When Zillow.com launched its website in 2005, the world was a buzz with the company’s ability to bring appraisals, called Zestimates, to everyone’s fingertips. It was fun to type in your own home address, or that of your colleague’s or boss’s house to see what they paid. Some of the estimates were way off and were course corrected by owner’s ability to log on, claim one’s home, and update the data will all relevant features under oath.
Zillow empowered buyers to become smarter shoppers by understanding comparables and knowing when and at what price the house was last sold. When you know the seller paid $1,000,000 at the top of the market for example, you know it would be ludicrous to pay more by definition. Zillow brought once exclusive information, available only to real estate agents and people who paid for it to the masses. There was hope for an industry which generally is maligned for it’s two-faced ways, shady appraisal practices, and aggressive lending standards.
My biggest hope was that Zillow would make the markets more efficient for buyers and sellers, thereby cutting out a lot of unnecessary middlemen, and ultimately lower fees from 5-6% down to perhaps just 1-2% of selling price. Boy was I wrong.