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September 12, 2008

Zillow – Your Online Real Estate Guru

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How much is your house worth? Is it worth as much as the neighbor’s house? How does it compare to houses across town – or the hot pink duplex at the end of the block that seems to have had a ‘for sale’ sign in the lawn for the past six months? Whether you’re planning on selling your home, buying your first home, or just curious about the status of the house down the street, Zillow may be the tool for you. It gives anyone easy access to records for homes that have been on the market, are on the market, and may be on the market soon. Zillow can also answer all sorts of real estate questions about things like mortgages and lenders as well as information on each home listed, like its number of bathrooms or the estimated value (cleverly called a “zestimate” by Zillow). The idea of an online application to provide this information is popular. In fact, only two days after its launch in 2006, Zillow had already received its millionth visitor – and Zillow’s tally of users has been growing ever since.

Zillow’s listings include a page for each home with a photo (if possible) and other publicly available information. What makes Zillow unique, though, is not the free access to information or their zesty real estate linguistics, but the ability for anyone to share information, ask questions, and start conversations about a home. The result is a site that’s enriched by the participation of buyers, sellers, owners, and real estate professionals. Zillow users can get useful information, but they can also discuss that information and help each other figure out what to do with it. So far, 2.5 million homes have been listed for sale on Zillow, and 100,000 real estates agents are listed on the site. It appears that, even during the days of foreclosures and mortgage lending problems (or perhaps especially during these times), web users want to know the price of their property.

Practical Uses:

  • Find information on homes for sale and have Zillow project monthly mortgage costs for each
  • Sell your home directly on Zillow
  • Use Zillow to promote your real estate agency
  • Receive quotes and make arrangements with lenders through Zillow

Insider Tips:

  • Even if you’re not planning to move, you might consider using the “Make Me Move” feature to list a price you couldn’t refuse for your home if it were offered and entice potential buyers to make an offer
  • To claim your home, edit your home’s facts, and post homes for sale, you’ll need to register. Browsing “zestimates” requires no login

What we liked:

  • It’s addictive! You’ll want to check out every home you’ve lived in or visited and see how much its worth
  • Zillow’s mobile feature allows you to get a “zestimate” on the fly when you enter an address into your cell phone
  • Discussions and user participation add a lot to the experience – especially for those new to real estate
  • Zillow’s “Real Estate Guide” helps buyers and sellers make informed decisions when deciding if you can afford to buy and how to choose the best time to head into escrow

What we didn’t like:

  • For now, most of the listings are in the US only
  • The Zestimates feature has been known to display inaccurate results in certain geographic regions because of a lack of timely sales data and market trends

Alternatives:

Company Info:

  • Launched: February 8, 2006
  • Privately Held
  • Headquarters: Seattle, WA
  • Founded by Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink
  • Web site: http://www.zillow.com

Costs:

  • Free (the site is supported by advertising)