Zillow has changed Real Estate Investing in America Forever. What’s next for Canada?

Technology and social media-obsessed society bombards us with content. Just because something is popular doesn't mean it's accurate. The source of our information is more important than ever. Does the website's creator have a specific reason for posting certain content? In what way does this website serve its purpose?


This is one of the biggest questions that is raised as we watch the battle unfold among tech companies to eat up US home stock and dominate the increasingly competitive high-tech house-flipping sector, sometimes known as the fast-growing "iBuyer" industry.


Zillow were among the first high-tech middlemen to enter the housing market a few years ago.


Armed with cash and seeking to benefit off the bedrock of American middle-class prosperity, “iBuyers” hunt for well-maintained mid-level properties, offer to buy them for cash, and then quickly resell it after a few minor repairs, likely at a higher price. In exchange, they charge the seller a fee that fluctuates depending on a variety of factors. During a recent earnings call, Zillow announced similar ambitious plans. So what’s it like to use Zillow?


You can "click" to be contacted by an agent if you look for properties on Zillow and find one you like. There are two options for doing so. The first is to choose a listing agent. These listing agents have previously signed a confidentiality and fiduciary agreement with the seller, outlining his obligations to that seller. To put it another way, he can't legally offer you any information that isn't in the seller's best interests, and this Realtor is usually barely up to speed on the specifics of the listing, and often the area or niche of that certain type of property.


Furthermore, Zillow's data is notoriously erroneous, and it frequently updates improperly (with price and property status changes, for example). It may occasionally display properties that appear to be for sale but are not. In most cases, it also won't show "coming soon" listings. So unless you're working with a (good) agent you've chosen based on your personal needs and style, you're not likely to see all of your possibilities.


What does Zillow mean for the average consumer?


Despite a huge database of fragmented, misleading information, it is becoming incredibly popular. When our team looked into Zillow this year, we heard several horror stories, one about a woman who put her listing on line and was repetitively pestered by Realtors for hours on end by agents who “bought” her lead. The number of deals that went wrong due to misinformation, poorly formatted contracts and other glitchy technical problems doesn’t seem to be dissuading clients who notice the possible opportunity to save a tiny fraction on their fees:


Starting off the year with a purchase of 3,800 properties in the second quarter, Zillow is planning to scale massively through the remainder of 2021, estimating that its Homes segment would generate $1.4-1.5 billion in revenue next quarter, about double what it did this quarter. One has to wonder if Zillow is pushing for this rapid expansion at the expense of user experience, and what this means for a fair playing field for smaller, private investors, families and first-time home buyers who are continuously getting priced out of their cities.


Allen Parker has claimed that "Zillow has been selling homes at a 13 percent premium to what it paid for them in the past," a figure that the corporation intends to fall over time. In July, the News & Observer reported that OpenDoor, a competitor, had risen to become the top buyer of single-family homes in Wake County, North Carolina, and that it resold them for an average of $14,000 more than it paid.