More Flawed Logic from the Pro-Zillow Camp

Maybe not the devil, but it plays one on TV

I know, I’m getting away from regular programming but suddenly I feel like I’m at the 1995 Source Awards.

Dean’s a good friend of mine but his logic in embracing the beauty of Zestimates is horribly flawed. Perhaps it’s because the owner of his brokerage (and my former brokerage) works for Zillow and he’s toeing the disappearing line between the two. I’m just not certain.

Often a new buyer and I will be sitting down in our buyers consultation and I will discuss if they have been looking at houses. Often many of them have been looking on Zillow. Zillow now gives me the ability to show some of my value to my clients. I gladly pull up Zillow and do a home search for single family houses in Chandler. Then I do a similar search in the MLS and show them the results. Presto, just like that I show them the value of working on my website where they can search for homes in the actual MLS and not spend hours chasing homes that are not really available.

And that works because all buyers are logical creatures and no buyer, even after being told that all 15 listings she has sent over, all from Zillow, all are under contract, would still search that site because she’s searching for a mythical deal and can’t believe one doesn’t exist in the MLS because she’s seeing them all over the place online.

We, after all, are salesmen on commission and doesn’t that automatically mean we want to sell someone the highest home available? Or are we going to ignore that little aspect of human nature that any real estate agent in the business for more than a month has discovered for themselves.

Some clients understand the folly of Zillow; others do not. The mere fact we as agents have to waste our time and the clients’ time overcoming a hurdle that shouldn’t be there in the first place is troublesome.

On another note, if I’m demonstrating my value by running an MLS search, I don’t seem to be bringing much value to the table. It’s the very least of what a real estate agent does (or should do) on behalf of a client.

Onward …

Their is the argument that people use about listings though. The argument goes Mr Seller, your house is worth $355,000, but Zillow says it is worth only $302,000 so we don’t want to put your house on there. HOGWASH. Give me a break! Do you think that low of other agents that you don’t want to a Seller’s house on the most trafficked real estate in the world because an agent may not be able to overcome that objection.

First, trust me, you don’t want my opinion of the general population of real estate agents as a collective. Like people, agents as individuals can be brilliant. As a collective, it’s not such a pretty picture as anyone in a cross sale with someone splitting time between real estate and Starbucks can attest.

Second, it’s not a question of whether an agent can overcome an objection. It’s a question of whether it’s to the advantage of a seller to have their home positioned as overpriced. And no matter how you spin it, when there’s an official-looking Zestimate sitting right above a much-higher list price, the impression any buyer looking online will have is that the sellers have overvalued their home, even when they haven’t.

As I’ve said countless times, tell your seller that you’re going to be an “OVERPRICED” rider on their house and let me know how happy they are.

Sure, it may keep one person from looking at the property, but that price is worth paying for the dozen others that may see it because they were looking on Zillow.

Because buyers always want to look at homes that appear at first glance wildly overpriced.

If given the chance, of course I can explain why the Zestimate is wrong. Unfortunately, 99 percent of the people who will view a listing on Zillow NEVER contact a real estate agent and move on to another property incorrectly believing the Zestimate is accurate. The Zillow apologists are pushing logic even brand new agents can debunk.

So is Zillow perfect, no far from it. But a good agent who is confident in their ability and knows their market can thank Zillow for giving them an opportunity to show even more value in their services than before. It is one thing to say “I know my market and am better than an online site” it is something completely different to be able to prove it.

True. Yet I don’t think Steven Spielberg needs a side-by-side comparison between Schindler’s List and Cinemax’s Bikini Car Wash to be able to show his value as a director. Not that Bikini Car Wash, like Zillow’s data, doesn’t have its rare useful moments.

If the best you can do is prove you can correctly debunk a blatantly erroneous website, your best needs to get much better.


Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at