Wikipedia, Zillow and Other “Reliable” Sources

If you’re ever in the mood for a rant about the old days, I’m your guy. As Colin Cowherd said on ESPN Radio the other day, most of us spend our days looking at the rear-view mirror and not through the windshield. I’m the poster boy.

Two weeks ago, my eighth-grader was complaining loudly that he’d been assigned a five-paragraph essay due the following day. The topic? Himself.

(Cue montage of me walking to school in Mesa uphill in the non-existent snow) …

Back in the day, eighth grade was known as the year of the research paper. We’d spend countless hours looking at books (those things made of paper before the Kindle was invented), magazines (like books but with pretty pictures and glossy paper) and micro fiche readers (ummmm … Google without the keyboard or the ease of access) and write down little snippets on 3 x 5 index cards. Then we’d have to take those index cards and arrange them in the order we planned to present the facts in our research report.

20-odd pages, fully footnoted, full bibliography and a whole lot of the word ibid.

Yeah, my son, whine to someone who cares.

I weep when my children need to look up a fact and head straight to Wikipedia. Because, oddly enough for a platform designed and maintained by the mob at large and editable by anyone, there are many so-called “facts” in Wikipedia that are nothing but. Yet Wikipedia is treated like the Encylopedia Brittanica these days (an encyclopedia is a bunch of books with actual facts in alphabetical order. And books, if you recall … oh, never mind.)

My position – if you rely on Wikipedia as your source of knowledge, you only have yourself to blame when it turns out your knowledge base is faulty.

In a similar vein, Brian Boero recently wrote on the 1000 Watt Consulting blog that “we” – meaning the real estate industry – need to do a better job about ensuring the accuracy of our online listings. No disagreement there. However,  the example he chose to use was his fruitless effort to look at homes for sale on It seems one home he saw listed for sale on Zillow actually sold a year ago. And the so-called neighborhood experts that appeared on Zillow, wonder of wonders, aren’t necessarily the neighborhood experts he knows but rather (brace yourselves) agents that paid for placement on the page.

Shocking, I know, whose business is driven by advertising dollars would opt to have agents pay to be regarded as experts rather than trying to figure out who the expert is for each particular neighborhood in the United States.

Here’s the thing about Zillow … the “zestimates” are fun toys and sometimes even help identify pricing trends in a given area. There are homes listed for sale – generally speaking, whatever listings Zillow receives from the MLS systems with whom the company has reached terms along with whatever listings come through one of a dozen different syndicators and those listings directly uploaded by real estate agents or brokerages. Take a close look and you’ll quickly realize Zillow displays only a fraction of the actual homes for sale. And therefore, it’s hard to consider Zillow a true listing site anymore than you could have considered the real estate classified ads (small ads printed in something called newspapers back in the day) a true gauge of everything for sale.

And thus my position – if you’re using an admittedly non-comprehensive semi-listings site for your home search, you have no one to blame but yourself if you only see the slightest inkling of what’s for sale in a given area.

As Colin Cowherd would say, it’s a “you” problem not a “me” problem.

So where can you search all the homes listed in the MLS except those where the brokerages have shown the incredible lack of foresight to prohibit their listings from being electronically displayed? Click on the Home Search link at the top of this page or the buttons on the right.

Because this really is a listings site, or at least a site with all the listings available.

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