Zillow can be a great start for a buyer searching homes that meet their criteria, but remember that Zillow is not as accurate as you expect them to be in the real estate world. Zillow pulls in information from automated valuation models that apply algorithms to analyze data within a specific geographical area, public records, and information from Realtors, buyers, and sellers when listings are input on the Zillow site. So, when Zillow shows a "Zestimate" they do not always get accurate information from their sources. They usually do not know the details, upgrades to a home, or a home that is in great need of repairs. Also, within the last few years we have been battling homes being under-valued due to all the foreclosures and short sales sold at low prices. Realtors struggle at times to come up with an estimated value of a home, but Realtors go above and beyond to over-look the distressed home sales, and try to use only traditional sales as comparable sales when possible. So, Zillow can be way off on the value of a home, either too high or too low. Like I stated above, Zillow is a great start for a buyer, but a buyer should not make decisions based on Zillow Zestimates. Discuss the value of a home with your Realtor before placing an offer on any home.
Keeping open communication, and having faith in your Realtor can save a buyer time, and money in the long run. I have seen so many buyers looking at properties on Zillow within a certain price range, and insisting that they will only pay a certain amount for a particular home, because Zillow Zestimate valued a home at a certain price. The buyer views it on Zillow, and assumes that a 3 bedroom, 2 bath foreclosure home within a subdivision is listed for $150,000, and they refuse to look at the 3 bedroom 2 bath home within the same subdivision that is listed for $185,000 because they feel it is over-priced. Well, what you don't see(or Zillow) is that foreclosure has had major sinkhole repair, needs a new roof, has no appliances, missing kitchen cabinets, and probably will not pass inspections, and possibly will not be financeable. The home for $185,000 just had the roof replaced, newer a/c unit, upgraded kitchen with stainless steel appliances, tile floors, the owner was just transferred out of state with his job, is anxious to sell, and the home is in move-in condition. Now, the buyer decides to place an offer on the foreclosure for $150,000. We wait 1 week for an answer from the bank, and all of a sudden we receive an addendum stating there are multiple offers, and they need the buyers to sign the "multiple offer" disclosure, and they are asking for the buyers highest and best offer. So, the buyer decides to sign the disclosure, but keep their offer as it stands. Another week goes by, and we find out the offer has been rejected, and a cash offer has been accepted. The buyers are discouraged, and we start looking again. They go back to Zillow every evening, so they can send us properties that are already pending, or that has issues, and will only accept cash offers(you do not see this info on Zillow). So, a couple more weeks go by, and now they want to look at the house that was listed for $185,000. I have to tell them the bad news, " that home went into pending three weeks ago". So, either they end up looking at smaller homes for $150,000 - $185,000, or they end up paying $5000 - $15,000 more for the same home that was listed for $185,000 that I offered to show them 3 - 5 weeks ago. I know Zillow means well, but it can cost a buyer precious time and money.
The moral of this story is do not take a Zestimate as a decision maker in you home buying process, and find a Realtor that you can trust, address your concerns, and ask many questions. Your Realtor should take all your concerns, questions seriously, and address all in a professional and respectful manner. Let your Realtor utilize their real estate knowledge, negotiating abilities, and expertise to assist in finding you the home that best fits your real estate needs and wants in a timely manner to save you precious time, and extra money that should stay in your pocket. Remember, it does not cost a buyer a dime to use a professional Realtor.