ZEROING IN ON ZILLOW

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By Allison Mowatt

Constant advances in technology make it easier for us to do the simplest tasks, from buying groceries to finding a destination ten minutes away. The housing market isn’t any different, and websites like Zillow make it possible for people to do all of their “real estate homework” prior to speaking with a licensed real estate professional.

Founded in 2005, Zillow is the leading online real estate marketplace on the Web and mobile apps, where users can easily find information on homes, townhouses, condos, and apartments. Zillow has data on millions of homes across the country, not just those currently for sale but also those not yet on the market, such as pre-foreclosures. In addition to giving value estimates of homes, the site offers value changes of each home in a given time frame, aerial views of the homes, and prices of comparable homes in the area.

Research indicates Zillow’s website activity continues to grow each year with increased numbers of visitors. Over the past several years, Zillow launched new features such as mobile apps, an online advice service, real estate market reports, and a mortgage marketplace.

How do local realtors feel about sites like Zillow ?

Bridget Gelderman, a Realtor at Davis R. Chant Realtors Hawley office, offers her insights and opinions:

“Websites like Zillow, Realtor.com, and Trulia can be helpful in the initial search to locate homes and narrow down areas of interest; however, the information is often not always accurate on these websites. These websites do not play by the National Association of Realtors Code of Ethics, and for consumers, this is a big deal. Zillow falls short with its valuations on homes. These “Zestimates” can be way off. For example, in Wayne County, the Zestimate Accuracy Star Rating is a “1” star out of 5 stars, 5 being the best. Basically, they are unable to compute Zestimate accuracy yet they still put a Zestimate out there. Pike County is a “2” star rating. Trulia.com was recently acquired by Zillow. This highlights a wide range of features like school information, crime, and tips on their homepage. This site’s photo feed pulls very poor quality photos.

“The bottom line is while all of these websites are helpful, go directly to a broker’s website to get additional information on the home or market and then use a Realtor to navigate through the home buying or selling process. For most people, buying a home is the largest financial investment they will ever make. There are big decisions that have to be made, and emotions come into each and every decision, both on the buyer side and the seller side. Having an expert help lead through the process is critical in securing the best deal with the least amount of headaches.”

Bridget Points Out Other Key Factors:

-When you work with a Realtor, their fiduciary responsibility is to look out for the customer’s best interests since they subscribe to a strict Code of Ethics.

-There are ever changing rules and regulations from changes on how to obtain a mortgage to zoning issues. The Realtor assists with all of these issues.

-There are pros and cons to each property, and a Realtor can help direct the customer through the ins and outs of a community, township and a,ny issues that could be possible within the construction of a home. They have a resource of experts that provides invaluable information before spending a life’s savings.

-When it comes to pricing and selling your home, a Realtor has access to tax records and data that is current and can provide a customer with a Comparable Market Analysis (CMA) of a recommended list price for a home based on what has happened in the market.

-Realtors can help lead through negotiations and contracts. Once the excitement has settled from finding the right home, the real work begins. Navigating the negotiations and making sure the customers understand what they’re signing is a large part of a Realtor’s job. They help throughout the entire process and keep all people involved on track for a smooth closing.

To contact Bridget Gelderman at Davis R. Chant Realtors, call (570) 226-4518, email bgelderman@chantre.com, or visit www.chantre.com.

A Local Couple Finds Their Dream House on Zillow

Colleen and Steve Berlen are recent new homeowners and used Zillow to find the home they’ve always wanted. The couple lives in Bangor, PA, with their son, Logan. The house they purchased last November sits on about four acres and is an expansive home with five bedrooms and two and a half bathrooms.

“We love our new home,” said Colleen. “It has beautiful landscaping out front and a fenced vegetable garden. We wanted more land and interior space and this is perfect. It sits back from the road, and we like the privacy aspect, too.

We used Zillow to look at houses years before we bought the one we recently moved into. So when we were looking for a house that would fit all of our needs, we used Zillow again. It’s one of my favorite sites because it’s user friendly, and there are pictures of the interior and exterior of the houses. The website also provides information about the area you’re interested in, and this is helpful when researching places to relocate.

Once we found our picture perfect house, we contacted our Realtor to set up a time to see the house. We decided to put in an offer since the house was everything we envisioned. The homeowners accepted. The entire process took a little over a month, and it wasn’t long before we moved in.”

While Colleen and Steve initially found their home on Zillow, they followed up by contacting their Realtor and finalizing the process with a trusted professional.