Why A Realtor…I Have Zillow!

The Internet is a wonderful tool, providing information and skill training with just a couple of search words plugged into Google. One of the interesting consequences though  of an “instant answer” culture, is that it’s easy to get seduced into thinking that information and expertise are the same animal. Do you know people who spend so much time on WebMd, that  they actually think they know more than their doctor!!?

The Web hosts several real estate sites that make the search for a home, or the analytics of trying to price a home for sale, a resource that anyone can access and use.  Zillow, Trulia, Realtor.com…the list goes on and on. Though most people are not going to give up their physician to rely on WebMd, a lot of people today believe that you no longer NEED a realtor to buy a home. Zillow has the answer to everything…or do they?

What I like about these sites is their ability to provide listings to buyers and sellers, along with most of the pertinent info found in multiple listing services. It allows realtors the chance to hit the ground running, when meeting new clients.

It’s absolutely critical though that a realtor give you something, beyond basic information. If we can’t do that, we become just another commodity instead of a value added service.

One of the cornerstones of Zillow is the “zestimate”. This is kind of like a home appraisal and it’s based on a proprietary algorithm. Here’s the rub…a home already has a list price. It has a tax assessment, there are comparable sales that exist, which allow a realtor to make “apples to apples”, as well as “apples to oranges” comparisons of sold homes. In a suburban metropolitan neighborhood, say outside of Washington DC, a subdivision might consist of 3 or 4 different home models. Lots are similarly sized. There’s a lot of sameness to base the analytics on. At Smith Mountain Lake, it’s difficult to find a lot of similarities between 3 lakefront homes in the same neighborhood. Along with the differences in the house, views, terrain and docks can vastly vary. Zestimates, at Smith Mountain Lake are pretty wildly erratic for these reasons.

Your realtor knows things about property that are far more nuanced than what you see on Zillow. Not only will we likely provide a far more accurate picture of a home’s value, we can also do some predictive analysis, based on knowledge of the local economy, development trends, APCO management of the lake or vacation rental forecasts. Making sure your best interests are being represented during contract negotiations,  resolution of home inspection items, escalation of home inspection concerns when more expertise is needed…there are a number of ways that we add value to such a big decision as purchasing a lake home.