This Is Why Relying on Zillow Is a Bad Idea

Don’t let this happen to you!

The ad was captivating. It grabbed your attention and pulled you in, but don’t fall for it.

There are several reasons people go to Zillow, but here is proof that you shouldn’t make any important decisions based on what you find there.

  1. Buyers are looking for homes
  2. Sellers are confirming the value for a list price
  3. Buyers are confirming the value before making an offer
  4. Folks are “checking out” a potential real estate agent
  5. Pictures, maps, neighborhood info

The dirty low down:

Number 5 is easy: Zillow harvests photos and data from numerous sources and provides it for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy it. Even if the photos are not current, you aren’t going to make too big of a mistake just from looking at them.

Number 1 is also easy: Not everything you see on Zillow is actually available for sale. There are dozens of reasons why properties are shown when they aren’t for sale. This company exists solely to lure viewers and collect information to sell to real estate agents. The data doesn’t have to be accurate; it just has to be attractive.

Numbers 2 and 3 can be lumped together. Value. Zestimate. Automated Valuation. Pricing. Whatever you want to call it, you can’t trust it. It is wrong. My blog Your Home Valuation is Wrong from July 30, 2018 goes into more detail. https://jimsweat.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/your-home-valuation-is-wrong/

Number 4 can be a real problem. It’s a problem for the buyers and sellers, and also for the real estate agents. I sell two or three times as much real estate as the average agent, but you can’t tell that from looking at Zillow. They say that I have not sold anything in the last 17 months. https://jimsweat.wordpress.com/2018/09/20/really-zillow-again/

Yes, I can go in and manually update it, but that doesn’t mean it will be accurate next week. Here today, gone tomorrow is reality with these guys.

They were happy to use my photos, my descriptions and marketing remarks on my listings they used as “bait” to attract potential buyer and seller leads, but when those homes sold, Zillow conveniently “forgot” to credit me with the sale.

Blog post January 16, 2015 titled Real Estate Misinformation and Extortion tells how after 20 years in real estate, Zillow showed me completing 2 (two) total transactions. Two. After I had been a full time licensed real estate professional for twenty years! I had owned a real estate company part of that time. I had obtained my ABR, CRS, GRI, CDPE, e-PRO and ILHM designations – many of which require a certain level of production to qualify. But the big gorilla of real estate information credited me with two sales!

https://jimsweat.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/real-estate-misinformation-and-extortion/

You can’t make this stuff up!

And again:

My blog post Boom! Yes That Was My Head Exploding! from August 6, 2015 tells when I found out Trulia and Zillow wiped my slate, again. After over 20 years as a full-time licensed real estate professional, part of which I was broker/owner of a real estate company, Trulia credited me with 1 (one) total career sale and Zillow showed me having 2 (two) sales in my entire career!

https://jimsweat.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/boom-yes-that-was-my-head-exploding/

You don’t have to make things up, they prove every day that danger lurks if you blindly follow.

The thing to remember is that Zillow exists purely to make money from real estate brokers. If they have decent information on the website, great. If not, it doesn’t matter as long as they can lure people there, collect the contact info, and sell them to an agent.

There are thousands of companies that do the same thing: provide real estate information for the sole purpose of collecting leads to sell to real estate agents. Zillow just happens to be the biggest, and therefore can do the most damage.

Zillow has some great ads: A wonderful mix of emotional heart-tugs and perceived factual data.

Too bad people make important life decisions based on the fake news and false information.

http://www.SweatSellsFlorida.com

All the Best!

Jim Sweat, ABR, CLHMS, CRS, CDPE, GRI, e-PRO, ILHM

Featured in Scene Magazine’s Men on the Scene 2016 issue

Author of REAL ESTATE CSI: CONTROVERSY, SECRETS, INSIGHT (coming soon)

Jim Sweat – Helping Buyers & Sellers Choose Wisely Since 1995 ™

Re/Max  Alliance Group

1314 E. Venice Ave, Venice, FL 34285

Mobile: 941-306-7384

http://myfloridahomesmls.com/JimSweat (Home Search)

https://jimsweat.wordpress.com/ (Blog)

www.linkedin.com/in/jimsweat (LinkedIn)

A Proven Professional Working for You!

23 Years Experience

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What Are Others Saying About Jim Sweat?

“When selling a home with strong sentimental attachments, located over a thousand miles away, having confidence in your Realtor is critical. You earned my confidence through your commitment… and followed through to a very satisfactory completion.”                                                                                                           ~Karen K., Venice, Florida

“Jim not only understands the market conditions and the various neighborhoods he works in but he also understands people. He goes above and beyond to provide superior service by insuring that clients have all the information they need to make informed decisions. Jim treats you like you are important to him, not just another prospect or file to work.”

                                                                                      ~Troy Connor, Port Charlotte, Florida

“Jim brings a variety of excellent qualities to the table in every aspect of his profession. Knowledge, dedication, experience, honesty and professionalism are but a few. The most important quality Jim gives his clients is his time, which these days, is a precious commodity. From a business partner perspective, it is always a pleasure to work with Jim and his clients, knowing that we will have a smooth transaction due to his expertise and hands-on approach. Knowing how he conducts his business, I would certainly hire him personally and refer him to family and friends.”        ~Suzie Scheetz, Sarasota, Florida

“Jim Sweat is an excellent agent. He put his best effort into finding us a home that matched our criteria and showed great patience while we made our decision in choosing our dream house. He helped us through the process of negotiations and home inspections and made the experience painless and satisfactory for all concerned parties with his expertise.”                                                                             ~John M. Venice, Florida

“Jim Sweat is willing to help you find the right home for you according to your specifications. He is always professional and honest. I would, and have, recommended him to many friends and family. Jim has helped them also.”

                                                                                   ~Sue & Allan A. Port Charlotte, Florida

“We think your greatest strength is your patience. You practiced that well with us although at times we may have been a little difficult.  Also, we have to mention your perseverance and determination to find us the house of our dreams in our price range.  We were very happy with your expertise and knowledge of the area, as well as helping us notice the good points in the homes we were touring as well as their shortcomings.”                                                                                                           ~John & Toni Venice, Florida

“We don’t care where you move to, you are our Realtor in Florida!” “I put my full trust in Jim.”                                                                                 ~S. Ahonen, Stevensville, Michigan

“Jim Sweat was fabulous to work with and He did an awesome job with the clients I referred to him. They are very happy with his service and I am confident that any referral that I send to him, will receive top notch customer service.”

                                                                                ~Domenique Lombardo, Orlando, Florida

 “This man has talent–he listens intently to the need–takes the time to research in depth and then watch out because Jim is results oriented! A pleasure to know and an unforgettable business associate.”                  ~Mary Kay Sverid, St. Joseph, Michigan

 “Working with Jim was an absolute pleasure. We had a very difficult sale with a foreclosure. Jim’s years of experience were a blessing, as he knew exactly how to maneuver through all the involved paperwork. His knowledge, connections and professionalism helped us understand the complicated process. If it wasn’t for Jim’s expertise, I’m sure we might have lost our adorable retirement home. Thank you very much Jim!!”                                                                               ~Ken & Mary Jeanne, Florida   

 “Jim Sweat has high customer satisfaction ratings because he takes real estate very seriously. He puts forth the time and effort to constantly improve. Jim attained his numerous designations because of his commitment to his clients and his profession. He seeks to find out what makes sense for his clients and carefully guides them along the path to their goals. I know that his customer care is a priority because I have been married to him for his entire real estate career!”                         ~Marci Sweat, Sarasota, Florida 

 “Jim Sweat should be your top pick for a real estate agent in the Sarasota area. He always has some great comments and answers on Trulia.”

                                                                                   ~Carmen Brodeur, Scottsdale, Arizona     

“Jim Sweat provides a fresh look at real estate. His observations are on target and his blog comments provoke answers to questions overlooked or just plain forgotten by both consumers and even professionals. His logic, if applied to purchase or selling your home, may be of a greater value than you could have ever imagined.”                                                                                                                                 ~Gabriel Palotas, Florida

“Whether you are buying or selling, Jim and Marci are the kind of Realtors who won’t give up until you are satisfied. Plus, they’re just nice people to work with. Now that we’re settled in South Haven, we consider them friends. If we ever put our house up for sale, we wouldn’t trust it to anyone else.”     ~Larry and Linda Barnhart Chicago/South Haven

“Jim and Marci were so helpful in the home buying process. They kept us informed on what was happening in South Haven until we were ready to purchase a home. They helped us find the perfect get-away. They really listened to us when we told them what we wanted in our home. As homes came on the market they let us know and our place is perfect! Thank you!”                                                                        ~M.P., Chicago, IL

 “You should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

~Dave Ramsey, Financial Author

All the Best!

Jim Sweat, ABR, CRS, CDPE, GRI, e-PRO, ILHM

REALTOR

Author of REAL ESTATE CSI: CONTROVERSY, SECRETS, INSIGHT (coming soon)

Jim Sweat – Helping Buyers & Sellers Choose Wisely Since 1995 ™

American Realty

Mobile: 941-306-7384

http://myfloridahomesmls.com/JimSweat (Home Search)

https://jimsweat.wordpress.com/ (Blog)

www.linkedin.com/in/jimsweat (LinkedIn)

A Proven Professional Working for You!

21 Years Experience

BOOM! Yes, that was my head exploding!

Warning: Informative Rant regarding Zillow-Trulia

This is why the public needs to be careful of the sources they use to make important decisions!

Things that make your head explode!

The DMV at Secretary of State office; Trulia; Zillow; getting “help” from a government agency.

Let’s just grab one of these, and let ‘er rip!

(For the record, I wanted to type the whole thing in BOLD CAPS!!)

I just sent Trulia a message not to renew my PRO subscription. And followed up with a phone call, because they plan on billing me again in just two days, and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen. So, what do they try to do?

Sell me advertising!

I have had profiles on Zillow and Trulia for @ 9 years, have been a full-time Realtor for over 20 years, and still Trulia only credits me with one sale.

Ever.

Total career high of… one!

Zillow was hardly any better: they had me credited with a career high of two (2) sales! So I started manually entering sales into Zillow. You would be shocked at the number of homes that are not in the Zillow system at all.

Our previous home: 100 years old, 2 blocks to downtown, 3 blocks to city hall and neither Zillow nor Trulia have it in the database as a home I can claim a sale on. Really?

I sort of understand some of the properties I sold in gated waterfront communities that they may not be able to access easily. Wait! Those homes are all deeded properties readily available on the county website, so why can these data-mining behemoths not locate the information?

Not even a zestimate for 412 Michigan Ave in South Haven, Michigan. Interesting. It’s not that zestimates have any bearing on reality, it is that so many people THINK the information they are getting online is trustworthy, and it is NOT!

So, today the Trulia rep told me what I needed to do is pay for advertising in my chosen zip codes, and buyers and sellers will then see my profile. I explained that my profile makes it look as if I am a useless slug that can’t sell anything (including my own house!) and I am NOT interested in paying them to send people to my profile for proof that I am worthless after 20 years in the business!

Boom!

How many times will my head explode and I continue on?!!?

Zillow bought Trulia this year, so they now are merging their faulty databases. The rep today said that I will likely see issues with my profile during the merger.

Not likely to get any worse for me, is it?

She confirmed My Florida Regional MLS feeds into Trulia, so the information should be automatically updated. That was after I explained that our MLS goes from Fort Meyers, north to Tampa, east through Kissimmee to the Atlantic Ocean. It is a big MLS! Not the Podunk system she assumed wasn’t feeding into Trulia.

So why, after 9 years, can’t they get it right? Or even close? They could credit me with a couple hundred of my sales and I probably would never even look to see if they were all there. Maybe even 100 would keep me from looking.

But only ONE?!?! I might notice that!

Several times through the years Trulia has said they will fix the feed to my profile. And I have even added some of my sales manually. But, time and time again, this is what I get. The rep said she has hundreds of Realtors in Florida who don’t have issues with their feed.

What makes me so special?

My recent sales range from a $90,000 condo downtown to a $3 Million bay front manse on an idyllic Florida island. I have worked the listing side, the buyer side, and even one with both sides. Trulia even sent me updates on my listings (that sold within days at full price or higher with multiple offers). How can they not at least have the properties they were emailing me about!?!?

Don’t get me started on the agent ratings, recommendations and testimonials! That is a whole other ball of… wax!

So here is my open letter to Trulia, and it will suffice if someone from Zillow would also like to take a look:

I do not want to renew my PRO subscription, that I have had for eight months. I have not gotten any leads from it. The only branding I will get from this is negative! I have had profiles on Zillow and Trulia for @ 9 years, have been a full-time Realtor for over 20 years, and still Trulia only credits me with one sale.

I have recommendations, but no ratings because the customers filled them out before ratings were a feature. I can’t remember if it is Trulia or Zillow, but at least one told me I have the old version of profile, and if I move to the new one I will lose the testimonials that I already have. Great.

Trulia was more useful to me when the blog and Q&A were being utilized. Now, I just don’t see the value of it.

Trulia-Zillow, surely you are working on cross-populating ratings and testimonials, right? Oh well, I’m not paying to see how it turns out.

Please let me know what additional information you need to set up my NON-renewal request.

Rant over. I feel better. Hopefully you are now better informed, and this is a win/win!

Respectfully,

Jim Sweat, ABR, CRS, CDPE, GRI, e-PRO, ILHM

REALTOR

Jim Sweat – Helping Buyers & Sellers Choose Wisely Since 1995 ™

Author of REAL ESTATE CSI: CONTROVERSY, SECRETS, INSIGHT (coming 2015)

American Realty of Venice, Inc.

700 W. Venice Ave

Venice, FL 34285

941-484-8080

http://myfloridahomesmls.com/JimSweat Home search

www.linkedin.com/in/jimsweat LinkedIn

https://www.zillow.com/reviews/write/?s=X1-ZUyz3incawqo7d_93ahq Zillow

Can you believe what I found when I searched “Jim Sweat” online?

Online search reveals “Segal’s Law” scenario.

Wow!

This is a problem for me, other Realtors, and our clients.

Segal’s law is an adage that states:

“A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.”

It refers to the pitfalls of having too much potentially conflicting information when making a decision.

The same thing happens on the internet. I just searched my own name, something I have to do from time to time because I am in a very public business.

The results showed that I have been in the real estate business for 4, 8, 9, 17 or 20 years. Quite a spread.

My production during that time is even more interesting: I have sold 1, 2, 43, or a vague “hundreds of homes” during my entire career.

When you go online to get answers, you want good information. Admittedly, many of the websites I found myself on I have never heard of before, but I did only look at the ones that had my “actual info” and not one of the dozens of other Jim Sweats out there.

Let’s be smart about this. To sort through all of the garbage online and get the real scoop, let’s just look at the best websites.

Is it safe to assume that the top two sites would have the best information? I am talking the two with the most monthly visitors; the largest dollar valuations; publicly traded companies that dominate all of the others for real estate search. This should give us the most accurate, up to date information available, right? They even state that they update their information regularly.

Zillow and Trulia (who are in the process of merging, subject to government approval) are the dominate players in real estate search, and they do not have my information correct. Not even close.

Yes, they have my 20 years right, but Zillow had me completing only two (2) sales during my entire career, and Trulia had me down for just one (1)!

I am in the process of getting those things updated, so the numbers should be different by the time you look for yourself. But, let’s get real! I have had a profile on each of these sites for over five years! How long does it take to “update regularly”?!?

So, is the problem that I have not paid them to make my information accurate? Possibly. I have called them and they tell me they will update my information and it will begin to fill in. But I didn’t pay them, and nothing changed. Trulia says I don’t have any reviews, but there are seven on the site. However, I don’t have any ratings because the reviews were added by folks before the ratings featured existed.

Millions of people go to these sites every month. I would like to ignore them, because the information is factually-challenged, but I can’t do that when most of my potential customers are on these sites.

What about all of the websites I have never even heard of?

See my blog: Real Estate Misinformation and Extortion for more details on the extortion that takes place. https://jimsweat.wordpress.com/2015/01/16/real-estate-misinformation-and-extortion/

Thousands of companies’ business models can be summed up simply “Get money from agents”.

I used to try to keep my info updated on real estate sites, but there is no way to keep up.

The public is going to get a LOT of bad information when they go online. There is no alternative.

Be careful, folks! There is a wealth of information, and misinformation, available online. Find someone trustworthy to help you make sense of it all. It could mean thousands of dollars in your pocket!

Respectfully,

Jim Sweat, ABR, CRS, CDPE, GRI, e-PRO, ILHM

REALTOR

Author of REAL ESTATE CSI: CONTROVERSY, SECRETS, INSIGHT (available 2015)

American Realty of Venice, Inc.

700 W. Venice Ave

Venice, FL 34285

941-484-8080

http://myfloridahomesmls.com/JimSweat Home search

www.linkedin.com/in/jimsweat LinkedIn

http://www.trulia.com/profile/jimsweat Trulia

https://www.zillow.com/reviews/write/?s=X1-ZUyz3incawqo7d_93ahq Zillow

Real Estate Misinformation and Extortion

Your money is at stake here.

Our lives are entangled with the internet.

But, can you trust the websites you rely on?

Entire industries have evolved because of the internet, but does that mean you can believe the information you find, even on your favorite “reliable” websites?

Is it wise to depend on the biggest, most well-known websites when you need good information to make decisions about your largest asset?

Your home is likely that asset, and bad decisions could cost you tens of thousands of dollars.

Value estimates are notoriously incorrect, and that is a topic for another day.

Agent rankings can also cost you, and hundreds of websites promise to help you choose the best agent, but behind the scenes it can get pretty ugly.

Real Estate Misinformation and Extortion

Thousands of companies’ business models can be summed up simply “Get money from agents”.

What if you couldn’t actually trust the websites that claim to be giving you great information?

If agents can “pay for placement” does that influence how reliable the rankings are?

Are customer reviews a better indicator than computerized or “professional” recommendations?

I don’t have all of the answers, I am just going to give you a bit of my personal experience with the top websites, and encourage you to ask good questions and tread carefully.

Many real estate agents lose their minds when you mention Zillow. Why? Here are some responses:

  • “The Zestimates are way too high!” (Or way too low);
  • “The listings people call about don’t exist!”
  • “I get calls from Zillow all the time! No, not customers: salespeople. Trying to sell me leads, ads, upgraded profiles and websites. All they want is my money, money, money!”

I have been a full-time, licensed real estate professional since 1995. I set up my free profile on Zillow, the largest real estate website, 7 years ago. So what is my personal experience? First, I can relate to the above issues. But the “Ratings and Reviews” is even more interesting to me, because after all these years, Zillow still hasn’t figured out how to obtain my past sales data. They show that I have completed two sales. Total. In twenty years. Wow! I am a beast!

I actually have more reviews than I do past sales. Fortunately I am “Five Star Rated” by my past customers and clients!

These sites are very popular, but they are not very accurate! While Zillow has me with a total of two, Trulia has me currently listed as having completed only one (1) sale during my entire twenty year career! This is from the number one, and number two real estate websites (who are currently merging to become a super-sized gorilla).

So, is the problem that I have not paid them to make my information accurate? Possibly. I have called them and they tell me they will update my information and it will begin to fill in, but I didn’t pay them, and nothing changed. There is a free option to load my past sales into the system, and I will have to work on that angle.

Trulia says I don’t have any reviews, but there are seven on the site. However, I don’t have any ratings because the reviews were added by folks before the ratings featured existed.

Millions of people go to these sites every month. I would like to ignore them, because the information is factually-challenged, but I can’t do that when most of my potential customers are on these sites.

There is a big plus to not having sales on these sites: the extortion sites are not yet gunning for me! Yes, there are real estate sites that will do ANYTHING, legal or otherwise, to get money from agents. The most notorious will simply give you a bad rating, and then send you an email alert that you have a bad rating. Because they are generous and upstanding (cough, cough) you are given the opportunity to have the information “updated” for a fee.

When enough complaints come in, a court case is threatened. This may quench one fiery dart, but hundreds of new websites pop up regularly to “get money from agents!”

One website that is frequently mentioned in the Realtor discussion groups as promoting misinformation is still in the “flattery” stages with me. They have me ranked as a “top listing agent” in a town that I have never had a listing in. Or even a sale. They suggested that I pay to promote my status, but haven’t gotten ugly with me yet. Probably because Trulia and Zillow show I only sell one home every ten or twenty years.

I am a bit concerned that I will rank higher on the “extortion index” if I get more of my sales listed on the primary sites. I have had hundreds of sales in my career, so these fiends could decide that I am a better target as time passes.

However, the multiple listing systems have changed in both of the markets I have worked. It may be hard to validate past sales on websites when the MLS says they can’t pull the data themselves from the previous system. Hmmm….

Oh well. I will still get calls and emails from all of these companies every week. And the occasional inquiry from a live person about a listing they saw online. Realtors hate these calls because it perpetuates a credibility problem.

Picture this common scenario:

Someone calls asking for details, or to see a new listing they just found online. The agent looks it up and tells them it sold months ago, or is not actually a listing at all.

The caller repeats, “I just found it today as a listing online.” The agent responds, “It is just a public notice that the owners have fallen behind on their mortgage. The property is not for sale, and the bank won’t actually own it through foreclosure for several months (or years here in Florida).”

Who is the public going to believe? The information provided by a famous, publicly-traded website with a market capitalization of Billions (with a “B”!) of dollars; or some unknown real estate agent who happened to answer his phone when they were calling around for more details?

Be careful, folks! There is a wealth of information, and misinformation, available online. Find someone trustworthy to help you make sense of it all. It could mean thousands of dollars in your pocket!

Respectfully,

Jim Sweat, ABR, CRS, CDPE, GRI, e-PRO, ILHM

REALTOR

Author of REAL ESTATE CSI: CONTROVERSY, SECRETS, INSIGHT (available 2015)

American Realty of Venice, Inc.

700 W. Venice Ave

Venice, FL 34285

941-484-8080

http://myfloridahomesmls.com/JimSweat Home search

www.linkedin.com/in/jimsweat LinkedIn

http://www.trulia.com/profile/jimsweat Trulia

https://www.zillow.com/reviews/write/?s=X1-ZUyz3incawqo7d_93ahq Zillow