More on the Zillow "Zestimate" as I am called to the carpet

I am off for a 48-hour whirlwind to UCSB shortly to confirm that they are really going to accept Daughter #2 into their hallowed halls in September. They call if “Freshman Orientation;” I call it “Operation Empty the Savings Account.” Either way, I thought I would take a moment to feed our blog before I depart.

I received this love letter in my email inbox this week about a fun (I thought), flippant (certainly) article I wrote here a million years ago on the magical, mystical Zestimate:

You know what, I am not amused by your article re: Zillow. In the first place, if the zestimates are not accurate and furthermore, misleading, they should not be on the internet.  Zillow listed my custom, three story house, on a lake, just recently with a value of under $90,000.00.  I happen to have had this property appraised before I put it on the market.  Oddly, the appraiser did not concur with Zillow’s zestimate.

This zestimate, which as far as I’m concerned, is utterly meaningless, however, it does suggest to prospective buyers that my house is A. Non-existent   B. In a terrible state of disrepair C. Inhabited by the beavers who reside in the lake D. Possibly built by the same beavers.

There is no rhyme or reason for any entity to claim that it can value a house at a distance, thereby negating the need for real estate appraisers, or for that matter, you people.  Who needs a broker or real estate agent or real estate appraiser – we have a zestimate.  We can just cruise around with our zestimates and buy and sell houses without any help from any so called professionals. Especially professionals who think that  misleading zestimates are not harming homeowners.

If zestimates are as meaningless as you suggest, then you should not allow them to post your client’s listing on their website.  Furthermore, if you think that putting out false information and/or completely misleading information on the internet about property values is an amusing little fortune cookie undertaking I wonder what you are doing in the business at all.  When the people who I know who reside in the local area put their homes on the market I’ll remember your firm, you and your position with respect to  I will strongly suggest that they avoid a real estate company that believes that does not do any damage with its wildly inaccurate zestimates and that further believes that people who believe should not put misleading information about property values are in fact stupid.

She gave me permission to reprint this, even said I could use her name, for the record.

Now, by “you people,” I think she meant me. But, in my defense, I have long been a critic of the Zestimate — at least in the sense that the margin of error is not more prominently displayed on Zillow’s website. Further, I am a daily victim of Zestimation as well. So, as a soft rebuttal and to defend my honor, I offer Exhibit A, a post I published in April. Here is the teaser:

If you are a home buyer, you know the Zestimate as the indisputable, final word in a property’s value – unless, of course, it seems high. Then you just disregard it as so much drivel. Ditto home sellers who peer from the opposite end of the looking glass. To sellers, when it’s a big, attractive number, the Zesimate is revered on par with a tablet delivered from Mt. Sinai, while lower numbers are discounted quicker than a spiral ham on the day after Easter.

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