Zillow, the digital home sales firm known for its housing market information, will soon be planting its signs in North Texas.
Seattle-based Zillow plans to expand its Zillow Offers program in the Dallas area in 2019. It's joining the ranks of residential sales firms that offer to buy your house then resell it.
The Zillow program is already rolled out in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Denver and Charlotte, N.C.
Zillow makes a homeowner an as-is cash offer for their property. If it's accepted, the firm prepares the house for resale and lists it with a local agent.
"In eight short months and in just five markets, Zillow Offers has helped thousands of consumers reduce the stress and uncertainty that typically go along with selling a home," Zillow Brand President Jeremy Wacksman said in a statement. "With today's announcement, we're poised to deliver this exciting service to sellers to help them sell their home with greater control, ease and on their timeline — in one of the nation's most dynamic markets."
The company plans to also expand the service to other markets next year, including Raleigh, N.C., Houston and Riverside, Calif.
Knock, Opendoor and other real estate sales firms operating in North Texas also have programs to buy and resell houses.
No Longer Just a Joke, Zillow is Making Cash Offers Based on Zestimates
For as long as it has existed, Zillow’s “Zestimate” has been something of a joke to real estate agents. Since the firm launched the Zestimate in 2006, the first conversation between potential sellers and listing agents often deals with the misconception that the Zestimate is anything more than a computer program’s Hail Mary that lands in the wide outer circles of a target.
However, the Realtor, armed with proprietary MLS information, is better suited to price your home.
That is until Zillow makes a cash offer for their “Zestimate” of the seller’s home, which is exactly what the real estate portal-turned-discount broker has started doing in 23 American cities, including Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio.
According to Zillow, the Zestimate is now an initial cash offer as part of the brand’s “Zillow Offers” platform. After a decade and a half, has the Zestimate gone legit?
“For 15 years, homeowners and home shoppers have come to rely on the Zestimate as an essential first step. This exciting advancement demonstrates the confidence we have in the Zestimate and the lengths we are willing to go to make selling your home truly seamless and easy,” said Zillow Chief Operating Officer Jeremy Wacksman.
Leaning on Artificial Intelligence
“This is a proud moment for Zillow’s tech team and speaks to the advancements they’ve made in machine learning and AI technology,” Wacksman said. “Zillow is transforming the way people sell and buy homes. Presenting the Zestimate as a cash offer to qualifying homes up front will save time, reduce friction and provide greater transparency – getting us closer to our vision of helping customers transact with the click of a button.”
That the Zestimate is now a sales tool for Zillow speaks to their entire business model, points out David Maez, broker at Plano’s Vivo Realty Group.
“Real Estate sales has always been about lead generation. Zillow is following the money,” Maez said. “Seller leads are highly desirable, and if Zillow can offer sellers instant offers and generate listing leads in the process, why not?”
Since the Zestimate was introduced, the real estate business has transformed at warp speed, taking agents out of offices and putting them into the field. Offers are submitted online almost exclusively now, and every home search these days starts on the Internet. The brand itself has become a household name, even being lampooned on Saturday Night Live. The brand is now fully vertically integrated, with Zillow Offers customers using Zillow-affiliated mortgage, title, and escrow services through Zillow Home Loans and Zillow Closing Services.
“Technology will — scratch that — has changed the way people buy and sell, and it will continue to change. And why not?” Maez asked. “For some people Zillow Offers might work, but for most it will not. Why? Good agents are experts in their field and maximize the value of a home by marketing and suggesting updates, pricing it correctly, minimizing fallout in a transaction, negotiating repairs, and get deals to the closing table.”
Zillow Offer, or Best Offer?
And while a cash offer might sound enticing, is it really the best offer?
“I have cash buyers who are willing and able to purchase many of my upcoming listings however, my advice to my sellers is that in this climate, market exposure is the most beneficial avenue for them,” says Kaitlin Lovern of Century 21 Judge Fite Realtors. “It would be a disservice to them to execute a contract without letting the market work in their favor. I am seeing buyers explore all avenues to make aggressive offers that entice a seller.”
And what about the accuracy of the Zestimate, which Zillow claims has a 1.9 percent median error rate nationwide?
“There is no scientific method behind pricing a home, and a Zestimate can’t accurately encompass the true value of a home,” Lovern said. “Partnering with a Realtor offers you exposure, marketing, expertise, protection, and data that helps the consumer obtain the best possible offer that is out there.”
Maez agreed, though he acknowledged that Zillow Offers on Zestimates may have a place in the market.
“Is Zillow Offers giving your sellers the best offer for their property? No. And that might be okay for some sellers who want a quick out,” Maez said. “I think as agents we need to not worry so much about tech entering the space, but more about how to adapt and respond, provide value and prove your worth.”
More Than Just a Transaction
Many Realtors already know they are unlikely to be replaced by Zillow, and the main reason is that buying and selling homes is so much more than paperwork and deposits.
“While we continue to see these Internet programs come out, Beth [Douglas] and I find that our clients still desire and appreciate more guidance, interaction and personal service,” said Cathy Browne of Compass’ Browne Douglas Group. “Anyone considering these programs should make sure to read the fine print, especially concerning fees and taxes.”
That’s an interesting point for homeowners who think the cash from a sale according to the Zestimate would mean a windfall. You can look up your address on Zillow and see if your home qualifies for a Zillow Offer. The site has a mortgage payoff tool that would tell you what your estimated net proceeds would be if you sold. Most Realtors would tell you that in certain areas of North Texas, the Zestimate could be off by anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 or more.
“Until AI, Zillow, or any other platform can do what agents do, it’s safe to say our profession isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” Maez said. “Is it changing? Yes. But like that cab driver that said UBER would never make it, or like Blockbuster ignoring Netflix, we can’t ignore the fact that people will always seek to save time and make things easier. Take Best Buy for example, here’s a company that could easily be taken out by Amazon, but why is it thriving? They adapted, they worked harder, they price-matched, they listened to the consumer and provided value. Agents will need to do the same.”
“The way I see this is a lot how I see TurboTax,” Lovern added. “Yes, TurboTax can save you the cost of a CPA, but is it really saving you money in the long run? How much savings are you missing out on by not hiring a professional whose daily focus is the work at hand? How much tax savings did you lose out on because you thought you were saving the cost of a professional?”
Homeowners in the Dallas/Fort Worth area can now bypass the traditional real estate process and sell their house directly to Zillow, as the online real estate giant announced Monday that it is expanding its direct buying program to DFW.
Zillow initially announced the expansion of its Zillow Offers program into Dallas late last year, but the program officially launched Monday.
Zillow Offers allows homeowners to request a no-obligation cash offer from Zillow to buy their home. If they accept it, Zillow directly buys a seller’s house, prepares it for showings, and lists it for sale.
Zillow launched the home buying program last year in Phoenix and Las Vegas, before expanding it to Atlanta, Denver, Charlotte, and other markets.
Earlier this year, Zillow launched its iBuyer program in Texas, when it expanded into Houston. And now, Zillow is buying and selling houses in Dallas too.
Dallas becomes Zillow’s ninth market where it is actively buying houses. Zillow Offers is currently available in Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Denver, Charlotte, Raleigh, Houston, and Riverside, California.
And Zillow Offers plans to launch in Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, and Portland later this year.
Through Zillow Offers, the company works with local real estate agents and brokers during every transaction. Zillow pays a commission to local agents when it buys and sells each home.
Zillow also uses Zillow Offers to promote its Premier Agents, which allows real estate agents to acquire new listings by connecting them with potential sellers who have already taken a direct action to sell their home.
Consumers who request a Zillow Offer but chose to sell their home traditionally with an agent or do not receive a Zillow Offer will be connected to a local brokerage or Premier Agent.
Consumers selling or buying a house to/from Zillow can also get a mortgage from Zillow, thanks to Zillow’s newly launched mortgage operation, Zillow Home Loans.
And all of that is now available to homebuyers and sellers in Dallas.
“Zillow Offers is helping transform the real estate transaction by giving consumers more of what they want – a seamless, convenient way to sell and buy a home, and on a timetable that they control,” said Zillow Brand President Jeremy Wacksman. “With such a dynamic and fast growing housing market, Dallas is a natural place to expand this service next. Starting today, we are thrilled to give Dallas-area homeowners a simple, stress-free, on-demand real estate experience.”
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