House Hunting on Zillow: Dream Come True or Worst Nightmare?

Imagine this:  You and your family decide to start looking for that new home.  Where is the first place you look? If Zillow isn’t in the top few places, you wouldn’t be reading this article anyway.  So you look around on Zillow and find the most adorable brick rancher by Libbie and Grove. Conveniently, after looking at the photos you decide you want to learn more.   To the right of your screen it says – click here for more info - Contact Agent! Great, you remember seeing somewhere that having an agent is a good thing. You click the button, enter a few lines of information, and moments later a lovely agent calls you out of the blue eager to see why you liked the property and if you would like to schedule a meeting to talk and eventually see the property in question.  

The buyer consultation and showing go well and you end up buying the house, sell your old house with the same agent and get everything you want.  Well, in a perfect world that's how it would go. We hate to burst your bubble but not everything in life is puppies and rainbows.  Sometimes everything works out fine, but sometimes it turns into a nightmare... We hope your first instinct is to call one of us at Home Sweet RVA when you’re looking to buy, but in case you get the urge to press that shiny “more info” button, we thought it would be helpful to explain the Beast that is Zillow on a personal and practical level.

But isn’t Zillow just a real estate search engine?  Well, to the consumer it is – but in the same sense that consumers use Facebook for social networking while Facebook uses your data to reap millions of dollars from advertisers.  Zillow has created a beautiful, user friendly platform to provide consumers with the data that Realtors give away for FREE.  So how has Zillow become one of the most powerful and wealthy real estate search engines on the internet?

Enter the advertisers.  More specifically, the thousands of real estate agents and lenders who are spending hundreds to thousands of dollars a month to appear as “Premier Agents” and vie for those few lines of information you submitted before pressing “Contact Agent.”  Your inquiry then goes to a “Premier Agent” who might be an individual agent or a giant team, but is very rarely the actual listing agent of the property. This is where the scenario above can turn into a dream or a giant pain. 

At best, you’ll get the helpful and motivated agent who wants to patiently walk you through the buying process.  At worst, you’ll get bombarded by automated Zillow texts, calls and emails until you respond and allow the system to “scrub” your inquiry, making sure you are a viable lead before connecting you with an agent.  And then somewhere in the middle, you get the giant real estate team who delegates you to a rookie buyers' agent fresh out of real estate school.

This is all to say, please please please vet agents before you start working with them.  Zillow can be a great resource for checking reviews and past sales.  Just keep in mind that not all great Realtors are Premier Agents, and not all Premier Agents are great Realtors. Ultimately, when it comes to selecting a Realtor make sure you’re using someone who you like and trust.  Whether you’re searching on Zillow, Google or asking friends for referrals – meet with a few candidates in person and weigh your options.  Hopefully the agents here at Home Sweet RVA are on your list – we love what we do and can’t wait to meet you!

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