Zillow launched in 2006 and ever since then, it has grown into one of the most popular real estate websites in the U.S. When searching for Wilmington, NC, homes for sale, it pops up at the top of results, along with websites belonging to major brokerages. But is it the best website for viewing real estate for sale in Wilmington? Let’s review exactly what Zillow offers.
What Does Zillow Do?
Zillow provides services throughout the lifecycle of owning a home (renting too, but that’s another discussion). If there is a public record for a Wilmington property, it’s on Zillow. Through its robust database, it allows users to:
- Search homes for sale, save favorites, and receive alerts for new listings.
- Shop for home loans and calculate affordability.
- Request showings from real estate brokers.
- Claim their home and monitor its market value.
- Connect with home professionals (builders, plumbers, electricians, etc.).
- List their home for sale or find a listing agent to represent their property.
- Sell their home directly to Zillow without listing it for sale (limited markets).
- Advertise a “Make Me Move” price that would make them sell their home without actually listing it for sale.
Real estate professionals have often speculated that Zillow will eventually start its own brokerage and offer consumers a discounted service for buying and selling homes, but only time will tell if that will come true.
Where Does Zillow Get Its Info on Wilmington Homes?
It’s important to understand that Zillow gets its information from a few different sources, including:
- Online municipal public records (county, city, town, etc.)
- Real estate brokerages via feeds
- Manual entry by real estate agents
- Homeowners claiming their properties
Concerning the online municipal records, this source varies with location and relies heavily on people to enter information accurately. If there is a mistake in listed features (number of bedrooms, baths, square-footage, etc.) or filed documents linked to the home (more on this later), that will pass over to Zillow.
Are Wilmington Zillow Listings Accurate?
The foundation of Zillow is public records. Once that info is received, it is updated by data feeds initiated by real estate brokerages, as well as manual updates entered by listing agents and homeowners (both of which have the power to claim properties on Zillow). None of these are always 100% correct. First, the Zillow system doesn’t always accurately read database feeds. Why? Because not every source structures data the same way. When something really unexpected happens (like when a commenter on this discussion had his $475,000 house listed for sale at $25,000) it’s usually because a brokerage or municipal entered a record the website wasn’t programmed to handle. From personal experience, I can share that homeowners and real estate agents don’t always enter correct details, either because they’re mistaken on details, don’t understand the industry verbiage, or are attempting to reach more buyers.
While Zillow displays Wilmington properties for which there are public records, not all properties for sale are updated on Zillow, because not all brokerages feed their listings to Zillow. Similarly, homeowners can opt-out of their listings being fed to online sites like Zillow. The North Carolina Listing Agreement has a section to do this. That means it’s not the best source for finding every home currently for sale with a real estate agent. Now, you may be able to find more For Sale by Owners on Zillow, because the website allows homeowners to list their properties for sale and those properties will not be found in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), which only agents have access to.
There have also been issues in the past with homes appearing for sale when they have already been sold or withdrawn, or have expired. This is usually just a feed or website glitch but can be a real inconvenience for homeowners and buyers, the former possible receiving unwelcomed queries and the latter wasting time trying to get information on properties not available.
How Accurate are Zillow’s Pre-Foreclosures?
Zillow lists Wilmington homes that are in pre-foreclosure. They define these as homes where the owner is late on mortgage payments, and “the lender has issued a Notice of Default (in nonjudicial foreclosure) or a lis pendens (in judicial foreclosure) to the borrower.” This doesn’t mean the home is in foreclosure and the owner can take the necessary steps to put the mortgage back in good standing at any time. If you do a quick Google search of “Zillow False Foreclosures”, you’ll find many complaints online about properties being listed in pre-foreclosure (and even foreclosure) when they weren’t. We’ve had more than a few buyers inquire about pre-foreclosures and foreclosures on Zillow only to find out that the properties are in good standing or were never in distress in the first place.
Is the Zillow Zestimate® Accurate?
One of the more prominent features of Zillow is its Zestimate®, which gives an estimate of a home’s market value by looking at comparable homes in their database and local tax assessments. It’s not entirely clear how Zillow identifies specific homes to be included in the equation, but homeowners can claim their properties, add/change details to increase accuracy, and see which homes are listed as comparables. Most real estate agents will tell you to never trust a Zestimate®, because they’re more often wrong than they are right, which is why Zillow calls the number a “starting point” and includes a range in the homeowner’s dashboard.
Zillow also provides a value based on a property’s local tax assessment. They look at the average amount that other homes are selling for above their assessments and apply that percentage to the property in question in order to come up with the perceived value. The screencaptures above and below are for the same property, so you can see how different the numbers are and that the local assessment is not included in the Zestimate® range.
Zillow’s Attempts to Correct Inaccuracies
The good news for homeowners is that Zillow offers multiple links throughout the site to report problems and inaccuracies. Just don’t expect them to honor your request to have your home completely removed from the website, because they won’t. All their information is pulled from public records, so they’re not displaying anything that can’t be found elsewhere.
Also, Wilmington homeowners should never worry that inaccuracies on Zillow will affect their property values. Appraisers do not go to Zillow to gather data for their reports. They know it’s not a reliable resource. They instead rely on the MLS and local public records.
Zillow in Wilmington NC
This all comes down to whether you should be using Zillow to find your next Wilmington home. Zillow Group has done a good job holding tight on the reigns of this giant, beastly system. There are over 110 million homes on the website and 157.2 million visitors (2018) per month according to DMR. It’s great for curious minds looking to browse Wilmington homes for sale or checkout the neighbor house just listed, because when you create an account, no one will call you unless you request contact. However, if you’re truly serious about buying a home, there are much more accurate options.
Many Wilmington REALTORS®, us included, have websites that get listings directly from the MLS. That means the inventory shown is much more up-to-date and accurate. We also have direct access to the MLS, which means we can set up a search portal so you’re notified immediately (if you choose) to receive new listings as soon as the agent hits “submit”. Third-party websites can be delayed and it’s a hot market, so this is a good advantage to have.
The only exception is if you’re looking to specifically buy a property “For Sale by Owner” (FSBO) or want to browse the “Make Me Move” listings, which are properties where homeowners have entered the sale price they would move for. Just be careful. Like other listings, both types may not be accurate and “Make Me Move” owners may not be entirely serious. So, take the info with a grain of salt and do your research.
If you are thinking about buying a home in Wilmington or any of the surrounding areas, we invite you to give us a call to discuss your options. We aid buyers throughout the process, from choosing a reputable lender to closing day. You can learn more about that here.
Likewise, if you need to sell a home and are looking for an accurate assessment of your it’s fair market value, we can create a personalized Comparative Market Analysis. Just tell us a little bit about your home and the best way to contact you here.
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