Real estate tracking website Zillow said recently that it plans to launch its Zillow Offers program later this year, which is a similar program to Opendoor that buys
Do real estate websites provide enough information to make good purchase or rent decisions?
First of all, I want to address property photos.
Personally I would never make a decision to buy a property, site unseen.
Yes, there are photos of the property on most real estate websites, but I am a real estate photographer. I know that real estate photos intentionally show the best features of a house. They aren’t intended to show the full story. They are only intended to show the story that the owner wants you to see. For instance, if the house looks fantastic except for one of the bathrooms that has “pepto bismol” pink fixtures and wallpaper from the 70s, the listing will leave out pictures of that bathroom. Or, there may be a water tower behind the house. It is fraudulent to “photoshop” the water tower out of a picture of the house. That’s a major no-no. But, it is not fraudulent to take a picture of the house at an angle where the water tower does not appear.
The purpose of real estate photography, just like any other marketing, is to get you to come see the property. It isn’t necessarily to get you to buy the property without seeing it. When you see it, you can get a “complete” picture.
Now about real estate websites in general. I’m assuming you are talking about sites like Zillow. Is there enough information on them (apart from the photos) to make a good decision.
Yes and No.
The question isn’t really about is there enough information, but whether that information is accurate.
If you are talking about things like room dimensions, square footage, number of bedrooms/bathrooms etc. then those are usually going to be fairly accurate IF the information is coming from an agent. Agent listings are virtually always coming straight from the MLS system, so they will be as accurate as MLS is. And agents are specifically held accountable for accuracy in recording information. I’m not saying that FSBO information is inaccurate. I’m just saying that it doesn’t come from MLS like agent listings do. It will most often be entered manually into Zillow by the homeowner, and is more likely to be error prone because of that. Also I wouldn’t trust the total heated square footage unless it was done by appraisal.
When it comes to estimated valuation, don’t trust that number at all. Zillow especially is well known to be inaccurate. In fact, there is a well known situation where the Zillow CEO couldn’t sell his home for anywhere near what the Zestimate showed:
There is no good shortcut for a full Comparative Market Analysis. Realtors do a CMA for sellers, to determine a good valuation of their property for sale, but they also do it for buyers to determine a good offer price on property to buy.