We all know the saying, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Well, Zillow has done more than just join Trulia – on Tuesday, July 29, it was announced that Zillow will be acquiring its rival, which will make it the main contender in the online real estate shopping world. Both companies will keep their individual brands, but live under the same roof.
What this means for buyers:
There’s no doubt that the home buyers of today want to shop online. More and more, people begin their research on websites like Zillow and Trulia, relying heavily on the information garnered from the MLS used to populate the data on these websites. Pictures are easy to browse, prices are front and center, and estimated market values are quickly calculated from default algorithms in the code. Everything is available immediately for anyone to see, and buyers everywhere love it. It’s a great way to start the process of purchasing a home, and now it will be even easier to do as these two companies merge.
Remember, though, that no website can substitute the service and representation that a real estate agent can provide. An agent will meet with buyers, get to know them, and conduct a thorough search of what is available within their preferences. An agent also has a thorough knowledge of local areas, and can provide details a website cannot. Not to mention the ability to negotiate on a buyer’s behalf, assist with drafting of contracts, manage the transactions, ensure the proper inspections are conducted, and generally provide protection for their client throughout the process.
What this means for sellers:
Since these websites only grab data from the MLS system when a house is for sale, it is imperative that sellers list their home on the MLS. Even (dare I say) if it is via limited representation, which allows an agent to put the home on the MLS for a low fee. The key will be to make sure the home is listed accurately, with up-to-date (and correct) information, and photos of the best quality, which should be a standard practice anyway. Sellers should consider, however, that although their listing will appear on Zillow, what appears with it is the “Zestimate,” which has a 6.9% median of error, and does not have complete data in every area of the country. This should be considered as merely a starting point for determining price, not an accurate representation of market value.
What this means for real estate professionals:
Brokers and agents will need to continue to educate both buyers and sellers on the pros and cons of real estate websites. While most users of these sites understand that the dollars and cents presented are estimates, some insist on using them as their bottom line, which is never the right move without first determining their accuracy. Since an agent’s duty is to uphold their client’s best interests, they must not allow a website’s algorithm to dictate the approach to pricing a home over their own expertise in market evaluation. Website numbers can be misleading, so it is extremely important to note to both buyers and sellers that they can better rely on a person who can physically evaluate a home, than a website that makes an educated guess based on limited data.
Don’t forget – our website offers a local MLS search tool and the ability to save searches. If you’re looking for a home in the Harrisonburg-Rockingham area, this can be a great resource!
Zach Koops, Realtor