No, I Didn’t List Your House for Sale on Zillow. Here’s Why.

If you really want the most money possible for your home in the shortest time possible, gaining marketing exposure far beyond even what Zillow may promise, click here instead. It’s no coincidence the vast majority of my listings are selling in a couple of weeks and not months.

But if you’re okay settling for the far fewer potential eyeballs Zillow will attract and far more time spent on the market rather than moving forward, just click here and then on the Zillow icon at the top left.

And with that, I invite you to read on …

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UPDATE – September ’13: Since writing this post, I’ve started marketing homes on Zillow in cases where the Zestimate is not particularly disadvantageous (see below for an explanation.) But Zillow is just one part of the equation – professional photography, single-property websites, direct mail, Trulia, Realtor.Com and IDX are among the other tools I’m using to sell homes for my clients. And most still are selling in a couple of weeks.

Before settling for Zillow and Zillow alone, or Zillow and craigslist, take a moment and consider how much more money you could net by having your home marketed fully.

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One argument you often hear from fans of Zillow, especially in light of recent arguments about the role of third-party listing sites, is that sellers will be disadvantaged if their homes are not listed for sale on a site that gets bajillions visits a day and even trades on NASDAQ.

My question is, do those bajillions of eyes on your listing really help when the site is actively doing all it can to prevent you from selling?

Below is a screen shot of a Comparative Market Analysis for non-golf course, single family detached homes in Westbrook Village (you’ll need to click on it for it to be anything close to readable, unless you’re using a 50-inch monitor).

Based on the market averages, such homes are selling for $92 a square foot and change at the moment. We’re priced competitively at $87 a square foot.

But here’s what happens when I enter this listing onto Zillow. The sales price appears at the top in nice red lettering. And right below it is Zillow’s blessed Zestimate, which approximates the value of the home 20 percent below the prevailing market value.

You read that right … an incorrect valuation, 20 percent below the going market, listed right below your sales price.

Good luck with that sale.

Click here to get your home’s TRUE market value

Reality vs. Perception

Those of us who actually sell homes for a living long have known Zillow is little more than a toy, a Magic 8 Ball of sorts where buyers and sellers go to ask what the value of a particular property and might be and, every once in a while, a valid price will come up. More often than not, though, the values given are wrong.

What makes that particularly galling is, in an area like Phoenix where tract homes are the dominant force, finding the comparative market value of a home is a relatively straight forward task. In the vast majority of cities and subdivisions, across the board averages hold fairly well because the homes just aren’t all that different, aside from possible interior upgrades (or exterior differences such as a pool, a third garage bay, etc.)

Yet even in the simplest possible market in which to estimate value, Zillow fails.

Real estate agents know this. At least most of us do – those who pay Zillow to allow them to advertise on their site either don’t know or don’t care as long as they can snare some buyers along the way, then shock them with the market’s true values.

The problem is the public is blissfully unaware that the Zestimates have no meaning. Buyers look at those numbers as a sort of validation for their own views of the market, even when those views happen to be incorrect. Many buyers end up never purchasing because they’re too busy wandering Zillow’s land of make believe to really take a hard look at what’s going on.

And if you’re a seller … why in the world would you want to see your home for sale on a site that will submarine your chosen list price by posting its own faulty estimation of value directly below your list price? How are you ever going to have a buyer seeing that listing come to believe that your home is priced accurately and competitively when Zillow stubbornly says your home’s worth 20 percent less because Zillow doesn’t know what the market value really is?

Capitulation is Not an Option

When I get on my soapbox to rail against agents who believe capitulation and appeasement with Zillow and Trulia are inevitable and necessary, this is why I am doing it – for the sake of the buying and selling public who are being sold a bill of goods without realizing it’s happening.

If we as real estate agents won’t fight for what is correct, for what is right, then what really is the point of being in this business?

It would be much easier as a listing agent to tell a seller their home will be on Zillow; other agents will do so in their listing presentations and sellers will listen to the “lots of eyeballs” argument (not much different than believing heavy foot traffic in an open house means a lot, which it doesn’t) because it’s much easier to grasp than the details of why Zillow is fighting against their sale.

But it wouldn’t be correct. It wouldn’t be right. And that’s why it’s not going to be part of my listing presentation. End of story.

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While you’re here, check out some of the photos of homes for sale in my home ZIP code of 85306.

[idx-listings zip=”85306″ minprice=”150000″ minbeds=”3″ statuses=”1″ propertytypes=”282″ orderby=”DateAdded” orderdir=”DESC” count=”10″ showlargerphotos=”true”]

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

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