Zillow Acquires Trulia: Wake Up Brokers! They’re Getting Rich At Your Expense

If you haven’t heard about listing syndicator site Zillow acquiring competitor site Trulia for $3.5 Billion in stock, I feel for you…especially if you’re in real estate. Since this announcement, I’ve received a couple emails, seen a few comments, read a few newsletters, and thought I’d try to spark a dialogue here on the site.

For what it’s worth, I’m definitely not thrilled about these two companies continually capitalizing off of our data. I certainly feel they would be nothing without the brokerage community, and firmly believe real estate brokers and agents got it all wrong (especially bowing down and “claiming” our own listings on these sites…for a fee!), but who am I to judge. I want to hear what you have to say. To start the conversation, have a look at what a reader said recently in a past post we had done about how worthless Zestimates are: “Zillow Zetimates Rubbing You Wrong Too? Vent”:

Why hasn’t anyone considered starting an “Agent Owned” National CMLS Internet advertising company by which we all become coop owners and share in the ad revenues and use the service at moderately low cost. We could put a stop to all the internet companies using OUR LISTINGS to make BILLIONS and use those revenues as retirement supplements to all the coop members of the National CMLS internet company. I am sick and tired of Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com, and other sites using our listings to milk the real estate agents for money that belongs to us. These are our listings not theirs. If anyone should make money on our listings it should be us. We can put a stop to this and no longer allow these sites to use our listings. In the very least, they should be paying us for our listings. Wake up Real Estate Agents………….

Then, have a look at what a local brokerage had to say in their newsletter about making sure their listings are accurate on these sites (ever think about just killing the feed?):

This is big news in the real estate community. We know these sites are very popular with the public, and that’s why for years [brokerage] has fed its listings to both sites. This has been done to try to minimize the kind of factual errors often found on these sites. Despite their popularity, Zillow and Trulia are not getting their content from our local MLS, and so listing details can be wrong. Dramatically wrong at times.

As a matter of fact, Zillow itself gives the accuracy of its popular “Zestimates” only two out of four stars in San Francisco, admitting that these estimates have a median error of nearly 12% – that’s a big number. Still these sites are popular, and while [brokerage] believes it has enhanced the user property search experience on its own website, the company will continue to keep an eye on Zillow and Trulia, and leverage these platforms as much as possible.

Finally, have a look at this email I received on the matter:

Realtors are guilty for not keeping up with the times and being completely opposed and scared of technology, as we know well. PocketListings.net being the ultimate example. I still don’t understand how hard it was to make anyone understand the concept of creating their [Realtors’] own listing network that they control. Doing anything to really help agents is ultimately a dead end because they are all stupid – few exceptions like you :) The successful businesses don’t give a shit about agents. Zillow, Trulia…as you stated, mining all the data agents worked hard to create. Redfin, basically wants to cut the agent out of the equation. The solution is simple: kill the feeds and those companies perish, but the industry never will. It’s run by idiots.

Share your thoughts in the comments below…(Remember, you can be anonymous if you choose).

Zillow’s Zestimates Rubbing You Wrong Too? Vent!

From a reader:

Average condos in SF are up 4.9% in the past year. I am happy for everyone who owns one, but I have a problem with the means of estimating a condo’s value and that is via Zillow.
I won’t waste your time telling me to ignore Zillow, as I would like to do. But many people go to the Zillow site to see their Zestimates and I have a huge issue with Zillow on their Zestimate of my condo.

I am in a classy South Beach building and have an incredible, unobstructed view of the Bay along the Embarcadero. My neighbor, with the same footprint of a little over 1,000 sq ft 1 bed, 1 bath, has his place “Zestimated at over $1.2mil. My place used to be about that, but in the past 18 months my Zestimate has gone down to under $650,000. I think my neighbor’s place is accurately figured and it is a lovely place. But mine has a better view, by far and has no privacy issues as far as large office blocks looking right into his bedroom and dining room. So, to summarize: two identical units in the same building with a difference in Zestimates of about $600,000. Just seems impossible.

I would like to protest with Zillow but there is no opportunity to do so other than writing letters to their Seattle HQ. No responses. One real estate guy saw me complaining in a forum on Zillow and he said it is all algorhythms and there is no human input. He said to just ignore Zillow. If no one went to Zillow I would find that easy to do.

If anyone doubts me, just check out 75 Folsom #1105 and #1106. You tell me.

Any ideas?

I know our site has been asleep for a while, but anybody have any suggestions?

San Francisco Real Estate Market Values In A Fun Interactive Graph (Courtesy Of Zillow)

So we’ve heard from Realtor Economists, we’ve heard from our Association of Realtors, and looky there! Now we get to hear what Zillow thinks the real estate market is doing! Fantastic!

Have a look at San Francisco Home Values:


Now have a look at San Francisco Median Sales Price (Holy Crap Batman! It looks like Prices are all over the map!):


In all seriousness, their graphs are pretty cool and certainly fun to play around with, and if you look at their charts, our values have clearly hit a bottom and are going up, baby!!!!

Rent vs. Own Interactive Graph [theFrontSteps]
Zillow Home Values For San Francisco

Zillow Says My SF Residence Gained $300,000 In Value In Three Months!

You’ve likely seen comments on our site recently from the “Financial Samurai”, and wondered, “Is that spam?” It’s okay. We wondered the same thing, and we’ve dug a little deeper and found him to be legit. We were tipped off to one of his posts that uses Zillow to back up his claim that “Net Worth Is Rubbish. We’re not so concerned with the look into net worth, rather than the fact that ” in a span of 3 months, [his] primary [San Francisco] residence gained a whopping $300,000!” Gotta love those Zillow Zestimates.

Here’s more:

These values mean NOTHING. Zillow or an appraiser can say a property is worth whatever they want, but unless they’re willing to write you a check, don’t bank on it. Yes, I admit I feel a little bit more buoyant now that the stock markets are on fire, and the property market has rebounded a little bit. However, until I have no mortgage on my rental property [both properties of which are in San Francisco], I don’t include this as an asset even though it generates positive cash flow.

Strike your private equity, rental property, furniture, and bunny rabbit from your net worth calculation. Your illiquid assets are only worth as much as someone will pay for them. Even though we are out of the recession (Tim Geithner told me), and are back to the go go days (hard to get restaurant reservations on the fly anymore), don’t trust for a second your assets are worth as much as some appraiser or website says. Write your assets off, and revisit them once you’ve liquidated.

Thanks Samurai.

Financial Samurai [website]

More Sara, Less Zestimate

Having just spent 4:45 of our lives watching this entire spiel about “while the Zestimate’s fun to kind of get an idea…”, it’s really not accurate so don’t waste your time, we’re left with a few thoughts.

1. Sara is cute
2. Sara’s lip gloss sparkles
3. Sara’s hair shines, but how would it look brunette
4. Sara is really thinking the Zestimate is a total load of shit and will go up and down 3 times a week whenever they refresh the data, and she can’t believe she has to read that drivel, but her options will pay off someday, so she’ll keep reading and thinking of her next pedicure
5. Why a turtle neck?
6. More Sara, less Zillow psycho babble
7. Yes, we love poking fun at Zillow, always have, always will…that doesn’t mean we don’t admire their technology and vision.

Ah Zillow, You’re Still Getting All Of This Attention

We’re just going to keep our lips sealed on this and quote the email we received:

I’ve come across several properties for sale where the Zillow page was not accurate. [No Way! Seriously…okay, we couldn’t resist.]

I understand if the listing agent doesn’t want to “deal” with Zillow (doesn’t believe in zillow, doesn’t want the zillow liability, doesn’t want/have access etc.), but I don’t understand why a listing agent would mess up the Zillow page by adding one line of information that is not accurate, appropriate, systematic, professional – you name it.

My question to sellers: Do you expect your listing agent to do a good job on the Zillow page? Do you check? Would you specifically request it (written in contract)?

My question to agents: What are your best arguments 1. To stay away from the zillow page of your listing 2. To mess up the page (*) or 3. To update the listing in a thorough and professional manner (with or without the help of the seller).

(*) Mess up= update only part of the information so Zillow will not be able to accuratly record the sale. I’m specifically mad at the description paragraph when using unreadable abbreviations [even though] zillow is free, with unlimited space, and THE place to babble at will about the property (including, but not limited to mentioning the websites related to that listing.)


…holding back all further snarky Zillow comments.

Neighborcity.com…Waste More Time

A reader kindly forwarded us to a “new” website called, Neighborcity and we gotta say, aren’t Trulia, and Zillow enough?


We didn’t see anything on this site worth discussing that isn’t already found elsewhere. To us, this site is a complete waste of time. Focus your time on Trulia, Zillow (if you must to get a very, very, very rough estimate of your home’s value), and your local MLS. If you want community, go to Trulia, but beware the Realtor answers are usually loaded to bait you in.

Oh, one last thing, check the ranking of agents on Neighborcity. We’ve learned our lesson about calling out fellow agents, but that data is clearly flawed.

Thanks for the tip to the site, best of luck to them. We are fans of technology in real estate and applaud all efforts, but we weren’t impressed. We look forward to be proven wrong.

[Editor’s Note: Okay, we took another look at the site from the perspective of someone shopping for a home somewhere in the country. We’re used to dealing with internet savvy buyers and sellers, so we’re a bit jaded. We can see value in the site for those that are just beginning their home search and land on this site a la Google.]