Last week I received a call from a woman who is in the process of relocating her family here from the east coast. They were coming to town and wanted to see my listing at 1912 Howard Avenue in San Carlos — she was excited because the house seemed to be exactly what they were looking for, and was right in their target price range. Normally I’d be thrilled to get such a call about one of my listings, less for one significant detail:
1912 Howard Avenue sold back in October of 2011…which was 5 months ago.
When I asked her why she thought this house was still for sale, and she told me that it is listed “For Sale” on Zillow.com. For those of you not familiar with Zillow, their site is a popular destination for consumers who want to get a quick estimate on the value of a home — aka a “Zestimate”. The accuracy (or lack thereof) of these estimates has been the subject of countless discussions and online debates. But that’s not the point of this post.
At first I thought she must have been misreading the website, but when I looked into it, this is how 1912 Howard Avenue appears on the site:
Once you get past their absurdly low valuation of this home, you can see that it’s clearly being marketed as an active listing on Zillow. No harm? Well, I have to imagine that it would be a bit disconcerting to the current owners of this home if people thought it was truly for sale, especially in a market as hot as the one we’re in now. It also puts me on the spot for “listing” a house that’s clearly not for sale.
But the inaccuracies aren’t limited to just this house. When I type “San Carlos, CA” in the search box, it claims that there are 125 homes for sale in San Carlos right now (and this is with the “Make Me Sell” box unchecked.) Right now in San Carlos there are only 27 single family residences and 5 condos currently on the market.
Upon further investigation, it appears that Zillow includes some pending sales in this search. But if you add up each and every single-family residence and condo that’s either active or pending in San Carlos today, that number still only reaches 92… which is a far cry from 125.
Not All Sites Are Created Equal.
What makes third party real estate websites such as Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin so popular with consumers is the way that they effectively aggregate so much real estate data into an easy to use format. But what if you can’t trust the data coming from the site?
Redfin’s site is a smash hit with consumers because they provide a ton of data, it’s easy to use, and most important, it accurately displays the data that it gets from the MLS feed. There’s absolutely no reason that Zillow can’t perform to the same standard.
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