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Zillow Make(s) Me Move For Free

…and I think I am glad they did… (I’ve got to grab an updated non-beta logo soon).

The real estate valuation site Zillow.com [1] announced a major upgrade today. President and co-founder Lloyd Frink stopped by my office to explain what the upgrade entailed. The upgrade to Zillow allows

…homeowners and real estate agents to post homes for sale for free. Additionally, in redefining what it means for a house to be “For Sale,” Zillow is enabling any homeowner to post a Make Me Move price.

New Zillow features include:

Make Me Move“Make Me Move is our twist on the traditional ‘For Sale’ sign.”  A homeowner can easily post a Make Me Move price without exposing any personal information.  Zillow then enables interested buyers to contact the owner through an email “anonymizer.”  There is no charge for the service.

For Sale…Opening up every home’s Web page on Zillow.com for owners and their real estate agents to plant virtual ‘For Sale’ signs in their Zillow front yards for free.”

Real Estate Wiki The wiki is seeded with more than 100 articles by Zillow editors on topics of interest to home buyers, sellers, and owners.  As a wiki any visitor can edit an article, comment on an article, or create a new article and publish it for all to see.

Improved searching and mapping functionality This incorporates the new “for sale” feature (note avoidance of the word “listing”).

Zillow has grown their property valuation database to 70 million homes, essentially providing a home page to each one of them. Its a daunting task and Zillow has been hampered by low accuracy rates and the rath of the real estate brokerage community [Matrix] [2].

Their position is to place a value with each residential property in the United States, first and foremost. Lloyd told me that their challenge is to get a number associated with each property as a first priority.

Accuracy will likely come later but much of that effort is at the mercy of public records. The ability for the consumer to edit property facts will help, but will be very hard to police. However, the new edits will not be incorporated into the logarithms that calculate values so the tweaked data will not pollute the public record data feed.

Their model is advertising based and in markets where accuracy is highest, should draw the most traffic and advertisers that want to be associated with their product. In markets where accuracy is very low (48% of the US is more than 10% more or less than the actual value), it should be a much harder sell so Zillow really is incentived to keep making improvements to their service.

I would imagine that real estate brokers will use the listing service because its free and sellers will probably expect it to be used. However, since the site is known as a valuation tool first and foremost, I am not sure how effective it will be at selling properties.

I think the new features may damage their identity as a real estate valuation tool, or at the minimum, confuse consumers and make real estate brokers more upset. Still, its an innovative and creative way of presenting and researching real estate information. Since local consumers and brokers are their users and largely determine who the advertisers are, I hope they have thought this through.