Yeah I know, I’m way behind the curve on this one (that’s what I get for starting a new job), but it doesn’t really directly relate to a bubble, other than perhaps being an interesting way to watch things go down. Anyway, as you surely know by now, the much-hyped, formerly super-mysterious, Zillow.com is now live.
After more than a year of keeping tight wraps on his heavily funded startup, former Expedia Chief Executive Rich Barton today will disclose how his 75-person company, Zillow.com, plans to transform the multibillion-dollar real estate business.
The idea: Place a real-time value on homes throughout the country.
“We think you shouldn’t need a computer science degree or a real estate license to find out what a home is worth,” said Barton, who hopes to do in real estate what he already accomplished in online travel.
With an assessment known as a Zestimate, Zillow.com takes into consideration historical property information, square footage, number of bedrooms, neighboring homes and other factors to determine estimated values of 42 million of the 85 million residences in the United States. It then overlays that information on aerial and satellite maps, so home shoppers from Miami to Seattle can get a better idea of the market value of homes in those cities.
That is to say, those are all things you could do, if you are lucky enough to be able to, you know, actually access the site. I guess all that hype paid off in a bigger way than they were prepared to handle, because as soon as they announced their arrival the Zillow.com server was brought to its knees.
Stories about the startup online real estate service in major U.S. newspapers — including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and Los Angeles Times — helped swamp Zillow’s servers throughout the morning and early afternoon. By 7 a.m. Wednesday, the company had already served up more then 300,000 pages. By 4:30 p.m., the total had surpassed 2 million.
“It is certainly a number higher than we thought,” Zillow.com spokeswoman Amy Bohutinsky said.
She said the newly launched Web site experienced “some capacity issues” because people lingered on the site longer and requested more pages than the company had planned. As an example, Bohutinsky said she heard from a friend who was viewing the home values of everyone on her Christmas-card list.
And thanks to Zillow’s failure to adhere to Boy Scout standards, this is all of Zillow that I can personally try out for myself:
Due to overwhelming demand, some people are getting access to our beta site and some are not. We are working hard to make room for everyone.
Be patient… we know it’s tempting, but please don’t frequently refresh your browser. Instead, come back later.
A few of my coworkers were trying out the site and for one of them their house and others all around their neighborhood were “Zestimated” at hundreds of thousands less than they were sold for just months previously (though it’s arguable that perhaps Zillow was more correct than they know…). For the other, Zillow had incorrect information about the size of his house, even listing it as a one-story when it is in fact two-story.
I guess you can color me unimpressed.