I am sure that many of you looking for homes or sellers who are considering selling their homes look to Zillow and Trulia to gather information. Then, are surprised to find out that it may not be what it appears.
As a premier zillow agent, I get many calls inquiring about property listings. Buyers want to confirm that it is available and to verify information on the listing like taxes. Sellers who want to list homes look at Zillow to see what their neighbors houses may be selling and to look at their “Zillow Estimate” for their own home. Similar information can also be found on Trulia.
So, why when you call a real estate agent listed to help you, do you discover that the property is no longer available, or has an accepted offer, or that the taxes are actually more than listed. From a seller side, you assume that the Zillow or Trulia estimate is what you can depend on to get an idea of what to sell for.
On the buyer side, when I get a call, the first thing I do is look the listing up on the MLS. That is a Westchester’s real estate agent’s “bible” of what available on the market. It is updated in live time, but even that may have some inaccuracies. So, it is important the your real estate agent also calls the listing agent to confirm the information. The one thing that neither Zillow, Trulia nor the MLS can most of the time not tell you is if there is an accepted offer on the property. Some good listing agents are now putting that information in the agent notes portion of the MLS listing. But, they do not have to put anything on the MLS until it is in contract. Then it is changed to “C” for contract. If it is temporarily taken off the market, the agent should be “T” for temporarily off. Zillow and Trulia do not operate in “live time”. I also recently found out that they do not get their information off the MLS nor confirm it with MLS. They use “live feeds” from other sources. They also may not post a property that is in contract in a timely manner. That is something you need to call a real estate agent about. Taxes on listings may be from 2013. If you notice that, its another thing that a real estate agent must verify with the town if they want to be accurate.
On the seller side, many potential sellers when first looking use Zillow or Trulia to get an idea of what the estimate is for selling their house. In this regard, I can not fault
Zillow or Trulia for not having an accurate estimate since there are so many variables that affect how much you can put your house on the market for. It may have upgrades that other houses do not have, or it may be in really antiquated condition in which the appraiser can either add or take points off for. They also do estimates based upon an average and not always based upon school districts or town borders which can impact the appraisal. The only real way to get a truer estimate is for a real estate agent to visit your home, and then go back and to comps of similar size houses within a 1 mile radius (if possible) on the MLS. If you feel your estimate is wrong on Zillow, you can go in and edit the information to better reflect your home. I was curious recently about my home, which is not for sale. Since Trulia and Zillow do list “off market” homes, I put my address in. Here is the shocker. They had the date we built it wrong, they had the square footage way off, and the value was through the roof! I would have loved to sell it at double what we just had it appraised for, but that is not real. Even when I went in and changed the square footage from the 5,598 sq feet they had to the actual 3,240 I have, it still came up with the value. There was a note, however, saying they could not find comps in my exact location, so went further out. Further out which is only mile and half away is in a much higher house price bracket due to the school district!
So, the lesson from this blog is:
Do not shoot the messenger (your real estate agent) when they tell you a property on one of these sites has an accepted offer, is temporarily off the market, or has taxes different than what is stated
Find one real estate agent that you relate to who knows the market, and would will set you up on your own direct MLS system so you can see all properties coming in and being sold in “live time”. You can set up your own parameters, change when you like, and correspond with the agent with questions. I set up my buyers on Listingbook which is accessible through my website.
All real estate agents in Westchester County have access to all of the listings and can show you any property through any real estate agent on the MLS. So, use them to do all of your leg work.
If you are looking to buy or sell a home in Westchester County, let me be your resource from start to finish.
J. Philip Real Estate is Westchester & Putnam's premier independent brokerage. Founded in 2005, the firm has grown from a single broker to a strong organization of well over 80 associates despite the housing downturn. The team's commitment to results and client advocacy, as well as our focus on technology and innovation, have positioned us as the "go to" brokerage for area buyers and sellers.