The Rx about why Zillow and Trulia data can’t be trusted

Zillow Trulia Apollo RealtyTrusting data from Zillow is like trusting WebMD.com instead of visiting a doctor.  Doctors cringe when a patient says: “according to WebMD.com  I have a cold…” just like we cringe when a client says: “Zillow.com says the house is worth $50K more…”  We cringe because we know that Zillow and Trulia data is inaccurate and out of date, while the MLS system we rely upon is updated every 15 to 30 minutes.

The team at Apollo Realty has its finger on the pulse of the Space Coast real estate market. Every day, we know which properties have just listed, or just reduced, or have just come under contract. We also know which comparative properties (or “comps”) an appraiser is most likely to consider. We also know the particulars of a neighborhood, all of which factors in to our ability to help our clients make a reasonable estimate of what a viable purchase or sales price might be.

Zillow, on the other hand, is notorious for creating a “Zestimate” by using comparison homes (comps) that are not appropriate. The company factors in as many comps as possible in order to even the numbers out. This in turn skews the findings, which can be tens of thousands of dollars off from what a local Broker’s Price Estimate or a Bank Appraisal might be.

A Zestimate is catchy, but unreliable.

Here’s a good example: Zillow and Trulia may state that a home sold for pennies on the dollar, when in fact, it was simply the amount of Trustee’s Sale. Next, they use this skewed value as a comparison for other homes in the neighborhood. It’s not uncommon customers to call and ask why a home is selling for $275 when they can see on Zillow that it “just sold last month for $195K.”

Naturally, Zillow doesn’t hide the fact that its mass-market property-value estimates are off. On its website, Zillow states that its estimates are “educated guesses, based on public records and previous sales.” Research has proven, however, that these “educated guesses” are in fact, off by more than one-third.

A study by the WAV Group determined that “about 36 percent of the listings shown as active on Zillow and Trulia were no longer for sale in the local MLS, compared with zero percent or near-zero percentage for the listings on the brokerage websites.” (source)

The study also found that “listings were slower to make their way to Trulia and Zillow’s websites than brokerage sites. Newly listed homes on the brokerages’ websites showed up a median of seven days earlier than on Zillow and nine days earlier than on Trulia. MLSs typically update their listings every 15 to 30 minutes and so brokerages, which typically are source MLS data, have extremely up-to-date listing data.”

“The findings are clear: real estate brokerage websites showed by far the most homes for sale, recognized which homes were no longer for sale, and displayed new listings much earlier,” said WAV Group CEO Victor Lund in a statement.

Trust your neighborhood realtor, not a website.

So before you trust those Zestimates and Trulia findings, we invite you to use our website MLS search tools and call Apollo Realty at (321) 784-9602. For 25 years, the Apollo Realty team has been helping clients buy, sell and rent in the Space Coast market. We’ve survived through the recession, the real estate bubble, and multiple hurricanes. Our team can also tell you which property values will do well in a recession vs. those that swing hard when the market is down. And like a doctor, we’ll help you make the most informed and accurate buying or selling decision possible!