Zillow – the internet tool that changed the way we look for homes. I’ll admit, before I was a REALTOR® I used to browse Zillow for our first home. There are some awesome things about Zillow – easy to look at, videos and photos of homes, and all that helpful info they provide at the bottom. Or is it helpful?
There are a few things about Zillow that you can really count on for accuracy – the description, the photos, and the Facts and Features section. All of that info is pulled from your area’s MLS (multiple listing service) and was put in by the agent selling the home so this is the same information you would find if you were to contact an agent and they were to send you the listing directly from MLS. Awesome! (Note: Virginia is a “buyer beware state,” meaning that all information is put in by the agent and is deemed reliable from the seller but should be double checked by the buyer before purchase.) However, there are some areas where Zillow isn’t the most reliable resource.
The areas you should review with caution:
The Estimated Mortgage
This number doesn’t always account for some of the costs that your actual mortgage lender will, such as PMI, interest, or home insurance. I highly recommend contacting a the loan officer you’ll be using before falling too deep in love with a home that Zillow says you can afford.
You probably think this connects you directly to the agent selling this house, right? Nope. Filling out this section will send your info to an agent who pays for lead generation privileges who will then contact you. They most likely won’t have intimate knowledge of the home you’re asking about. This is a great way to connect with an agent but doesn’t necessarily get you the immediate answers you are looking for.
Seeing the Zestimate for a house you’re interested in can make you feel as if the seller is asking you to overpay for a home. The fact is, the Zestimate is pulled from user submitted data, such as tax records, and Zillow is dependent on potentially incorrect data to determine their Zestimate. Zillow doesn’t truly doesn’t know your market the way a local agent does either. Connecting with a Realtor® allows you to get more detailed information about your area’s market, the tax records on a home, and the average sales price of similar homes.
Zillow is a great tool to browse for homes before you’re truly ready to dive into home buying. When you’re ready to start the hunt for your home though it’s best to connect with a mortgage lender to determine your budget and a Realtor® to help you find the right home. Not sure how to pick a Realtor®? I got you covered with a list of interview questions!