Why Zillow Can Confuse Homebuyers

This post is not about the Zestimate. I actually think the Zestimate is not a bad tool and is pretty accurate a lot of the time.

The issue I notice is more to do with buyers thinking homes are available for sale that are technically not.

There’s a big kerfuffle currently going on in real estate about property listings. With brokers, agents, MLS’s and Internet portals like Zillow and Trulia each fighting for their own relevance in helping consumers to buy and sell real estate.

Zillow has three main status available for homes for sale. For sale, Pending and Sold. Arizona Regional Listing Service has four, Active, Active with Contingencies, Pending and Closed. ( Ignoring listings that have either cancelled or expired.)

Zillow Listing Status
Zillow Listing Status

The lack of an active with contingencies status is where the confusion comes through.

The home at 7527 E Gainey Ranch Road went under contract on February 24th.

Home under contract
Home under contract

Here’s the home as seen today in Zillow.

My listing on Zillow
My listing on Zillow

Now it’s not a conspiracy against Zillow. In fact they hit my radar simply because they sent me an email today telling me just how much traffic they managed to send to the listing last week.

Realtor.com and Trulia.com and a host of other sites have the same issue. In fact the home still as I write this is showing up in the Scottsdale home search page on my website and 100’s of other local broker sites pulling the information from Internet Data Exchange.

But the problem for consumers is they get confused when they inquire about a home only to learn its actually already under contract.

How Big Is the Problem?

Well there are 2,999 homes listed on ARMLS located in Scottsdale that are either active for sale or active with contingencies. Of those 2,999, 589 are actually AWC so have a valid contract on them. That’s 19.6%.

So Zillow is over stating the number of homes that are really available to buy in Scottsdale by almost one fifth. In time when the inventory is so low that can lead to frustration. Especially because the homes under contract tend to be the relatively well-priced and desirable ones.

An additional frustration is that the normal time a home is AWC before it goes pending has increased. A traditional sale will normally have a 10 day inspection period, followed by a 5 day response period. Once that last bit of negotiation is wrapped up status can change to pending. However, once you add short sale contingencies in the time frame increases significantly.

Should I use Zillow?

Yes I think it’s a great starting point. The search features are good. The maps are good. You can remain anonymous, it doesn’t trigger phone calls, emails from agents that you might not be ready to work with.

So I say use Zillow to begin your search but just remember some homes showing for sale may already have a contract on them so don’t fall in love until you check with someone who has live MLS data.