3 Reasons I'll keep trying Zillow Mortgage

Education & Training with Tech and Social Media Consultant

Just in case you completely missed it, Zillow Mortgage Marketplace launched on April 2nd 2008 at 9:00 PM Pacific Time.  I was there.  ZMM offered to bring transparency to the system of borrowing.  Right from the start I was a supporter.  However, since that day, certain issues have reared their ugly head. 

  • I quickly realized that Zillow can't ask the right questions.  It's just not possible.  While they may ask most of the important questions, sometimes the answer to that question leads to the necessity of a deeper question.  As guidelines change so must the questions.  Because of this, Zillow Quotes can often be "Liar Quotes".
  • A guy named Brent almost brought ZMM down.  Not really, but he was "gaming" the system.  Just by luck he happened to quote someone within my 10 mile area (he's in Oklahoma) and just by luck I happened to read his quote.  Just by luck I decided to use his quote as an example in post I wrote exposing the problem.  In 2 days he had already quoted 150 people and completed 1 loan!
  • myzillowrating An "uneducated borrower" slammed me (and 5 others) with a negative feedback rating (and he hadn't even contacted me) He was wrong, and although I could and did post a rebuttal, my rating was tarnished.  Zillow does offer the ability for the lender to post a rebuttal and I used that - however, I know full well consumers don't take the time to dig deep.  Instead they'll look solely at my "Rating Graphic" (there it is)  ======>

You can see Zillow fixed my Negative Rating after I exposed the problem so now I'm back to ZERO.  This latest issue started a lively discussion on "#1 Reason I'll QUIT Zillow Mortgage"  that was picked up by one of the great thinkers in the industry Brian Brady who posted "Zillow Mortgage Must Verify Consumers To Become A Marketplace" over at Bloodhound Blog.  That post garnered an even livelier discussion.

Liars! Over and over again I see unethical, dishonest rate quoting "factories" doing their best to bait the hook so they can switch the poor borrower later.  Did you know some Lenders actually hire people to quote for them?  ZMM is a hotbed of misinformation and outright lies.  They don't actively police the forum, instead they want us to report any improprieties to them.  Unsuspecting borrowers line up in droves and place requests for quotes seemingly unaware of the above listed problems.

So why, given all the bad and the ugly, would I want to even dip a toe, let alone swim in these dark and murky waters?

Reason #1: 

http Zillow's proactive approach.  Specifically, David G.  Write a post about Zillow Mortgage and David G will show up (usually in minutes).  Make no mistake, he's there to protect the brand.  He's employed by Zillow, and he's a company man through and through, and he's always Zillow's biggest cheerleader.  But he's also straight forward and honest and not afraid to enter the fray of a highly charged conversation.   If the same thing happened on eBay - would anyone notice?  Would Meg call me?  David did.

Reason #2:

truthI don't look at ZMM as a great place for free leads.  This is what Zillow is "selling to the loan officer's".  If you are a borrower you might not know that some lenders will actually pay $500 to misquote you! (see "The Truth About Lending Tree") 
I don't care about free leads, I have a different view than most other loan officers.  This may seem strange but I look at it as just another place for additional exposure.  Just like blogging adds exposure, so does my involvement with ZMM.   Simple as that.

Reason #3: 

compass I have a plan.  It's my "Zillow Mortgage Marketing Plan".  Yeah, that sounds corny.  "Plan your work and work your plan" I was always told.   

  1. I'm only going to complete quote requests close to home.  We don't have to meet face to face, but if at all possible, wouldn't you want to look in the eyes of the person who was lending you hundreds of thousands of dollars?  I would.  Although I could quote someone thousands of miles away - I'll stick to my neighborhood.
  2. In my quote I'm going to suggest you take a minute to read a special landing page I designed just for Zillow.  Take the time to read that and you'll have a better understanding of the pitfalls before you.  Skip it and you'll probably get what you deserve.
  3. I'll base my rate quote on real lockable rates.  Not rates from a week ago, but rates that are real and available at that time.  I'll also base those rates on a 30 day rate lock.
  4. Respond to my Rate Quote via email or by phone and I'll offer to send you a Real GFE.  That Zillow quote didn't include many of the fees I know you'll have to have.  Items like Title Policy and Escrow Fees.   
  5. Attached to that GFE will be a .pdf of my loan application.  Fill that out, send it back with the required documentation, and I'll be able to find you the best possible program at the best possible rate and fees that best meet your particular needs.  Don't want to fill out the application?  I'm ok with that.  For me, I've lost 15 minutes of my valuable time.  You may lose something even more valuable, Thousands of Dollars.

Why will I do all this knowing full well the pitfalls of Zillow Mortgage?

I'm a dreamer.  That's all.  I would like to believe that Zillow found a way to ask all the right questions.  I would like to believe that all loan quotes given were accurate.  I would like to believe that I was truly competing for your business on a level playing field with transparency and justice for all.  I would like to believe that all borrowers took the time to make informed educated decisions and didn't shop by misleading  rates and fees.

I know full well that 99 and 44/100ths of the borrowers won't do any of the above.  They certainly could, but I know they won't.  On the highly unlikely occasion that someone does though - I'll be there.  I'll earn a new client, make a new friend, they'll get a great loan and all will be well in the world. 

See, I told you I was a Dreamer! 

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Mike Mueller
Tech and Social Media Consultant - Walnut Creek, CA

MB  - Thanks for sharing!  It seems we are of like mind.
Naoma - Thanks!  I dole out my time very judiciously.  I have a time to blog, a time to twitter, and a time to comment, (like right now)
Kevin - Thanks for the compliment!  This seems to be the "be nice" section of the comments  LOL
Lisa - I was a little upset wasn't I
Russ - Thanks!  And I think it's just fine for you to choose to stay out.  To each there own.

Whew!  I'm running out of colors!
Active Mike

Jun 17, 2008 01:01 PM #27
Katerina Gasset
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services - Wellington, FL
Get It Done For Me Virtual Services

Mike- I just cringe if one of our borrowers wants to get a loan online. I am still old fashioned and need to meet and see the mortgage broker, I need to be able to walk in his office.

Jun 17, 2008 01:52 PM #28
Tom Burris
NMLS# 335055 - Baton Rouge, LA
Texas/Louisiana Mortgage Pro - 13 YRS Experience

Mike, I love the bait & switch video!!!

Zillow is a business and oing wuite well.... maybe the detractors should look into working harder in their own business than they do at slamming zillow.

No, they aren't good for the consumer.... but they do provide a service and deserve to be in the market.

I just wish they WErEN'T in the market.

I considered signing up, but I have been busy lately. Maybe some day. ;0(

Jun 17, 2008 03:47 PM #29
Wayne B. Pruner
Oregon First - Tigard, OR
Tigard Oregon Homes for Sale, Realtor, GRI

I didn't know much about Zillow Mortgage. I know a bit more now. Thanks.

Jun 17, 2008 04:37 PM #30
Brian Solinsky
Keller Williams Realty - Puyallup, WA

Interesting perspectives and debates. I don't have enough experience in the area to comment, but appreciate the opinions.

Jun 17, 2008 06:27 PM #31
Ruthmarie Hicks
Keller Williams NY Realty - 120 Bloomingdale Road #101, White Plains NY 10605 - White Plains, NY

One of the difficulties with Zillow is that they  hide behind the assumption that the public is basically informed.  It iSN'T. Caveat Emptor has forever been an excuse for questionable practice and sloppiness - Zillow is no exception but perhaps it should just own up to this instead of perpetuating the endless spin that only makes it look WORSE than it already is.  From their zestimates to mortgages - it is a totally unreliable resource.

Jun 17, 2008 07:52 PM #32
Joyce Windschitl Hercules
Prime Mortgage - Chanhassen, MN
MN, FL, WI & CO Mortgage Consultant

Okay I went to Zillow - interesting to see 30 year fixed with at least a 1% variance in rates.  Being in the business, I will stick to what I know - work with someone you are referred to, local, reputable, and perhaps in person.  Buyers who want the best rate and lowest closing costs will establish a relationship with their lender for life - you will not pay for that relationship, you will save from it.

Jun 18, 2008 03:04 AM #33
David Gibbons
Zillow.com - Seattle, WA

Hi Joyce -

Try to see it from the borrower's perspective ... Zillow is the only tool that gives you the visibility into the variance in rates from one lender to the next. How would a buyer who doesn't get competing bids know they're optimizing their deal? As a broker told me the other day; "If a borrower's calling me, the rates going up. If I'm calling them, the rates going down." That's simply how it works today; the borrower that doesn't consider all their options is extremely lucky if they do get the best possible deal.

... and before the mortgage planners jump down my throat ... yes, there's much more to a good loan than a good rate. But the argument above applies as much to advice as it does to rates themselves. A second opinion always adds value to your trusted expert's advice even if it only confirms it.

The way that consumers buy mortgages will be forever changed by the mess we're now in. A big part of that change will be that consumers will start to do much better due dilligence when shopping for a mortgage. That's a good thing. With that increased dilligence, will come a desire to compare lenders and quotes - to shop around for the best advice and rate. Zillow offers lenders a chance to be a part of that change!

Jun 18, 2008 03:28 AM #34
Greg Nino
RE/MAX Compass, formerly RE/MAX WHP - Houston, TX
Houston, Texas

I have never respected what Zillow offers. This blog about their mortgage side doesn't at all shock me. A lot of the online consumers I work with who have tried Zillow always comment on their inaccurate assessments. Your home is worth between 100k - 150k is not useful, it's a waste of time. I am beyond sick and tired of trying to make excuses for Zillow and other online machines that spit out numbers which are likely using tax record information. The comparable sales are laughable. You can't pull comps from a different neighborhood, bold it in white and call it a "comp." This does nothing but arm the consumer with a loaded gun to wave around and say foolish things like....... "I've seen the comps." All you have seen are computer splattered numbers that are not reflective of what true comparables are! The human element no matter how hard they try will not be replaced.


Jun 18, 2008 03:51 AM #35
Frank Marta
Nuhome Group, LLC NMLS#:835196 - Houston Tx | Mortgage Broker| 713-373-0345 - Houston, TX
Texas Home Loan Specialist NMLS#: 245813

I too have been quoting and with no success.  Thank God I have been really busy and haven't needed the business from there but the quotes around here are really competitive and don't allow much of a yield which I did expect but way too much work for little $$$ for me........ Thanks for your thoughts....

Jun 18, 2008 03:57 AM #36
Neal Bloom
Brokered by eXp Realty LLC - Weston, FL
Realtor CRS-Weston FL Real Estate


I agree with Katerina,

I wouls rahter the client meet the person who is going to help them. I'm not saying online is bad....i just wonder who is behind the keyboard. I see MB's and LO's looking to build relationships and those are better done in person. If I was borrowing a large sum of money you can be sure I would want to meet the person I'm working with. Especially in this day and age.

Jun 18, 2008 10:42 AM #37
Mike Mueller
Tech and Social Media Consultant - Walnut Creek, CA

Neal  - Did you see today's post?  It's all about WHY I will quote only in my local area.  Great minds think alike!

BTW: Week in Review Warning?  Ok, what'd I do?
Active Mike

Jun 18, 2008 10:53 AM #38
Bridget "Mortgage Mama" McGee
SWBC Mortgage 410-960-2061 - Baltimore, MD
Maryland Mortgage Mama NMLS#196068

Thanks for the fabulous info.  I wholeheartedly agree with Everything in your special landing (lending?) page.  You succinctly and professionally itemized how we conduct our business.  Thanks!

Jun 18, 2008 06:20 PM #39
Richard Sweum
1st Security Bank - Everett, WA

As I read these posts, "circular reasoning" comes to mind.  It's like on the equity accelerator posts...there doesn't seem to be any success getting rational thoughts and concerns addressed.  In my opinion, Z's program is in the Beta stage, state one.  They have made some wonderful improvements to the mechanics of posting loan quotes, and are trying to address the APR issues, but it seems that there is a great deal of resistance to protecting the company line of borrower anonymity; putting the responsibility on the borrower to sort out real quotes from the bait and switch quotes; and allowing borrowers to negatively rate lenders when there is no closed deal.  Some of the negative rating comments from borrowers that I have read are ridiculous.

Like I have said before, I think there is potential for the Zillow forum to work...but it needs to grow beyond the first stage of the Beta test.  Those folks that don't like the valuation model I'm still not sure why.  Zillow is my 2nd stop after the assessed tax value when checking the value of a home.  It's a tool, not an appraiser, and not definitive. 

Jun 18, 2008 06:26 PM #40
Richard Sweum
1st Security Bank - Everett, WA

Update on a zillow quote I gave back on May 19th...A borrower just called me and wanted me to honor the quote I gave a month ago...5.5% on a 30 year fixed!  Beautiful.  I asked him to read the note I had included explaining about rate availability and changes, which he did.  He still vehemently argued that I should "honor" the quote that I gave him and that he would give me a negative rating if I didn't.  Par 30 year fixed for him today would be 6.375%.  I asked him to open up zillow on his screen and tell me the 30 year fixed quotes that he was seeing...he didn't care, he wanted 5.5%.  We'll see if he give me a negative rating.

Jun 19, 2008 12:42 PM #41
Charlotte Home Loans Your Charlotte Mortgage Lender
Charlotte, NC


The borrower has officially contacted you, so now they are "permitted" to rate you as they see fit.

Guess this whole rating thing actually works... I must have been mistaken in my opinion... my bad!

Jun 19, 2008 01:33 PM #42
Karen Cooper
Karen Cooper | Sr Retail Loan Originator ! NMLS # 223305 | 360 Mortgage Group LLC Austin Texas - Leander, TX
Helping Homeowners w/Home Loans in 27 US States

Mike - I've been lurking off and on to see how ZMM worked for those who gave it a shot. Really appreciate your detailed, straight-forward info on this topic, as well as the dialog you have started with this post. Toe is in testing the waters to see if I'm willing to take the plunge...

Jun 24, 2008 03:41 PM #43
Paul McFadden
Paratex - Seattle, WA
Pest Control, Seattle, WA.

Mike: Thank you. I'm curious if you're still quoting on ZMM. I like your thoughts. I've been on ZMM since May and have had some inquiries. Zillow seems to be doing a good job of tweaking their system and making it better. I plan on persisting for a little while longer and have taken the same approach you have. That is, keeping it local and real.

Nov 23, 2008 01:32 AM #44
Ken Kelly
Benchmark Mortgage - Chesterfield, VA

Thanks for sharing all this great information! I wasn't so sure of Zillow, but I'm going to give it a try - Hey, if I get one deal out of it, that's one more than I had before!

Mar 23, 2009 12:40 AM #45
Mike Mueller
Tech and Social Media Consultant - Walnut Creek, CA

Wow!  That's an old post.  Ken - I've been out of the mortgage biz for a while now - but after reading this post - I'll have to say it still holds true!


Mar 23, 2009 02:42 AM #46
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