I have blogged before about the difficulties Zillow has caused. Typically, their "Zestimate" has caused people to 2nd guess the more accurate evidence on the ground and either over or undervalue a home, killing a possible transaction. The galling thing about it is that the more compelling evidence is right under their nose from the MLS, but that one number on a zillow page (which, by Zillow's own admission is typically off by 11% or more in Westchester County) has killed everything.
However, this past week, Zillow zigged instead of zagged. My seller clients were agonizing over whether or not to accept an offer; the buyer on the other side was a parent buying a home for their son and his family. Pre approval letters help, but after several stops and starts in a 9-month odyssey, nothing could be taken at face value. I saw accepting the offer as an acceptable risk; my clients were once-bitten and twice shy and sought more certainty about the buyer.
It is a daunting question. Is the buyer for real? Is the buyer qualified? Can this person really afford to buy a home for their son? Just where do they live now? That question resonated. I was asked if I could look the prospective buyer's address on Zillow for some insight. The address was on the binder, so we looked it up. Since Zillow's median margin of error in Rockland county is under 10%, we could expect a reasonable ballpark figure, as well as ascertain whether or not the buyer lived in a van by the river, a garden apartment, or a mansion.
According to Zillow, the buyer lived in a 5 bedroom, 3 bath, 3100 square foot home with an estimated value of about $650,000. Definitely not a van by the river. Still a skeptic, I ran the address on the MLS and found a 2004 sale for $800,000. Why did I need Zillow when I have the MLS and public records? I don't. But my clients don't have the MLS. If they had thought of that question hours after I left, they would have gotten the confirmation they were looking for. Lord knows I have seen enough deals die when people looked something up on Zillow, so it is about time. As Zillow gets more accurate, I have less to fear.
Zillow still isn't off the hook for me. However, I have to give credit where it is due, and whether or not I was present at the time, they helped me make a sale. I hope it isn't an anomaly.
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