Do Real Estate Agents Use Zillow? This was the opening line of an email from one of our Real Estate Info Guides readers, and I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to answer a question that many buyers and sellers have asked in the past. So.
Do Real Estate Agents Use Zillow? In general, real estate agents do not use Zillow to find homes for their buyer clients as the information is not always reliable or up to date. Meanwhile, agents agree for their listings to be promoted on Zillow because it is in the best interest of their seller.
The majority of the real estate professional I know, have several, deep-rooted and complex issues with Zillow. From how the site promotes the agents who have the most to spend on marketing, to how they can provide house-hunters with faulty information. Not to mention the fact that Zillow sells the contact details of site visitors to multiple companies. When you dig deeper, you discover that there is plenty to learn about how Zillow makes money from you, and why real estate agents do not use it.
Do Real Estate Agents Use Zillow?
Every real estate agent to whom I have spoken has said the same thing, a variation on:
“Yes, I’ve looked at Zillow, but no, I wouldn’t recommend it to a client looking for a home, and I certainly wouldn’t rely on the listing information to be found there. The only reason I agree for my listings to go to Zillow is that it helps my sellers.”
At first glance, this can sound like sour grapes. Perhaps real estate agents don’t use Zillow because they want to keep the industry to themselves? Are they worried that Zillow, and then the other nine real estates that belong to the Zillow Group, are going to do to them what Uber did to the taxi industry?
If you were to go into a room full of professionals and ask them Do Real Estate Agents Use Zillow? They would tell you no, and give you the following reasons.
Why Real Estate Agents Do Not Use Zillow
It is not for selfish reasons that real estate agents are not generally fans of Zillow, although the sites business model which sucks in listing information and tries to sell it back to the agent who worked hard to sign the client and produce the info. Most of what they dislike is how Zillow can have a detrimental effect on both buyers and sellers.
Manipulating Markets For Profit?
Multiple real estate agents claim that Zillow intentionally leaves old listings on the site to earn more money. While I have no evidence to prove this is true, real estate professionals argue that by leaving old listings in place, Zillow can make certain markets that do not have many properties for sale, look more active than they really are. In turn, this encourages real estate agents to buy advertising in those markets, which they would not do otherwise.
There is also the point that the site with the most listings is going to draw the most visitors. More visitors equal more page views, and more page views equal higher advertiser income.
Out Of Date Property Information?
This is connected to the previous point, yet also a little different. Listings on the MLS are updated every 15 minutes, but those on Zillow are renewed less frequently, in fact, they appear to have no particular schedule for updates. On some occasions, this can lead to you spending time discovering what you can about a home you before you book a viewing, and then learning it was sold day, week, even months ago.
Inaccurate Property Information?
As well as the time lag and allegedly intentional hosting of old listings, Zillow is not under any obligation to ensure listings are accurate. Not only that but they pick and choose the information they upload to their site and are under no legal obligation to ensure the information they post is true and accurate.
What does this mean for consumers?
Zillow may choose not to host adverse information about a property which can lead buyers to pursue a home, only to find it has a huge issue or negative aspect that sends house-hunters running for the hills. Also, Zillow draws it’s listing data from other websites and services. When these source sites update their listings with new information or changes, Zillow is under no obligation to update their own.
That 3000 sq ft home, you saw? How would you feel to discover it was more like 2750 sq ft? Plenty of nouse-hunters have been dissapointed, turning up to a home they weren’t expecting.
Inadequate Consumer Protection
We have already touched on the fact that buyers may be wasting their time by browsing listing which can be inaccurate and out of date, but what about sellers?
While many sites take measures to protect their intellectual property, in this case, the property images and details, Zillow does not. This means that unscrupulous visitors to the site can copy photos of homes, the specifications, even the address.
Where Does Zillow Get Their Listings?
Zillow is an aggregation website which means it does not produce any of the information it publishes. Instead, Zillow pays for information from partner brokers, real estate agents, some MLS’s and third-party feed providers. There are also “For Sale By Owner” listings which can be submitted by anyone who signs up for an account.
This is a bone of contention for some real estate agents, who feel that the business model works against them. To understand why we have to look at how the listings are created and distributed.
- Real estate agents network, pay for marketing and work hard to connect with homeowners and sign them up as clients.
- Those same agents then work to create their listing.
- To post a listing on the local MLS, an agent must be working under an MLS member broker to whom they pay part of their commission. The agent must then pay their owner annual membership fees to the local Real Estate Association in order to qualify for access to the MLS.
- The agent must then pay an annual fee to access the MLS.
- At the bottom of the form that an agent completes when submitting a listing to the MLS, there is a box to be ticked, or otherwise, to include the listing in a feed which then goes to Zillow and other, similar sites.
So, at this point, the real estate agents have done all of the work, paid out a considerable amount of money, with no guarantee of earning any money from the listing. The problem is what comes next.
Next to the home photos and features, Zillow posts agent details with the option for you to contact an agent for more information. However, these “premier agents” listed are not necessarily the listing agents and only appear because they paid to do so. This can lead to listing agents feeling pressured to pay for “premier agent” status just to featured next to their own property.
So a real estate agent may end up paying a considerable amount of cash to have the listing on the MLS, and then have to pay more to prevent other agents being promoted next to on their hard work.
Why Do Agents Allow Their Listings On Zillow?
Having discovered all of this you might be wondering why agents tick that box to include their client’s properties in the syndication feeds. I know I was. It seems that the real estate agent does all of the work, and Zillow make a fortune off of that work, so why be a part of the system?
I asked some agents and brokers, and the reason was surprising.
Every one of the people to whom I spoke said the same thing. As a real estate professional they are bound by their licensing regulations, the Real Estate Association code of ethics, and their own personal integrity, to do the best for their clients. The best thing for their clients is to distribute their property details to as wide an audience of potential buyers as possible and that by excluding a home from Zillow, they are failing in their duty.
Is The “Zestimate” Accurate?
Many of those who visit Zillow do so to see the “Zestimate” price of their home. This might be purely out of curiosity, or it may be to find out at which price point they should start for the sale of their home.
The Trouble With This Is……
Most site users see the “Zestimate” and assume that this is an accurate appraisal of the worth of their home. Zillow, however, clearly states that this is a “starting point” from which you can add and subtract various amounts, according to your homes particular features and that there is an error rate of 2-5% or more. On a house that Zillow estimates to be worth $300,000, 5% is $15,000, which is no small chunk of change.
Not only that, but you cannot accurately assess the value of a home without looking at its particular features and knowing the local market. Two houses on the same street can appear very similar on paper but have significantly differing values.
Real estate agents do not use Zillow to find homes because they cannot rely on the accuracy of the information. Meanwhile, they use Zillow to advertise their listings only because it is in the best interests of their client, despite the disadvantages to themselves.
About The Author
Geoff Southworth is the creator of RealEstateInfoGuide.com, the site that helps new homeowners, investors, and homeowners-to-be successfully navigate the complex world of property ownership. Geoff is a real estate investor of 8 years has had experience as a manager of a debt-free, private real estate equity fund, as well as a Registered Nurse in Emergency Trauma and Cardiac Cath Lab Care. As a result, he has developed a unique “people first, business second” approach to real estate.
This article has been reviewed by our editorial board and has been approved for publication in accordance with our editorial policy.