Comstock's magazine 0419 - April 2019 - Page 24

n ON THE MARKET FRIEND OR FOE? Zillow and websites like it are valuable tools — but they don’t tell a full story BY Ryan Lundquist MY WIFE LOVES ZILLOW, WHICH SHE SOMETIMES APOLOGIZES TO ME FOR — she worries that her love for the web- site somehow disrespects me as an ap- praiser. Truth be told, I like Zillow too. But I do question whether consumers trust it and other similar sites too much, and in doing so, make pricing mistakes. Founded in 2004, Zillow originally seemed to simply be an innovative web- site where consumers could get a ball- 24 | April 2019 park valuation of houses both on and off the market. But now Zillow is a house- hold name with over 4,000 employees and astonishing brand recognition. For years, the real estate commu- nity has been wondering about Zillow’s end game. Many figured the company’s business model was built on earning revenue from agents paying to adver- tise on its site. When you find a home on Zillow and click “contact agent,” you are connected with somebody who has paid to be listed as a “premier agent” — whether that person is a neighborhood specialist or not. These days, however, we’re begin- ning to see Zillow’s strategy is actually much bigger. Zillow recently bought a mortgage lender, and the company is be- ginning to buy and sell homes. It seems The Big Z (as I like to call it) is emerging far beyond its beginning as a valuation