Over the last few days, I’ve been following a conversation on Twitter – yes, those actually happen – between a few Nest Realty agents in Charlottesville and Fredericksburg. They’ve been discussing the validity of Zillow’s “Zestimates” in their respective areas, and in metro areas in general.
I’ve written about Zillow before, sometimes with some disdain, but the truth is I really really like Zillow as one tool. Like any tool it’s not perfect, but as one tool in a larger toolbox it can be useful … which is why you’ll see me there quite a bit. I haven’t always had such a fondness for the site, but that’s changing.
What I don’t have a fondness for, and what initially propelled Zillow into the public eye (alongside a massive marketing budget), is the idea that based on information like tax records and neighborhood sales we can determine a value for a home. While Zillow doesn’t specifically state Zestimates to be THE end-all for pricing strategy, it’s suggested enough times to be believed. As a single tool it’s a nice way to look at specific houses, or neighborhoods, or areas. As an all-encompassing platform to defining market trends and current data, it misses the boat.
Zillow gives it’s Zestimates a star rating, with four stars meaning “Best Zestimate”, and one star meaning “Tax assessor’s value, or unable to compute Zestimate accuracy”. So how accurate are Zestimates in Montgomery County? According to the Coverage Accuracy in Virginia, Montgomery County ranks as a One Star county. Same goes for Pulaski County, Floyd County, and Giles County.
I don’t point this out for any other reason than to say that, as a pricing tool, Zillow in Montgomery County – or Zillow in the New River Valley as a whole – is woefully inadequate. If you want to talk specific marketing position, let’s do that.