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Zillow Buying Houses For Zestimate Value

There are a few Zillow issues to unpack here, so let’s start with them saying they are willing to buy your house for the amount of the zestimate – which is fine, if you don’t care about cashing in on the actual value.

In their press release, the boss claims that the zestimate’s nationwide median error rate for on-market homes of 1.9% which sounds simple enough – for years they have been adjusting their zestimate to the list price once a home goes on the market.

But once my new listing went on the market, they didn’t adjust the zestimate upward.

Would you sell your house for $1,336,035, when Jim the Realtor says it worth $1,599,000?

Factor in that Zillow charges more than I do, and it would mean that hiring me to sell your house would net you about $300,000 more – and that’s if we sell for the list price (it might go higher).

The big difference?

I don’t spend $100 million per year in advertising – they will reach people that I don’t reach.

Tell people to use me instead!

Link to my listing on Zillow

Sell for the Zestimate?

Would you sell your house for the zestimate? They say their accuracy is within 1.9% with on-market homes – no kidding! Of course, they concoct the zestimate after the list price is published, just like Redfin does.

There’s been no shortage of news when it comes to Zillow, a company that kicked things off in the early 2000s with a home-search portal that consumers now recognize as the place to go for market inventory. Now, the Zestimate, introduced by the company in 2006, is the latest cog in a machine that has taken on an entirely new model: brokerage, iBuyer, lender, title and escrow service, and, most recently, showing service.

Zillow has just announced that it will be pairing its Zestimate with its iBuying arm, Zillow Offers, as the latest way to use technology to “simplify and streamline real estate transactions from beginning to end.”

The Zestimate is now available as an initial cash offer for eligible homes in the following cities:

  • Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz.
  • Charlotte and Raleigh, N.C.
  • Miami and Jacksonville, Fla.
  • Orlando and Tampa, Fla.
  • Portland, Ore.
  • Denver, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • Nashville, Tenn.
  • San Diego, Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento, Calif.
  • Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, Texas
  • Las Vegas, Nev.
  • Atlanta, Ga.
  • Minneapolis, Minn.

However, the cash offer for a property’s Zestimate is only available in a limited subset of homes in these markets. Those who own qualifying homes will see the cash offer displayed at the top of their property information on Zillow, the company reports. As Zillow Offers grows, the company expects to continue expanding the number of eligible homes for the Zestimate cash offer.

Additionally, the company states the initial offer is before taxes and fees and is subject to both eligibility and the accuracy of the property’s description.

“For 15 years, homeowners and home shoppers have come to rely on the Zestimate as an essential first step. This exciting advancement demonstrates the confidence we have in the Zestimate and the lengths we are willing to go to make selling your home truly seamless and easy,” said Zillow Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Wacksman in a statement. “This is a proud moment for Zillow’s tech team and speaks to the advancements they’ve made in machine learning and AI technology. Zillow is transforming the way people sell and buy homes. Presenting the Zestimate as a cash offer to qualifying homes up front will save time, reduce friction and provide greater transparency—getting us closer to our vision of helping customers transact with the click of a button.”

A hot-button issue in the past has been the accuracy of Zestimates. Real estate agents have long complained of sellers pushing back on proposed listing prices that don’t meet the expectations set by their Zestimate.

“Zillow’s move to use their Zestimate as the basis for a cash offer is bold, although I’m more amused than concerned. The accuracy of Zestimates have long been a running joke among the real estate community, but I wouldn’t put it past Zillow to make it work through careful selection and their continued acquisition of more data,” says Josh Harley, chairman and CEO of Fathom Realty.

Kit Fitzgerald, regional designated broker for the Kit Fitzgerald Team at Equity Northwest Real Estate, says that because the Zestimate is algorithm-based, it’s impossible to get the same accuracy that a living person such as a REALTOR® can provide. “It plugs in a bunch of numbers, zip codes, mapping, etc., and spits out a general number,” says Fitzgerald, who adds that without going inside of a home, assessing the overall condition of a home, the layout, amenities, street scene, etc., the accuracy is just not there.

According to Zillow, the Zestimate is available for nearly 100 million homes in the U.S. with a “nationwide median error rate for on-market homes of 1.9%.” To come up with a property Zestimate, Zillow reportedly uses data from public records, multiple listings services, brokers and artificial intelligence that pulls information from photographs.

Is photo-based data enough to support neighborhood comparables to come up with a home valuation, however? Michael Hickman, CEO and president of Seven Gables Real Estate, a member of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®, doesn’t think so.

“The issue with Zestimates is the interior,” says Hickman. “Any AI can look at comps, but what about the interior improvements that an AI would not pick up? Without AI scanning interior upgrades, the Zestimate will never be accurate.”

As Harley suggests, Zillow’s recent endeavors suggest the company is seeking out more data to build out their capabilities, and according to David Serle, broker/owner of RE/MAX Services, this could be a good thing—at least when it comes to Zestimates.

“I think this is a positive thing. There have been concerns since 2006, when Zestimates first became available, about the accuracy of these valuations,” says Serle. “This will create greater transparency for the consumer and the real estate industry.”

What it comes down to, however, is that Zillow’s iBuyer solution won’t meet the needs of every home seller, according to brokers and agents, regardless of whether or not they are offering an initial cash offer based off the Zestimate.

“There is a certain amount of people who would gravitate to an iBuyer sale and many who will not,” says Serle. “Typically, a cash offer in most iBuyer programs could be as much as 10-15% off the market value, especially in a ‘hot’ seller’s market around the country. I do not believe real estate brokers or agents are competing against iBuyer programs or consumer portals; we are relationship driven and strive to push forth the best consumer experience possible. All of these tools cannot replace what an experienced, knowledgeable and excellent real estate agent does.”

In today’s market, for example, Cathy Strittmater—team leader of Cathy’s Home Team of Keller Williams Solutions—says sellers can expect multiple-offer scenarios, and that should impact decisions about going on the market or accepting an instant cash offer.

“In today’s market of multiple offers on properties, and values rising quickly, it’s in sellers’ best interests to sell their home on the open market rather than sell to a single vendor who is also ascertaining value,” says Strittmater. “I would personally consider that a conflict of interest—no differently than dual agency is also a conflict of interest.”

Fitzgerald is of the same mindset, stating a Zestimate might give sellers a general idea of their pricing ballpark, but it’s not a great overall tool to assess value.

“In an ever-changing real estate market, you’d hate to potentially leave money on the table by not opening up the sale of your home to a much larger number of well-qualified buyers,” says Fitzgerald. “The instant purchase is a good tool for some, but I believe that for the vast majority of homeowners, the open market provides more healthy competition for your home.”

While the iBuyer model won’t appeal to all, Harley does caution that industry practitioners should maintain a competitive stance when it comes to Zillow and these instant-cash business models.

“They’re smart and they are a monster of our own creation,” says Harley. “We allowed it to happen and now agents are shocked that the foil-hat wearing conspiracy theorists were actually right. iBuyer programs have a long, long way to go before they are a real threat. Right now, it’s more smoke than fire, but if we’re not careful and figure out ways to compete effectively and provide a true value exchange for our services, REALTORS® and their clients will be the ones who get burned.”

Link to Article

Zillow Offers

The talk about the cost of home-selling is reaching new heights, yet if you have a zillion-dollar marketing budget and brand recognition, you can get away with charging twice as much and get away with it.

All they have to do is feature advertisements like this one with loveable people singing their praises, and homeowners with more equity than they ever imagined will be happy just to call the dream-weavers.

There is NO mention of the cost of doing business here, but it is double what I charge – and I push the sales price to the extreme, while they convince you that their price is all you’ll ever get:

Sprucing Up to Sell

Homeowners fixing up their homes to list this spring will have to decide where to put their time and money to get the most bang for their buck. Zillow has been there, and the practical tips and tricks their experts have learned after selling 10,000 homes could help you sell yours.

Zillow-owned homes, acquired through Zillow Offers in 25 markets nationwide, are carefully evaluated, repaired and cleaned before they hit the market. Zillow invests in the projects that make a home safe, clean and functional, and each time learns more about what appeals to buyers. By sharing these tips, Zillow hopes to help all sellers prioritize their home prep projects.

Pick the Perfect Paint Color

Painting is one project nearly all sellers take on before putting their home on the market. It is an affordable home improvement project that has a high return on investment. But when you’re thinking about resale, you’ll want to be strategic about the colors you select.

When Zillow needs to freshen up the walls before listing a home for sale, it uses Behr Premium Plus paint in either Aged BeigeCampfire Ash or Polar Bear. Neutral greige or taupe paint colors appeal to the widest group of buyers and don’t distract from a home’s best features.

Fix your Faucets and Fixtures

The two most common items Zillow repairs or replaces before listing a home for sale are faucets and light fixtures. A buyer may jump to the conclusion that a leaky faucet is a sign there may be water damage, while a broken fixture could inaccurately signal potential electrical problems. Either can suggest a home hasn’t been generally well-maintained.

These are both DIY-friendly fixes that could boost your home’s value. If you’d rather hire a professional, a Zillow and Thumbtack report finds you can expect to pay, on average, $205 to replace a faucet and $380 to replace a light fixture.

Clean the Carpet

A clean carpet is critical if you want your home to make a great first impression. Steam cleaning will often do the trick, but if your carpet is torn or has permanent stains, you’ll want to replace it.

Zillow uses Mohawk brand carpet in either Charger Classic or Scout Highgate. Selecting a high-performing, stain-resistant carpet in a neutral taupe color will appeal to the most buyers and add value to your home.

Sweat the Small Stuff

Zillow takes care of all the items that make life easier for the home’s next owner. These items include landscaping, servicing the HVAC system, and replacing all light bulbs and batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

By taking care of these items before putting your home on the market, you can boost curb appeal and give a potential buyer confidence that your home has been well-maintained.

Say No to a Full Reno

Home improvement TV shows often suggest you need a gut renovation to get top dollar in resale. However, Zillow research finds big renovation projects hardly ever pay for themselves when it comes time to sell, with a few exceptions.

Zillow rarely completes any major upgrade to a home that would dramatically alter its footprint or its value. Instead, Zillow focuses on the projects that make a home clean, safe and functional for a buyer, repairing items instead of replacing them when possible.

“Buyers often want to put their own stamp on a home and have it reflect their taste,” says Lindsey DellaSala, a broker with the DJ and Lindsey Team in Jacksonville, FL. “Let’s say you decide to upgrade your backsplash before selling. The trendy statement tile you love may not be what a buyer is looking for, and that could hurt, rather than help, your chances for a speedy sale.”

“When a buyer walks into a Zillow-owned home, they know it is move-in ready and they can add their personal touches over time,” says Claire Caldwell, Senior Director of Renovations at Zillow. “By creating that same kind of blank canvas in a safe and clean home, you can help buyers better envision their lives there.”

Embrace Tech

Online curb appeal is more important than ever, as most home shopping has gone virtual. Zillow-owned homes are listed for sale with professional photography, a floor plan with dimensions and a virtual 3D Home tour that gives shoppers an immersive experience of a home from the safety and comfort of their own living room.

Sellers can harness the power of tech to showcase their home’s best features by using the free 3D Home app to create a virtual tour, and explore other digital tools such as virtual staging.

(JtR: Big difference between ‘high-tech’ and robotic, which is the sales method they are pushing)

Link to Article

Zillow & ShowingTime

Wouldn’t it be great if they published the number of showings publicly?  It would help buyers know how competitive the bidding will be (or not), and later it would help to qualify the comp. When pricing the next listing down the street, you never know if the sales being used were a result of open-market activity or if a crazy buyer paid too much when they didn’t have to.  Knowing how many times the home was shown would be quality intel for future buyers and agents.

SEATTLEFeb. 10, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Zillow Group has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire ShowingTime.com, Inc., an online scheduling platform for home showings, for $500 million. Touring is one of the most important steps in the home shopping and selling journey, and ShowingTime’s technology has streamlined and dramatically improved the touring experience. They are an industry leader, and Zillow Group will continue to invest in ShowingTime and increase its engagement among agents and partners.

“We have been impressed with ShowingTime’s ability to simplify a cumbersome but critical part of the home shopping experience by integrating with MLSs, agents and brokers, and giving buyers’ agents an easier way to schedule showings with listing agents,” said Errol Samuelson, Chief Industry Development Officer at Zillow Group. “ShowingTime will remain an open platform available to all industry participants, and we expect to grow ShowingTime’s engagement through all channels to ensure touring is easier for the industry and consumers.”

ShowingTime has a network of nearly one million agents across North America and has developed relationships with hundreds of Multiple Listing Services (MLSs). ShowingTime coordinates schedules behind the scenes so that agents can seamlessly book a confirmed home showing online and focus on their clients, not coordinating a complicated process. In 2020, the company facilitated more than 50 million showings industry-wide. Agents can update their listings’ availability for showings through the network, enabling interested buyers’ agents to schedule home tours online with the click of a button.

ShowingTime’s industry-leading technology will help increase tour volume and transactions for industry partners, including Premier Agents. Many Zillow Premier Agents are already using ShowingTime and value the ease it brings in scheduling tours. Zillow shoppers who request tours are high-intent buyers, and ShowingTime’s service enables more seamless tours for those buyers and sellers.

“This is a pivotal moment in real estate, and customer expectations for a simplified, tech-enabled experience are rising,” said Mike Lane, President of ShowingTime. “The ShowingTime technology serves nearly a million real estate professionals, and we look forward to sharing our technology solutions with even more customers, enabling a truly seamless real estate transaction that is efficient and simple.”

The acquisition will accelerate adoption of ShowingTime’s technology as home shoppers and sellers, agents and industry partners move toward a more efficient, digital future.

Link to Press Release

Realtor MLS Club

Selling a house is different every time – it’s truly the wild, wild west.

Because there are no standard rules of engagement on how to sell a home, everyone does it differently.  I had an agent accost me on why my offer was so low (it was full price), to which I said that it’s my preference to save my bullets for the highest-and-best round. She responded, “WE NEVER COUNTER”.

You just never know what to expect.

With real estate, every house is different, and so are the players (sellers, buyers, and agents).  Mortgage rates go up and down, loan-qualifying affects buyers differently, and resolving the condition of the home is a wild card on every deal.  Even if there was a simple way to navigate those, you still have to contend with the emotions and egos of the human beings involved – which can be extreme when dealing with a life-changing decision that might have to last you forever.

Now add the low-supply/high-demand environment, and it’s never been so crucial to get good help.

Yet, Zillow, Redfin, and others want you to believe that they can dumb down the process into a paperwork shuffle. They pitch lower costs, but never consider that a home’s sales price depends on who is selling it – and there is a wide variance in today’s market.

The NAR doesn’t get it either. They are creating a national MLS to compete with Zillow, but unless they spend multi-millions of dollars on advertising (very doubtful) the buyers and sellers won’t know they exist.

What we need is for realtors to stand up and save the model that has worked the best for all parties.

Last year was all fun and games as we got used to the new intensity.  But now it’s obvious that the low inventory is causing a sea change among buyers. In the Under-$2,000,000 market, the comps don’t matter any more, and winning at any price becomes the only goal.

Once buyers figure that out, they will appreciate getting good help like never before – and hopefully before it’s too late. If a seller picks the wrong agent, it only means leaving money on the table, which is the cost of real estate ignorance.

The best chance to ensure that the traditional model endures is for realtors to create our own private listing club, and these guys are on to it. They had 700 agents on this call, which is impressive but it’s early and they would need to commit massive resources to reach the entire country.  The word-of-mouth among agents could take them a long way, however.

Here’s a peek behind the scenes.  Decide if you think they can sell it, or if they might hit the eject button when the heat gets hot – because the outsiders are going to challenge this idea:

Get Good Help!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

‘Not A Bubble’

An excerpt from this article:

https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/money/2021/02/04/homes-sale-we-housing-bubble-prices-outstrip-wages/6671282002/

For Mark Stapp, a real estate professor at Arizona State University, what’s going on in the real estate market right now is not a bubble.

“The definition of a bubble is that when it pops, there’s nothing there,” Stapp said. “That’s not this case. There’s very real demand that exists and that’s what’s causing prices to increase.”

Realtors across the country generally agree.

Mary Jo Santistevan, a top-producing sales associate with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Phoenix, said buyers are flowing in from congested cities of California, Washington State and the Midwest. They are looking to take advantage of Arizona’s lower home prices, lower property taxes and quality of life. But they are confronting a situation where inventories of unsold homes have been dropping steadily in recent years and are now teetering on a one-month supply in some areas and less than that in others.

“Even builders are struggling to keep up with demand,” Santistevan said. “There’s a 10-month wait time for construction. The majority of builders are using a lottery system. One builder in particular in Gilbert had a waitlist of 100 deep.”

Stacie Lee, a fellow agent at Berkshire Hathaway, says whenever something goes on the market in Phoenix, the showings are usually back-to-back and a closing comes within a matter of days.

“Many homes go for $30,000 to $40,000 over list price and a few homes in the mid $300,000s have sold for $100,000 over list,” Lee said. “A lot are going for cash. Cash is king right now.”

Lee added that she had 70 people show up for an open house over the summer and had 15 offers in the first couple of hours. The home sold for $375,000 and is now back on the market at $550,000.

“There’s a lot of investors flipping homes here,” she said.

Nearly 3,000 miles away in Augusta, Maine, the housing market is just as frothy.

Fifteen of Maine’s 16 counties experienced a 10% increase in median home prices in 2020, according to Aaron Bolster, president of the Maine Association of Realtors. Some of those counties saw leaps of 20% or more.

“We already knew Maine was popular,” Bolster said. “More than 32 million people visit between Memorial Day and Labor Day. They don’t typically come at this time of year. But in a pandemic, it’s a safe place to be. The population density is very low and teleworking suddenly got popular in 2020.”

Bolster said 25% of buyers in 2019 came from out of state. Last year, that number rose to 33%. Without a large housing stock to begin with, available listings got siphoned off pretty quickly as out of state buyers bid up the prices.

At the moment, there are only 6,000 homes for sale in the entire state, Bolster said, and half of them are under contract.

The situation is unique for Maine and Bolster is not sure how long it will last, especially given that the demand is driven by people coming from out of state – many of whom will presumably be able to work from home – and not by job creation within Maine’s borders.

“Maine doesn’t create a lot of new jobs,” Bolster said. “When we create a new job, we give one up. So real estate doesn’t usually appreciate that fast. It’s interesting to see such a robust market when it’s not really tied to economics.”

Top Markets in 2021

Zillow Survey Predicts Austin will be the Nation’s Hottest Housing Market, Leading a Sunbelt Surge
More affordable metros are replacing expensive coastal areas as top drivers of home value growth
— A panel of economists and real estate experts expect Austin to outperform the national market by the largest margin, followed by Phoenix, Nashville, Tampa and Denver
— Expensive coastal markets New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are most likely to underperform, though Zillow expects growth in every market
— Key tailwinds include an improved economic outlook underpinned by progress on coronavirus vaccines, while affordability and available supply are potential drags

SEATTLE, Jan. 19, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Austin will be America’s hottest housing market in 2021, leading a list of mostly Sun Belt cities expected to continue heating up faster than the nation’s large coastal markets, according to a new Zillow® survey of experts.

The booming Texas destination heads a lineup of sunny and relatively affordable metro areas — PhoenixNashvilleTampa and Denver — that are most likely to outperform the nation in home value growth, according to a panel of economists and real estate experts recently surveyed by Zillow.

The Zillow Home Price Expectations Survey, sponsored by Zillow and conducted quarterly by Pulsenomics LLC, asks a large panel of economists, investment strategists and real estate experts for their predictions about the U.S. housing market. The Q4 survey also asked about their expectations for 2021 home value growth in 20 large markets compared to the nation.

An overwhelming 84% of those surveyed said Austin values would out-perform the national average, compared to just 9% who believe it would fare worse. Phoenix came in second with 69%, followed by Nashville (67%), Tampa (60%), and Denver (56%). Page views on Zillow for-sale listings in Austin by out-of-town searchers were up 87% in November compared to 2019. 

The top-five metros are all affordable options compared to expensive coastal areas that have led home appreciation ranks in recent years, providing relative value for Millennials looking to take advantage of low mortgage rates to buy their first home. The top five are also, for the most part, sunny locales. Four of the five counties holding the largest cities in these MSAs all rank in the top-third of counties in the contiguous U.S. for average daily sunlight, according to NASA data analysed in The Washington Post. Davidson County, home to Nashville, ranked just below the midline.

“The pandemic has not upended the housing market so much as accelerated trends we saw coming into 2020,” said Zillow senior economist Jeff Tucker. “These Sun Belt destinations are migration magnets thanks to relatively affordable, family-sized homes, booming economies and sunny weather. Record-low mortgage rates and the increased demand for living space, coupled with a surge of Millennials buying their first homes, will keep the pressure on home prices there for the foreseeable future.”

An improved economic outlook thanks to COVID-19 vaccine roll-outs and better treatments was pegged as the most likely tailwind for the housing market in 2021, followed by sustained strength in first-time home buying among Millennials. It proved a powerful demand driver in 2020 and is expected to persist for years to come.

Link to Zillow Article

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