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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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

Would you help protect a friend from a predator?

Don’t worry. I am not going to ask you to risk your life by intervening in a physical assault.

But I am serious – you have friends who are in danger at this very moment and need your help.

The problem is: you don’t know who they are. They suffer in silence.

Every day, hundreds of predators in your region gather the ammunition to attack victims. I have recently come across some more of their simple tools, and am reminded that the danger is real.

I am asking you to help me get the word out.

What is a predator? Throughout nature, the stronger prey on the weaker.

When a pride of lions approaches a herd of zebras, who is the most likely victim of the day? The smallest, weakest, youngest or injured zebra is going to become a part of the food chain.

A similar thing happens in the oceans, and in the air. The strong overpower the weak, and life goes on for the victors.

There are many examples of humans preying on others. The type of predator I am talking about today is the “sinvestor” (those willing to lie, cheat and steal; preferably from someone desperate and defenseless) who is searching for the distressed homeowners who are easy to take advantage of.

Before you think “None of my friends are distressed” let me assure you of this: unless you are a hermit, you know people who are distressed. But unless they are trying out for a “reality” show, they aren’t broadcasting the details.

In fact, folks are in danger of being victimized long before there are outward signs of trouble. Most of them suffer in silence, hoping for a miracle.

Enter the knight in shining armor, with a dark heart. Holding out hope while taking the little they have left. The folks who least can afford it are the most at risk.

There are dozens of scenarios that can create a situation of financial distress. The most common are a death or divorce; job loss; health challenges; a forced move; investment losses; or outliving savings in retirement. During the housing crash, many mortgages reset to higher interest rates, and the payments doubled at a time when selling wasn’t an option because values were plummeting and buyers were sitting on the sidelines.

While the numbers of foreclosures and pre-foreclosures have dropped significantly, there are still thousands of homeowners going through that process today, in every region of every state.

They all have options, but most are too confused or scared to seek them out. They are also afraid to answer the phone, open their mail, or respond to a knock on the door.

Why so much fear?

Because they are bombarded all day long with promises, threats, and lies. Sinvestors, scammers, attorneys, bill collectors, real estate agents and the banks they owe money to are filling their voicemail and postal mailboxes with messages of all types.

How can they tell the good guys from the bad? Which promises are just the openings to a scam? Should they trust the guy with the fancy letterhead and the fancy car, or are those warning signs? Will the guy with the magic marker sign on the corner really pay them more than anyone else for their home?

It can be too much to think about, which is why so many don’t make any progress in the right direction. They just hunker down and wait. In silence. Time is money, and they are losing both.

These phrases don’t seem dangerous, do they?

“I pay top dollar for the homes I buy.”

“I am serious about closing on your house quickly.”

“I’ll buy your house, just as it is.”

“Don’t worry about realtor commissions; you won’t have to pay any.”

They seem like the answer to a prayer, if you need to sell your home quickly, for the most money, and without having to make any repairs.

That is why these are the top four power phrases taught by a real estate investment guru who claims to have tens of thousands of students. Every one of those students is hoping to find your friends before anyone else gets a chance to fleece them.

Why do I use such strong words? Well, here are some quotes from the gurus marketing piece, looking for more wanna-be investors to sell his high end training program to.

The sellers I’m talking about aren’t the ones you see on the MLS listing their homes.

They’re not the homeowners who will sell to you on the condition you pay what THEY want.

And they’re not the sellers who respond to the typical and tired “I Buy Houses” postcards or websites.

The sellers I’m talking about are the pirate’s gold.

The sellers that NO ONE else knows about…or how to reach. The ones who are drop dead desperate to hand you the keys to their homes in the blink of an eye.

THIS is what I mean when I say ‘ultra-motivated’…the ONLY homeowner you should EVER buy a house from. Buying from anyone else can cost you a FORTUNE.

These nice homes have HUGE back-end profits built into them. Why? Because the nice folks and families I bought them from were SUPER MOTIVATED to get rid of them. Which means I picked them up for a steal.

I don’t want to hear any excuses for not doing what it takes (which ain’t much) to attract the PRIMO SELLERS in your market that are willing to sell you their home at a smokin’ discount.

This training is not for whiners.

This training is not for people who make excuses.

And it’s not for people who waste 9 months doing nothing and thinking they have to get all their pretty little ducks in a row first so they can feel good about calling themselves an ‘investor.’

Well, isn’t that precious? Can’t you just feel the love and concern?

That is why I need your help getting this information out to others. 

The training doesn’t seem congruent with the four phrases of comfort the homeowner is going to hear, does it?

Here is why those four phrases are so effective.

  • “I am serious about closing on your house quickly.” When the wolf is at the door, folks need help, fast!
  • “I’ll buy your house, just as it is.” Distressed sellers don’t have the funds to fix the home up before selling, so this seems like a blessing.
  • “I pay top dollar for the homes I buy.” Well, it seems like he may have a different definition of this than the desperate homeowner who thinks this means no one else will pay any more than this guy will.
  • “Don’t worry about realtor commissions; you won’t have to pay any.” He laughs about this one, because the “perceived savings” actually costs these sellers money. Lots of it. In many states, a Realtor would be found negligent if they allowed the seller to accept the type of offer these guys will bring to the table. To receive full market value requires full market exposure. Remember, this trainer is talking about finding sellers before anyone else does, so there is no competitive offer, and nowhere near full market value to the sellers!

I have an e-book in the works that is designed to help distressed homeowners in their time of need. It is essentially an excerpt out of the book I have been working on getting published, and I want to publish the main book first. But I will come up with a solution to get the information folks need as soon as they contact me.

I’m trying to keep this post from growing to the size of a book chapter. I go into a lot more detail in the upcoming book, such as:

  • The three people you must talk to before you make any decisions
  • The 14 options you have when facing foreclosure
  • How the different options affect your credit score and employment
  • Why Doing Nothing is the Second Worst Choice You Can Make

Folks have options, and they need to know what they are. Being conned out of their home by a smooth-talking “professional nice guy” is not the best way to go!

Every week, hundreds of gurus teach thousands of students how to find the financially weak and convince them to make bad decisions.

Please, share this with your social media connections so the warning can get out.

All I can do is attempt to get the word out that many times IT IS A WOLF at the door! Folks need to be careful about who they consult when their home and their future are at stake.

I can’t stress enough that you need good legal and tax advice. Laws vary from state to state; you must obtain counsel that understands the legal consequences in your state. Especially because the “rules” are changing so frequently, information that was relevant a while back could be bad advice today.

You also need a good real estate agent who understands the options and works well with the other professionals to bring about a successful closing. That is what allows the financial and emotional healing to begin.

I will interview agents for you in your area if you are not sure who to call. Email me with your location. I will confirm some details with you, and will tap into my database of agents with the necessary skills.

That offer is good for all situations, not just distressed sales. If you don’t have an agent in your area, or are moving to a new location, keep this in mind.

I am a member of several national and international networks of real estate professionals who have advanced training in various segments of the business. I can help you find a top agent you will be comfortable working with, based on your specific situation.

I am also able to refer to agents who work with all of the major franchises as well as independent offices. Because I work for an independent office, I am not restricted as to who I am allowed to recommend in other parts of the country.

If someone has entrusted you with the details of their situation, private message them or email them the link. Please don’t call them out online! Fear of public humiliation is a big part of what immobilizes folks from taking any action. It is a shame because this is a time when they need to be making good decisions, quickly!

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