One of the main reasons that realtors hate Zillow, is the issue of inaccurate information. And this issue also affects buyers. For instance, a buyer may come across a house listed on Zillow, which aligns with their budget, personal preferences and locations. However, that same house may have been sold weeks or months ago, but Zillow never bothered to update the listing. Sometimes, Zillow fails to update this information intentionally for one main reason. The more listings they have on their site than their competitors, the more realtors that they will attract. And this means more advertising money for them. Sadly, it's the realtors' reputation that is usually hurt due to these issues.
Also, Zillow will knowingly engage in false advertising, in an attempt to drive traffic to their site. For example, a realtor may list a house for sale on Zillow. Zillow will then go ahead and indicate that this house is up for foreclosure. Unfortunately, the realtor doesn't have the means to correct or fix this information. As a result, some potential buyers will avoid such houses, since most foreclosed homes are in extremely bad shape.
Another issue associated with Zillow is their online estimate or calculator, popularly known as Zestimates. Zestimates are algorithm-driven appraisals, designed to provide users with a cost estimate of a certain property. Unfortunately, these estimates are highly inaccurate. According to information published by economist John Wake, Zillow estimate error can be as much as $14,000. And you don't even know whether the property has been undervalued by $14,000 or overvalued by $14,000. In most cases, the houses are usually overvalued.
You may be probably asking yourself how Zillow's Zestimates can be so inaccurate. Well, the value of a house is usually determined by various factors. In short, no two properties are the same. Therefore, using the same computer-driven algorithm to determine their value is a wrong approach, which explains the inaccuracies. For instance, houses listed on the Zillow website are in different locations, have different amenities, different square footage and such factors.
Even if two houses are sitting on the same property, they will not cost the same, unless they are exact replicas of each other. Therefore, the only way that you can determine the actual value of a house is to have inspectors go on site, and assess all the aspects of the house. The problem is, most sellers are not willing to do that. They just use Zillow's online calculator and then use the figure generated as the sale price of the house.
Zillow knows that realtors are to pay top dollar so that their listings can reach as many potential customers as possible. Therefore, they have found a means of pressuring realtors into entering expensive advertising contracts, so that they can have access to information that they already own. For instance, if the property agent agrees to pay the exorbitant advertising fee, Zillow will promise to direct leads to them. The problem is, Zillow will also promote other agents alongside those who have paid top-dollar for the advertising.
Also, a single listing will have several realtors, which will end up confusing the buyer. Therefore, as much as you may have paid top dollar for Zillow to push leads your way, you will also be competing with other agents who may not have been registered on the platform. And as a result, you may be tricked to pay even more money. As you can see, it's a never-ending cycle of greed and trickery. Zillow, by their own admission, have also conceded that they will advertise and promote anything that comes their way. They don't bother to check whether the listing information is accurate or not. And this shows that they are just after advertising revenue.
Theft of Intellectual Property
As a realtor, you have to invest hundreds of dollars, if not thousands, to promote your business on various channels and platforms. You will have to invest in videos, photography, virtual tours, and flyers, among others. Considering that you've paid for these marketing materials, they explicitly belong to you, and no one else. The problem is, Zillow usually takes or extracts this content from various platforms and then uses it on their website. And they do so without safeguarding against theft and duplication.
With time, this same content will eventually find its way to other sites like Craigslist, where real estate scams are rife and highly prevalent. Considering that this content contains personal details like descriptions of the property, property address or even contact information, it's the realtor who will be held accountable if there is any scam and not Zillow. At the end of it all, the realtor or real estate agent may end up with negative reviews, which may eventually lead to loss of business, just because Zillow didn't safeguard their marketing materials against theft or duplication. Unfortunately, there is nothing that realtors can do about this theft of intellectual property.
Zillow attracts all sorts of people, and anyone can post on their platform. It's basically just like Craigslist. However, their open-door policy provides an opportunity for fraudsters and con artists to step in steal from people. Whenever a house or property is listed on Zillow, they don't conduct any due diligence to determine whether the person who has posted the house is the owner. Also, Zillow doesn't bother to establish whether the house exists on the said location or the information provided for the house is accurate. And since the fraudsters present themselves as representatives of known realtors, it's very easy for people to fall victim to these scams.
Unscrupulous Business Practices
Realtors also hate Zillow due to their unscrupulous business practices as well as an unfair market advantage. For instance, if you are a real estate agent who operates in Long Island, you will have to pay an annual fee of approximately $600 so that you can post a home on a local MLS listing service. And in most situations, local MLS listing services provide accurate and up-to-date information. Also, local listing services have firm rules and regulations on what gets published on their platforms as well as how it's promoted. In short, local realtors and agents must comply with listing and selling rules.
Zillow, on the other hand, doesn't operate within the same rules. The company doesn't collect listing or property dates. Instead, they extract information from publicly available records and then combine that data to promote their listing service. And this data may entail homes for sale, homes coming up for foreclosure, for sale by owner and REO, among others. Unfortunately, this information is not updated regularly. Furthermore, this information is unlawfully acquired.
Another issue that agents and realtors encounter on Zillow is that it operates like a bidding service. While you may have paid Zillow to list your properties on the platform, agents who have paid for Zillow's Premier Agent status will always be prioritized. As you can see, their operations are not only unscrupulous but unfair. Therefore, if you are a realtor or real estate agent, it's time to start thinking of other options when it comes to marketing, promoting your properties.
Lack of Legal Responsibility
All licensed property managers and realtors are bound by certain ethical and legal regulations. And they take these regulations seriously. The problem is, Zillow is not bound by the same rules. They have identified a legal loophole that they use to extract information and share it on their platforms. Furthermore, even if they post inaccurate information, no one will hold them to account. Hence, a legal mechanism must be created to fix this issue. And until that happens, Zillow will continue advertising properties and posting inaccurate information, thus making the realtors look untrustworthy to buyers.