Zillow's Sets Tone in Style of Real Estate Reporting: Fear Mongering

Real Estate Agent with Asset Realty Group

Zillow, Seattle's own online national real estate website and the new pundit in town, declared Dec 9th in a headline released to the Puget Sound Business Journal that Seattle homes lost $25 billion in value in 2010. Not to worry Seattle residents, they go on to assure us "That's not as bad as 2009 when Seattle homes lost $27.7 billion in value".  Great, I feel better now.  I'm so glad to know we've turned the corner Zillow, Christine Gregoire and Dow Constantine will be releived to know we still have some remainder of a tax base on which to generate our needed tax revenues.Seattle's Elliot Bay view of skyline

When Zillow speaks, people listen, after all aren't they the Godzilla of real estate websites?  They burst on the scene some 5 years ago and now they are in the top 3 of national real estate websites together with Realtor.com and Trulia.com. Their innovation is impressive, they have a huge consumer following with a reported 12 million unique visitors to their website last month. 

With that kind of online credibility, there's an accompanying high level of responsibility to be accurate and balanced in reporting.  Research can be very misleading when used in the wrong way.  Balanced reporting would have included a reference to the total market valuation of Seattle's housing stock, and in doing so, readers could see the percentage of lost value rather than just being fed the shocking headline about a $25 billion loss.

According to Washington State University's Real Estate Center for Real Estate Research, King County's Median home price actually went up in our third quarter from a year ago by 2.1%. That was good to hear, then the November stats released by WSU were released.  These took into account sales that occurred in October and November, and the King County Median Home Price hit a new low of $359,950, the lowest in more than five years. In a discussion with Glenn Crellin, director of the Washington Center for Real Estate Research at WSU he told me today "we will continue to see declining prices through mid-year 2011, then we may stabilize--up a little, down a little, with no real trend."

What about the reference to Seattle's homes?  Does that mean Greater Seattle, the Seattle City Limits, or possibly to include areas on the Eastside of Seattle?  When the NWMLS releases statistics on the King County Median Home Price, it is specific when making reference to market areas as defined by recognised area boundaries.  NWMLS reported that the Seattle median home prices were only off by only 0.5% to $398,125 in November 2010 compared to November, 2009.  When making reference to Seattle's homes, what does that really mean?  Tell us Zillow, let's be clear when you're making headlines.

Consumer sentiment is fragile after more than three years of being bludgeoned by bad economic news, job losses, foreclosures, and home equity meltdowns.  The wrong headline by a credible source only serves to depress the consumer, add fear to the market, and potentially prolong a difficult situation.  It could cause a homeowner to seize on a bad strategy in selling their home, resulting in exaggerated financial loss.

All real estate is local, and while the tide rises or falls generally, you deserve to know the specifics of your niche market area.  Some neighborhoods here have risen in value while others remain vulnerable.  Know your market, or at least know a good Realtor you can trust.


Comments (5)

Robin Risley
Kamali Sotheby's International Realty - Cannon Beach, OR
CRS, GRI, Principal Broker

 I agree with you that Zillow may not take into consideration specific areas..... blogs like yours will hopefully point this out. How about a "letter to the editor" in the Seattle Times? 

This  is why the public needs competent agents to fill in the specifics.

Dec 11, 2010 07:28 PM
April Hayden-Munson
Brookfield, WI
Brookfield Wisconsin Real Estate

It's sad to see that so many people read something on the internet and think it's fact.  The first thing I was taught in a college statistics class was the fact that you can prove ANYTHING with statistics. 

Dec 11, 2010 07:44 PM
Cameron Novak
The Homefinding Center - Corona, CA
Featured Corona Real Estate Agent Team

To say that I am not a Zillow fan is an understatement at best.  I'm sorry agents feed into their popularity.

Dec 11, 2010 07:56 PM
MichelleCherie Carr Crowe Just Call...408-252-8900
Get Results Team...Just Call (408) 252-8900! . DRE #00901962 . Licensed to Sell since 1985 . Altas Realty - San Jose, CA
Family Helping Families Buy & Sell Homes 40+ Years

Read Zillow's fine print - for each market they grade themselves on their accuracy. In Silicon Valley it used to be within 20% accurate as to value - either way!

Dec 11, 2010 11:00 PM
Gita Bantwal
RE/MAX Centre Realtors - Warwick, PA
REALTOR,ABR,CRS,SRES,GRI - Bucks County & Philadel

Consumers should ask an agent to give them market reports of homes in their area  before buying or selling a house.

Dec 11, 2010 11:06 PM