Tips For Zillow

Dated: 08/31/2014

Views: 12465

Simple Rules about Zillow that will Save you Time

Zillow and other real estate websites have taken aim at a sector once totally controlled by brokers who owned and traded listings among themselves. Today, more than half of all homebuyers start their search on the Internet, according to the National Association of Realtors, and four in 10 will find online the home they will eventually buy.

While Zillow is a great tool to search for properties, it has lead homebuyers to waste valuable time searching and investigating properties themselves, while in most cases these searches still require the expertise of a licensed real estate agent.  When a homebuyer, after spending countless hours gathering information from Zillow, contacts their local real estate agent, most are dismayed to discover the information on Zillow is partially true, incorrect or even worse, not valid at all.  
Zillow doesn't hide the fact that their "Zestimates" (these are value estimates on Zillow), are only a compilation of educated guesses, previous sales prices and public record sites such as county tax assessors.  
There are a few scenarios that cause homebuyers to miss great opportunities of owning fantastic properties due to their loyal faith in Zillow. Allow me to elaborate:
1. You are looking for a 3 bedroom 2 bath home in a particular area.  You find it on Zillow! The pictures are exactly what you had imagined.  Yep, this is YOUR next HOME! But then, your eyes lock in on the "Zestimate", which is significantly lower than you would ever think! In fact, it is so low that you immediately cross this property off your search list, even before you contact your real estate agent, because something "must be wrong with that house!" You take the Zillow Zestimate as the true value of the home and continue your search.  While in all reality, the Zillow Zestimate calculation was incorrect, meaning that home was worth entirely more than stated on, nothing was wrong with the property, and Mr. and Mrs. Jones just bought "your" 3 Bedroom 2 Bath dream home. They immediately gained $20,000 of equity in the home.  The difference is YOU used Zillow as your real estate agent, while Mr. and Mrs. Jones used a licensed reputable agent in the area to investigate and work on their behalf.  Has this ever happened to you?
2. Foreclosures! Foreclosures! Foreclosures!  It seems this has become more of a hot topic lately, and especially since Zillow has all the foreclosure information right?  Wrong.  While buyers again seek Zillow to try and snatch up a "foreclosed" property at a bottom dollar price, you need to understand how Zillow terms can be VERY misleading. Here's Zillow lesson 101 for the primary color dots denoting a property status. 

Red DOT: 

By Agent: Property is listed with a real estate agent
By Owner:  Property is listed For Sale By Owner
New Homes: Typically New Construction
Foreclosed: These properties are currently listed for sale. They are owned by a bank or a lender who took ownership through foreclosure proceedings. These are also known as bank-owned or real estate owned (REO). Please see the example below.  **note, if the property sales, the color dot will change to yellow.  

Blue DOT:

Foreclosed: This property is owned by a bank or a lender who took ownership through foreclosure proceedings. It may soon be listed for sale. This property is not found on a multiple listing service (MLS).

Pre-Foreclosure: The lender initiated foreclosure proceedings on this property because the owner(s) were in default on their loan obligations. This property is not found on a multiple listing service (MLS).

Pre-Foreclosure Auction: This property is scheduled to be sold at a foreclosure auction. The lender initiated foreclosure proceedings on this property because the owner(s) were in default on their loan obligations. This property is not found on a multiple listing service (MLS). 

Red is good!  If you see a red dot, most of the time that property is available for sale.  Contacting your real estate agent to seek information regarding a RED DOT property is a valuable use of your time!  Your agent can then determine the status of the property and help you make an offer!
Blue is deceiving!  If a property is not found on the MLS (Multiple Listing Service), it is not for sale, and there is no way to determine when that property will become available for sale. You can definitely put that property on your radar and check back occasionally, or have your agent set up an automatic alert to notify you of properties within that search criteria, so you will be aware IF it becomes available for sale.  Don't hold your breath waiting on Blue dot properties to become available.  A lot of these properties are sold to investors, private sales or other methods that will completely bypass the RED dot (available for sale) status.  
While Zillow is a good tool to search for properties, gather location information, school data, property data, etc.  just remember it is VERY important that you always contact a real estate agent.  Zillow makes this easy for you to do by providing a link to the right of each listing detail to get you in touch with an agent.  Just remember, contacting agents regarding RED dot properties is a much more valuable use of YOUR time and their time!  Blue dot properties are not for sale, and you will be wasting valuable time with your dream home search if time is of the essence.  The foreclosure process can take months and months, sometimes years, with no guarantee the property will ever become available to the public for sale.
So, final lesson of the day for Zillow Searches if you are actively seeking a property, and time is of the essence. 
Run to RED
Bypass the BLUE
Find a knowledgeable real estate agent and work with them to find your next home.  Understanding the real estate market is their job.  They will help and guide you during the process. 
If you don't have a local real estate agent, feel free to contact me!  
Valerie Ruppe Medkiff
Jackson Stanley, REALTORS
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Valerie Medkiff

Valerie is a native to the upstate and knows the importance of family, friends and community. Knowing the area so well, she has a great understanding of the local real estate market. She not only wa....

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