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There’s always something to howl about

A Zillified real estate brokerage: If you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas . . .

The other week I had a warm call off of our web site from a potential seller. I took his information over the phone, then talked a little about objectives and time-frames. I told him we would get back to him later in the day. I comped the house and read the listings history, including a cancelled listing earlier this year. My gut feeling was that the seller was way over on price, especially for this market, but I hadn’t seen the home to know for sure (ahem).

I had to show, so Cathy did a drive-by on the home, and on the basis of that, she decided that we could not do the listing: Non-homogenous use of the land, over-improved and over-priced.

She called the seller to tell him we were taking a pass, and he was shocked. He didn’t quite come out and say so, but it was clear to Cathy that he had been under the impression that a Realtor would take just about any listing. In brutal language — that all Realtors are whores.

We are not. We turn down more listings than we take, and absolutely everything has to make sense before we will take a listing. We spend a lot of time and money to make our homes sell, and we lose a lot in reputation if they don’t. This is marketing, not peddling — and not pandering.

That leads to this: Joel Burslem reports on Zillow.com’s latest conquest: Prudential California/Nevada Realty. Joel offers this:

Does this mean the real estate industry is prepared to accept Zillow as the final authority on home values? I’m sure Greg over at BloodhoundBlog will have something to say about all of this.

In answer to the question, of course that is not what they’re doing at all. As with the daily newspaper, a citadel of fact except for the horoscope column, what they’re doing is pandering to the masses — whom they regard as morons, which opinion is betrayed by the pandering.

The truth is, I have no problem with Zillow.com if it is properly understood as an Automated Valuation Model, to be used with informed discretion by people who understand what an AVM can and cannot do. Zillow.com has the potential to become the best AVM ever, particularly if they run homes against competitive listings and not just recorded sales. The problem I have with Zillow.com is that they blur the distinction between AVM results and an opinion of value, which cannot be done by AVM. Zillow.com tries to dupe ordinary consumers, most of whom lack professionally-informed discretion, into believing that the information it dispenses is valid and valuable, when neither of these is true.

So what would I call a real estate brokerage that makes itself a party to this fraud? Let your imagination run wild…

Here is what won’t happen, though: When Supersalesman Biff Bicuspids whips out his full-color CMA to show Mr. And Mrs. Houseburdened why their home must sell for much less than they were expecting, and when the Houseburdeneds stutter in unison, “But-but-but– The Zestimate came from your own web site!” — here is what Biff Bicuspids will not say: “Sure! But I was just pandering to you!”

If you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. If you do business with whores, you deserve everything you get…

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1 comment

1 Comment so far

  1. matt August 24th, 2006 5:48 pm

    nice spam, housingpanic. Trying to get more links for your page rank?

    A housing bubble blog with real estate banners is so typical now-a-days. it’s obvious you don’t really care about real estate or the a “bubble” you just love adsense money.

    the truth is, you really have no idea what your talking about.

    sorry greg, just bubble blogs piss me off!