Matrix Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Zillow’

Reading The Signs: Casual Fonts To Hook The Naive

November 22, 2006 | 2:18 pm | | Radio |

About 6 months ago, I first noticed one of these signs in my home town.

But they multiplied and soon they were everywhere. I was at a party a few months ago and met Alexis Palmer, the advertising guru at Curbed who asked me if I had noticed these signs as well. I did and meant to take a picture.

Well today I finally got around to it.

What would possess someone to call the number to get into real estate investment (excluding crank calls)? The casual style suggests someone just hand wrote the sign because either they were too busy investing or because its some sort of soft sell approach (until you see them on every block).

I noticed on WFAN, an AM radio station in New York, that every other commercial is “How to get rich in real estate”, “How to buy a foreclosed house for $99 per month” and others, hawking free books and seminars on the subject.

The FTC processes public relations incentived complaints about Zillow and yet this radio stuff goes unchecked. Should public advertising and radio commercials have different regulatory standards than the Internet?

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Real Estate Connect NYC 2007: Braving Gotham

November 20, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

Inman News will be entering New York City this January for their next Connect event. The west coast version has long proved to be a must-attend function for real estate professionals and the east coast versions is proving to be as important. I attended last year’s NYC conference and got a lot out of it, especially networking with others. As a panel member I learned that Brad will keep the show rolling, despite any snafus or delays. (Brad: I now know where you do your dry cleaning.)

Useless observation: If the conference is held at the Marriott/Times Square, why does the photo banner look like its taken from Trump International Hotel on a low floor (too far north to be in Time Warner/Columbus Circle)?

But I digress.

This year I am moderating a panel which as an appraiser and valuation consultant, covers a topic that is near and dear to my heart:

VALUATION: New Tools to Set Buyer and Seller Expectations

The panelists are being confirmed now. So far we have:

  • Marty Frame, CIO, Fidelity National Real Estate Solutions
  • Jeff Somers, Director of Partner Services,

Valuation is a real sensitive topic right now because of changing market conditions. Feel free to forward questions or suggestions to me for the panelists, or names of panelists you’d like to see.

I am also really looking forward to meeting individuals whom I have admired their work from a distance plus reconnecting with friends and colleagues…hmmm.. “connecting” now I get it, Real Estate “Connect.”

I find that conferences like these are what make the lightbulb go off in my head. A lot of ideas are thrashed around. Its better than coffee.


Carnival Of Real Estate [Week of November 13, 2006]

November 14, 2006 | 4:34 pm |

Apparently I was operating a ferris wheel without a license so I needed to take a month off from the carnival. What better way to re-enter the carnival than through True Gotham, a true barker of the New York real estate experience.

What is a carnival?

Here’s a great carnival Q & A. Its basically a a bunch of blogs that take turns displaying the favorite posts for the group each week. Carnivals can vary by topics and of course and the most relevant to Matrix readers is the Carnival of Real Estate.

This week’s host: True Gotham drove around in their cool car to find the best posts submitted by carnival members.

Next week’s host: Ubertor will use their application know-how to filter out the great from the alpha and beta posts. Click on the button below to get more information on how to join, host and submit posts to the carnival.


[List-o-links] From The Tank: Bears, Goldilocks And GDP

November 6, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

A lot of economic negativity this week – didn’t get time to expand on them – so I put treads on the tank and dragged ’em off the beach.


Zillow Gets FTC’d Despite Randomness Of Their Inaccuracy

October 31, 2006 | 8:23 am | |

Zillow has been the punching bag of many of late, and perhaps its simply backlash from the large amount of free publicity they got after launch. It generated a lot of buzz to the point where bloggers were so sick of talking about them that they swore to abstinence (from Zillow) for a while.

People have had a chance to use the site for a while now and are beginning to realize how inconsistent the results are. Very accurate in some markets, very inaccurate in other markets and a lot of markets in between so you don’t quite know when and where the results are accurate. The results can be like snowflakes: pretty to look at, but the results for each search can provide a random result. They publish the ratings but I am sure the consumer doesn’t refer to them very often. And seriously, 52% accuracy in NYC means the results should not be published, should it? I have commented on this before since I am in the valuation business.

Zillow is such a neat concept on paper, but in the end, all data goes into a black box and spits out a number. They over promised and should have moved slowly over the country as they felt comfortable in each market. The logarithms that create the “Zestimates” are proprietary and perhaps thats what drives the suspicion, combined with pretty significant inaccuracy ratings.

Despite what I think are best efforts on Zillow’s part, however, I suspect we are seeing the first of several attempts to shut them down or change their model, refuting the argument that since they disclose their inaccuracy, they can continue business as usual. Because of their high visibility, its likely to become a public relations coup for anyone that goes after them.

Damon Darlin writes about the complaint filed by the Community Reinvestment Coalition in his article A Home Valuation Web Site Is Accused of Discrimination.

In a letter sent by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition to the Federal Trade Commission last Thursday, the group asserted that Zillow’s Web site misrepresented home values and placed residents in low-income neighborhoods “more at risk for discriminatory and predatory lending practices.”

Here’s the complaint [pdf]

I don’t really follow CRC’s logic for taking this action since all markets are subject to various degrees of inaccuracy but its going to be interesting to see what the FTC does. I have seen this from my own personal experiences from family members in different parts of the country who have used the site.

Complaints are filed against appraisers for inaccuracy too, but unless there is negligience or fraud commited, its simply an opinion. I know first hand that data collecting in my urban market is often very challenging, and more difficult than in many surrounding suburban markets. Besides record keeping issues, one overlooked reason for the inaccuracy of urban areas is the challenge of valuation in a “vertical” market. Condos and co-ops stacked on top of each other is very difficult to automate.

Whats also really interesting, is the fact that they have been marketing to consumers in order to bypass the real estate professional, but recently the orientation has changed to try to be broker-friendly. This attempt to placate the brokerage community backfired recently and the pr spokesman for the NYT article contradicted themselves by saying:

[UPDATE]A Zillow spokeswoman, Amy Bohutinsky, said the site’s valuations, which it calls Zestimates, were intended for consumers and had never been marketed to real estate professionals. The company sees the tool as a way to empower consumers who in the past would have to rely on a real estate agent to make an estimate based on the sales of comparable homes in a neighborhood.

Is Zillow’s market ignorance in certain areas bliss? Thats up to the FTC, apparently.

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[List-o-links] From The Tank: Tools, Lessons And Messages

October 27, 2006 | 12:05 am | |

Periodically I purge some links I collect that are worthy of a post or were interesting or fun, but I didn’t have enough time to expound upon and too much time had passed by. Since I didn’t want them to let them be forgotten, I pulled them out of the tank – definitely worth checking out.

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[Matrix Vortex] Second Thoughts On The Zillow-Realtor Smackdown

October 23, 2006 | 7:56 am | |

On occasion, there is a surge of commentary on a particular topic presented as a post on Matrix that seems to warrant some additional followup. I often learned a lot from these comments as they seem to push the discussion a little deeper.

The word Vortex or something regarded as drawing into its powerful current everything that surrounds it came to mind as a way to describe this sort of feedback about a particular topic. Hence, Matrix Vortex.

Topic: and
Post: Zillow Gets Pillowed In Old School Smackdown [Matrix]

One of the most incendiary topics of late has been anything that has included the word “Zillow” in it when the topic concerns brokers.

Last week the post Zillow Gets Pillowed In Old School Smackdown stirred up a Vortex of discussion, ranging from to A lot of passion was provided in the commentary.

A few days after his appearance on the CAR panel, Allan Dalton, the president and CEO of, was promoted to president of the Move, Inc. Real Estate Division [RISMedia]. Honestly, I was surprised by his photo in the RISMedia story. I had pictured him as being a lot older than his old school commentary suggested and perhaps he represents the current mindset within NAR. He seems to be one of the rising stars of NAR and wouldn’t be surprised if he eventually becomes its president. His aggressive, take no prisoners style may be what NAR is favoring these days as they are being attacked on all sides, including the Department of Justice lawsuit.

At the same time, the Lloyd Frink, president of Zillow, posted a politically correct recap of his experience at the California Association of Realtors conference (which was personally disappointing to me for its blandness, specifically, the heated panel discussion with Allan Dalton). What I found particularly interesting was the fact that he didn’t mention the attack by Dalton at all. Frink also backpeddled from his past experience with Expedia suggesting that the Realtor is essential to the process, unlike travel agents, which is what Expedia rendered nearly obsolete. It seems like only now Zillow is realizing how important Realtors are to their long term strategy or they underestimated the backlash.

The irony here is that is a cluttered, crowded web experience and doesn’t include listings. Why so much friction? Can’t they ever get along or is it too late?

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Zillow Gets Pillowed In Old School Smackdown

October 19, 2006 | 6:12 am |

pillow acted very bravely by participating in a panel discussion about the future of real estate information [OCR] at a Realtor convention. zillow-logo The president of Zillow, Lloyd Frink, took the high road, yet was pretty candid about the future of the relationship between Realtors and their clients and customers.

“We believe the relationship between Realtors and their clients is going to change in the future,” Frink said in response to critics in the room. “As opposed to Realtors being gatekeepers of this information, they become much more of experts on what this information means.”

His is right and its already happening. 75% of buyers and sellers start with the Internet first before contacting an agent. Think about it, why would the Zillow concept, warts and all, be so popular? Is it because Realtors are accurate? Thats really not the point at all. Consumers want to gather information and digest it before they enter the sales process. The problem with Zillow, is its not consistent in its results so it promises more than it can deliver. Since the results come from a secret black box of algorithms, its a tough sell to real estate professionals.

But was pretty annoyed with Zillow [Telegraph] and went on the attack (aka the low road) which may have gotten some laughs and attention, but doesn’t help their cause at all. It paints a picture of the old guard, trying to keep things the same, which is not what the trade group needs to do.


Allan Dalton, president of the competing site, bitterly criticized, likening the site’s trademark Zestimates of home values to a carnival weight and age guesser., which is sponsored by the National Association of Realtors, provides listings of homes for sale by ZIP code from Realtor databases.

“The whole notion of suggesting to people that they can find out what their home is worth without a Realtor offends me,” Dalton said.

You’ve got to admire Zillow’s attempt to bridge the gap between them and the Realtor community. They are simply providing a new tool, valuable or not, to a trade group that is seeing the world change around them. However, its going to be a tough road for Zillow despite the fact that they are one of the most popular real estate sites on the web. Because a large portion of their target advertising market is real estate agents and the parent trade organization sees Zillow threatening their relevancy and causing more market confusion, its not a lovefest and probably never will be.

Whats interesting about the whole polarization of Zillow’s popularity, is that Zillow does not provide listings, yet are viewed suspiciously by agents. The initial rollout with promises of complete market coverage by Zillow, resulting in significant inconsistencies in results, is what has got many agents upset.

Zillow has promised more than it can deliver, which I have commented on before. Some market results are amazingly accurate, while some are not even close. The problem for the reader is having some way to measure its pricing reliability before it can be taken as a serious tool. Thats why the Realtors should not feel threatened at all.

Those that I have spoken to at Zillow are a very nice, earnest bunch of people trying to do what no one else has been able to. However, at the end of the day, (Of course I am not without bias here since I provide property valuations for a living.) the black box approach to valuation will always be viewed with suspicion. I guess thats besides the point.

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Carnival Of Real Estate [Week of October 17, 2006]

October 17, 2006 | 7:24 am | |

[This week, after resting up from the expert carnival barking done last week by Bloodhound Blog, Inman News takes critiquing a step further by only including ten posts this week. Matrix gets to eat caramel candy apples all week as a result.]

What is a carnival?

Here’s a great carnival Q & A. Its basically a a bunch of blogs that take turns displaying the favorite posts for the group each week. Carnivals can vary by topics and of course and the most relevant to Matrix readers is the Carnival of Real Estate.

This week’s host: Inman News Blog got tough and only presented the 10 best posts submitted by carnival members.

Next week’s host: Hotpads Daily will map out the best posts for the carnival. Click on the button below to get more information on how to join, host and submit posts to the carnival.


Carnival Of Real Estate [Week of October 10, 2006]

October 11, 2006 | 8:32 am | |

[In this week’s Carnival, Bloodhound Blog, as usual, gives a lot of thought to the process and comes up with a contrarian way to present the posts submitted. Speaking of thought, I forgot to submit my post this week!]

What is a carnival?

Here’s a great carnival Q & A. Its basically a a bunch of blogs that take turns displaying the favorite posts for the group each week. Carnivals can vary by topics and of course and the most relevant to Matrix readers is the Carnival of Real Estate.

This week’s host: Bloodhound Blog sniffs out the best posts submitted by carnival members. Check back with them every day as they present a daily synopsis for their readers.

Next week’s host: Inman News Blog will “connect” with the carnival. Click on the button below to get more information on how to join, host and submit posts to the carnival.


Carnival Of Real Estate [Week of October 2, 2006]

October 3, 2006 | 6:00 am |

[In this week’s Carnival, Matrix makes the top five selection of submitted posts over at YoChicago and luckily avoid getting sick on all the cotton candy I ate in the process. More details below.]

What is a carnival?

Here’s a great carnival Q & A. Its basically a a bunch of blogs that take turns displaying the favorite posts of the group each week. Carnivals can vary by topics and of course and the most relevant to Matrix readers is the Carnival of Real Estate.

This week’s host: YoChicago blows a lot of wind our way so we can read the best posts submitted by carnival members.

Next week’s host: Bloodhound Blog will do more than walk the dog to host the carnival. Click on the button below to get more information on how to join, host and submit posts to the carnival.

Carnival of Real Estate


Carnival Of Real Estate Enters The Matrix

September 25, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

As I watched my turn get closer and closer to hosting the Carnival of Real Estate, I thought it was amazing how much great content is being pushed into the public domain every week through the carnival. In fact, carnival participants simply ooze creativity and new ideas. Simply look at last week’s carnival post at Blog to get an idea of what I mean.

I started getting post submissions early last week and by Sunday I had a lot of reading to do. Although the carnival hosts are expected to post only their favorites, I thought to myself, how can I do that? So I decided to provide a top ten list and then everyone else. I excluded a few get rich quick posts and those who seemed to be more interested in selling something or extra posts from those who submitted more than one.

I am finding that some of the most active and insightful posts this week have been provided by real estate brokers. Its interesting to me because its been my impression that real estate brokers were somewhat late to blogosphere party as a profession but now they really get it and are rising in numbers quickly.

So its no wonder there was a lot of discussion about Redfin this week. I think that a weaker housing market sort of forces the real estate brokerage community to rethink the status quo. Thats really refreshing and I found myself adding links to my blogroll.

The Matrix Top 10 List

  1. Everybody’s Going Local [Future of Real Estate Marketing]. Joel Burslem provides a very insightful look at the trend toward local web sites to deliver real estate related information.
  2. What Housing Bubble? [The Property Monger] looks closely at population trends.
  3. 16 Words or Less [Agent CEO] reminded me of the axiom less is more. I tend to fail miserably being concise but if someone leaves me a voicemail longer than 16 seconds, I tend to delete it.
  4. Crackdown on Relisting Homes [Altos Research]. Altos crunches the numbers. Relisting is simply wrong.
  5. Kicking the Tires on Housing Futures as a Predictive Tool [True Gotham]. Doug Heddings deals with one of my favorite topics, housing futures.
  6. Google and Zillow [Real Central VA]. Jim Duncan tells us that broker _marketing will become less and less a component of a Realtor’s core competency. Representation will._
  7. Cease and Desist [Real Estate 2.X] gives us a good chuckle and a whole new way to name our blogs.
  8. Dual Agency: Using the Seller’s Agent as Your Buyer’s Agent [Searchlight Crusade] addresses awkwardness and multiple loyalties which are commonplace.
  9. Would the Founding Fathers Have Founded an MLS? [Charlottesville Area Real Estate Blog] concludes that restrictions on listings are better than an open system.
  10. For real estate promotion, the business card form factor is a tiny little workhorse [Bloodhound]. Glenn says its all in the cards.

Here are the rest of the posts submitted in no particular order but are all a good read:

Market discussion (surprisingly quiet this week)

Raising the bar on the real estate brokerage profession:

Broker ethics and “get rich quick” schemes

Mortgages and Refi Strategies

New brokerage business models

Buyer and seller advice

Defies categorization

Thanks to all of those who submitted posts. Great stuff. Don’t forget to check out YoChicago, next week’s host for the Carnival of Real Estate.

Its now 10:30pm EST on Sunday. I’ve got to get some sleep – going to be on CNBC’s Morning Call live at about 10:15am on Monday for 5 minutes with another guest. Should be fun.

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