Through the technological development of modern industries, many dealings which were once done in person are now accomplishing many of the same achievements online, without so much as a spoken word – even in Aggieland. This is obvious in the growing online market, visible through companies like Amazon, and is required for most, if not all, modern retailers to continue surviving. So why not the Real Estate Business? Conventional Real Estate has endured as a personal industry for much longer than many others, but the development and growth of the website, “Zillow” is trying to change everything.
So what is Zillow?
Zillow is an online, “user-friendly” website that allows potential home-buyers and sellers to view different options in their area without leaving the comfort of their homes or needing to contact a real-estate agent for insight on properties for sale in the area. Zillow currently has over 4 million homes listed for sale across the nation, allowing a venue for sellers to post their houses to a broad audience, and giving potential home buyers an opportunity to view a wide variety of options before making and committing decisions in the home-buying process.
But houses on the market is not all that Zillow has to offer. Zillow also provides 50,000+ ratings and reviews on local real estate agents, as well as 10,000+ reviews on mortgage lenders. From buying and selling to renting, leasing, financing and remodeling, Zillow has everything, and the information and reviews to back it up. Zillow also has a “Zillow Advice” section that allows customers to ask direct, specific questions about online browsing and the different offerings and aspects of Zillow.
How do they do it?
Zillow divides its search engine into individual houses, categorized by location first. Each of which provides a detailed description, price, statistics on the house (like number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, etc.), address, multiple pictures of the area, estimated mortgage, and much more. The search engine is also categorized by factors such as houses for sale vs houses for rent, houses recently sold, and even a “make me move” category which entices you with a cut-rate deal on a generally beautiful land that might be viewed as a gem, coming through the hands of the right Realtor.
Imagine a “Google” type home page, split into the categories “Homes, Rentals, Mortgage Rates, Advice, Professionals, Local Info, Blog, and More.” Then you select your category, enter in your zip code or a specific address for the real-estate you wish to search, and then POW: you have your results. Typing in a local zip code like 77840 in the “houses” catagory, for instance, will bring up over six-hundred results in the central, down-town area alone! Of these there is over 250 for sale, almost 350 for rent, only 3 recently sold, and then a precious 5 under the “Make Me Move” category.
Each house is posted by the seller, and it can be viewed how recently it was put on Zillow. For some locations and houses the information is abundant, while others are lacking certain statistics, descriptions, and pictures. Thus already it becomes clear that Zillow is not an end in and of itself, but rather a broad beginning.
How can you use it?
The CEO of Zillow, Spencer Rascoff, in an interview with Rick Roque, claims that “the company we resemble the most in both strategy and business is WebMD.” Rascoff compares how WebMD “showers you with information and articles,” but never goes as far as to hand over the prescription themselves. That is the doctor’s job, and WebMD only serves as a beginning for the customer to get an idea of what their symptoms are before they decide to see a doctor.
Zillow functions in much of the same way as WebMD. Zillow gives an idea of what the real-estate in a certain area might be like, and even gives specific prices, images, and statistics on houses which serve as a great starting position for a potential home buyer. But Zillow does not lead you through the house to inspect it yourself, and it does not put you in direct contact with the seller of that house. That is the real estate agent’s job, and Zillow can only point you in the direction of the correct real estate to choose, once you have an idea of what you are looking for. Rascoff himself admits that Zillow is a starting point, and should “you want a more specific appraisal then you should be working with a real-estate professional.”
And of course, in all reality, Texas is a non-disclosure state, so the public itself cannot disclose any more than the Realtors know themselves about the actual price of the real-estate. Necessarily, then, interested home-buyers must deal with local real estate agents if they wish to get the most accurate information for real-estate in the Brazos valley.
So while the Real Estate industry has not succumbed entirely to the rapidly converting online business world, it has still provided a useful, if not necessary, tool to help home-buyers begin their adventures. By using Zillow as a starting point for real estate in the Brazos valley, it can be incredibly useful to learn a general idea about prices, statistics, and descriptions of houses in a certain area, as well as receiving possibly useful feedback on local Realtors and other professionals. But it only truly serves as a first stepping stone in the exciting process of home buying, and to continue to the next level it is necessary to get in contact with local professionals, and use the tools and resources of local real estate companies to research further into your future real estate interest.
As a real estate agent active in the listing and selling of real estate in the Brazos Valley I have found that the information on Zillow is interesting but often incorrect. Don’t rely on software from a company well outside the Bryan College Station (Aggieland) real estate market to give you information that really only a local professional Real Estate Agent can provide.
PS – Susan Hilton is Bryan College Station, Texas’ real estate specialist in foreclosure sales and real estate agent career building so if you need help –