Just last week, on the 4th, Zillow was named in a lawsuit in the Texas court system per the Orange County Register. It’s a patent infringement lawsuit brought on by Santa Ana’s own First American CoreLogic Inc. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a Real Estate Professional that is a fan of the sometimes wildly low or high (and sometimes spot-on) “Zestimates” which can be troublesome when trying to provide your professional opinion. The patent lawsuit hinges on the infringement of a “automated valuation model” or AVM. I’m not sure most Consumers are aware that when you’re doubting a professional, it’s versus a computer. While there are some areas or cities that can have their value found with simple statistics: bedrooms, bathrooms, SF, lot SF; there are some that get a little more complicated. Say, a street like Sierra Madre in Glendora. While being just South of Sierra Madre in Glendora is still fairly high into the Foothills, there is a certain status that comes with living North of the street. And, if you live North of Sierra Madre, as your REALTOR, it’s my duty to help you sell your home for the true value of it’s worth. That is just one example but I’m more than able to give different examples. In any event, Zillow’s been issued a Cease and Desist but has stated that they have “no plans to change any aspect of our business as a result of this complaint.” We’ll see how long that hold out lasts…
Also, I came across an article over the weekend that I had to address. I’ve had clients email me similar articles and I address each and every concern by bullet-points, which I’m happy to do, to dispel any myths or inaccuracies. The 4 Biggest Lies in Real Estate was on Yahoo’s front-page and is in their Finance section now. I’ll just address each of the 4 points here:
- Phony Photos and Videos: While there is imaging software available, I’ve only used such software to brighten a picture that didn’t catch enough light. (And, I didn’t actually do it, I had someone who corrects pictures more efficiently take care of it for me because I don’t actually own the software.) While there might be Agents color correcting photos, the most they usually do is enhance the colors not edit them completely. I always advise my clients to drive by a home they’re interested in. I know the article suggests other websites but there’s something to be said with familiarizing yourself with the neighborhood. In regards to the video, I’ve yet to see this but, again, I would just schedule an appointment to see the interior if you’ve already driven by the exterior and you approve of the area. Just think of the pictures and videos as an idea, not the full effect.
- Valuations Lacking Value: And, here are our friends at Zillow (and more). I like the idea of getting an appraisal done but if you’re working with a REALTOR from the area, you’re probably in safe hands. If you’re moving to or from an area, you can always talk to your REALTOR and they can usually find someone (or already know someone) to or from where you’re moving. The idea is to look over the Comparable Sales Data that each REALTOR provides but also look at their marketing strategy for your home. Most people forget that last part.
- Mortgage Rates You Can’t Get: This is another pet-peeve of mine. I work with professionals in every aspect of the business (including lending) and it’s highly upsetting to see these ads for these super low rates that only a few can actually qualify for and even then there is probably a hidden agenda. The best you can do is to talk to your REALTOR and have them give you contact information for a few lenders they’ve worked with in the past that they trust to take care of you. You then can build trust with that lender directly.
- Unreal Property Descriptions: While our verbiage can get a bit… flowery, we mean well. We’re trying to paint our Sellers’ home in the best possible light. You’d want us to do the same for you and your gold appliances… they’re retro, right? I’ve also been pretty blunt in describing homes where the Seller had taken off their rose-colored glasses and saw their home for what it was and received some “thank you” calls from REALTORS. They appreciate the honesty, just like ya’ll do. And, while we’re not trying to trick ya’ll, unless our Seller is looking at the pros and cons the way we are, are hands are tied at how blunt or flowery we’re going to be.
- Bonus: Euphemism Alert: Okay, that’s just funny! I’ve read and walked through almost all of these and while I don’t believe I would advertise them like this, I can giggle thinking about showings where a client and I were both supremely surprised to find what they were describing. Ah, the joys of the world of Real Estate!