John's Florida Real Estate Blog


No, I can't explain why it says that on Zillow or Trulia!

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I point them toward the Better Business Bureau and its rating of the companies. That usually ends the problems. I also pull up their own ratings for their own performance and that just reinforces. Personally, I keep my listings away from automated estimates since they are inherently wrong most of the time. Either way hurts sellers and buyers.

Not to mention that I find many officials of these sites to be a bit too pleased with themselves and unwilling to accept criticism of any kind or work with agents to provide options that will help them do their job better and more accurately.

Those agents who say "any exposure is good exposure" are in a state of denial. Would you put your listings on Hustler magazine's site? Lots of exposure ( no pun intended). But is that the type of exposure that will help you market your listing? Will your seller be happy? Some times exposure hurts more than it helps, especially when it muddies the water concerning prices and offers inaccurate data.

So I say, "No thanks" to these sites and I do quite well without them. I have more than enough good exposure. I am also finding that many syndicators are now offering the option of NOT feeding to this or that site. And that is how it should be with the choice in the hands of the agent who is working hard to sell his/her customer's property.

Back in the olden days, say 2008 or 2009, if you mentioned Zillow or Trulia you'd often get a blank stare. Nowadays it's more common for clients to come to their agents asking questions about what they've seen on the popular real estate sites. Oh, how I long for the good old days.

Trulia, based in San Francisco California and Zillow, based in Seattle Washington are data aggregators who target buyers and sellers of residential real estate. The centerpiece of the sites is listing data but they also provide information on schools, neighborhoods, sales trends, and home values, and the latter is often where the trouble starts.

In many cases, at least here in Iowa, the data on the sites does not jive with the facts, facts such as whether or not a property is actually for sale, how much the last sale of a property was for and the derivatives of these facts, number of sales, average listing prices, historical trends and property values. The data is in many cases just plain wrong and it serves to unnerve and aggravate both buyers and sellers alike. There's nothing like sitting down with a buyer to make an offer on a property and having them bring up the fact that the "Zestimate" says the house is worth $40,000 less than it is listed for on a $130,000 property, and despite the fact that it was the best house among the 20 you looked at in the $120-$140,000 range, the buyer still thinks they're having the wool pulled over their eyes.

The frustration is rivaled only perhaps by the buyer who has serious concerns about the neighborhood you showed them homes in because Trulia says prices there are down this year and it is overrun with foreclosures, even though your MLS data shows they've appreciated and there are only a handful of distressed sales. Or how about the buyer who wants to look at the home on Grand Ave which you did not send to them, but which they found for sale online, the same buyer who is demanding to know why you aren't sending them all the homes available for sale. The home in question? Oh, it's not for sale and hasn't been for months.(Client: Could you check again please? It's there online) And oh there is also the buyer who wonders "why does this house on Zillow say it has no garage when I can drive by and see it has a two car garage!?" And while we're on the subject please tell me why the website only shows one photo of the front of this other house? (a house which is not even for sale by the way!)

I feel for them all. These are people making a major purchase or sale and who might be basing their decisions upon data that is not consistently reliable. It also causes a breech of trust of sorts with real estate agents who are trying to provide accurate data which the client might view as suspect because it does not match the unmonitored aggregated data on an internet website! It's coming down to agents squaring off against an algorithym and having to defend impirical facts against blatant inaccuracies.

This weekend I entertained an out of town buyer looking at homes in the Des Moines area. I found myself spending a lot of time explaining why the reality of the market or home values did not match what was being presented on sites such as these. It was unnerving and I didn't like being in the position of explaining why the data was misleading and inaccurate. I found myself often saying that it was not a good idea to rely solely upon the data they presented to make purchase or sale decisions. Eventually I was able to show through MLS data, public records and plain common sense how the information presented was patently inaccurate and misleading. It was a Pyrrhic victory however as I faced the reality that even having done so the incongruity of facts created dissonance in the mind of the buyer, dissonance which could only be relieved by further research on, of all places, the internet.

It seems this is a new hat we agents get to wear, quantifying conflicting data from various Internet sites and putting it all in perspective in the mind of a buyer or seller. The Internet has created a treasure trove of data, all available at the click of a mouse. Problem is that the proverbial wheat needs to be separated from the proverbial chaff, and I suspect in the future this will command larger and larger blocks of our most precious commodity, time. I guess in that respect we in real estate probably have a lot in common with doctors and lawyers!



Contact Matt Grohe Realtor® RE/MAX Real Estate Concepts - 3125 Douglas Ave #205 Douglas Ave. Des Moines, IA , or call 515-988-3726 to list your property for sale or to purchase a property in Des Moines, West Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Clive, Johnston, Urbandale, Ankeny, Waukee, Norwalk, Carlisle or surrounding areas.

Online at:

John Elwell - REALTOR


Bill Nye Realty, Inc.


Licensed in Florida


Comment balloon 2 commentsJohn Elwell • December 23 2010 02:35PM


It is frustrating but I do have to say we get a lot of leads from Zillow and Trulia.  But first we have to respond that no, that house is not for sale at this time.

Posted by Faye Y. Taylor, Homes for Sale Floresville, La Vernia & San Antoni (StepStone Realty, LLC ) about 9 years ago

In this area we get absolutely NO leads from these sites and the inaccurate date that they present without explaining themselves that readers will understand it, does my customers and me more harm than good. I DO NOT see them as a blessing or an aid.

Posted by John Elwell, You Deserve a Full-Time Agent, Not Reduced Results (CENTURY 21 Bill Nye Realty, Inc.) about 9 years ago

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