The news came quickly and brutally (especially if you were a ZG investor):
I jumped on the bandwagon with this:
This just in: The “A” in “Zillow” stands for “Accuracy.” https://t.co/j5ukW1zzA9— Jonathan Miller (@jonathanmiller) November 3, 2021
And this was a perfect post:
so zillow let a robot buy up thousands of properties, outbidding real buyers and artificially inflating the market, and now will be laying off a full quarter of its workforce and selling off the properties to rental corps like BlackRock at vastly discounted prices. that right?— Insert Clever Name (@BethLynch2020) November 2, 2021
Now let’s digest this in the context of price accuracy:
While Zillow’s CEO Rich Barton essentially said early on that he didn’t want their iBuying efforts (Zillow Offers) to be seen as gaming the Zestimate like that dumb viral Tik Tok video inferred a month ago.
Yet it would seem unlikely that Zillow Offers used something completely separate and conceptually very different from their ‘Zestimate’ because it would be quite expensive and extremely difficult to keep a radical new valuation concept a complete secret. All we know at this point is whatever valuation methodology they used was a complete fail. And to go a step further their Zestimate valuation methodology has long been a complete failure in the accuracy department. But it hasn’t been a complete failure in the consumer credibility department at all. In fact, it’s been quite successful – after all, Zillow weened control of the U.S. consumer away from the real estate brokerage industry who had enjoyed 100 years of gatekeeper status.
This is why the real estate brokerage industry pays Zillow substantial fees to be featured on a search page in their “Pro” offering, using the source data provided to Zillow by them. Its quite diabolical.
So if we consider the Zestimate to be a proxy for the Zillow Offers valuation tool that failed, it gets worse….
The national median accuracy rate of the Zestimate is 2%.
Because they are using “median” and that term is largely ignored by consumers in the phrase “median accuracy rate” that 2% sounds pretty darn accurate. Yet there is no fine print here. The phrase literally means that 50% of the time the Zestimate is within 2% of actual value and 50% of the time it’s not.
And it gets worse…
The median accuracy rate is only within about 2% if the property being Zestimated is currently listed for sale. But if the property is not currently listed for sale, the median accuracy weakens to 7%.
For the Zestimate to move from 7% to 2%, they are reliant on the broker expertise involved to price the property and get it on the market.
Said another way, in order to get the median accuracy rate from 7% to 2%, they need the brokerage community to price the property to get that touted accuracy rate.
To summarize this point:
The brokerage industry gives all their data to Zillow because Zillow marketed to and won the consumer.
The brokerage industry pays Zillow to market them on the Zillow platform because they gave Zillow all their data.
Zillow became a brokerage firm and therefore a direct competitor to the brokerage industry, something they promised early on would never happen.
Zillow uses the brokerage industry to inaccurately price properties, placing them in an adversarial position with the consumer who wants to sell their home.
Yeah, I get it.