Zillow vs Trulia vs AutoTrader.Com

Yes, yes … I know I owe you market stats for April but those are being pushed back by this breaking news.

No, not that Zillow stock shares got crushed yesterday when the company posted a loss for the quarter.

No, not that Trulia acquired Market Leader (which, so it seems sells leads to gullible agents) which also gives them ownership of the real estate blogging network Active Rain (which seems to be the home base for gullible agents who think AR is their best friend and not a business.)

This is even better. It appears that Zillow’s strategy for improving the bottom line is diversification … boldly going another direction and taking on AutoTrader.com.

Check out this “property” listing (I’m putting the link in but odds are this listing will be gone before I hit publish.)

zillow truck


Seriously … how great is that? The only think missing is a Zlue Zook value for the truck.

You see, there’s a reason I rail about the obvious faults with Zillow. There’s a reason I left a BarCamp session to count to ten when some genius agent said “We need to be on Trulia and Zillow because that’s where our clients are.”

Reality is, anyone who is serious about looking for a home shouldn’t be looking on Trulia or Zillow because the data, in a word, sucks.

* * *

About a week and a half ago I was playing sportswriter at the Diamondbacks game for the Associated Press. Long story short, we went from a scoreless game to a Diamondbacks lead in the bottom of the eighth to a Dodgers lead in the top of the ninth. Which, for someone who has to file his story as soon as the game ends, leads to more than a little bit of scrambling.

What struck me, however, is how much I have come to rely on the Internet when writing my story. In the past couple of years, it’s become possible to look up just about anything related to baseball statistics that I may want. In fact, there are few games where I don’t look through a player’s game-by-game statistics (usually for pitchers) to check out some superlative or another.

But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Pablo Sandoval homered off of J.J. Putz in the top of the ninth. By checking MLB.com’s Gameday, I could see what type of pitch Putz threw because it’s listed there. (Both players verified the pitch, and Putz continued on to spawn what turned out to be a great story.) As I was writing the story, I wanted to say it was a hanging pitch – that it moved over the dead center of the plate. But I wasn’t absolutely certain. Lo and behold, less than five minutes after Sandoval’s home run landed, the video was on MLB.com and I could see for myself that it was in fact a hanging split-finger fastball.

This may seem minor to you but when you take pride in your ability to allow the reader to “see” what happened without being there through your words, the little details tend to make all the difference.

Here’s the point of all of this … as I search the internet through ESPN, MLB.Com, Baseball Reference and Retrosheet, I know the data is accurate. Or at least I have reason to have confidence in the data.

On Zillow and Trulia, less than one third of the listings “for sale” really are for sale. This is what agents should be telling the public en masse. Instead, proving that many real estate agents would sell their soul for a good lead (see, Glengarry Glen Ross), agents pay for advertising on these sites and add to the companies’ bottom line even as these sites take eyeballs away from agent listing sites that have the accurate data.

It’s long been my contention that Zillow truly could care less about the accuracy of the data; in fact, incorrect listings prove beneficial because they serve as unique content other (accurate) sites don’t have.

There are (likely intentionally) virtually zero controls in place to screen data. After all, it’s easier to blame the agents and brokers who provide the data than work to make sure the data’s accurate, even if such a setup is flawed.

If you don’t believe me on all of this, that’s okay. I’ve got a truck to sell you. Maybe a bridge, too. I’ll need to dig a little deeper into the “listings.”

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 allphoenixrealestate.com.