Zillow was developed as an online real estate search engine that was incorporated in 2004. It was created by Rich Barton and Lloyd Bring, former Microsoft gurus who were key in the development of the Expedia website. Spencer Rascoff serves as the company CEO.
The company has data on over 110 million homes in the United States, in addition to the 2 million that are currently listed on the website for sale. The site offers value estimates on homes, gives key data on how the price of a home will change over a given timespan, gives aerial views of homes and helps customers find data on similar homes that exist in the same search area. The website accesses basic public data on a home and also gives information on the square footage and number of bedrooms listed in a home. If a home has a recently added feature, such as a renovation, this information is also tracked on the website for the home. Zillow also has API integration and developers can also network Zillow's search feature into websites developed for other realtors.
Zillow has a unique functionality that is not found on many realtor websites. The "Make Me Move" feature is a great way to get a pre-market price on the home out there. One of the nice features of the Zillow website is the rental search feature, which was launched in 2009. The website doesn't list as many rentals as homes, but this helps renters find an affordable website. Zillow is also used to power other key real estate search paradigms, such as AOL Real Estate and MSN Real Estate, in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Zillow also was one of the first companies in the industry to begin using apps to access its real estate search database. Here is a list of apps available and the dates that they were launched:
- April 2009, iPhone app
- March 2010, Android app
- April 2010, iPad app
- March 2011, Blackberry app
- July 2012, Windows phone app
- November 2013, Windows 8.1 app.
- Search functionality
The first thing that we noticed about the Zillow website was its functionality. We liked the number of listings that we saw available. The search feature is also easy to use. Site users can do multiple types of searches. It is possible to search by address, state, map, type of home, rental or home purchase, the number of bedrooms in a home, and other search criteria. It also includes a "Make Me Move" price, where customers can see new homes that are just starting to enter the market.
Another thing that we liked about the website was the feature that lets users see factors that increase a home's values. Price valuation increases in a home can be projected for a 5- or 10-year timespan. Also, the site lists recent renovations to a home that may also increase its price.
We also liked the number of apps available for Zillow. When we looked at apps in the industry, many of the apps were only geared for the iPhone. We saw apps available for the iPad and Google tablets as well. The Zillow app is very flexible to use on the Windows 8.1 phone, a major plus in our opinion, given the Zillow functionality of the MSN Real Estate website.
We found that the Zillow "Zestimate" was also accurate. We looked at homes on the website and then checked these prices with real estate websites and other listings. The Zestimate feature allows users to see a price that is projected based on several factors, including prices of homes that are also going in the same search area. Zestimate, however, is not always accurate. One of the problems that we found with "Zestimates" was that the price accuracy varies by location and current offers if buyers are negotiating for the home.
- Customer support
- Zestimate accuracy
One of the things we noticed right away was the lack of support available for the Zillow website. They don't offer a toll-free number for customers to call in. There is also no live chat app for customers who are looking for information about a particular home.
Another problem that we found with Zillow was that the Zestimate and home prices listed on the website was not always accurate. We found that a homeowner who rented had lost income on a property because the property was incorrectly listed as being "in foreclosure." The client asked to receive funds to help compensate for their losses, but Zillow responded by saying that their information is received from third-party sources. We found that the pricing critiques of the website hinged on the following factors:
- Some data used to compile the Zillow price estimate can be as old as twenty years and is based on old bank data, public data, and sales transactions.
- Only 65% of Zillow's listing stock can be considered "accurate," according to Fortune magazine.
- Real estate agents and brokers are more likely to know the most up-to-date and factual information about a home that is listed for sale.
The Bottom Line
Overall, we would recommend Zillow as a website for listing your home or looking for a new home. Here is what we liked about Zillow's website:
- Accurate data, for the most part, that is compiled from trustworthy and up-to-date public sources.
- The "Zestimate" price that is listed for homes.
- The search functionality of the website.
- The ability for site users to ask real estate questions in a public forum.
- The map feature and aerial views offered for homes.
- Price valuation information for a home that is listed in timespan intervals.
- Rental listings that are almost as extensive as sales listings.
We saw a pattern of complaints such as occasional inaccurate price information for a new home. Some landlords lost money due to homes being listed as "in foreclosure" on the website when they were in fact not. Also, we had concerns with some property information on the website, especially bank data, as being as much as two decades old. Even though Zillow gets its information from third-party sources, more supervision of the data is needed to ensure its accuracy.