Monday, September 5, 2011


Having spent approximately six months looking for houses back before I finally bought this place, I thought looking for property would be second nature to me. I did searches for all the real estate agents with online presence for the area we are interested in moving too and put them all in bookmarked folder so I can refer to them often. This allows me to do two things. The first thing is to keep track of houses that sell in the area we are interested in so we know what they are going for and allow us to know a deal when we see one. The second thing is to give us some history on how fast houses are selling which when combined with price also allows you to get a good deal when you find one. If a house has been sitting on the market for three years, as some of them have, then you know they are asking more than the market can bare. If they were snapped up a week after being listed, the owner probably could have asked more for it.

Once you get in the habit of checking numerous real estate sites on a frequent basis, it doesn't become much of a time drain because you quickly realize which houses are new, which houses you aren't interested in due to location, condition, price, etc, and which houses interest you but have been online for a long time. Yet I found myself wishing that there could be one site much like Kayak which consolidates all the airline sites that would do the same for real estate sites. Then one day I found Zillow.

Zillow is a website that does just that, well the closest to that I've found so far. It evidently scours real estate sites and puts together a comprehensive list of houses that you can sort by myriads of different filters to end up with a small list of houses that interest you. It also gives you the listing history of a house as it switches between realtors so you can track how long the owner has been trying to sell the place and perhaps give me a sense of who might be willing to make a deal. It has been a godsend full of information and has helped me narrow down what constitutes a deal much more quickly. However, it does have a drawback.

While using the map feature to find houses in areas that we are interested in versus finding a house only to learn that it is in an area that you don't want to live, I found a house that I hadn't seen before. The picture listed on Zillow wasn't a flattering picture and it only had one so it might be possible that I just saw it and moved on. But when I clicked on a link to take a virtual tour of the house, I found myself directed to another website with several dozen more pictures. The house was perfect. After looking at the pictures, it had all my qualifications that I was looking for in a house and was priced at a reasonable price. In other words, I thought it was a pretty good deal. I did some more research looking into the area, the property taxes, the owners to see why they might be selling, etc. Everything looked good. I showed my wife the property and she too was instant enamored with the place. We hadn't even signed a contract yet, but it seemed like too good of deal to pass up. We decided to call the realtor to make an appointment to at least go look at it which can a lot of times change your mind completely. It has persuaded me from buying houses in the past that looked great on paper.

Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately since we are still early in the process, the realtor told us that it had been sold several months ago. Their website had reflected this by severing the link but in the age of nothing ever being removed from the internet, Zillow still found the web page associated with it and displayed it their consolidated site. So now I suspect that there are probably lots of houses on there that were for sale but are no longer. I don't think this detracts me from Zillow since it still provides me with lots of information but it does remind me that I still need to double check the realtors site to make sure the house is still for sale before I get all excited.


R. Sherman said...

We've been using Zillow lately, as well, though a friend of mine in real estate says the values it places on homes not for sale tend to be on the low side. Nonetheless, it's a good resource for comparing asking prices with neighborhood prices to get an idea if somebody wants way too much money for their place. That's a common malady today, it seems, because many people still haven't come to grips with the fact that the real estate market has gone tits up.


Ed said...

R. Sherman - There has been a house I've been following that has been on the market since the fall of 2008. It has been through a number of realty agents. A couple months ago, it was pulled off the realtors site and I used Zillow to track down the new realtors site to see if they lowered it to a reasonable price. Low and behold they jacked the price up another $30k. One must assume they really aren't interested in selling the place.