Zillow is a hot button topic for the real estate industry as of late. The topic hit the mainstream this past weekend with Saturday Night Live making a hilarious spoof on Zillow being compared to an online dating site, and it immediately went viral! That skit got me thinking… What does Zillow do for a consumer that is interested in real estate or looking to buy or sell a home?
Before I dive into that, I will take a full disclosure approach here and tell you that we, as Realtors, do partner with Zillow and use their services offered to Realtors. Simply put, we think of ourselves as industry leaders locally and Zillow has grown to be a premier resource for consumers within the real estate industry, so we would be limiting our services as professionals if we didn’t take advantage of it. Our goal by using Zillow is to meet new people, build a mutual relationship, and help them with their real estate related questions and needs. With that said, Zillow has grown to the point where I think there is a level of caveat emptor in play that the consumer needs to be aware of, or in other words “buyer beware”.
In the last couple of years, Zillow has changed their business model to where prior to the change you, as a consumer, would be directly routed to a local Realtor if you were to make an inquiry on zillow.com about any given property. Since the change, if you are looking for more information or wish to speak with a local agent about the property of interest, you would now be routed to a “call center” type of system where the person you are talking to is trying to briefly qualify your interest as a potential buyer or seller, and then once that is done to their liking they will attempt to transfer you to a local agent that is familiar with the property of interest.
A couple of problems with this approach:
1) The initial person you talk with has zero knowledge of the property that you are interested in or the local market that you are calling from
2) The process takes a painful amount of time before you are actually connected with a local live human in your market that is a licensed Realtor. I recently tested the system as a fake consumer, and after 20 minutes of waiting on hold, a dropped call, and numerous texts back and forth with what was most likely a robot, I was then finally connected with a local agent in our market
3) The local agents in the market that you are connected to does not usually have any direct knowledge of the specific property you are inquiring about, and this is because Zillow has also changed their model to where the listing agent for the property is no longer routed the calls from the consumer, but rather whatever agent that is advertising in that location would get the call and then be tasked with scrambling to get any info they can to relay to you about the property.
So essentially, as a consumer, if you are willing to make an inquiry on Zillow about a property that interests you then you are likely to be headed down a rabbit hole that will take an obnoxious amount of time and questioning leading to what you think will be an agent that has readily available answers to your questions about the property, only to be left with more waiting so that the agent can obtain the answers to your questions and, hopefully, follow up with you from there.
There are over 3,000 Realtors in the Rochester, NY market alone. I am willing to bet that you know one of them. Call them! They are going to be happy to help. If you are not comfortable with that and want to keep your business and personal life separate then ask a friend for a referral for an agent that they trust. As an agent in the business, you would have to be terrible at what you do to drop the ball on a referral from a friend or past client. You can use Zillow effectively though, by searching agents listed on the site and finding one, or a few, to interview that has a strong profile with positive reviews and past sales history in the area you are looking in.
Not sure how many people are left that need to hear this at this point, but it’s worth noting that we now live in a world where data is the new oil or gold. Anytime you are online as a consumer poking around in that weird, complicated place that we used to call the world wide web and you enter your information ANYWHERE then essentially you have given up your privacy and you will be contacted by someone that probably doesn’t have the answers to your questions! Buying or selling a home is arguably the biggest financial transaction in your life… start the process with someone you can trust and not with a robot or someone with a headset on half a world away!
Shameless plug - contact us directly...we are the local experts and ready to help, which is what Zillow is trying to offer to you.
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