden apartment, or a mansion.

Zestimate Accuracy 

According to Zillow, the buyer lived in a 5 bedroom, 3 bath, 3100 square foot home with an estimated value of about $650,000. Definitely not a van by the river. Still a skeptic, I ran the address on the MLS and found a 2004 sale for $800,000. Why did I need Zillow when I have the MLS and public records? I don't. But my clients don't have the MLS. If they had thought of that question hours after I left, they would have gotten the confirmation they were looking for. Lord knows I have seen enough deals die when people looked something up on Zillow, so it is about time. As Zillow gets more accurate, I have less to fear. 

Zillow still isn't off the hook for me. However, I have to give credit where it is due, and whether or not I was present at the time, they helped me make a sale. I hope it isn't an anomaly. 

Search the MLS like an agent here. New York's Premier Short Sale REALTOR. Read my short sale bog here. See the New York Photo blog here. J. Philip Serves Briarcliff Manor, Ossining, the River Towns, Westchester County, and the bedroom counties of New York City.

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Rainmaker
144,488
Kathy Opatka
Serving Ocean City, MD, & The Delaware Beaches
RE/MAX CROSSROADS

Philip,

Thanks for this post..... it's nice to hear "something good" about this site.

Kathy Opatka

June 21, 2009 01:08 PM
Rainer
5,490
Michael Daly
Redfin Real Estate

Fact is that Zillow exists and many of our customers, both buyers and sellers, use it.

If we are in denial of that and just discredit it with a broad brush, it makes us look as though we are trying to hide something.

Addressing it head on, with professional advice, giving it credit where credit is due, is both intelligent and practical.

 

Good post, Phil!

June 21, 2009 02:11 PM
Rainer
31,150
George Wilson
Lincolnton, NC

Zillow is fairly inaccurate because it is based on tax record sales; also I have found that most of the time the house location is wrong. I have had buyers/sellers show me a print out of their Zestimate and when I backtrack them through the MLS I show them that on several "comps" that yes the property sold for $140,000 but in reality the sellers netted about $134,000 after subtracting seller's closing costs & buyer's costs ($3,000 seller contribution). It leads to a good conversation about using a REALTOR to list & sale their home at a competitive price and depend on Zestimates to determine value. Also stressed to them that the Zestimate 9 out of 10 times bases their "comps" on square footage vs like sales & properties. I use Zillow to find possible comps that sold as FSBO but I then go to the tax records/deeds to verify sale (true sale or sold via estate deed or to relative).

I use Zillow as another method to advertise my listings and I have always had to move the map location in addition to correcting missing items, ie: year built, # of rooms, HVAC, bedrooms, baths, etc.

As with everything one needs to know how to verify internet info & unfortunately MLS info at times (I have found inaccurate info there also). Like the saying goes with computers: "Garbage In, Garbage Out".

June 23, 2009 01:27 AM
Rainer
2,440
Thom Kraley
NewCastle Home Loans, LLC

Philip,

 

It sounded to me that the seller of the subject property was checking on the value of the buyer's home.  Is this correct?  I don't understand why they would do that.

TK

June 25, 2009 01:04 PM
Rainer
1,200
Bonnie Ramsey
AnotherME

I think you were just lucky on this one. But, you did the right thing.

June 29, 2009 04:42 PM
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Rainmaker
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J. Philip Faranda

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Additional Information

Phil Faranda is broker and owner of J. Philip Real Estate LLC in Briarcliff Manor, NY. Since founding the firm as a sole practitioner in late 2005, the team has grown to over 30 agents & closed 350+ transactions valued at $140 million. He is in his 4th term as Vice President of the HGMLS. This blog commentary is geared toward consumers and industry colleagues alike. You can reach him at (914) 723-8900.
Warning: *Sarcasm and irony advisory at all times.*



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