Excerpt from Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff’s Court Testimony

I was doing some light reading of the transcripts from the Move vs. Zillow court hearings in King County Superior Court last week. This excerpt from in the Wednesday afternoon transcript was certainly entertaining.

Richard Stone, the attorney for Move was questioning Spencer Rascoff on the stand:

Stone: It’s true, isn’t it, that you referred to the CEO of Redfin as ugly and annoying, correct?

Rascoff: I don’t remember if I said that. As I’ve said though, when you review tens of thousands of emails and days of videotape deposition, you will find examples of things that I’ve said inarticulately or emotionally, and you take them out of context and put them under a microscope, and they don’t look so good.

Stone: And Redfin was a competitor of Zillow?

Rascoff: Redfin is a competitor of Zillow.

Stone: And you said they were a bunch of jerks as well?

Rascoff: ​As I’ve already answered, I don’t remember​ ​having said that, but when you review tens of​ ​thousands of emails, you will find things that I​ ​have written, and if you take them out of context​ ​and put them under a microscope, there will be​ ​examples of things that I’ve said which don’t look​ ​so good.

Stone: And you’ve said similar, very personal aggressive statements about every CEO who was competing with you; is that a fair statement?

Rascoff: It’s not a fair statement to describe those statements as aggressive. I think it depends on the context. So you have me goading fellow employees and needling them by talking about competitors in certain contexts. That’s what some of these emails out of tens of thousands of emails are referring to. So I wouldn’t describe them as overly aggressive. I think that was the term you used.

Stone: Did you tell Curt Beardsley, if Redfin F’s with you, you will F with Redfin?

Rascoff: Basically the same answer that I’ve already given is how I would answer that question. I don’t remember saying that to anybody. If I did, it would be an example of something out of tens of thousands of emails that I have fired off on a whim and maybe doesn’t look that good when you —

Stone then cuts him off and they play a segment of recorded video from a deposition, which is not transcribed.

Of course it is important to note that I used to work at Redfin, and in fact I worked rather closely with CEO Glenn Kelman. In my personal opinion, he is neither ugly nor annoying. I will also say that when I worked there, there are very few of my coworkers who I would describe as jerks.

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About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

41 comments:

  1. 1

    Redfin is a competitor of Zillow? When did Redfin go into the business of selling advertising to real estate agents?

  2. 2
    The Tim says:

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 1 – Indeed. They aren’t really competitors for the same pool of money, but they are competing for the same set of eyeballs online. The difference of course is that with Zillow, people viewing their site are the product being sold, while with Redfin they are the potential paying customers.

  3. 3

    I agree with Kary:

    [Rascoff: Redfin is a competitor of Zillow.]

    Redfin represents buyers and sellers. They are a multi-state licensed real estate firm.

    Zillow has repeatedly said that they are not a real estate company or a lender.
    Zillow has said over and over again that they are a media platform for which to sell advertising.

    Maybe Spencer means Redfin is a competitor when it comes to recruiting great people, or maybe Zillow is competing for eyeballs because Redfin’s web interface is far superior when compared with Zillow. Redfin has better data, and Zillow has more bells and whistles.

  4. 4
    Timothy says:

    I actually think they are direct competitors. If you use Redfin to buy your home you will most likely not use Zillow at all, but even if you do you will definitely not click on and use the agents advertised on their site which is where they make money. Like wise if you actually do get in contact with an agent you are connected with via Zillow and decide to use them throughout the buying process you will not make Redfin any money. They are both competing for the same pool of customers. Just because a business has a different strategy for capturing a market – doesn’t mean it’s competing in a different market. Another good example of this dynamic is Hailo and Uber, which at this point everyone would agree are competitors.

  5. 5

    By Timothy @ 4:

    I actually think they are direct competitors. If you use Redfin to buy your home you will most likely not use Zillow at all, but even if you do you will definitely not click on and use the agents advertised on their site which is where they make money. Like wise if you actually do get in contact with an agent you are connected with via Zillow and decide to use them throughout the buying process you will not make Redfin any money. They are both competing for the same pool of customers.

    First, I have to ask–what unique useful information is on Zillow? It’s clearly not a source that you would go to in order to learn how to effectively sell a house! Just what exactly is the problem with not using Zillow at all?

    Second, there are a lot of people using Redfin’s site that don’t make Redfin any money, because they don’t have to use Redfin as their agency. Same with the other brokerage sites–consumers can just pick the site they like best and use whatever agent they like best. I have come to the conclusion that Seattle apparently has much better broker sites than much of the rest of the country, otherwise Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com wouldn’t exist.

    Redfin is only a competitor indirectly in that the eyeballs that go to broker sites don’t go to Trulia and Zillow, meaning agents that pay Trulia and Zillow money won’t be contacted by them, meaning those agents may be less likely to continue paying them money in the future.

  6. 6
    Timothy Crosley says:

    By Kary L. Krismer @ 5:

    By Timothy @ 4:

    I actually think they are direct competitors. If you use Redfin to buy your home you will most likely not use Zillow at all, but even if you do you will definitely not click on and use the agents advertised on their site which is where they make money. Like wise if you actually do get in contact with an agent you are connected with via Zillow and decide to use them throughout the buying process you will not make Redfin any money. They are both competing for the same pool of customers.

    First, I have to ask–what unique useful information is on Zillow? It’s clearly not a source that you would go to in order to learn how to effectively sell a house! Just what exactly is the problem with not using Zillow at all?

    Second, there are a lot of people using Redfin’s site that don’t make Redfin any money, because they don’t have to use Redfin as their agency. Same with the other brokerage sites–consumers can just pick the site they like best and use whatever agent they like best. I have come to the conclusion that Seattle apparently has much better broker sites than much of the rest of the country, otherwise Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com wouldn’t exist.

    Redfin is only a competitor indirectly in that the eyeballs that go to broker sites don’t go to Trulia and Zillow, meaning agents that pay Trulia and Zillow money won’t be contacted by them, meaning those agents may be less likely to continue paying them money in the future.

    When you talk about the uniqueness of information on Zillow, that has to do with the quality of the product and is *not* an indication of whether or not the two companies are competitors. I agree that it’s better not too use Zillow, but they are attempting to move people through their pipeline instead of Redfin’s or Realtor.com’s. A consumer is almost certainly only going to make one of them money from a transaction.

    Saying Redfin and Zillow are not direct competitors is similar to saying Gmail and Yahoo where not direct competitors to the paid email services they eventually replaced – just because they got paid by advertisers and not the email users directly. It’s clear this is not the case. You need to think about it from the perspective of a consumer and not an industry expert.

    In the end Redfin, Zillow, and Realtor.com are all vying to be the way to apply technology to streamline the home buying process. Only one of them can really make money from a single transaction (buying, selling) making it a zero sum game, and therefore making them clear and direct competitors.

  7. 7
    The Tim says:

    By Timothy Crosley @ 6:

    In the end Redfin, Zillow, and Realtor.com are all vying to be the way to apply technology to streamline the home buying process.

    Zillow has no interest in “streamlining the home buying process.” They exist purely to skim money off the agents and mortgage companies that actually work to help people buy and sell homes.

    In fact, bad data that complicates and slows down the process that is rampant on Zillow—such as pending or expired listings appearing as active or wildly incorrect Zestimates—are a benefit to Zillow. Spencer Rascoff has said so himself.

  8. 8

    RE: The Tim @ 7 – Tim, I gotta ask: Why the obvious hate? They “exist purely to skim money”??? They exist to make money, just like very other business. And the path they have chosen allows innovative entrants into the real estate industry. Honestly, open your eyes a bit.

    Or are you just a schill for the MLS system? ;-)

  9. 9
    Erik says:

    Tim,
    It’s “Glenn” with 2 n’s. You spelled it Glen”. Only reason I mention it is because you seem to really value being right.

    Also, just by looking at pictures online, spencer is right, he is ugly. I don’t think it matters what you look like when you are as rich as these guys though. So like Craig the agent-lawyer hybrid asks… Why the hate?

    There is a back story you aren’t telling. You worked for Redfin a while, parted ways for whatever reason, and now you rep Redfin and beat down Zillow.

  10. 10
    The Tim says:

    By Craig Blackmon @ 8:

    RE: The Tim @ 7 – Tim, I gotta ask: Why the obvious hate?

    I feel like I have covered this pretty comprehensively in the past, but the summary version is that they add no value to the real estate transaction, and their cavalier attitude toward data quality is a detriment to people attempting to buy or sell homes.

    RE: Erik @ 9 – Doh. Gnomes must have stolen the second ‘n’. Thanks, corrected!

  11. 11

    By Craig Blackmon @ 8:

    And the path they have chosen allows innovative entrants into the real estate industry.

    What exactly do you mean by that? If you mean the path they have chosen has allowed a tech company that knows next to nothing about real estate to enter the real estate industry, I agree with you.

    They could, of course, of gone into the market of trying to sell web design to real estate firms, but they aren’t very good at web design, so that wouldn’t have worked. So instead they go the route of trying to get individual agents to buy zip codes. Do you think those agents are innovative?

  12. 12
    Sam Hunter says:

    By The Tim @ 7:

    By Timothy Crosley @ 6:

    In the end Redfin, Zillow, and Realtor.com are all vying to be the way to apply technology to streamline the home buying process.

    Zillow has no interest in “streamlining the home buying process.” They exist purely to skim money off the agents and mortgage companies that actually work to help people buy and sell homes.

    In fact, bad data that complicates and slows down the process that is rampant on Zillow—such as pending or expired listings appearing as active or wildly incorrect Zestimates—are a benefit to Zillow. Spencer Rascoff has said so himself.

    It is very clear that Tim is shilling for Redfin because he used to work there. Poor guy is so blinded by his bias he can’t even see straight anymore. Delusional man!

    I do like Redfin’s interface over Zillow… sad that under that great front end interface there are ugly vicious trolls like Tim!

  13. 13
    KipWallbanger says:

    More importantly, why is he being questioned about his distaste for Redfin? Of course its there.

    Why must he dance around it?

    Can’t he just tell his employees that Redfin sucks? Or was it more along the lines of public slander?

  14. 14
    Erik says:

    RE: Sam Hunter @ 12
    Tim is certainly not an ugly vicious troll. Tim brings a lot a clarity to the real estate market and he isn’t an ugly guy. We are lucky to have guys like tim that help clear up all the bias in real estate.

    I think Tim just genuinely does not like incorrect information. You see that a lot in the engineering community. Some engineers treat data and information as if it was their first born child. They tie emotions to technical information.

    Anyway, you shouldn’t say such things when they are not true.

  15. 15

    By KipWallbanger @ 13:

    More importantly, why is he being questioned about his distaste for Redfin? Of course its there.

    The topic was objected to as being irrelevant, but Zillow apparently “opened to door” to the line of questioning by introducing testimony as to Zillow’s core values, or some such thing. This was apparently to refute the claim that Zillow had ethical core values.

    I don’t know the specifics of the case, but it involves Zillow hiring a key person from Move (Realtor.com) and then one or more persons at Zillow allegedly destroying evidence. There’s a Seattle Times’ article on the subject floating out there somewhere, as well as the Geekwire article linked above. Destroying evidence after the commencement of litigation is a serious issue.

  16. 16
    The Tim says:

    RE: Sam Hunter @ 12 – I have a fully transparent pro-Redfin bias, which has existed long before I ever went to work there. That said, I have also repeatedly insisted that home buyers are better off using pretty much any site other than Zillow or Trulia. Redfin, Estately, John L. Scott, Windermere… Pick your favorite.

  17. 17
    The Tim says:

    By KipWallbanger @ 13:

    More importantly, why is he being questioned about his distaste for Redfin?

    Here’s a longer excerpt that came just before the part I quoted in the post, with some additional context and the part where Zillow’s lawyer David Burman objects to Stone’s questioning:

    Stone: Then you weren’t so happy about the lawsuit, and you referred to Move publicly as a crappy company, right?

    Rascoff: Um, I don’t remember in what — I know I remember saying that publicly, and I regret saying it publicly, but I don’t remember whether or not that was in reference to the lawsuit. I actually don’t think it was. I think it was in reference to their lack of innovation and how they hadn’t innovated on behalf of the consumer and Zillow had. But I don’t recall exactly. Like I said, I have certainly written my share of things that I would like to take back, and sometimes I overstep.

    Stone: And Move was such a crappy company that you tried to buy it in 2013, right?

    Rascoff: Well, we did try to buy Move in 2013, that’s correct.

    Stone: And talking about the culture at Zillow, you take competition very personally, don’t you?

    Rascoff: Um, do I take competition personally? I think yes, sure.

    Stone: Do you recall you made fun of Move’s CEO Steve Berkowitz’s physical appearance to colleagues?

    Rascoff: I don’t remember that, no. I might have. I don’t know.

    Stone: Do you recall saying he looked like a homeless person?

    Rascoff: I don’t remember saying that.

    Stone: Why don’t we play page 81, lines 2 through 20.

    Burman: No objection to playing that, your Honor.

    Judge: You may play the clip.

    (Deposition clip playing.)

    Stone: And you referred to MLS’s as sheep who follow each other around, correct?

    Rascoff: I don’t know if that’s right. You’ve gone through every email I’ve sent in the last five years, and as I’ve already said, you’re going to find some where I’m inelegant in how I parse my words.

    Stone: Well, didn’t you refer to MLS’s as sheep who follow each other around and that Curt Beardsley is the shepherd of the MLS sheep?

    Rascoff: I don’t know if I said that or not, but I definitely believe that businesses follow other businesses when making important decisions. I know when Zillow tries to decide whether to do a particular thing, we look to what other companies that we respect had done in a similar manner. So it stands to reason that MLS’s or others in the industry look to other industry participants to decide how to make a decision. So that makes perfect sense to me.

    Stone: I’d like to play two clips, your Honor, page 68, lines 22, through 69, line 5, and 74, 20, to 75, 23.

    Burman: Could you say those again.

    Stone: Yes, absolutely. 68, 22, to 69, 5, and 74, 20, to 75, 23.

    Burman: Unfortunately, your Honor, I think I have to read what’s in between to know if there is a problem or not. Your Honor, I do think much of what’s in between relates and puts it into context, similar to what he just testified. I see no inconsistency.

    Stone: There isn’t any inconsistency, but I think that is a party deposition, so —

    Burman: Well, there was a process for designating in advance, so we don’t have to have this delay that you’re causing.

    Judge: Is the purpose for impeachment — I’m getting the sense that it is.

    Stone: It is for impeachment.

    Judge: More than anything else. Do you want to point me to where you believe the inconsistencies are in his testimony.

    Stone: Page 68, lines 22, through 69, 5, he agrees that in that email he wrote that MLS are sheep, and he referred to the MLS community as being sheep, and then in the next segment he referred to Curt Beardsley being the shepherd of those sheep, and he denied having said that.

    Rascoff: I didn’t deny it.

    Burman: Wait until there is a question.

    Rascoff: Okay.

    Judge: Would you be satisfied if I told you that I just read it?

    Stone: You know me, your Honor.

    Judge: And then you can continue with your questioning.

    Stone: And am I correct that you referred to the CEO of Redfin as ugly and annoying?

    Burman: Your Honor —

    Rascoff: I don’t.

    Burman: Objection. Relevance at some point. This has nothing to do with this proceeding or anything but playing to the press.

    Stone: I didn’t think it had anything to do when they came in and talked about culture and the six core values.

    Judge: Objection’s overruled. You may answer the question.

    Rascoff: Could you restate the question.

    Stone: Sure…

  18. 18

    RE: The Tim @ 16 – “Other than” should have included Realtor.com.

    For those who don’t know, that site, Trulia and Zillow do not get direct feeds from the NWMLS (Realtor.com did years ago), and thus they don’t get the listings as fast, don’t have all the listings and many of the listings they do show are already pending (or even sometimes sold). That’s why the data Erik refers to is not as good. Sellers should want to have their listings appear on those three sites, because they want to capture the buyers looking there, but buyers are better served with a broker site.

    As to choice of site, I would suggest one that offers more flexibility, depending on the user’s needs. For example, last time I looked Zillow didn’t have an option to search for 1.75+ baths, but instead only 1+, 1.5+ and 2+. For a buyer willing to accept a 1.75 bath house, but not a 1.5 bath house, that doesn’t work. For a seller trying to determine value of a 1.75 bath house, that again doesn’t work.

  19. 19

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 11 – (and Tim too) – let me pose a hypothetical. Let’s just pretend that I am a home seller in the 21st Century. I don’t have a ton of equity, and besides I’m not clear on why I need to pay something close to 6% in a transaction cost as commissions. I’m looking for an alternative to the dominant model>

    Where do I look? What online tool do I use to sell my home?

    Hint: Zillow allows FSBO sales, as well as single broker listings (where the seller agrees to pay just one broker, not two, to sell the home).

    Is Zillow perfect? Obviously not. Does Zillow provide a legitimate alternative to the MLS (by providing a viable online marketplace to post listings)? Just as obviously, yes. Is that a good thing? I dunno, do you think the essential monopoly held by MLS-member brokers has any room for improvement? Or is it still perfect, 100+ years after it evolved?

    Erik, you may be onto something. Data has become the end unto itself. Which is crazy, because data only exists to be used for some larger purpose. Real estate data? It is compiled in the process of selling a house. The purpose is to sell the house, not preserve a pristine data set. This isn’t scientific data, its working data.

    I’ll end where I started. Tim, there really does appear to be something else going on behind your hardline anti-Zillow-stance-in-all-contexts position. Because your distaste of Zillow goes way beyond any inefficiency created or exploited by Zillow. Be honest: Are you on the NWMLS payroll?? ;-)

  20. 20
    Som says:

    As a buyer, filterable, accurate, and fast listing data is very important to me. Redfin kicks a**.

    In my 3 years of home buying in 3 different markets, I have relied extensively and sometimes exclusively on Redfin. Some insecure realtors hate Redfin because it cuts into one more of their so called services – sending email of newly found listings to their buyer client.

    Zillow and Trulia will either become a Yelp for Real Estate or die.

  21. 21

    RE: Craig Blackmon @ 19 – Penny wise and pound foolish to go FSBO in most of the Seattle area. Limited exposure could easily cost you 10%. Even accepting that first offer that SWE was suggesting in the prior thread could cost you 10%.

  22. 22

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 21 – Says you. But you don’t have a crystal ball, Kary. Nobody knows what a house will sell for, until it sells.

    On the other hand, that 6% commission? It’s spelled out in black and white right there in your listing agreement, Kary. It is a set term. So will a seller come out ahead using the MLS? Nobody can know with certainty. Will a seller pay 4-6% for the privilege of finding out? Absolutely guaranteed. Sell FSBO, save 4-6%. You don’t need a crystal ball to see it.

    Until I see FSBO data compiled and analyzed by someone other than an MLS-member broker, I’m going to take “FSBO costs you!” arguments with a giant grain of salt. Of note, Zillow does not track FSBO sales as a searchable metric. Which is a shame – but probably consistent with Zillow’s “work with the traditional brokers” current business model.

  23. 23

    RE: Craig Blackmon @ 22 – First, it’s a good thing you’re no longer a member of the NWMLS or else your comments might be considered violating anti-trust laws! ;-)

    Second, you’re right that a FSBO could conceivable do well, partly because the buyer on the other side might not be represented. A story I’ve told in the past was a buyer who called me up all excited about a FSBO sale, but when I looked at the house there was no way it was worth anywhere near what was being asked. But the FSBO seller had the buyer convinced due to being good at sales hype (as I recall they only agreed to sell it at that price for a couple of days, or some such thing).

    Third, while I wish I could say all agents are good, a FSBO isn’t likely to know about matters other than price. And returning back to the topic, you’re not likely to find useful information like this on Zillow, but this is the type of thing experienced agents know (but again, not all agents).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lX_iSjmEUrM

  24. 24
    The Tim says:

    By Craig Blackmon @ 22:

    Until I see FSBO data compiled and analyzed by someone other than an MLS-member broker, I’m going to take “FSBO costs you!” arguments with a giant grain of salt.

    This study is unfortunately quite dated (the data is from ’98 through ’04) but it fits the bill: The Relative Performance of Real Estate Marketing – Platforms: MLS versus FSBOMadison.com (pdf)

    Interestingly, their conclusion was actually the opposite of what Kary is claiming: In the Madison market homes listed on the FSBO website tended to sell for more than those listed on the MLS. “Sellers on FSBO are able to sell their houses at a premium relative to MLS. In addition, sellers that initially list their houses on FSBO but that then move to MLS also command a significant premium.” (p. 15)

    Here’s the conclusion from page 22:

    In this paper we examine the relative performance of two competing networks: MLS and FSBO. Controlling for differences in house and seller characteristics we find that listing on the MLS does not yield a price premium relative to listing on FSBOMadison.com. This is not to say that using a realtor is not worth the commission. Realtors can save sellers time and generally help through a stressful and maybe difficult period.

    What do our results imply for market structure in the brokerage industry in Madison? If one believes that sellers are aware of the FSBO option, and know that there is no premium associated with listing on the MLS, then our results suggest that a large fraction of the population is willing to pay a significant amount for the services provided by realtors. Thus, despite the 6% commission rate, realtors are going to continue to maintain a high market share. An alternative view is that FSBOMadison.com is still diffusing. As more people become aware of it, and more importantly as more sellers realize that there might not be any price penalty associated with using it, its share of the market will increase. We note however that the market share of FSBOMadison.com was stable over the last four years of our sample.

    FSBO Madison had a pretty big market share in the Madison market, so you can’t really compare their results to a market where there is no single dominant FSBO player. I also haven’t really followed how things have played out in Madison over the last decade. That would be an interesting study. Their site does still appear to be going strong today.

  25. 25

    RE: The Tim @ 24 – I don’t see how a study from over a decade ago has any relevance at all to a market where there is record low inventory. I was addressing the current market where a seller can get multiple offers. You’re not going to get as many offers with less exposure (or less time).

  26. 26

    RE: The Tim @ 24 – Well c’mon Tim!! If sellers “waste” that 6%, shouldn’t we encourage alternatives??? Zillow, for all its flaws, is easily the biggest and best alternative. Please stop discarding the baby with the bath water.

    Another thought: This article ignores entirely the option of a single broker listing, i.e. hiring a broker to assist in the sale of the house without utilizing the MLS.. Again, speaking hypothetically – ahem – what if a real estate broker offered this service? Obviously, that broker could not be a member of the MLS, So the marketing plan would resemble that of an FSBO, just with better execution. But the fee charged would be for the listing services ONLY. Any buyer commission would be negotiated in the offer (thus allowing the seller to sell for more than asking to account for the added cost).

    Single broker listings work – I have the case studies to prove it! – and guess what? They rely on Zillow.

    I don’t understand how you can reconcile your attitude towards Zillow and MLS data with the conclusions stated in the study you cite.

  27. 27

    By Craig Blackmon @ 26:

    Single broker listings work – I have the case studies to prove it! – and guess what? They rely on Zillow.

    So in other words, they are crap! ;-)

    Seriously, with the exception of maybe 25% of the agents that comment on Zillow, there is little/no useful information on the site, AND we’ve already established their data being suspect without even mentioning Zestimates.

  28. 28
    The Tim says:

    By Craig Blackmon @ 26:

    I don’t understand how you can reconcile your attitude towards Zillow and MLS data with the conclusions stated in the study you cite.

    As I said above, “FSBO Madison had a pretty big market share in the Madison market, so you can’t really compare their results to a market where there is no single dominant FSBO player.” In my opinion there is a big difference between FSBO Madison and Zillow.

    For FSBO Madison, facilitating direct buyer-to-seller transactions is their entire raison d’etre, and as such, the real estate consumers are their customers.

    For Zillow, selling advertising is what they exist to do, and agents who rely on the three percent commission are their customers.

    That’s a fundamental difference that guides how each does business and the value they each create in the real estate ecosystem.

  29. 29

    RE: The Tim @ 28 – OK, assuming all that is true, where do I find FSBO Seattle? You know, that vibrant real estate marketplace that doesn’t rely on paying a buyer’s agent?

    What’s that? It doesn’t exist? Well, at least we have Zillow, an outstanding online platform for marketing homes directly to buyers and not to other real estate agents.

    Yes, their business model does not relate directly to this service, unlike FSBO Madison. Yes, the data is of lesser quality. Yes, they are really just a hated “lead generator.” But nonetheless, they also allow for innovation in real estate. Surely you appreciate that value…

  30. 30

    High Tech Exaggerations by Both CEOs?

    Soon we can replace dentists with high tech advice?

    Now That You Plunked That $500K-1M for a Seattle Home, Now Its Time to Fix Up the Dump

    GQ magazine for May 2016 has a great article, called “The Petrified Man’s Guide to Home Renovation. snippet:

    “…THERE ARE FOUR STAGES to being a grown man: Bachelorhood, Marriage, Kids and Home Renovation. Home Renovation comes last because it sucks, and you will resist it with all your might, even more than you resisted stages two and three. I know I did. I saw others go through the renovation process and emerge from it catatonic and bankrupt six times over…..you’re going to spend all this money on a house only to end up staring at your stupid phone [as a seller I assume] all day, anyway….”

    A great investment to attract buyers? Not….

    Makes the 6% commission look like a joke in comparison…

  31. 31
    KipWallbanger says:

    I like Zillow. Its the least crappy website out there. Price history, tax records, school districts, square footage, its all great stuff. Combine it with King County IMAP records and you are good to go.

  32. 32
    Doug J. says:

    Yeah, I’m genuinely curious why there’s such dislike for Zillow (or maybe I’m misreading the comments). I’m shopping for my first home and, based on mentions in the above comments, I tried redfin.com, and windermere.com yesterday.

    Not only did both of those sites feel a little less polished, they also didn’t display nearly as many homes as the same search on Zillow.

    As a buyer, Zillow seems like a great one-stop shop, but if there are reasons it’s not as good and/or accurate, I’d love to hear them.

  33. 33
    The Tim says:

    RE: Doug J. @ 32 – Short version: Much of what you see on Zillow is listings that are already pending (i.e. not actually available to buy anymore). Redfin and Windermere only show you what is actually available.

    Long version:

    I worked on this study in 2012 when I was at Redfin that quantified it: 36% of the listings shown on Zillow were no longer actually for sale, and 21% of the listings that were for sale were just missing from Zillow.

    This bad data actually works to Zillow’s benefit, as explained by their CEO.

    They also have incorrect prices, as demonstrated when their CEO’s own home was for sale.

  34. 34

    RE: Doug J. @ 32

    Just a follow up to Tim’s. Redfin is the favored site because like all “brokerage” sites they have immediate access to all homes listed for sale in the mls. Then they generally have the most info on one page like schools and their rankings and a click over to the County info. Given many homes sell quickly, getting an “instant alert” to your phone from Redfin when a home is listed is pretty much mandatory for most home buyers.

    Zillow does not get a direct feed from the mls on all mls listed property. So you really have to start at a brokerage site and then use Zillow to pick up FSBO listings and some other info. But it can’t be a “one stop” primary search site.

    I “like” them both for various reasons and usually look at both. I like the “lower map” on Zillow for a quick view of all neighboring property “rough” values and to pick up sales closest to that house. I personally use the mls for all of this but do train my clients to get instant alerts via Redfin and to look at the County site in detail and the Zillow “lower map” for a better feel of how well the house for sale fits into the neighboring home values.

    Not a bias…just some basic facts.

  35. 35

    RE: Doug J. @ 32 – To add to Tim’s insight…

    Zillow also shows FSBO homes. Would-be sellers can craft their own formal “for sale” listing. They can also post a “Make Me Move” number. All of those houses for sale can be found on Zillow – but not Redfin, etc.

    But that’s not all! Zillow also allows brokers to post their own listings directly to Zillow. There is at least one real estate firm in town that has withdrawn from the MLS. Accordingly, the listings of that firm – and presumably others, once it proves to be successful :-) – also are visible only on Zillow, but not Redfin, etc.

  36. 36
    redmondjp says:

    RE: Craig Blackmon @ 35 – Zillow’s ‘Make Me Move’ feature provides hours of online entertainment for me, much like the ‘testing the waters’ ads that get posted on Craigslist trolling the water for suckers. But this is nothing new. In my home town, people would do the same thing by posting a ‘for sale by owner’ sign in their front yard, with a ‘make me move’ price.

    My former supervisor’s house near me sold a few months ago, and I kid you not, the new owners had it listed on Zillow within a week after they had closed on it (buyer’s remorse? otherwise, no idea why) for the original asking price which was higher than what they ended up paying.

  37. 37

    By Doug J. @ 32:

    As a buyer, Zillow seems like a great one-stop shop, but if there are reasons it’s not as good and/or accurate, I’d love to hear them.

    See my post 18 above, where I explained that Zillow, Trulia and Realtor.com don’t get direct feeds of the listings from the NWMLS. That means they don’t have all the listings and some of the listings they do show are already pending.

    In this market as a buyer if you see listings 12 hours later than others and don’t see some listings at all that puts you at an incredible disadvantage.

  38. 38

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 37 -Yes, an incredible disadvantage. You may miss out on the privileges of of things like pre-inspections ($200), escalation clauses, and having your hopes dashed. It’s become like washing your hair: Bid, lose, repeat.

    In other words, there are advantages to NOT trying to buy within the first 12 hours of a home hitting the market.

    P.s. Only you, Kary, would assume someone read your comment at #37 without seeing what you wrote prior. ;-)

  39. 39

    RE: Craig Blackmon @ 38 – Yes Craig, please explain to us how less information is somehow better. I assume it’s a corollary (using the term loosely) to your position that fewer buyers knowing about your clients’ listings is somehow better.

  40. 40

    RE: Kary L. Krismer @ 39 – I have of course never said such a thing. Enjoy your day, Kary! Whether here or elsewhere on the web, I know you’ve got things to say… ;-)

  41. 41
    Doug J. says:

    RE: The Tim @ 33 – Thank you all for the great responses! And thanks for posting some hard numbers Tim, I really appreciate being able to understand the true differences of each site.

    We’re in the “just looking” phase right now and won’t be making any offers until the fall. Right now, since we’re just browsing and getting ideas, Zillow still seems to hold some useful information. But, as we get closer to actually making offers, as Ardell pointed out, Redfin makes a whole lot more sense and sounds like it would give us a much more accurate view of current listings.

    And as for whether this is actually a good time to buy, well, I’ll leave that for another post. =)

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